WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, MI - After a strong outing in the Orchard Lake St. Mary's Thanksgiving Showcase, the Ice Cats have advanced to a record of 3-2 on the year.
The Cats first faced off against a consistent top-10 team in Michigan, the host team, the Orchard Lake St. Mary's Eaglets. In the Cats' lone matchup with the Eaglets last year, the Cats came away with a 1-0 win in a shootout in a game dominated by defense and outstanding goaltending by Nolan Francis.
The Cats were expecting a similar low-scoring affair in which the Eaglets would be physical and intelligent with the puck.
No team had an edge for much of the first period until Johnny Rodgers recently moved to defense, took the puck coast-to-coast and slid the puck between the Eaglets' goaltender to put the Cats ahead by 1-0.
"I moved back to defense to find lanes and skate the puck up," says Rodgers. "I saw a lane and took advantage of it." Rodgers, co-captain of the Cats, has stepped up for the Cats in his new role as a defenseman.
The score remained 1-0 for the rest of the first and second periods. During that time, the Cats' special teams units were up against the most extensive test this season as they were forced to go on multiple penalty kills, coming up strong on all of them.
Just over three minutes into the third period, Dario Piazza connected with Bia Savarino on a clean tape-to-tape breakout pass leading to a Bia goal low glove side on a breakaway to put the Cats up 2-0. Bia explained that the frustration of the Eaglets became visible after this goal as they could not get anything past Francis. The momentum swayed in favor of the Cats for the remainder of the game and the Cats came away with a 3-0 win with the help of a Justin Frederick goal.
The Cats were back in action Saturday morning, fresh off their decisive win against OLSM and faced off against familiar in-state rival, the 2022 state runner-up, St. Francis de Sales Knights. Playing them only once last season, the Cats came away victorious 4-2 in a hostile atmosphere last February.
One of the goals the Cats have each season is to set a strong tone against Ohio teams in the regular season and they did just that on Saturday morning. The Cats dominated from start to finish winning decisively 9-2. Goals came from Sam Elwell (2), Bia Savarino (2), Justin Frederick, Dario Piazza and Gino Piazza, and the freshman Cal Basile notched his first varsity goal for the Cats. Jack Utrup was in the net for the Cats getting his first win of the year. This was an all-around great team win for the Cats giving them the offensive boost they had been looking for early on this season.
Headed into this weekend, the Cats will be playing in the National Invitational tournament going up against some of the toughest teams they will play all year. Their first game will be played Friday night against Bethel Park (PA) and all of the games this weekend will be broadcasted by the SIBN. These will make for great games between highly talented teams. All games will be played at Northwest Savings Bank Arena in Jamestown, New York.