SIBN hockey announcer Patrick Keane billed this year’s team as the ‘Cardiac Cats’ following a three-goal comeback win over Brighton HS earlier this season. The Cardiac Cats added another victim to the list at the Compton Family Ice Arena this weekend.
The Cats toured the campus of the University of Notre Dame and played two contests versus one of Ontario’s finest teams – A21 Prep.
Less than a stone’s throw away from the heralded Notre Dame Stadium, the Wildcats did battle at the home of the defending BIG 10 champion hockey team.
As the puck dropped, both teams traded opportunities as A21 outshot the Wildcats 9-7 in the first period. The teams played one minute of 4-on-4 hockey, and the Wildcats also killed one penalty.
The Wildcats were unsuccessful on an early second period power play, and the score was locked at zero until late in the second period.
Despite outshooting A21 17-5 in the second period, A21 found the scoreboard first. After a defensive miscue led to an offensive zone opportunity by A21, the puck pressure resulted in a goal. Pat Eppich and Aidan Millett shut down a 2-on-1 opportunity for A21 as Millett’s backcheck caught his man. A21 won a puck to the point and wrapped it behind Savarino’s net. The loose puck behind the net was passed to the slot where a backhanded shot beat Savarino glove side.
The Wildcats returned to the NCAA Division 1 visitors’ locker room trailing 1-0 with 15 minutes to go.
The Blue and Gold outshot A21 15-5 in the third period, yet they still trailed 1-0. With under two minutes to go, and an extra attacker on the ice, the stage was set following a Wildcat timeout.
Camden Kurtz graced the offensive zone faceoff circle, with Erik Galauner and Alex Bilardo to his left. Joey Trobenter stood to Kurtz’s right side, as Michael Boehm and Greg Langermeier backed him at defense. Benny Savarino, who kept the Wildcats in the game and stopped 18-of-19 shots, had done all he could and was on the bench usually held by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
And only the Lord knows if it was pure skill, or the “luck of the Irish”, but chaos ensued. Kurtz won his faceoff back to Michael Boehm. Boehm set up a one-timer for Greg Langermeier, whose shot ricocheted wide of the net. A21 won the puck loose and shot a backhander down the ice that for a time looked like it had a chance at ending the game.
Instead, the puck’s route began to curve left after bouncing and ended a considerable distance away from the net, resulting in an icing.
The six Wildcats lined up in the same format, and the Wildcats had one minute and change to tie up the game.
The second try from the offensive zone resulted in a tied-up faceoff, which in turn became a rocket slap shot from Joey Trobenter that was covered for another faceoff.
The third time was the charm.
Kurtz won the faceoff back to Boehm, who looked to pass to Langermeier for a one-timer. Boehm did not see an open route to Langermeier, so he released a wrist shot, which was blocked on the way to the net, and landed on the stick of Alex Bilardo.
Bilardo released a shot from the goal line, met by the goalie’s pad. The rebound was lying in the crease when Galauner dove at the puck past the extended reach of an A21 defenseman and knocked the puck into the net.
Galauner star-dusted over the circle, and his teammates mobbed him on the glass.
“I was just in front of the net screening the goalie,” said Galauner. “Alex made a great shot from below the circles on net, and the goalie moved a little bit off the post. That gave me the opportunity to shove it in. I was in the right spot at the right time.”
Only twenty seconds later, Connor McGowan picked off a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone and found the puck on his stick on the circle. McGowan ripped a slapshot and beat the goalie bar down.
McGowan celebrated among teammates as he left A21 stunned.
The Wildcats closed out the win successfully, and did not let A21 get any ‘Grade A’ scoring chances. Benny Savarino’s outstanding play sealed the deal in the Wildcats’ 2-1 win.
The Wildcats’ win on Friday afternoon can be attributed to strong team play, and the outstanding play of the state’s best goalie – Benny Savarino.
Savarino is 7-3-0 with a 2.15 goals-against-average. Whenever his defense fails him, Savarino always seems to be ready with a quick glove save.
Benny’s first shutout of the year came on Friday as the Wildcats’ record improved to 9-4-0.
The Cats’ penalty kill and defensive efforts proved too strong for A21 all game long, and the defensive core looked very good. Sophomore Aidan Conway had one of his best games of the season, and Conway playing well has become the norm lately. The sophomore is one of the bright spots of this Saint Ignatius team, and Wildcats fans are fortunate to see two and a half more years of him.
Clay Gazdak and Charlie Erbs, two junior defenders, also played well in the 1-0 win. Gazdak’s consistent play and Erbs’ constant hustle have shown out in recent games as the D-pair have been reliable, and only allowed a few goals when out there together.
Aedan Conway and Pat Eppich also produced at defense this weekend for the Wildcats. Conway is known for his aggressive pinches and constant pressure on the opposition. Eppich plays a fast, hard brand of hockey that has endeared him to coaches and players alike.
Charlie Ellis has shown capabilities similar to his older brother Riley, as Ellis always plays consistently good hockey and never seems to be afraid of a battle. Ellis’ fiery playing style and IQ have earned him rightful playing time this season.
The Wildcats also recently added Rory Zawadzki to the defense. Zawadzki has played one game at defense and showed that he can make his home anywhere, as Rory did not look out of place on the defensive side of the game.
The Wildcats’ other defenseman is the man who broke the 0-0 tie, none other than junior assistant captain, Greg Langermeier. After receiving a pass from Boehm on the power play breakout, Greg broke the puck out DIY style and cut past multiple defenders before beating the goalie short side.
Langermeier’s goal drew memories of his state title goal from last season. Greg has been a consistent defenseman for the Wildcats for the better part of three seasons, and was glad he could make the difference on his first-period power play goal.
“We broke the puck out and I got a pass from Mike as I entered the zone,” said Langermeier. “The D was flat-footed so I decided to skate around him and tucked it in short side.”
Benny Savarino’s shutout performance sealed the 1-0 win.
The Wildcats are back in action against three of Michigan’s top teams this weekend.
On Friday night the Cats face Salem HS at 7:45 p.m. The Cats will stay in the Detroit area Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. for a bout against Plymouth HS. On Sunday at 1:15 p.m., the Cats play Novi HS in a rematch of last season.
Max Marazzi and Pat Keane will join me on the call, as the SIBN will have full coverage.