Facing a tough Shady Side Academy team, the Wildcats were swept in a tale of two cities weekend.
After rallying from a 3-1 deficit, the Wildcats lost on a goal in the last minute on Friday. On Saturday, the Wildcats fell, 6-1.
In the first few minutes of Friday’s contest Benny Savarino made multiple saves on great scoring chances for the Indians.
Three minutes into the contest, an Indian forced the puck in deep and went around Savarino’s net before making a centering pass to Tucker Lamb in the middle of the ice. Lamb’s back-handed shot beat Savarino.
Savarino let in only one goal of the eight shots he faced in the opening period.
Back and forth play ensued, and Savarino continued to save pucks, as the Wildcats looked to tie the game.
Greg Langermeier forced the puck deep into the zone with seven minutes left in the period. Charlie Klenkar and Connor McGowan traded chances, while Eric Lile played hard to keep pucks in the zone. Langermeier and senior Charlie Ellis both made plays to keep the puck in the zone.
A puck squeaked out to Langermeier at the point. Langermeier’s shot was saved, and Charlie Klenkar forced the puck on net. Connor McGowan was ready for the rebound and finished it off.
McGowan, who was injured late in the lacrosse season this spring, has fought hard to come back from injury. The senior’s efforts were rewarded on one of his first shifts back. It could not happen to a better man, and we are all happy to have the senior captain back.
“Being back is incredible,” said McGowan. “I have worked every single day for seven straight months to get back to where I am now. The guys have kept me super-motivated and hyper-focused on my goal to comeback. I have come back with more determination than I have ever had before. It is an amazing feeling to finally be back.”
Connor, it is more amazing to have you back.
Tied up after one period, the second period would be the most hectic of the weekend.
The Wildcats were penalized four times in the second period. The Wildcats’ penalty kill, which had been perfect to date, allowed two goals on the PK in the second period. Coming 30 seconds apart, a goal on a 5-on-3, then another on the remainder of the second penalty resulted in a two-goal lead for the Indians.
The penalty kill still had a solid weekend for the Wildcats, and is still one of the best the program has ever seen.
Following the two-goal deficit, the Cats needed to go to work.
A hooking call against SSA led to a late-period power play for the Wildcats.
Camden Kurtz made a pass to Langermeier, who entered the zone. After the puck was loose, Joey Trobenter found it on the side of the boards. Trobenter passed it to Greg, who found Alex Bilardo. Alex made a pass to Trobenter in front of the net, and Trobenter beat the goalie high on a no-doubt snipe.
“Michael and Alex did a great job to get the (Shady Side) PK out of their positions,” said Trobenter. “The puck squeaked out and I had a breakaway and I finally picked a corner and scored.”
Off the next faceoff, the Indians right away came down the middle of the ice and Savarino made a hard save look easy. A loose puck found Eric Lile, who cut up ice and found Charlie Klenkar. Klenkar ripped a shot from the top of the circle and found his own rebound behind the net.
Klenkar lost the puck but made a key hit right away, forcing the puck loose in the slot. McGowan was being hit as he whiffed on a shot. McGowan stayed strong and took another backhanded shot and beat the goalie five-hole. Chaos followed as McGowan celebrated on the boards with his teammates, as the returning hero scored his second of the game.
“Being my first game back, I was trying to simplify my game and get back into my routine,” said the captain. “I went hard to the net and finished the rebound from Klenkar.”
The game remained tied for the next 17 minutes. Sadly, the next goal, the game-deciding one, came from the hosts.
Having saved five consecutive shots, Savarino was faced with a tough task.
A defensive breakdown resulted in a two-on-one with under one minute left. Despite a diving effort from lone defender Clay Gazdak, a backdoor pass beat Savarino and the Indians had regained the lead.
An empty-net goal followed before the game ended and the Cats fell 5-3.
“We played our hearts out tonight and fought through a lot of adversity,” said Coach Patrick O’Rourke ‘90. “When we got the power play with 2 minutes left, I thought we had them. But it wasn’t to be and we let a great opportunity to beat the #7 team in the country slip away. Ultimately, that 4th goal falls on me.”
The Wildcats fought their way back in game one, but game two was all Shady Side.
Just 18 seconds into the game, the Indians broke the tie to take the lead over the Wildcats.
Two more even-strength goals followed, and before the Cats could look up they trailed 3-0. The Cats had a tough opening period, going 0-for-3 on the power play. The Indians capitalized on their lone man-up advantage of the period and led 4-0, as Zak Kovatch had taken the net following the goal.
Kovatch battled hard throughout the contest and stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced.
“I came in and was ready,” said Kovatch. “It was a rough game at the start and I did my best to not allow the lead to grow.”
The Cats started to push back in the closing seconds of the first period as Charlie Ellis found Aedan Conway.
Conway ripped a shot from the top of the circle, beating the Indians’ goalie.
“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” said Conway on his late-period goal.
The Indians would score twice more to best the Cats 6-1.
“I really thought we would build on Friday night’s effort and come into Saturday ready to spit fire, but just the opposite happened, which was disappointing,” Coach O’Rourke opined.” Again, that goes on me. Maybe we were a little too proud of ourselves based on our strong start to the year. But we’ll tighten things up this week in practice, I guarantee that. All that said, I was very proud of how we stood up for each other and fought until the final bell on Saturday morning.”
The team came out and made a statement physically in the last two periods, and showed signs of fight that will come back to help later this year.
The Cats are back in action this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. versus the Saint Edward Eagles from Winterhurst Arena in Lakewood, Ohio.
The SIBN will have all the action covered for Thursday’s contest, as Pat Keane ‘20 joins me on the call. LINK: www.ignatiuswildcats.com/SIBN-live