HARMAR TWP, Pa. — The Carrick Cougars are on quite a run. The only city school in the PIHL has made back-to-back Division II title games and are well on their way to a third, sitting in second place in Class B with a 13-4 record and seven straight wins.
The Cougars are a co-op team, meaning they have players from different schools on the roster, but make no mistake, head coach Matthew Maurice has had no trouble finding talent. Five Cougars were selected for the PIHL Division II All-Star Game played Sunday at Alpha Ice Complex and they stole the show in a 6-5 victory for the Black Team.
With five players selected, it was a given that the all-star Cougars would be divided between the two teams, and it was forward Tyler Wolf, defenseman Issac Eubanks and goaltender Nate Nokevicus that came away with bragging rights and a victory over the Maurice-led Gold Team, which featured Jacob Sakulsky and Darren Wrzesinski.
“It was a lot of fun,” Wolf said after the game. “I definitely think we have a really strong team and it showed by how many we had in the All-Star Game.”
Sakulsky scored a first-period goal to give Gold a 2-1 lead, and then with Norkevicus in net in the second period, he scored again to extend the lead. He made sure to let his teammate know which player had put the puck behind him with an exaggerated gesture and some choice words.
“I’m always talking to him in practice about scoring on him and he’s always trying not to let me score,” Sakulsky said. “He told me he wasn’t going to let me score in the All-Star Game and I did, so I had to let him know.”
But Eubanks assisted on a goal by Kennedy Catholic’s Darrin Smith and then Wolf broke out for a hat trick, scoring three goals in just under 15 minutes to lead Black to victory and get the last word over his teammates.
“Jake scored some goals and then you want to get back at him and score some more goals,” Wolf said. “After he did that, it was like, ‘We have to beat them. We can’t let him win now.’”
Wolf said there would certainly be some bragging rights in the Carrick locker room going forward for those that ended the intrasquad battle on the winning side, but the presence of Maurice on the losing team gave him some pause.
“I think Coach Matt is a little mad,” Wolf said, grinning. “What can you do?”
“They’ll definitely be talking to us about it in practice this week,” Sakulsky added. “We wont hear the end of that.”
But Sakulsky also said the game was about more than just the Carrick teammates getting to battle one another. It was also a chance for the Division II players to showcase the level of talent that exists in those leagues. They may not all come from the same school and the teams may not be as deep, but there are certainly skilled players that can put on a show.
“There’s a lot of good players at the D2 level and the teams are really competitive, too,” he said. “It’s not really much different than the upper levels. In the Christmas tournament, we competed with all those upper teams and we did fine.”
The reunited Cougars will have some time to consider the all-star result, as the team doesn’t have a game until Feb. 9, when they host Trinity.