The Saint Ignatius Wildcats have dominated the Great Lakes Hockey League.
In the four years of GLHL competition, the Wildcats are 45-3-3, including 12-0-0 in the Cleveland Cup. In that time, the Wildcats have added 3 regular season titles, 4 Cleveland Cup titles, and two OHSAA State Championships. Dominant is the only word you can use to describe it.
This near-perfect Wildcats play continued this past Saturday in the Cleveland Cup finale, leading to a 5-2 victory for the Wildcats over the St. Edward Eagles. on the quest for a fourth straight title.
After the first 38 seconds of the game were played primarily in front of Benny Savarino’s net, a faceoff was taken due to Savarino covering the puck to end the previous play. Eagle senior forward Ryan Rockwell won the faceoff back to Josh Tomasi, who ripped a shot past the skate of Benny Savarino into the back of the net. In the Wildcats' previous matchup, multi-sport athlete Curtis Szelesta scored 50 seconds in, 10 seconds slower than Tomasi’s lamplighter.
The Wildcats continued to face adversity throughout the period, and saw many close opportunities and big saves by Andrew Stewart (32 saves, 37 shots). Around 4:05 in the first, junior playmaker Mike McCaffrey ripped a shot off the pad of Stewart, and ever-present senior Benji Rechin found twine on the rebound, and brought the Wildcats back even with the Eagles. A major assist to McCaffrey with a beautiful P.O.P pass (Pass Off the Pad).
The opportunities were even throughout the rest of the period, but that Rechin goal brought the Wildcat Platoon to a loud chorus, which wouldn’t waver from there on out.
Shots after one period were 9 to 9, with back and forth action the whole way, but Stewart and sophomore Benny Savarino standing tall.
The game was even in the second as well, until the 9:18 mark. Senior Seth Whitney made a crisp pass up to the point, where freshman Greg Langermeier was awaiting the puck. Langermeier unwinded his slapshot, let it loose, and the puck found its way to the back of the net. Suddenly the Wildcats had their first lead on the Eagles in regulation in two games.
After a Wildcat penalty, an Eagle shot resulted in a rebound in front of the net, and Eagles Danny McGuire and Curtis Szelesta poked the puck past Savarino to tie the game at two.
After a St. Edward penalty three minutes later, the Wildcats' offense was taken into the hands of capable senior Connor Koehnke. He took it coast to coast and put it past Stewart to lift the Wildcats above the Eagles, and that would be all the Wildcats needed on this night in Strongsville. Benny Savarino picked up an assist on the goal.
On a faceoff two minutes into the third period in the offensive zone, freshman Michael Boehm won the puck back off the faceoff to senior Grayson Gerard, who unleashed a slapshot past Stewart to add on to the Wildcat lead. Out of Gerard’s three goals this season, two of them have been against the Wildcats Lakewood rival.
With 50 seconds left, the Wildcats finished the Eagles off with a Seth Whitney rebound goal from Connor McGowan. The Wildcats' first and second lines provided all Wildcat goals. Sophomore Benny Savarino improved to 2-0-0 against the Eagles, with an outstanding performance, allowing 2 goals on 23 shots.
STATE TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK:
The Wildcats earned a bye in the Sectional Quarterfinal, but will play the winner of the Normandy/Brecksville game in the Semifinal. If the Wildcats are to knock off the Invaders or Bees, they will have to face either Brooklyn, Avon, or Chagrin Falls in the Sectional Final.
If the Cats can win that matchup, they would most likely face Holy Name in the District Semifinal, but could also face Westlake, Lakewood, or a few other similar teams. Should the Wildcats win that game, they could have a rematch of last year’s District Final with a shot at St. Edward, who the Wildcats beat 3-1 to advance to the Final Four, or Padua, Rocky River, and North Olmsted if they can best the Eagles.
If the Wildcats continue their high-level of play and survive and advance, they would face the winner of the Kent District, which features such teams as University School, Lake Catholic, Shaker Heights, and Walsh Jesuit. The Wildcats would have to face Toledo St. Francis, St. Charles or another top-tier Sylvania and Columbus Districts teams if they are to get that far.