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Stout Defense Key to Ice Cats' Chances against The Hill Academy

By Jack O'Rourke '20, 01/25/18, 10:00PM EST


The 22-3-1 Saint Ignatius Wildcat Prep Hockey team has made a living off winning close games.

Allowing roughly one and a half goals a game, the Wildcats defense has been a constant key to the Wildcats winning games. The Wildcats are 9-0-1 when scoring at least five goals and by contrast 0-2-1 when they allow five goals or more.

It would highly favor the Wildcats in what should be a tightly contested weekend doubleheader if they play a tight defensive game, because the Wildcats scoring has picked up recently.


The Hill Academy is a premier Canadian prep team with an excellent program. Twentieth in Canada Prep, Hill has faced a tough schedule all year and holds a 20-13-1 record.

The Hill will be no easy task for the Wildcats, as they have consistently played well in every contest and the Wildcats will need to make little to no mistakes. The only common opponent is the Pittsburgh Predators U18 team, who tied The Hill 2-2, while the Wildcats split a weekend in Pittsburgh against the Predators.

The Hill consistently puts 4-6 goals in a game while allowing a few less, so if the Wildcat defense can bend and not break, or better yet, continue their astounding efforts then it heavily increases the chances for the Blue and Gold. The Hill is also first in the ECSHL. The Hill is favored by about half a goal, according to MHR.


• Savarino continues his recent hot streak. Really, it has been a hot year for the stud junior, but Benny Savarino has been lights out for the Wildcats since the 6-0 loss to Fox Motors. Savarino is 5-0-0 with an 0.80 goals against average since the Fox Motors loss. On the year, Savarino is 16-3-1 with a 1.65 goals against average.

Savarino has five shutouts, two of which came last weekend against Andre Grasset and Blythe Academy (Cougars). Should Savarino continue his recent streak of success, it would help the Wildcats as they continue the stretch run of the season which gives zero breaks.

Erbs and Gazdak rise to the occasion against physical competition. We all know the stories of Michael Boehm and Greg Langermeier. While Boehm and Langermeier have both been key parts of this young Wildcat team’s success, and carried their fair share of the slack, the continued success of Erbs and Gazdak will be key.

Charlie Erbs and Clay Gazdak, two of the Wildcats plethora of talented sophomores, have been playing defense together for much of the season. Recently reuniting, the skilled sophomores will need to play well versus the much bigger competition. Erbs has played defense his whole life and is a native of Strongsville. The hard-working defenseman holds a high plus/minus while providing three assists in his first year on the Prep team. Gazdak, a Mentor native, matches Erbs in a great work ethic, and played forward his whole life. Clay has found a home at D under Coach O’Rourke '90 and the perfectionist has found a home with Erbs.

Freshman Aidan Conway has also proved to be a future star of a two-way defenseman, and will be paired with Greg Langermeier making a pair that will pack a punch. Boehm will be paired with senior Santino Pignatiello, who is a top offensive defenseman in the state of Ohio, and is a threat with the puck on his stick. Piggy has four goals and seven assists, averaging about half a point per game.

• Keep the Sophomores Rolling. With the least possible bias, the class of 2020 has scary potential. The sophomore forwards, along with the aforementioned four D, have been above any limits imaginable.

Take the story of Aidan Millett for example. Millett struggled to consistently crack the top nine for a portion of the season, and when paired with senior captains and consistent point-getters Bain Kurtz and Mike McCaffrey, Millett has been getting points at a crazy rate. Millett has capitalized on multiple great chances and helped provide a grind mentality to the above-mentioned stars.

Joey Trobenter has a fluid way of moving with the puck, and is a great facilitator of the puck, while doubling as a top goal scorer. When given room to work, Trobenter can dazzle with his passes or find a way to use his hard shot to beat the goalie.

Alex Bilardo and Camden Kurtz have both been scoring many goals as of late, as Bilardo can always be counted on to make great hustle plays and can usually find the open man as well. Bilardo also has been known to pick his corners and beat goalies up high.

Kurtz, much like his brother Bain in his sophomore year, has been a consistent goal scorer with the ability to finish when called upon, a skill Trobenter also has mastered.

Despite being out this weekend, Connor McGowan has done a great job as a presence in front of the net and finishes rebounds at will. Paired with Eric Lile, the duo have put up a combined 24 points, and have formed a perfect two way player combination. Charlie Klenkar has put up ten points and shows a constant effort going both ways and helps perfectly fit in the role asked of him by his coaches.

David Strick is the easiest man on earth to root for, as he constantly gives 110% effort and always is a presence giving oppositions little to no time to work. Rory Zawadzki played more this weekend, and as he grows he will become a more physical player and could show shades of McGowan.

Aedan Conway has done great doing whatever job is called upon him to do without complaining as he steps in McGowan’s spot with senior Andrew Denk for the weekend. Denk is always aggressive and not afraid to stand up for a teammate as he, along with Conway have gone back and forth while still showing their poise.

As for the captains of the 17-18 team, not enough can be said about Kurtz and McCaffrey as they consistently put points up and hold great leadership qualities on and off the ice. Alongside Millett, the two captains have put up points at will averaging over one a game per.

The Wildcats play The Hill at 8 pm on Friday night and 2:15 pm Saturday. Varsity Blue plays immediately following Prep on Saturday, and Sunday at 8:15 am.

The Cats unanimously retained their number one spot in Ohio in the Coaches Poll and