The Wildcats’ weekend in Michigan is one that will not soon be forgotten by Saint Ignatius hockey fans. The Wildcats handed Hartland their first loss of the season Friday, then responded Saturday by scoring four unanswered goals to beat burgeoning rival Brighton.
The Wildcats’ trip started off with a showdown against 5-0-0 Hartland.
Most of the first period was spent by both teams killing penalties. Back and forth play ensued when the teams were even strength, which was a rarity.
The Wildcats drew first blood, when Matt Sullivan won a puck loose from the boards. Sullivan found sophomore Erik Galauner, who made a tape-to-tape pass to Michael Boehm. The junior ripped the shot home with ease, lifting the Wildcats to a 1-0 lead.
“The goal was a great play from our line down low,” Boehm said. “Sully gave it to Erik and Erik made a great pass to me in front and I just had to put it in.”
Soon after, the Wildcats were put on the power play. The Eagles of Hartland capitalized on their penalty kill, when a loose puck created a two-on-one. Brenden Tulpa made a pass to an open Joey Larson, who narrowly beat Savarino.
The score remained tied at one heading into the locker room.
Penalty killers are a huge part of hockey. After this weekend, the Cats penalty kill is 28-for-28. The Wildcats’ all-around effort on the penalty kill paid off, as the Cats killed three penalties in the second period.
The penalty killers’ efforts were rewarded by an ensuing power play. In the middle of the second period, Camden Kurtz found Alex Bilardo in the slot and Bilardo buried it to put the Cats up 2-1.
“I got the puck behind the net on the power play and saw Alex wide open in the slot,” said Kurtz. “I immediately threw him a pass in the slot and he buried it top right.”
“Cam picked the puck up behind the net and threw a beautiful no-look pass to me,” said Bilardo. “I just shot it top corner past the goalie.”
The third period belonged to the optimal goalie in the state of Ohio – Benny Savarino. Despite many third period shots, Savarino stood tall with save after save to preserve the Wildcats’ lead.
The last-minute attack on Savarino from Hartland’s extra-man attack was fruitless, as the Wildcats held on to win, 2-1.
Congratulations are in order for Benny Savarino. Benny picked up his 50th career win on Friday, and his accomplishments in the program will never be forgotten. More than just a goalie, Benny is one of the nicest kids you will ever meet. Always happy and quick to crack a joke, not many have ever made a better captain than #29.
“It was an awesome team win,” said Savarino. “We pulled out a tough team win, and everyone contributed.”
The Wildcats’ efforts on the defensive side of the ice in the third period, and the lion-hearted effort of the penalty kill gave a true sense of what coaches like to call a “team” win.
Postgame, Zak Kovatch awarded the “hard hat” to forward Aidan Millett, for his defensive efforts in keeping the game tied.
Coach Pat O’Rourke ‘90 praised the team on their efforts in the 2-1 win.
“Beating Hartland was a tough chore,” O’Rourke said. “We came off a long bus ride and did not have ample time for a typical pre-game stretch. Hartland was amped up to play us, as we beat them last year. They are defending state champions, so we knew it would be tough. It was an ugly win, but the kids gutted it out. Our penalty kill has been superb. Everyone wants to be on the penalty kill now. Everyone takes pride in the penalty kill, and it is an honor to be on our PK. It is rare to have a group of guys so dedicated to the PK.”
The Wildcats’ Saturday night game was one for the ages. A heavyweight bout between the two-time defending DI Michigan state champions, and the three-time defending OHSAA state champions.
A classic battle between the states of Ohio and Michigan.
“It was a tough game,” said Coach Pat O’Rourke ‘90. “We had to sit around all day, then go play the two-time defending state champions of Michigan. Brighton has had a very tough schedule so far.”
Three and a half minutes into Saturday’s contest, Brighton found the back of the net first off a screened shot from the point that Savarino never saw.
After the Wildcats killed off a penalty, the Bulldogs scored twice more, off a rebound and a tipped shot. Brighton led 3-0 late in the first period, and had the Cats on the ropes.
“After the first period, Coach O’Rourke told me to keep it at three and we would win the game,” said Savarino. “That is what I focused on.”
“Nobody ever got down on morale, we stayed positive,” said O’Rourke. “We wanted to get the the next goal, we thought if we did it would be much more manageable.”
Enter the Wildcats’ power play.
The five juniors making up “PP1” moved the puck well. With a hair over one minute left in the first, Michael Boehm made a pass from the right circle to the far left circle. Greg Langermeier took the one-timer in stride, and began the Wildcat comeback.
“The reason we were so successful on the power play was because our passes were so quick and tape-to-tape,” said Langermeier. “On my goal, we got a lucky bounce and Michael was able to find me on the wing.”
Despite trailing by two heading to the locker room, the Wildcats had a new-found confidence. Watching captains Greg Langermeier and Michael Boehm exit the ice, both held their heads high and confirmed in the locker room their faith in the team’s abilities.
The Wildcats pushed and pried and were inches away from tying the game up as Eric Lile took a shot that, depending on who you ask, may have found the back of the net.
The call on the ice was “no goal,” and the Wildcats remained down two goals.
Not for long.
The previously mentioned Wildcat penalty kill was killing off their second penalty of the game, and a puck was knocked loose.
