LAKEWOOD, Oh - A standing-room-only crowd at Serpentini Ice Rink in Lakewood was the scene on December 27 that saw the Cats emerge victorious in their most important regular season game.
The Eagles broke the deadlock early in the first period thanks to a Zak Bell breakaway goal. An essential aspect of this game was which team could block out the noise of the highly rowdy crowds. Despite how loud the Eagles fans had gotten, the Cats remained unphased and kept running their systems. The Cats could not get on the board in the first period and went into the locker room down 1-0.
The game remained back-and-forth for the first five minutes of the second period before momentum swung in favor of the Cats. The Eagles quickly took two bad penalties giving the Cats a 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity. The Eagles were able to kill off the first penalty but gave the Cats 45 seconds to set up their powerplay. On a rush into the zone, Zach Zahoranski moved the puck to Dario Piazza in the high slot at the top of the circles. Dario faked a shot and passed to Bia Savarino, who finished off the rush going low glove side and jumped into the boards to celebrate with his classmates in the student section.
"Dario has made so many good looks throughout the year," says Savarino. "I knew he would find me and we took advantage of the penalty." With the game now tied up 1-1, momentum was back in the Cats' favor and they quickly took advantage. Three minutes later, Zach Baker pulled the puck away from the boards in the corner and advanced toward the net.
While he was looking to wrap around, he instead passed to a wide-open Jack Geffert, who ripped a shot bar down for what would be the winning goal that put the Cats up 2-1. "I knew Baker would see me in front of the net and I just got the shot off as quickly as possible," explains Geffert.
The Cats would get two more goals in the third period to ice the game (Baker, Geffert), taking down the Eagles 4-1 and setting an important tone for the rest of the year.
The following day the Cats kicked off the Fr. Welsh showcase taking on the Gabriel Richard Pioneers (MI). The Cats quickly netted four goals to start the game in under five minutes (Zahoranski, Elwell, Baker, Savarino).
While the Cats did get the hot start, they could only carry that over for part of the game. Nolan Francis had a great game in the net when the Pioneers got their lone goal in the second period but could have gained two more. Turnovers all over the ice put the Cats in bad spots, but they came away with the win as Savarino remained on his hot streak placing another one in to finish the game off 5-1.
Due to dropout teams, the Cats squared off with the Pioneers the next day. The first period could only be characterized as a deadlock. Neither team had the advantage due to great goaltending, especially that by Jack Utrup, who came up big time and again for the Cats. At the end of the first period, with a little over a minute on the clock, Savarino put the Cats up 1-0. Savarino has shown out for the Cats this year, taking on a leadership role on the offense.
The second period was much of the same despite multiple wide-open net chances missed by the Pioneers. After Utrup made a great save on an odd-man rush, Sam Elwell sped into the offensive zone and fed a great drop pass to Adam Mustafa in front of the net, who sent it home to put the Cats up 2-0.
The third period was all Pioneers. The Cats struggled to stay out of the penalty box, giving up four power plays in the third period alone. It finally cost them with 4:38 left in the third period when the Pioneers put one in the back of the net to make the game 2-1. Shortly after, the Cats gave up too much space in the D-zone and the Pioneers tied it at two. Thankfully the Cats held on for the rest of the regulation and through the overtime period.
This wild contest finished when Brandon Getz made a great shot fake to give himself a wide-open net and end the game in a shootout. The Cats stand at 11-3-1 in the season.
The Cats will face off against longtime in-state rival, the Sylvania Northview Wildcats, who defeated the Cats last year 2-0. Make sure to tune in to the SIBN for a great game between two outstanding teams.