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Early Season Momentum for the Lax Cats

By Joe Mertens '15, 03/22/23, 12:00PM EDT


The Wildcats hold on to win the season opener against Cathedral and win in OT against Olentangy Liberty.

OHIO CITY, Oh - The Wildcats are only two games into the season but have manufactured two instrumental victories against formidable opponents. The Cats had back-to-back games to open the new campaign as they hosted their home opener on Friday, March 17, against Cathedral (IN) and would hit the road to face Olentangy Liberty the next night. 

Friday dawned a new era of Saint Ignatius Lacrosse as it was the first game for Head Lacrosse Coach Kyle Bernlohr. The Wildcats had the first opportunity to score with 9:03 remaining in the first period, but Cathedral's Brien Panzer blocked Nathan Zoldesy's shot. Senior defenseman Brightin Miller thwarted the following Cathedral possession, but the Irish quickly recovered on the fast break. 

The Fighting Irish nearly got on the board first as Campbell Reid had a shot at the lower left corner of the net, but sophomore Freddy Webster was able to get his stick on the shot to deny the early goal opportunity. 

The Wildcats would get their first goal of the season from Zoldesy on an incredible play with 5:02 remaining in the opening period. Freshman Michael McManamon would find a cutting Zoldesy and the senior attacker would wrap his shot around the Irish goalie from his knees to give the Cats an early advantage. 

Senior Hunter Moriarity would follow up just a minute later as he used his size to maneuver around an Irish defender with a slick spin move and sneak a goal passed Panzer to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. 

With 50 seconds remaining in the 1st period, Cathedral would go on the attack as Aden Reyes made the score 2-1 by going low shelf past Webster. 

Senior captain Mitch Rini put on a show in the closing seconds of the first period as he would run over a Cathedral defenseman and somehow retain possession. With eight seconds on the clock, Rini powered a shot from about 12 yards out that found the back of the net to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead after one. 

It was a defensive battle throughout the second period until the five-minute mark when Cathedral cut the Wildcats' lead to one when Gus Art fired a pass to a cutting Nick Cochrane who would find an opening in the net to make the score 3-2. 

With 3:21 left to play in the half, the shiftiness of Rini in the offensive zone caught the Irish off guard as he scored his second goal of the game to increase the Wildcat advantage to 4-2.

Moments later, it was the freshman, McManamon, to score his first goal as a Wildcat with 1:35 to play in the first half. Cathedral continued to battle as right before the break, Jack Bedich would score and the Cats would lead the Irish 5-3 at the half. 

Cathedral came out of the break with momentum and would get back-to-back goals from their freshman Gus Art and within two minutes, the score was knotted at five. 

The Wildcats would regain the lead at the 7:43 mark when Moriarity found an open Zoldesy and the senior would score his second of the game and the Wildcats would not give up the lead from there. Moments later, McManamon's defender backed away and left him wide open with a clear shot to the goal. The freshman scored his second goal to make the score 7-5 with 6:44 left to play in the third.  

SIBN Players of the Game vs. Cathedral (IN): Mitch Rini and Michael McManamon

Art would secure a hat trick for Cathedral as the Irish would not back down with 5:29 remaining in the period. To end the third, it was Rini somehow finding a way to score with two Irish defenders in front of him. This would be a hat trick for Rini and the Cats took an 8-6 lead into the fourth. 

The freshman continued to show out for the Wildcats as Henry Ferguson found the back of the net to extend the Cats' advantage to 9-6 with 7:37 left to play in regulation. John Leszcz played stand-out defense, but Reid found a way to score for the Irish to cut the Wildcat lead to two with six minutes remaining.

It already was a memorable debut for McManamon with two goals and two assists, but he would notch a hat trick with a goal at the 5:20 mark to give the Wildcats a comfortable 10-7 lead. Cathedral would get a late goal by Reyes to finish the scoring between both teams. Webster would finish the job in the net to deny a comeback by the Irish. 

The Wildcats didn't have much time to rest as they would travel to Columbus the next night to take on the Olentangy Liberty Patriots. It was a back-and-forth contest between the two programs in the brutal winter weather, which saw temperatures dip into the 20s. 

At the half, the Patriots and Wildcats were tied at five. Throughout the second half, both teams would trade goals, with neither gaining an advantage, with the Wildcats clinging to an 8-7 lead after the third period. The Cats would pull away briefly as they would have a 10-7 lead in the fourth period. 

With 46 seconds left to play in the game, the Patriots would force overtime, making the score 10-10. But the heroics of senior Mitch Rini would score the game-winning goal to send the Cats home winners. 

The Cats are now 2-0 and have another challenging week ahead as they will host the Hudson Explorers Wednesday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. from Wasmer Field. This is a rematch of the 2022 Regional Final, which saw Hudson upset the Wildcats. It always produces an instant classic when these two teams meet on the Lacrosse field. Wednesday should be a great game between the Wildcats and the Explorers. 

The Cats will also host Brother Rice (MI) this Saturday at 4 p.m. from Wasmer Field and both games will be covered on the SIBN.