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Weekend Hockey Preview: Ice Cats vs. Hartland and Brighton

By Jack O'Rourke '20, 12/07/18, 2:45PM EST


Wildcats ready for top-tier Michigan competition.

Following a dominating weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Vengeance, the Wildcats are back in action. The boys in Blue and Gold will head north of Ohio to Michigan to take on familiar foes Hartland and Brighton. Last year, the Wildcats came away from the Great Lake State with two wins.

The Wildcats’ effort last weekend was dominant. The Wildcats bested the Pittsburgh Vengeance twice, both by the score of 7-2. One of the main takeaways from the weekend was the Wildcats’ penalty kill. The Wildcats went 10-for-10 on the penalty kill last weekend, and improved to 19-for-19 on the year. Forwards Michael Boehm and Matt Sullivan played well on the penalty kill, and defenseman Clay Gazdak helped stop some chances.

Benny Savarino and Zak Kovatch also notched wins between the pipes last weekend. Both allowed two goals in solid efforts, and Savarino leads the team into Michigan with 49 career wins, and will look to hit #50 this weekend.

“I am not really focused on personal accomplishments,” Savarino said. “It is always good competition in Michigan, but we are hoping that we can get two big wins. We have a special group of guys this year. Everyone buys in and trusts one another, this is something that we value and it is big for games like these.”

Another all-star group for the Wildcats last weekend was the power play. After an opening weekend struggle on the power play, the Wildcats bounced back with a 4-for-9 power play performance. Juniors Camden Kurtz and Michael Boehm both tallied power play goals, while senior Eric Lile scored twice on the power play. Greg Langermeier and Alex Bilardo were very fluent on the power play as well as junior Joey Trobenter. Trobenter is my player to watch on the weekend. Joey’s hard shot and laser passes keep him on the scoresheet night in and night out, and you should not be surprised if #12 makes himself noticed multiple times this weekend. Charlie Erbs and Clay Gazdak, two defensemen known for their perfectionism, also picked up apples and have began to show new skills with the puck.

One thing which Wildcats fans love to see is that the Wildcats did not trail once last weekend. Five different Wildcats scored third-period goals last weekend, and the Cats lead opponents 8-2 in the third period.

Aidan Millett is also excited to return to Michigan. Millett’s coming-out party last season was his two-goal performance (with two GWGs) against Hartland and Brighton.

“It is going to be a dog fight for sure,” Millett said. “When we get pucks in deep good things happen, and we just have to put enough shots on net. It is times like these where you have to push yourself, and play a little bit harder.”

New Wildcats also have been playing well. Defenseman Pat Eppich nailed home his first goal, and forwards Matt Sullivan and Erik Galauner have identical 2-goal, 3-assist seasons.

With all these positives, it is fitting that the Wildcats’ competition steps up. The Wildcats are tasked with Michigan’s best.

Friday night the Wildcats face off with Michigan’s No. 5 team – the undefeated Hartland Eagles. After winning last year’s Division II state title, Hartland has had a quick start to the season, winning their first five contests by an average of four goals. Hartland’s biggest win to date was their 4-3 win over Plymouth. The Eagles have also handled top-tier teams such as Canton High School, 6-0. The Eagle to watch this weekend will be Joey Larsen. Larsen compiled a 37-point season for Hartland last year. The matching Blue and Gold Eagles also return forwards Brenden Tulpa and Gabe Anderson, who combined for 47 points. Goalie Brett Tome, who finished last year with a 2.05 GAA, returns between the pipes. Forward/defenseman Dakota Kott is another very skilled younger player for the Eagles.

Saturday, the Brighton Bulldogs play host to the Wildcats. Brighton, the defending Division I state champions, have started out the year 2-4-0 but have played one of the toughest schedules in Michigan. Brighton already has two major wins on their resume in Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep and Toledo St. Francis de Sales, defending OHSAA state finalist. Playing two previous matchups in the last two years, the rubber match for now is this weekend, but the Wildcats hope to grow in their rivalry with Brighton and also Hartland.

“The Brighton student body really gets into the game, making this a tough atmosphere in which to play,” said Coach Pat O’Rourke ‘90. “We hope to someday soon bring these two teams down to Cleveland so our fans can see the incredible pace of these games, too.”

Brighton returns multiple key players from last year including defenseman Tim Erkkila and forward Will Jentz. Erkkila had 27 assists last year, while Jentz netted 9 goals and assisted on 17 others. The Bulldogs return two goaltenders, Harrison Fleming and Cade Gorman. Fleming played the Wildcats last year, while only allowing one goal. Fleming’s 1.94 GAA in ten starts is no slouch of a stat, facing such tough competition all year.

The battle-tested Wildcats are in for two heavyweight fights this weekend. Expect two close, hard-fought contests.

Both contests will be broadcast on the SIBN by Sam Daugstrup ‘20 and myself. Friday’s game against Hartland has been moved up to a 6:30 start, while Saturday’s game against Brighton starts at 5:30.