The toughest thing to do in sports is to win a championship. Even tougher than winning a state championship is going back to back. Few teams are able to “three-peat”.
Add Saint Ignatius hockey to that list.
The Wildcats played the toughest schedule in team history, testing new waters by traveling to Pittsburgh, Michigan, and Canada multiple times each, as well as a trip to our nation’s capital.
The Wildcats' grueling travel and competition was meant for the purpose of building up to the state tournament.
Coasting through the first two rounds by a combined score of 22-2, the Wildcats awaited Rocky River in the District Semi-Final. The Cats, led by a two-goal performance from Michael Boehm, knocked off the Pirates' 3-1. Benny Savarino and Camden Kurtz were also big contributors in the win which featured Kurtz’s breakaway goal.
The scene was set for a fourth straight District Final against familiar foe St. Edward. Sophomore Aidan Millett finished an early contest rebound to take a lead the Wildcats would not relinquish. Bain Kurtz found a nice pass from co-captain Michael McCaffrey and Charlie Klenkar finished the contest empty-nettery netter. Savarino finished his seventh shutout.
The stage was made for the Blue and Gold as they entered their third consecutive trip to Columbus. In order to make the state championship, first the Cats needed to beat Columbus District Champions – Dublin Jerome.
Benny Savarino only faced one shot as the Wildcats dominated most of the first period. The Wildcats didn’t reap any rewards of their dominating effort until the 5:18 mark of the first period when captain Bain Kurtz took the puck around the short side of the circle and sniped the Celtics goaltender over the glove on a shot that had to be perfectly placed to find the back of the net.
Kurtz struck again when he knocked one past Graff on a chance when he charged towards the net, and just put the puck over the line, but Michael McCaffrey put it deeper into the net just in case.
Eric Lile found himself on a odd man rush with linemate Alex Bilardo, and as the defenseman moved towards Bilardo, Lile released a prepossessing shot that cleanly beat the 'tender.
Jerome found the scoreboard on a great opportunity, but Bain Kurtz took it right back when he dazzled on a breakaway to extend the lead to three goals.
Sophomore Alex Bilardo, who has a work ethic matched by few, provided a late goal, and Bain Kurtz added his fourth of the contest.
The 6-1 win, which included a 15-save performance from Benny Savarino, advanced the Cats to a rematch of last year’s state championship versus Toledo St. Francis de Sales.
This game would be a classic.
The scoring started in the first period when Greg Langermeier retrieved a puck in the neutral zone, and brought it into the offensive zone and as he was bumped into, found a puck to Aidan Millett. Whether or not Langermeier’s pass was intentional didn’t matter, as Millett was alert and turned the puck into a one-timer and shot the puck low blocker side and eluded Jacob Coward.
Coward had a 10-save first period for the Knights with his only blemish on the score sheet being the Millett goal.
Matthew Barrow, who scored a state championship winning goal in 2015, beat Benny Savarino on a rebound to tie the game up heading into the second period. Savarino had a 13-save first period.
Early on in the second period, junior Knight defenseman Mitchell Digby scored a powerplay goal from the blue line to give St. Francis their only lead of the game. St. Francis screened Savarino well on the play and Digby capitalized.
Two future star sophomores Camden Kurtz and Joey Trobenter brought the Cats back to a tie score when Trobenter used laser vision from the red line to find a waiting Camden Kurtz in the slot.
Cam took the crisp pass in with ease and lifted it over Coward’s glove to even things up from Nationwide Arena.
Trobenter continued his streak of helpers when he found Michael Boehm on the power play, as Boehm uncorked a slapshot from the point, which Coward knocked off to the side. But fortunately, captain Bain Kurtz was waiting backdoor and knocked the rebound out of the air past Coward.
Early in the third period, the Knights took advantage of a powerplay and Hunter McKie beat Savarino through the legs with a rebound goal to tie the game at three apiece.
After a Knight bench minor for too many men on the ice with eight minutes left in the third period, Greg Langermeier made a pass behind the net to captain Michael McCaffrey. The senior began to skate left, changed his course of direction, and beat Coward on a backhanded wraparound to give the Cats what many thought would be the final lead change of the game.
But things were just getting started.
Knight standout forward Gabe Barrow cut into the zone and released a wrist shot above the circle and beat Savarino glove side to force overtime.
Back and forth play ensued in the first overtime, including penalties to both teams. A tripping call on St. Francis would extend to the second overtime.
Thirty-one seconds into the second overtime, Greg Langermeier retrieved the puck after a Knights clear. Langermeier broke the puck out of the zone as usual, and even used his hand to signal Michael Boehm to go wide to the left. As Langermeier put his hand back on the stick, he went to work cutting right weaving his way back in left, putting a hesitation move on Coward before finishing on his forehand to clinch the Wildcats’ third consecutive state championship.
Chaos ensued as the Wildcats' bench mobbed Langermeier and goalie Benny Savarino.
Congratulations to the Wildcat hockey team, coaches, trainers, and team managers on their third straight title as well as a fun season filled with memories for a lifetime. Every member of the team contributed in the stretch run of the playoffs and that is special as not many teams can say that.
Thank you to all the parents, especially Mrs. Kurtz for her hardwork all season securing rooms and food for the team every weekend taking time out of her life to help make everyone feel as if they were an NHL team instead of a high school hockey team.
Thank you to the coaching staff for all their help to the players and managers dedicating tons of time away from their families in order to reach this end goal.
Thank you to the student managers for all their help going to practices and games giving up weekends to help the team, and also to my fellow broadcasters Pat, Max and Mac who always provided great analysis and as many laughs.
And finally, most of all, thank you to the players who make it all possible and congratulations on all your hard work culminating in a special state title. Also a special thank you to our four seniors who enjoyed a crazy ride and were always helpful to everyone around and luckily went out on the best note possible.
Enjoy your spring and summer, and be ready for the quest for a fourth straight next year.
This team truly did refuse to lose with all their comeback wins and high spirited games, and congratulations boys, because what you do in this life echoes in eternity.