The Saint Ignatius Wildcats prep hockey team finished out there grueling schedule in Toronto this weekend. Grueling is an understatement.
The Wildcats faced the toughest schedule in the state, and challenged themselves week in and week out. Players sacrifice time away from parents and friends and family to try and prove themselves as well as the school they all love.
The 21 boys and coaches that make up this year’s team do it for each other, fighting for the common goal of winning a state championship. The Cats finished out the regular season 24-9-1.
Nobody expected the team would fare this well, but they continued to prove their doubters wrong. 3,800 miles, 10 cities, and 9 road trips later, this team returns home. Tired and homesick they all are, all hope to give up one more weekend to drive 136.5 miles to Nationwide Arena, and finish business.
The Ice Cats faced tough competition at the Barrow Tournament in Toronto, and learned much about themselves as they squared away for the state tournament beginning Saturday at Brooklyn versus the winner of Brecksville/Brooklyn.
On Friday, the Cats fell down 2-0 to Levis College despite playing even pace against the skilled Quebecian team. With five minutes left in the third, the Wildcats responded when skilled sophomore defenseman Clay Gazdak ripped a shot from the point and teammate Camden Kurtz tipped the shot into the net to bring the Wildcats within one. The Cats gave up an empty net, and despite a good performance from Benny Savarino, the team lost a tough one, 3-1.
Coach Pat O’Rourke ‘90 gave a fiery speech to the team pregame about responding to adversity, and the Wildcats responded early. Junior Eric Lile took a pass in the slot and ripped one past the St. Michael (ONT) goaltender to lift the Cats up 1-0. Joey Trobenter continued the Wildcat scoring spree when he took a two on one pass and used his heavy shot to beat the goaltender. Trobenter is a great two-way forward for the Wildcats, who you will be sure to hear from much in his junior and senior years, as the young sophomore has made a boom with his deceptive speed and quick shot, with a great vision of the ice.
St. Michael could not be counted out, as their powerplay was sent to the ice early and often, as despite an excellent show of effort by Cam Kurtz blocking a shot to the leg, and junior David Strick taking shots all over, the Shamrocks converted in the start of the third to come within one.
Nick Bernstein played well all game, but St. Michael scored again at the 12-minute mark with a tipped shot past Bernstein. In overtime, the Cats fell about a minute in as a shot trickled over the shoulder of Bernstein and found its way home.
On Saturday night, Upper Canada College frankly put an offensive onslaught on the Wildcats. Despite a 35-save performance, eight shots beat Benny Savarino on a night when the Wildcats showed consistent effort and played well but simply put, played a superior team.
The Wildcats ended the regular season on a positive note as they beat Everest Academy Sunday, 4-0. Senior defenseman Santino Pignatiello dazzled on a penalty kill breakaway, undressing the goaltender for a 1-0 lead. Charlie Klenkar found Rory Zawadzki backdoor, and Zawadzki finished his opportunity. Klenkar also added a goal for himself. Alex Bilardo, another Wildcat you can count on for the next few years who exhibits a constant hustle, did the honors for the empty net to end it.
This weekend, the Wildcats begin the playoffs in the 2nd Round of the OHSAA Division I District Tournament on Saturday at noon at Brooklyn Recreation Center.