Just because you don’t have a stitched letter C on your jersey doesn’t mean you cannot be a leader.
A prime example of this came from star senior Seth Whitney before Saturday’s contest with a trip to Columbus on the line, with one more week with your brothers hanging in the balance.
“I want you guys to think about this: We either have to live with tomorrow, or get to leave with tomorrow, it’s our choice,” Whitney said leading up to the game. “I’m putting everything on the line tomorrow for every one of you. Up and down the ice then getting off, if I’m not gasping for air after every shift, I’ve let you guys down. I won’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen because I know you’re all going to do the same.”
Not only did Whitney deliver on his Friday night comments, but he also added 3 points in Saturday’s District Final. The Wildcats’ upperclassmen led the way in their 6-4 victory over St. Edward to clinch a berth to the State Final Four, and this is how it went down.
Several back and forth minutes of play opened up Saturday’s prime-time matchup. The Wildcats had control of play early but that soon would change. St. Edward senior Stephen O’Sullivan put a pass from Curtis Szelesta between the legs of Benny Savarino for an early Eagles’ lead. St. Edward struck first in all three of the contests between the teams this season.
If you’re a knowledgeable Wildcat hockey junkie, then you were already aware of the Eagles’ three opening goals this year, but you expected the WIldcats to strike back soon. Unlike the first two contests, though, the Eagles doubled their lead before the Wildcats found the back of the net. Danny McGuire came down the right circle of the Eagles’ offensive zone, and put a beautiful shot past Savarino.
From this point on, the Wildcats were firing on all cylinders, and Benny Savarino’s play became better and better.
Thirty seconds after McGuire multiplied the Eagles’ lead, Seth Whitney and Connor McGowan traded passes until they found megastar Connor Koehnke floating around in front of the net, and Koehnke found twine for the 36th time this season.
Less than 120 seconds later, the previously mentioned Whitney took a pass from McGowan and found twine to even up the score at 2. Whitney’s goal gave the Wildcats momentum, and one could argue the Ohio City squad kept it throughout the rest of the contest.
With under one minute left in the 1st frame, linemates Whitney and McGowan found themselves with an odd man rush 2-on-1 opportunity, and Whitney fed McGowan, who knew exactly what to do with it. McGowan put the puck past Andrew Stewart via a miraculous shot at a sharp angle.
The Wildcats had all the momentum in the world after their 3 consecutive goals, and took it to locker room for the first intermission.
This would be as close at St. Edward would get.
The second period was all Wildcats. Junior Bain Kurtz made a perfect pass to Michael McCaffrey, who made a picturesque finish to multiply the ‘Cats lead. If you thought McCaffrey and Kurtz would be satisfied, then you would be wrong. Under a minute later, Kurtz found his best friend again, and McCaffrey finished it again. Andrew Zedella also had a nice assist on this goal. In the humble opinion of this writer, Zedella may just be the top offensive defenseman in the state of Ohio.
The Eagles had a few good opportunities during the 2nd, but Benny Savarino was a wall in the second. Eleven of Savarino’s 31 saves came in the second period. The Wildcats brought a comfortable three-goal lead into the locker room.
This game was not over as the score at the time might have suggested. McGuire added his second of the game on a power play in the first minute of the third period, and then the teams arrived at a pivotal point in the contest.
The Wildcats received a 5-minute penalty halfway through the third period, and the Eagles chances’ seemed bright. On a 5-minute penalty, the opposing team can score as many times as it can for the full 5 minutes. Mike McCaffrey had something to say about that, though, as he finished his hat trick off a pass from Benji Rechin for a huge short-handed goal. The Wildcats lead stood at 6-3.
The Eagles answered right back with a power play goal ten seconds later by Ryan Rockwell. Despite receiving another penalty to put them down 5-3, the Wildcats defense held down the fort due to heroic plays from Grayson Gerard, Michael Boehm, and Benji Rechin. Savarino finished off the win for the Cats, who clinched a second consecutive Frozen Four appearance.
Your Wildcats will take on the University School Preppers in a State Championship rematch at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday at Nationwide Arena, with a trip to this year’s state title game on the line.
OHSAA BRACKET UPDATE:
Saint Ignatius vs. University School
St. Francis vs. Olentangy Liberty
St. Ignatius 6, St. Edward 4
SIHS: Benny Savarino (31 saves, 35 shots) 23rd win
SEHS: Andrew Stewart (31 saves, 37 shots)
Goals: Koehnke (36),Whitney (29), McGowan (14), McCaffrey (15,16,17)
Assists: McGowan (19,20), Whitney (26,27), Pignatiello (8), Kurtz (16,17), Zedella (18), Rechin (12)