Similar to last season, the Saint Ignatius Prep hockey team opened up the season with a two-game split against the Pittsburgh Predators over the weekend in the Steel City.
The weekend opened up on a tough note for the Wildcats as just 39 seconds into the weekend’s opening contest, the Predators found a puck off the wall, and Jared Gerger beat Benny Savarino over the glove.
One thing you love to see out of any team is resilience. Senior Eric Lile ripped a shot from off the halfboard in response, and fellow linemate Charlie Klenkar popped the rebound home.
“It felt good to start off the season with the first goal,” Klenkar said. “It was a weird angle rebound off a shot from Lile, but I’m glad it got the team going right away.”
After 12 minutes of back and forth action, the Predators scored again. A defensive zone turnover led to a tic-tac-toe Predators goal courtesy of Ryan Brown. Gerger picked up his second point of the day, as he assisted the goal.
From this point on, Benny Savarino was perfect. The senior made countless saves over the weekend and held the opposition to two goals on twenty-three shots. Savarino is known for his momentum-changing saves and over the weekend earned the nickname “Brick Wall Ben” from broadcaster Pat Keane.
With time waning in the first period, Joey Trobenter drove the puck deep into the Predators’ zone before dishing a pass to the slot that sophomore Erik Galauner shelved. Trobenter’s tough brand of hockey led to Galauner’s pretty finish. Congratulations to Erik on his first Prep goal.
The game remained tied through the second period as Savarino continued to show why he is the nonpareil goalie in Ohio.
The third period began with a Wildcats’ power play. Rory Zawadzki passed to Alex Bilardo, who cut into the middle the ice and had his shot blocked by the goalie. Ever-present forward Aidan Millett was ready on the backdoor and rammed the puck home. Millett’s goal marked the first Wildcat lead of the season.
“Alex took a nice shot and I was in the right position to score,” Millett said.
On the following play, a Camden Kurtz shot was covered, to force an offensive zone faceoff. Michael Boehm won the faceoff back to Matt Sullivan, and Sullivan uncorked a shot that sniped the goalie to extend the Wildcat lead to two.
Benny Savarino finished strong between the pipes for the Wildcats, and the season began with a 4-2 win.
Benny Savarino faced 11 first-period shots on Sunday morning, only being beaten once. A defensive turnover to Predator forward Anthony Sandora became a goal when Sandora dangled through a few Wildcats, then slid the puck past Savarino.
In the opening moments of the second period, defensive miscommunication resulted in a Predator breakaway, but Benny Savarino stood tall to keep the deficit at only one.
Jared Gerger multiplied the Predator lead by two when he created an opportunity for himself, and placed a shot past Savarino.
The game went back and forth, yet no team was able to score again as the Predators led 2-0 heading into the locker room.
Momentum favored the Wildcats as the third period began. A hard dump-in by Joey Trobenter found Michael Boehm, who glassed the puck behind the net. Alex Bilardo attempted to center a pass to Camden Kurtz from behind the net, but his pass hit off a Predator and found the back of the net. Bilardo was ecstatic to change the momentum of the game as he said, “Michael took the puck up and he made a good play off the boards behind the net. I got lucky on a bounce and it went in.”
The Wildcats had chances on the very next play, but the Predators created a turnover and Torrey Schwartz’ pass found Ryan Luppe. Luppe finished off the breakaway and that was all she wrote in terms of scoring.
The fight wasn’t over, as the Cats continued to battle and saw multiple late chances with the goalie pulled. The Ice Cats produced 14 third-period shots, and had a much higher intensity that gives you hope for games to come.
Benny Savarino stopped 25 out of the 28 shots he faced.
The Wildcats played well Saturday, and are looking to build off Sunday’s performance, as they have two weeks of practice before the next games. This will not be the last we see of the Predators, as the Ice Cats host them for a two-game set in late December.
The Cats are back in action on December 1 and 2 against the Pittsburgh Vengeance. Game times are Saturday at 4:45 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m., from the John M. Coyne Recreation Center.
The SIBN will have full coverage of these games and all games this season.