STRONGSVILLE, Oh - January 9, 2022, 23 days since the Wildcats last took the ice in a regular season game. They played their hearts out and in an overtime shootout game against the Shadyside Academy Bulldogs, they lost 2-1.
Senior defenseman Gavin George ’22 recapped his Christmas break from the regular season, “During the break, we had multiple days of practice and straight to school for team lifting,” explains George. “A few days after Christmas, we had a team Secret Santa gift exchange and a team meal together. It was good to take a quick break and relax for a little with the boys, regaining focus on the end goal.”
They tied up their laces and fastened their chin straps, as the current number one ranked team in the state of Ohio by Ohio Hockey Digest, welcoming the Sylvania Northview Wildcats, whom the Cats defeated last season 5-0 and 3-2. The Wildcats wore their white home jerseys, with the Ignatius Crest in the heart of the jersey at OBM Arena in Strongsville.
The buzzer rang, signaling the end of warmups, and the scoreboard read a clean 0-0 slate, with 15:00 to play for the first period. Owen Zawadzki, Brandon Getz, Neal Bartone, Zach Zahoranski and Gavin George took the ice, with Nolan Francis, the sophomore goaltender, between the pipes.
The exact sequence of events constantly occurred through the first two periods, with lots of shots and hits but no goals for the Saint Ignatius Wildcats. The Cats had much more depth on their roster, with a complete line more players than Northview.
“Northview builds on good defense and a strong goaltender,” says Head Hockey Coach Pat O’Rourke ’90. This was the case in this particular game.
The Northview Wildcats goalie Austin Nowak played on his head! In a tremendous showing, he made 51 saves out of 51 shots. No matter what the Wildcats threw on net, Nowak stood tall and kept his save percentage against the number one team in the state to 100%. The Cats went 0-for-1 on one powerplay opportunity and only had one penalty in the game, which happened to be a coincidental penalty.
Nolan Francis played a great game himself, making 14 saves on 15 shots faced. Still, in the late stages of the third period, Northview forward Benny Seals stole the puck in his offensive zone and skated a lap behind the net, cut across the faceoff circle, and moved across the crease sneaking the puck under Francis’ left arm and into the back of the net.
Moments later, the Wildcats pulled Francis down by a goal and sent out Johnny Rodgers as the sixth attacker, but the puck slipped out of the zone on a rebound. Sylvania Northview’s Tryston Harrell picked up the loose puck going the other way, crossed the center ice red line and shot the puck into the empty net, putting Northview up 2-0 with under a minute left.
That was how the game ended, Saint Ignatius outshooting Northview by more than three times the amount of shots, 51-16, and ending up losing 2-0. Nowak played an incredible game, all 45 minutes of the contest, and no matter what the Cats gave, Austin Nowak made the save.
They return to the action this weekend for their annual Father Styles MLK Showcase, where they will get an opportunity to play Flint Powers Catholic (MI), St. Viator (IL), Howell (MI) and Buffalo St. Francis (NY). All games will be at the John M. Coyne Rec Center in Brooklyn.