BROOKLYN, Oh - With a chip on their shoulder after University School loss on December 28. the Ice Cats were back at the John M. Coyne Arena for their first game of the New Year. It was the long-awaited classic rivalry of schools, players, and coaches—the Green and Gold vs the Blue and Gold. With the hype calming down after the basketball game the night before, the puck was dropped.
In a very physical first period with lots of hits but no penalties, both teams were knotted up at 0 with 30 seconds left in the frame. With a crucial penalty kill to end the period and get the first goal in this critical game, the Cats made the decision to play aggressively on the penalty kill rather than sit back and have Filizetti make saves.
Esenwine made his decision. Piazza won the dropback for Esenwine, where he went for the touchdown pass for a racing Elwell in the Cats' offensive zone. Elwell had all the time in the world to find another racing Dario Piazza with the one-time shot to put the Cats up one with 25 seconds left in the first period on the penalty kill. The captain had done it again, leading his team through some of their first taste of the rivalry.
That was it for the first period, but the skating birds would take a lot if the Cats wanted to come out on top. The second period started from the puck drop with some challenges for the Cats. Still on the power play, the Eagles were on a mission to even up the score. That mission didn't take long because the Eagles tied up the game 29 seconds into the second period with a rebound goal over the outstretched leg of Filizetti.
With 13:39 left in the second period, the moose was loose in front of the net after some great stick lifts and dekes behind the net. Mustafa had netted one for the Cats and took back the lead after a nasty celebration.
It looked as if the Eagles had poked the bear for the next few minutes after that goal, but the Eagles were unfazed. Sticking to their game plan brought forward by coach Tim Sullivan. Both teams were full steam ahead to go into the next intermission with the lead. Only a little would change in scoring, but momentum was not in favor of anyone. The Cats were struck with injuries and the eagles were down a goal.
The Wildcats' lead would last for half of the period as the Eagles would tie the game up on a rebound goal with Filizetti sprawled out on the puck outside of the net, which led to it bouncing out of his reach and right to an Eagle forward to jump at the opportunity to put the puck in the back of the net. With 10:39 left in the game, the game was again knotted up at two.
In a play where Filizetti had guys from both teams on all sides of him, the puck was again in the back of the net for the Eagles. In almost the same play as the last goal for the Eagles, the puck popped out of a sprawled-out Filizetti for the goal, but this goal was way more important than the previous one. This gave the Eagles their first lead of the night, almost two minutes after the last goal. With 8:26 critical minutes left in the game, the Wildcats had to find any energy in themselves to come back and win this game.
Using the student section for motivation, they slowly turned the tide of the game again. When Justin Frederick found the puck on his stick right in the high slot of the Cats' Offensive zone, he knew just what to do. He did what he had done all year: find the back of the net right under the blocker and into the side netting. In a time when the Cats needed their leaders to step up big, they did. The Assistant Captain had tied the game again with only 3:32 to go as both teams were level again.
With tensions rising after each hit, icing, and whistle, it again needed to be a leader to get the go-ahead goal once again, and it was. The Hero had been found and with only 59 seconds left in the game. Justin Frederick had done it for the Cats again. With no angle and no time left in the game, Freddy found a way to sneak the puck right over the shoulder to find the back nylon for what would be the game-winner as the game stands.
All banged up and with another game the next day the Cats just had to grit this one out. As the last 50 seconds played out and an empty net for the Eagles, it was time for the Dominator in net to show his skills. He successfully put away multiple shots on frame to keep the Cats' lead intact and shut the Eagles out of the game. The Cats won 4-3 and celebrated with the Alma Mater in this highly competitive GOHL showcase with all the captains and assistant captains possible on the ice.
With kids banged up throughout the season and in their hard-fought win against the Eagles, the Cats looked to some unsung heroes to win them this game and get some rest during the week. The Cats would host Toledo St. John's Jesuit. The game would be a tale of the freshman. The call-ups included the addition of Raiden Miyoshi to the prep team from the 15U team; he played a vital role in this game. Along with other freshman Zack Bleick, they combined for at least five points on the night.
Bleick's two goals on the night helped propel the Cats to the win. The Titans started strong, scoring 30 seconds into the game after an early Cats penalty. The Cats didn't take this goal lightly and decided to add five goals in the first period. Esenwine would get the Cats on the board, tying the game on a nasty tip shot off of the Miyoshi snapper from the point.
Bleick got the second goal to get the lead, and the Cats were off running. Mustafa continued the scoring from the last game, notching another goal past Borda's glove. Geffert would also put his name on the scoresheet in the first period, putting a rebound goal over the blocker to score. Not long after, Dario Piazza got a power play goal to extend the lead to three. As the first period was winding down, the Titans would also put one past Gendics to cut the lead to three going into the first intermission.
Only a few things would happen for the rest of the second period, including a few penalties and extracurriculars. The Cats would extend the lead to four again with the Bleick deke and backhand top cheddar over Borda's glove. Not long later, Geffert would also score again top shelf to put the lead to five.
With a critical penalty kill to start the third period, the Cats went into the locker room content with their lead. After a perfect penalty kill for Esenwine in the sin bin for the first time in his prep career, both teams played hard to the finish, which came sooner with the running clock.
Esenwine would notch another goal to make the game 8-2 in favor of the Cats. That would be all for the Cats in these two crucial GOHL matchups to prepare them for the GOHL playoffs coming the weekend of the 19th.
With lots of rest and preparation, the Cats look forward to big matchups with Toledo St. Francis, Upper Arlington, St. Viator (IL) and Olentangy Liberty in the MLK Showcase from Brooklyn Rec Center the following weekend.