Have you ever dreamed of the joys of playing high school hockey? Have you ever wanted something to last forever but realize it is coming to an end very quickly? Sadly this is happening for the 2021 Varsity A Wildcat senior class and their high school hockey careers. This young Wildcat squad members hold them in pact with their leadership from their experience at this elite high school hockey level. Some, the experience of a state championship run and the hoisting the OHSAA championship trophy. A huge thanks to 2021 Wildcat hockey players Aidan Conway, Chuckie Wilson, Erik Galauner, Brian Strick, Aidan McLaughlin, and Dawson Mohr for supporting the program in and out for the past four years. They have been remarkable, and when a huge piece to this puzzle graduated last year, they stepped up to fill in.
Last year, in the 2019-2020 season, one of the greatest ever Wildcat Ice Hockey teams was on a mission for a fifth state championship in a row! With such an utter disappointment, with no control of the situation last year, there is a chip on this 2020-2021 hockey team's shoulder to come back and find a way to Columbus to the State Final game, yet again. This team is on a four-game winning streak at the moment, currently at 11-7-2.
Coach Pat O'Rourke has another excellent rising senior class and had an easy choice for selecting his captains. He gave the "C" to Aidan Conway, a four-year varsity hockey player, a star linebacker for the football team, and excels in the classroom, being a part of the National Honor Society. With an "A" on his shoulder, Erik Galauner and Chuckie Wilson stood on his sides.
Aidan Conway stepped up in a huge role for the defensive unit, having 5 of the 2020 squad graduate last year. In his first few seasons in blue and gold, he was more of a stay at home defender, and this year, you can find him rushing the puck more and making some big hits. His hefty and powerful slap shot on the blue line has been a big use to the power-play unit, creating nice rebounds and finding the back of the net himself a few times as well. The fourth-year veteran has been racking up points from his spot on the blue line and has been a great team player throughout. He has helped the younger defensive Cats to learn where and when to be and used his wisdom from what he has learned from experience to teach. He has two state championship hockey rings under his belt as of now, and he knows what it takes as a team to make it to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. He has played on the big high school hockey stage, playing the Saint Edward Eagles in the district tournament, with every seat in John M. Coyne, home of the Cats, being filled to the top capacity, students and fans going crazy, and the arena shaking. He has made it several times to Columbus to play in the NHL arena of the Columbus Blue Jackets and has a lot of experience most other senior players in Ohio have never had. Sadly, his final season will end with bare bleachers, with parents scattered cheering on their sons, but he will not get to have all his classmates, friends, and supporters there to cheer him on as he had previously experienced.
Erik Galauner and Wilson are quite the pairing of wings, connected in the middle with the junior center Owen Zawadski. This first line threat has been a massive factor in the Wildcat offense, along with the power-play unit. The third-year letterman Galauner has 17 goals and 16 assists so far in his senior season, and Chuckie Wilson alone has 18 goals and 15 assists. The SIBN hockey broadcast crew refer to these two as the "dynamic duo" because when they are out there, there is always a very high percentage they will find the back of the net together. Sixty-six combined points from these two seniors are remarkable through only 20 games. Their leadership is clearly shown on the ice with how well they communicate and how they always hustle and make the team play, and always shy from a selfish penalty opportunity. The junior forward Owen Zawadski is a great third wheel for the "dynamic duo," and he has found himself in many scoring situations because of the way Galauner and Wilson have gotten him the puck. Zawadski has followed in the steps of his older brother Rory '20, doing his best to get in the corners and pick up the puck quickly so he can work his magic setting up his linemates, making a lot of highlight-reel worthy plays. Both Galauner and Chuckie bring loads of speed to the table and make it easy to fly past a flat-footed defender and work to the net. Both guys have incredible hands and seem to deke the opponent's entire defense, along with their goalies. This threatening line is not only talented with their speed and ability to find the net, but how they do it, they all have a creative mindset out on the ice, and they find a way to do what the opponent is not expecting, because of the smarts these players have.
Senior Brian Strick is a great two-way player and a guy that leaves everything on the ice while he is out there. Strick has a very similar playing style to his older brother David '19, in that he hustles to every puck and is willing to battle in the corners against a guy that may be a head taller than him, yet he is ready to do it for the team. Strick had especially shown his great efforts on the penalty kill, particularly in Bowling Green; when he was killing a penalty, he got a loose puck in the offensive zone. Realizing his side was down a man, he decided to take the puck back out of the zone and work it around with the other penalty killers. This killed 30 seconds, 25% of the penalty, and he made the play by using his speed to intercept the frozen biscuit. He has 2 assists so far on the season, along with hustle and grit. Similar to his linemate Kevin Mays, both players are always doing their best to do extra work before and after practice to keep improving. Being a speedy team like the Wildcats are, Strick is the perfect guy to have because he will not let you down, knowing he will put everything on the line for his team. When asked, 'What does it mean to you to wear the blue and gold on the ice?' Brian responded, "I like wearing the jersey because I like being part of a team pushing others, the way they push me makes me feel more connected with my brothers and being a part of something that brings the school joy."
Dawson Mohr and Aidan McLaughlin have stepped up big time in net, on a game cycle of who gets the start between the pipes. Over the previous years, Benny Savarino stood in the net, setting many school records and helping seal the deal on a few state championships himself. Following him was Zak Kovatch last season, and he had played some absolutely remarkable games and had some tremendous saves throughout the course of the season. This year, these senior netminders Mohr and McLaughlin have taken in their own hands to be the net leaders and prevent any games from getting out of hand. Goaltending may be one of the hardest individual positions, facing wicked wrist shots and booming slapshots all over the ice. This did not matter to these senior goalies, and they chose to step up and share the net, facing the top teams in the state of Ohio in the OHSAA weekly. Wildcat hockey has been fortunate to have great goaltenders throughout the past several years, and with guys like Mohr and McLaughlin, that legacy of great goalies will continue.
Aidan Conway, Chuckie Wilson, Erik Galauner, Brian Strick, Dawson Mohr, and Aidan McLaughlin have been proud members of the Saint Ignatius hockey program, creating memories together every day from the summer of their freshmen year. They are always there for each other refusing to lose, creating brothers for life, building family, and making each other their band of brothers. They all remember taping their sticks and snapping their helmets before their first time stepping on the ice as Wildcats. They will remember these last opportunities to spend with each other, lacing up their skates together, pulling their Saint Ignatius jerseys over their heads, running out onto the ice, and even praying together in the locker room. All good things must come to an end, and it is almost time for this group of Wildcats. Still, with the confidence, chip on their shoulders, and current winning streak, the Cats very may well find themselves going on a run back to the OHSAA final four in Columbus in just over a month. This weekend on Saturday, January 30th, tune in to the SIBN at 4:45 for the senior night ceremony and what should be a great game for the Cats, hosting Olentangy Berlin at The John M. Coyne Recreation Center.