BROOKLYN, Oh - The Ice Cats season came to an end from John M. Coyne Rec Center in Brooklyn on Saturday as they fell to the St. Edward Eagles 2-1 in the OHSAA District Final. This was the third meeting in the 2021-22 season between the Wildcats and Eagles, as the Cats held a 2-0 advantage after a 3-1 win in December and a 2-1 win in January. Unfortunately, St. Edward would upset Saint Ignatius in the playoffs to move on to the Frozen Four.
The crowd began to pack the arena a full hour before the puck would drop for the District Final. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs came in the 2019-20 season, where the Cats came out on top. After a crushing defeat to Rocky River in the District Semifinal last season, the Wildcats were back in the District Championship for a chance to make it to Columbus.
It was standing room only from John M. Coyne Rec Center and the Wildcat and Eagle faithful were ready for Saturday afternoon hockey. St. Edward won the opening face-off and we were underway from Brooklyn. The Cats gained early momentum in the first period after Gavin George delivered a crushing hit to an Eagles attacker to gain control of the puck. This set the tone of how the game would go between both these outstanding programs.
With 12:27 to play in the opening period, the Eagles had their first breakaway, the Eagles Geoffrey Lapsevich fired a laser at the net, but Nolan Francis made his first of six saves in the first period.
With the Eagles looking to break the scoreless tie, there was a pile of skaters surrounding Francis in the goal; however, Francis was able to swipe the puck away and Johnny Rodgers came out with the loose puck. Rodgers was with Owen Zawadzki on the two on one breakaway, Rodgers would go across the ice to find an open Zawadzki, but the Eagles goalie Ethan Payne made a remarkable save to keep the score deadlocked at 0.
After the first period, the Wildcats and Eagles were scoreless as both teams went to their respective locker rooms.
In the early stages of the second period, the Ice Cats would gain another opportunity to score. Christian Sidoti would go behind the net and find an open Bradon Getz; however, Getz could not corral the puck and the Eagles were able to clear it.
At the seven-minute mark, Quinn Tabol would begin another breakaway for the Wildcats. Tabol made a terrific defensive effort to steal the puck from the Eagles and find Zawadzki, who would work the puck up the ice. It was a one-on-one between Zawadzki and Payne, with Payne making a save.
After 30 minutes of action, the game remained scoreless. The anticipation for the third period began to rise, with 15 minutes to decide who was punching their ticket to Nationwide Arena in Columbus for the Frozen Four.
With a little over a minute into the third period, Eagles forward Sam Meisinger would gain control of the loose puck and go top shelf, sneaking the game's first goal past Francis. The momentum now favored St. Edward as the Wildcats looked to counter.
The first and only Power Play came with 11:41 left to play in the third period. Eagles defender Hayden Payne would be called for interference as the Cats would go on a Power Play for two minutes.
The Wildcats had a couple of opportunities to tie the game at one on the Power Play as Getz would find Bia Savarino, who fired a slapshot at the Eagles goalie but went wide. The Cats gained back the possession and Dario Piazza looked to sneak the puck in on the doorstep, but again Payne was able to clear the neutralizing goal.
Back at full strength, the Eagles looked to take complete control of the game. With 8:30 to play, the Eagles gained possession of the puck behind the Wildcats net and Lapsevich snuck in another goal past Francis to make the score 2-0 St. Edward.
The Ice Cats were in desperate need of a goal but kept their composure, knowing there was plenty of time to mount a comeback. At the 7:36 mark, the Cats gained control of the puck at center ice. Zach Zahoranski would make a shifty move to find open space in the Eagles zone and hit the back right corner of the net to pull the Cats within one.
The Saint Ignatius faithful became loud again with plenty of time remaining in the game. As time ticked away, the tension began to rise as the Cats looked for the equalizing goal. With under a minute to play, the Wildcats would have an empty net, adding an extra skater on the ice.
The Eagles would burn away the game's final seconds and come out with a 2-1 victory over the Wildcats to advance to the State Semifinal. They will play Gilmour Academy at Nationwide Arena.
The Wildcats finished the 2021-22 season with a record of 17-6-7. A young squad last season came into this season having plenty of success and will have plenty of current student-athletes returning next season. The senior class in 2022-23 will feature players such as Johnny Rodgers, Zach Zahoranski and Bia Savarino. Despite coming up short in the District Final, it was a memorable season for the Ice Cats.
We want to thank Head Hockey Coach Pat O'Rourke '90 and the rest of the coaching staff for their help with the SIBN so that there were streams all season long.