Boehm retrieved the loose puck on the boards, and took it in from the left side of the ice. Boehm released a wrist shot short side over the goalie’s shoulder, finding the back of the net. The deficit had been cut to two, and we had an entire new ball game from the Kensington Valley Ice House.
“[I found a] loose puck that bounced off the boards,” said Boehm. “I picked it up and skated it down the boards and was lucky enough to put it short-side.”
“The second goal really helped us and led us to tightening some things up,” said O’Rourke. “Everyone kept believing, and we dominated the game from the second period on.”
Benny Savarino made a huge two-on-one stop in the middle of the second period, and Savarino lived up to his end of the bargain, keeping the Brighton scoring to three.
Eric Lile also made hustle-filled dive to help prevent a goal.
Despite trailing by one goal, the Wildcats had a world of momentum in the third period.
The Wildcats killed off a third penalty in the middle of the third period. The Cats’ penalty kill was outstanding.
“The PK has been amazing so far,” said penalty kill star David Strick. “Everyone is willing to put their body in front of shots and we are doing a great job of clearing out space so Benny can see the puck.”
Strick is one of the most unsung heroes of this team. An integral part of this Wildcat team, Strick kills penalties with the best of them, and has a hustle and speed second-to-none.
With 3:28 remaining in the third period, Langermeier was tripped up on a breakout, and sent the Bulldogs to the box.
Langermeier cut in and took a shot that rang off the post, and seconds later the puck was seemingly in the net with Wildcat arms raised.
But it was not to be, as the referee's whistle beat the puck.
With time dwindling on the power play, a loose puck rolled into the direction of Joey Trobenter. There's not a forward in the state of Ohio that would be picked to knock a rebound home better than Trobenter, and Joey showed why. Trobenter hesitated with the puck for a quick second, then unleashed a shot that sent Wildcat fans into a frenzy.
Trobenter had tied the game, and in the process erased Brighton’s 3-0 lead.
With 1:02 left in the contest, the Wildcats were sent to the penalty box for the fourth time in the game.
The Wildcat penalty kill stood tall. Facing tons of shots and rebounds seemingly defying geometry, the Wildcat penalty kill had a final big clear to send the contest into overtime.
“That one-minute PK at the end of regulation was huge for the team,” said Strick. “We had just tied it up, and we had great momentum. Benny came up with some huge stops, and we were able to tie up guys in front of the net, to not allow any rebound goals. It was chaos for a few seconds, but we were able to bear down and come up with a huge stop to give us a chance in overtime.”
As overtime started, the Wildcats killed off the remainder of the penalty, and then went to work. The Cats allowed few chances from Brighton, and kept a consistent presence on the puck. Alex Bilardo had a shot inches away from ending the contest, as Bilardo and his linemates had another great weekend.
The Bulldogs cut through the middle of the ice, and as they tried to enter the zone, Matt Sullivan tipped the puck away.
Anticipating the play, Erik Galauner picked up the puck in the neutral zone, taking it in stride into the zone.
With only one defender back, and Boehm streaking towards the back side of the net, Erik made a perfect pass finding Boehm. Boehm, having the goalie beat, put the shot where grandma hides the cookies.
Boehm supplied us with his best rendition of Russell Crowe’s Gladiator as he lifted his arms in the air. As the celebration ensued, Wildcats fans truly were entertained. Boehm skated the length of the ice to meet his goalie Benny Savarino.
Boehm and the Wildcats celebrated by the glass and wished the Brighton student section a pleasant adieu.
“I saw Sully take the D at our blue line, so I cut across knowing the puck would be loose,” said Galauner. “The D was drawn towards me, and Mike (Boehm) made a hard effort to go to the net. He was open so I passed the puck to him and he made a beautiful shot to end the game.”
“Sully chipped it to Erik, and Erik made another great pass, and I just had to tap it in,” Boehm said. “We battled back hard on Saturday. We had a slow start in the first period, but got a key goal at the end of the first period to give us momentum heading into the second. We played very well in the second and third, and found our way back into the game and capitalized on our chances the rest of the game. We showed lots of toughness to get back into that game.”
The Wildcats had completed the comeback for the weekend sweep, and outplayed the tough opposition in the last three periods.
“That wasn’t the first time we’ve battled back from a deficit, so I don’t think we ever doubted ourselves,” said Langermeier. “The deciding factor was we still had some juice left in our tank at the end and they didn’t. I’m glad Boomer came up with the winner in OT.”
If you had any doubt that Benny Savarino was one of the best goalies to ever walk the storied halls of Wildcat High, those doubts diminished Saturday. Savarino fought back hard and his play in net was a key factor as the game continued. Savarino’s birthday was Saturday, and I don’t think he had any better presents in mind.
“Saturday was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever taken part of,” said Savarino. “Coming back to win the game was more than awesome. I owe that game to my teammates.”
As humble as they come, not much more can be said about Savarino.
Now 5-1-0, the Wildcats will be back in action this weekend versus Shady Side Academy, a Prep school in Pittsburgh, PA. The Wildcats and Indians square off at 7 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Last Friday, the SIBN was not able to function due to a lack of cellular connection. We hope this is a one-time thing, and that you enjoyed Saturday’s broadcast.
Both games this weekend will be broadcasted. Max Marazzi ‘20 and I will broadcast again this weekend. After a week hiatus, Pat Keane will also be returning to the broadcast this weekend.