Wildcats fans have reason to be excited about this year’s edition of Saint Ignatius hockey. A young, hungry group that gained experience last season is a perfect group to head into this season with. Despite being the defending state champions, the Wildcats have a chip on their shoulder to prove they can grow.
Here is a deeper breakdown of the team.
The Wildcats are led by a strong group of returning forwards. The Wildcats return 10 forwards while gaining three new forwards who all have their own perks.
This season’s scoring attack will be led by seniors such as Eric Lile, Charlie Klenkar, and Connor McGowan. Lile has shown his scoring prowess in the past and is set for a strong senior campaign. Both Lile and classmate Charlie Klenkar are expected to pick up much of the slack left by seniors Bain Kurtz and Michael McCaffrey. Klenkar has shown improved hands to add to his stellar speed. Captain Connor McGowan, who has produced 53 points in two years, is one of the best power forwards in the state and is bound to add even more points from his past two years.
David Strick is one of the hardest-working players I have ever watched and is a workhorse who is so reliable on the penalty kill. Pat Eppich is very versatile and he will see lots of playing time between forward and defense. Eppich has laid the wood in tryouts and the Cats’ scrimmage and will be seen hitting on highlight reels all year.
A bulk of the Wildcat scoring will also be picked up by last year’s junior leading scorer, Joey Trobenter. Joey has a heavy shot and made the quick pass that led to Cam Kurtz’s goal in the state title game. Kurtz also has a knack for scoring and it won’t be a surprise when he puts up points similar to his brother Bain’s totals.
Alex Bilardo is a feisty forward with great hands and his skills will translate into more goals. The junior has skill matched by few and will only expand his game with more open ice. Aidan Millett has a knack for big goals. The junior quietly had a big year last year for the prep team and like Bilardo, his skills will even be more on display when he has more time with the puck.
Rory Zawadzki is a rising star in his own right, and not one to be slept on. Rory is a tall, strong kid who showed his capabilities to finish last season. Matt Sullivan, who came over from the Cleveland Barons organization, has a similar skill set to Alex Bilardo and will see many of his pucks find twine. Sullivan, along with junior Danny Cook and sophomore Erik Galauner, possesses speed and Cook and Galauner have the hands to go with it.
The Wildcats' defense is notorious among opponents for its rough and tough playing style. Leading the charge this year for the Wildcats defensively will be seniors Aedan Conway and Charlie Ellis. Conway can play either forward or defense and as a senior, he will see much playing time at one or the other. Aedan always puts forth a top-tier work ethic and is reliable playing forward or defense, which his coaches love. Ellis made an immediate impact for the Wildcats defensive corps last year. Ellis is a perfectionist who rarely make mistakes. Ellis’ consistent play is a definite plus for the Wildcat D.
The Wildcats have a plethora of strong defensemen, four of whom are juniors alongside sophomore Aidan Conway. Assistant captains Michael Boehm and Greg Langermeier will play next to each other. Their yin and yang playing styles complement each other well. Michael is a gifted playmaker who can produce as a forward or defenseman. Greg is a more aggressive defenseman with Sam Nader-esque abilities at breaking the puck out. Langermeier’s offensive-defenseman abilities led to his state title-clinching goal last March.
Much like Boehm and Langermeier, Charlie Erbs and Clay Gazdak complement each other well on the defensive aspect of the game. Erbs is a physical defenseman who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, and has an underrated offensive ability. Gazdak, a converted forward, always makes the smart play. With more ice time, Erbs and Gazdak will show Wildcats their solid brand of hockey this season.
The lone sophomore defenseman, Aidan Conway, has also shown how well he can play. Conway is a name that Wildcat fans can look forward to for three more seasons. Mixing a hard-nosed playing style with a nice shot, Conway can surprise people with his skills for such a big guy.
Benny Savarino will be etched in many record books. The senior goalie has faced tough competition since his baptism by fire as a sophomore. Since then, Savarino has run with the job. A two-time state champion starter, Benny is about as consistent as death and taxes.
Zak Kovatch is a solid back-up who has a high compete level. Kovatch also has a quick glove that is only matched by his quick-witted humor. Connor Francz will also play some games in the pipes for the Cats, as well as some defense. Kovatch and Francz are two goalies who will keep the pipes safe for the next two years.