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The Wildcats Fall Short in the State Semifinal to Olentangy Liberty

By Nathan Free '23, 03/21/23, 2:45PM EDT


The season came to an end as the Patriots defeated the Wildcats 4-3 in the State Semifinal.

COLUMBUS, Oh - The Ice Cats’ quest for their eighth State Championship in program history stopped this past Saturday at Nationwide Arena. In one of their toughest matchups all year, the Cats could not find the back of the net in the third period to tie the game.

Coming into the match-up, the Cats were expecting to be challenged by the Patriots, who had not lost a game since late November and would go on to win the State Championship the next day, but early on, it looked like the Cats were going to run away with the game. Dario Piazza took advantage of an errant Patriot pass from behind the net and found himself wide open in front of the net. He quickly let go of the puck and it sailed in off of the shoulder of Robbie Cook into the back of the net. 

Just a few minutes later, Johnny Rodgers cut off a cross-ice pass through the neutral zone and slid the puck through the legs of a Patriot to Cal Basile in front of the net. Cal got another one for the Cats and not even halfway through the first period, the Cats were ahead 2-0.

In a similar style to the Cats, the Patriots are a team comfortable with playing from behind and got a power play goal by Jack Hamilton to put themselves within one with 3:33 left in the first period. Two minutes later, the Patriots got two quick goals from Jake Struck and Charlie Hughes to put themselves ahead 3-2. 

In an offensive explosion, the Cats quickly found themselves down by a goal heading into the second period.

To open up the second period, the Cats got a quick penalty. After applying tremendous penalty kill pressure, Dario Piazza forced an offensive zone faceoff which he won right to Zack Baker. Baker fired a shot low, taking Cook by surprise to tie the game at 3-3. The rest of the second period was all Patriots as they pelted Nolan Francis with shots and got the lead back with 3:28 left in the second. 

Despite a solid third period with many chances, the Cats could not find the equalizer and lost to the eventual State-Champion Patriots. The 2022-2023 season is undoubtedly one to remember as the Cats went back to Columbus for the first time in three seasons, defeated St. Edward, beat a lot of high-level competition and there was tremendous growth amongst the entire squad on and off of the ice.

It was truly a pleasure to have been around this team and to have been able to broadcast hockey these last four years at Saint Ignatius. I want to thank Head Hockey Coach Pat O’Rourke ’90 and the rest of the coaching staff for allowing me to be a part of the program both as a player and broadcaster. 

I would also like to thank Jack O’Rourke ’20 and Owen Gerba ’21 for teaching me how to broadcast and showing me how to appreciate my opportunity. Thank you to all the parents and other family members who listened to our broadcasts and had kind words to share with us. I enjoyed every second of broadcasting this sport and will always appreciate my time broadcasting for the Wildcats.