BROOKLYN, Oh - A new Hockey season is upon the men wearing the Blue and Gold as they look for redemption after losing in the District Semifinal a season ago to Rocky River. In the 2020-21 season, it was a young group for Head Hockey Coach Pat O’Rourke ’90. Coming into the new season, the Wildcats seek to dominate the ice with their experience from last season.
The Ice Cats enjoyed a successful preseason, going 4-0 with wins against Meadville (PA), Erie Cathedral (PA), Olentangy Liberty and University School as the regular season will open on Saturday, November 20, vs. St. Ignatius (IL) at John M. Coyne Rec Center. “There is a lot of energy, grit, physicality and confidence. Last year we threw some young guys to the fire and we are hoping that would mature them for their future years,” says O’Rourke. “This is the year it is supposed to pay off and so far, so good, they have been flying and we like the physical play.”
Last season was a strange year for the Hockey Cats as they went through the season during a pandemic. Early in the season, the Wildcats could not get into a rhythm and struggled in the season’s opening weeks. However, the young roster for Saint Ignatius put together a string of wins, going on a six-game winning streak and developing late in the season. After a 5-2 loss to Rocky River in the District Semifinal, the season came to a stunning end.
With an entire off-season of workouts, showcases and practice, the Wildcats are thrilled to take the ice for this season. “Last year, I feel like I let the guys down, so it’s much nicer to have a normal season,” explains O’Rourke. “We are a team that relies on team chemistry and camaraderie and we didn’t get that last year. I spent the whole summer getting better at what I do to have a good season for these guys this year.”
The captains for the 2021-22 season are Forward Kevin Mays and Forward Owen Zawadzki. “Both of them are quiet by nature, but they are coming out of their shells,” says O’Rourke. “Owen has been around for three seasons and his brother played here, so he knows the drill. Kevin is a real success story, he has been on every team in our program, from the 15U team and Blue and Gold teams; he has worked his way up to be a captain on the Prep team.”
“It means a lot to me,” says Mays on being named Captain. “It’s good to see the hard work pay off over the last four years and I’m excited to get this season started.”
The Ice Cats are looking to restore the tradition of championship hockey this season. In the 2019-20 season, the playoff run was cut short due to the pandemic and in the 2020-21 season, a young roster fell in the tournament. “It means a lot to be named captain, with the long tradition of all the great hockey teams through the years,” Zawadzki says. “We didn’t get to complete our journey two seasons ago due to the pandemic and last year, we fell short. This season, we want to restore that tradition.”
Coming into the new season, both Mays and Zawadzki note what skills they wanted to improve on before the beginning of their senior season. “Leadership skills on the ice,” Mays explains. “Speed and strength always help in this game.”
“Trying to improve in my game and be a leader for the team,” says Zawadzki. “I want to do everything I can to have a good season and get to our end goal in March.”
The puck for the regular season will drop against St. Ignatius (IL) this upcoming weekend in a back-to-back match on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. A team last year that the Wildcats fell to in the previous season. “I have never been more excited about the start of a season; it was the longest off-season of all time,” emphasizes O’Rourke. “We have been chomping at the bit and we open against St. Ignatius, which is a Jesuit Brother school, so that is fun for bragging rights and its great competition.”
“They are a great team,” says Mays. “We had good games last season against them, but we fell short, so time to get revenge this season.”
“They beat us two times last season, so we are looking for some revenge,” Zawadzki explains. “We want to start the season on a high note and continue that throughout the year.”
There is a significant amount of confidence heading to the regular season for the Ice Cats. The Wildcats are seeking the program’s eighth State Championship and should be a fun team to watch all season long. The SIBN will have live coverage to open the season against St. Ignatius (IL). The puck drops on Saturday, November 20 at 7 p.m. from John M. Coyne Rec Center and the second game will be on Sunday, November 21 at 9:40 p.m. from OBM Arena in Strongsville.