BROOKLYN, Oh - The Saint Ignatius Wildcat Hockey team welcomed multiple teams to Cleveland from several states near Ohio for their annual Fr. Styles MLK Showcase. Although they did not play every team invited to the showcase, they played great competition and developed. All four of the games they played took place at their home building, John M. Coyne Recreation Center, located in Brooklyn, just a ten-minute drive from school.
Their first game took place on Friday night, welcoming Flint Powers Catholic from Michigan. The Chargers put their foot in the door striking first in the contest, yet a beautiful breakout pass from Frankie Basile with 11:37 left in the first connected to the tape of Dario Piazza’s stick, who put on his jets burning past the defender and sneaking a nifty shot top right corner and tying the game at 1.
After being down early, it was great to see the Wildcats fight back right away and answer the opposition’s goal. This weekend also brought about a few new faces for their varsity debuts. Sam Elwell, Justin Fredrick, Tristan Rutledge, Anthony Palumbo and Adam Mustafa, made an appearance in a few games last winter as well.
Sam Elwell had a memorable game against the Chargers, as he put the second goal away into the cage for the Cats; his goal came on a second-chance rebound after Bia Savarino sent a great shot on net. The Cats had a 2-1 lead going into period number two, but Piazza decided he wanted to see his squad with another point on the scoreboard for the Blue and Gold.
Piazza received another pass, this time from Gavin George and going towards the other net. Still, just like before, the sophomore forward bolted past both defenders and put a pump fake shot right, switching left to his backhand in the same motion and finishing the job sliding the puck through the legs of the goalie 5-hole for another beauty. The rest of periods two and three were very similar back and forth hockey, but luckily for the Cats, Nolan Francis did his job and made 17 saves out of 18 shots, securing the 3-1 victory over Flint Powers Catholic (MI).
The following day, St. Viator made the trip from Illinois to play the Cats and started strong from the get-go, putting a goal up in the first period. The score remained that way until captain Owen Zawadzki sent a rip towards the net, sneaking in 5-hole and tying the game at 1-1.
A few minutes passed in period two but was stopped after Zach Zahoranski weaved up the middle with the puck, sent it to the net from the tops of the circles, and made his way in to claim the rebound. The lefty defender grabbed it on his backhand, put it past Lion’s goaltender, and put the Wildcats up 2-1. Two more goals by some familiar names, Dario Piazza and Owen Zawadzki, finishing the game with a 4-1 Wildcat winner. Junior goaltender Jack Utrup made 25 saves and Logan Rechin, Brandon Getz, and Zahoranski finished the game with two assists apiece.
A quick turnaround brought the Howell Highlanders (MI) into town for the night game. Unlike the past two games, the Wildcats struck first with a Johnny Rodgers goal, his first of the season. A few seconds later, the Wildcats found themself on a man advantage of 5-4 after Howell (MI) took a penalty; Zach Zahoranski took his time letting the play develop and at the point with the puck, he took three strides towards the net and sent an absolute snipe top shelf, 2-0 Cats.
This game was a very fast and physical one, but that did not mean much to Brandon Getz or Piazza, who both put pucks into the net in period number two. The Highlanders never let up and they kept fighting until the end; they cut the three-goal deficit to one, but not before the Wildcats were protecting their defensive zone; Christian Sidoti stuck his stick out in a passing lane, breaking up a pass and sending himself on a breakaway the other way, shooting top left, and hitting nothing but net.
Sidoti and the Cats walked away as winners over the Howell Highlanders (MI). Assists on each goal came from Erik Bratton, Zach Baker, Johnny Rodgers, Justin Fredrick, Bia Savarino with two, Zach Zahoranski, Owen Zawadzki, and Logan Rechin and not to mention another excellent performance between the pipes with another 26 save win for sophomore Nolan Francis.
The Wildcats welcomed the Buffalo St. Francis Red Raiders (NY) in the last game. The Raiders play most of their competition in the same league as the Shadyside Bulldogs (PA), whom the Cats took a shootout a few weeks back. This game was evenly matched, going back and forth between both sides. It was not until the early stages of the second period when Zawadzki netted one, being assisted by Basile and Rechin.
The game remained close the rest of the way until a shot on net by St. Francis (NY) deflected off of a Wildcat and managed to cross the goal line and tie the game at one apiece. The horn blew, ending the 45 minutes of play, which was not enough to decide a winner, so five more minutes went on the board and three players from each side came out for 3 v 3 overtime action. St. Francis (NY) won the draw and took it back into their end; setting up behind their net, they established a breakout and went the other way. No matter what they threw on net, Francis made the save, and likewise, the Cats sent quite a few of their own on the net, but still no score after five minutes.
This meant the game would be decided by the winner of the shootout, just as the Cats experienced against the Bulldogs of Shadyside. The Red Raiders went first as the visiting team, coming down the middle, shooting towards Francis’ glove side, and a goal was the result. Piazza faked left pretending to drop the puck, but all part of his plan, he regained it and snuck it past the goalie, tying the shootout at even. The Wildcats missed their next shot and the Red Raiders contested Francis’ glove side again, but he saw it the whole way. Their other attempt completely missed the net and set up Bia Savarino for the winning shot. He scooped the puck from center ice, just like practices all his years growing up. Still, this time in an actual game situation, he looked left and got the goalie to move the slightest bit, opening up a hole on the right side, he was at the right circle hash marks and he sent it between the sliding goalie’s pad, glove, and the post.
Moments later, Savarino met all of the Wildcats at center ice, hugging and celebrating their victory. Nolan Francis had an electric weekend and made 36 saves in this one to secure the win. Piazza and Savarino had just enough to break the tie and send the Saint Ignatius Wildcats home as winners.
A great weekend going 4-0 has left the Wildcats on a winning streak as they find themselves with a 11-3-4 record after the showcase. They will have the opportunity to extend this streak this weekend on Friday night when they travel over to Lakewood to battle the St. Edward Eagles for a second time this season. This Wildcats won the last one at home by a score of 3-1; this week’s score is 0-0, a clean slate for both sides.
The number two and three seeds in the state of Ohio, Wildcats and Eagles, will drop the puck at 6:00 p.m., both ready with their best games for each other. The Cats will also play on Saturday night, hosting the Gilmour Lancers for Senior Night back at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center at 4:45 p.m. Both games will have live action and updates on the SIBN.