It's no secret that the Wildcats have a dynamic offense.
To stop the Lax Cats, you better have a shutdown defense and a smart gameplan.
On Tuesday, Hudson utilized a common strategy in high school lacrosse when you're trying to stop an unstoppable offense – stall. Without a shot clock, if you win a few faceoffs, you can stall for a while.
The Explorers' strategy worked for the first three quarters against the Wildcats, as Saint Ignatius held a tenuous 7-4 lead. In the fourth quarter, however, the Lax Cats' patient approach paid off. The men of Ohio City roared for five goals to ensure a 12-5 victory.
With the win, the Wildcats advance to 9-3 on the season, entering the last game away from home in the regular season.
The first quarter of Tuesday's road game rolled by quietly and quickly. The Wildcats opened the scoring at 9:38 of the first, as Jack Moriarity touched the twine on a nice play. The next 7 minutes elapsed without a goal on either side, though not without action. Each side managed a number of shots, with Nate Conry finally breaking through with 2:44 left in the period for a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats took the two-goal margin into the second period, thanks in part to strong play in net by Charlie Minerd. The junior netminder helped to keep the Explorers scoreless on 9 shots, using his body and goalie stick to thwart Hudson.
The teams' offense came alive in the second stanza. Connor Cmiel started the party with a goal just 29 seconds into the period. Then Hudson danced on offense, scoring twice in 22 seconds to narrow the deficit to 3-2. The Explorers tied the game at 6:31 of the quarter, before the Cats retook the lead with 4:24 remaining on a Michael Boehm tally. The University of Michigan commit added an insurance marker with 7 seconds left to set the score at 5-3 entering the break.
At the half, the stats stood close, with the Wildcats holding a slight margin in shots (20-17) and faceoffs (6-4), and ground balls (8-7).
The stallling tactic worked in the third quarter, as Hudson slowed the pace of the game to a crawl. The Explorers outshot the Cats, 11-7, and enjoyed much of the possession. However, due to Minerd's heroics, the Wildcats held Hudson to only one goal.
The Saint Ignatius defense also played very well. John Coughlin and Jack Welcsh did an exceptional job of shutting down Hudson's top two offensive weapons, who are both committed to Robert Morris. Coughlin is enjoying an exceptional senior season as long stick middie and has earned the chance to play in college, based on an exceptional senior year. Welcsh is doing an extraordinary job on defense, as well. The duo combined for nine ground balls on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Merick Hartley tabbed two goals in the third quarter, one early and one late, assisted by Conry and Boehm. Both tallies proved to be crucial, setting the lead at 7-4 entering the final 12 minutes.
The tides turned in the fourth quarter. Hartley set the tone by completing his hat trick just two minutes into the period, off an assist from Boehm. In response to a Hudson goal, Cmiel roared downfield after a faceoff and fired a goal into the back of the net, a backbreaker. Cmiel found twine twice more in the next few minutes, taking the fight out of the Explorers. Moriarity added the finishing touches at 1:35 with another beauty.
"Hudson had a very clear gameplan right from the first faceoff. They wanted to keep the ball out of the hands of our offense, and did so by stalling on their end whenever they touched the ball," said associate head coach Joe Boehm '05. "It worked for a few quarters as we played a lot of the game on defense and it kept our offense out of rhythm going long periods of time without touching the ball, but at the end of the day we were a better team and pulled away in the fourth."
In the end, the junior middies sealed the deal late. Hartley and Cmiel each scored three goals in a row in a clutch fashion. Cmiel also added 7 ground balls, showing off his physicality when needed.
Braeden Lair aided their efforts by doing well at the faceoff dot. The freshman stepped in for Joey Morford, who is on retreat this week. Lair improved as the game continued, helping the team enjoy a slight 11-10 advantage at the X.
Minerd also played an absolutely critical role in the victory. The junior finished the game with 16 saves, never allowing Hudson to go on a run. Minerd sacrificed every part of his body to keep the ball out of the net, playing like a gladiator in the win.
The Wildcats will now focus on a daunting foe – St. Xavier. The men of Cincinnati will meet the men of Ohio City in Columbus at Fortress Obetz for a 7:30 pm matchup on Friday. The Bombers broke the Wildcats' hearts in the OHSAA State Championship last year.
The SIBN will have a live video broadcast of the game. Ryce Federle and Matt Kelly will have the call from Columbus.
Varsity Blue adds a victory
The Varsity Blue Cats sealed a 6-4 win over Hudson's top JV team on Tuesday. The Cats now own a 4-4-1 record heading into Friday's showdown against Avon Lake.