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Opening Week for the Ice Cats

By Andrew Gus '22, 11/25/21, 11:15AM EST


The Wildcats start a new hockey season on the right foot as they have jumped out to a 2-0-1 record in the opening week.

GATES MILLS, Oh - The Wildcats welcomed the St. Ignatius (IL) Wolfpack for a two-game set. The Wildcats started their season and home opener very strong, making an impressive start against a big and powerful Wolfpack squad.

The Cats came out Saturday night and put the puck in the offensive half of the ice for the first period. The guys dressed in Blue and Gold put on a show with many excellent chances. Still, in the late stages of the first period, the three-year letterman and captain, Owen Zawadzki, found himself celebrating with his teammates around the Wolfpack goal. The net was holding the puck he just put in it after battling hard down low in front of the net.

The Wildcats came out to start the second period similarly, only this time the St. Ignatius Wolfpack changed their defense and made it more challenging for the Wildcats to put the puck in the net. Finally, a two-on-one play was developing; Brandon Getz had the puck on his stick and his linemate, Zawadzki, with him. Dario Piazza gave him the puck, Getz crossed the Wolfpack blue line, realizing the situation, faked a pass to Zawadzki, drawing the defender away from him, and gave himself an open lane. He took the puck and put it top shelf!

Just moments later, Logan Rechin stole the puck from a defender and sent a perfect pass to the tape of Zach Zahoranski, who went on a breakaway and also scored top-shelf. The Cats went into the dressing room up 3-0, they played well in the third period, but the Wolfpack did not give up and found a way to score one of their own. Nolan Francis started his Wildcat debut with a 3-1 win with 19 great saves and a victory over the St. Ignatius (IL) Wolfpack.

"It felt good to get the win," says Francis. "We have a good team this year and we have a bright future."

Both teams faced off again the following day, but the Wolfpack came out hungry for another chance in this match-up. Jack Utrup took the spot in the blue paint between the pipes for this game and he played on his head, stopping shots in all directions. In this game, the Wolfpack were quick to strike, and the Wildcats found themselves trailing 2-0 to the Wolfpack. St. Ignatius (IL) made some significant adjustments between the two games and completely changed their forecheck, causing problems for the Cats.

The Wildcats got into penalty trouble, making it more difficult to score goals a man down, but Brandon Getz had a different opinion. He notched two even-strength goals, tying the game at 2-2. Christian Sidoti and Dario Piazza assisted him. On all cylinders, the Cats had found their game again, but with just not enough time, the buzzer rang, ending regulation.

In only the second game of the season, overtime was needed. A five-minute five-on-five period would be the determining factor for the second game between the Wolfpack and Wildcats. The Cats started with the Dario Piazza, Owen Zawadzki, and Brandon Getz line; they started just where they left off, making it difficult for the Wolfpack to keep up. The Cats were getting shot after shot on the net, a total of 51 shots, but the goaltender for the Wolfpack found a way to finish the game with 49 saves on 51 shots and ending the game at a final score of 2-2.

The Wildcats started their season off at 1-0-1 after being 0-2 to the same opponent at this same time last year but knew penalties were their problem. Leadership on this year's team is evident, as all the goals in the first two games came from the captains of this team, Zawadzki, Getz and Zahoranski; the other captain, Kevin Mays, also played a key role, blocking shots all weekend and helping to kill off the many penalties for the Cats.

Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon; the Cats traveled to Gates Mills, Ohio, to match up against the Gilmour Lancers at Gilmour Academy. The puck dropped at noon and just 12 seconds into the action, Justin Wen of the Lancers intercepted a pass from the Wildcats and scored on Nolan Francis.

The Cats started to find their game again but were cut short by the end of the first period. They came out with fire, the Piazza, Zawadzki and Getz line started the first shift of the period, they came in on a three on one, Piazza the puck carrier, left a drop pass for Zawadzki, who took it and shot it from the top of the circle, far side blocker on Ian Anderson, sitting backdoor was Getz, who put the puck in the back of the net.

A few minutes later, Piazza received a pass and turned on the jets, splitting the Gilmour defenders and deking Anderson and putting it top right over his glove. The Cats established the lead in the second period, but the Lancers tied the game at 2-2 after the Wildcat defensive zone broke down. The third-period action came down to the wire, but Frankie Basile took a shot on the ice on net from Savarino and Mays and went in untouched.

Anderson was screened by Bia Savarino and had no clue the puck was shot until it was past him. The Wildcats were able to fend off the Lancers in the last minute of the game, pulling their goalie and adding an extra attacker. Still, Nolan Francis secured his second win of the season with another extraordinary performance, with 24 saves.

The Cats improved to 2-0-1 on the season and put on another great showing. They need to focus on coming right out of the gate prepared for each opponent in, morning, afternoon, or night game, but they are looking very promising this year. The leadership and the performance on and off the ice is prime example of why these are the captains of this team.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving as following the holiday; the Ice Cats will play four games in two days in the Thanksgiving Showcase beginning Friday morning. Follow along and tune into the SIBN for live coverage on Friday at 10:50 a.m.; the Cats will battle against the University School Preppers and Orchard Lake St. Mary's (MI) at 7 p.m. from OBM Arena in Strongsville. On day two, the Cats will face-off against Gabriel Richard (MI) at noon and Buffalo St. Joseph's Prep (NY) at 6 p.m. from John M. Coyne Rec Center in Brooklyn.