Pat O’Rourke ‘90 has coached a lot of hockey games. Friday night is an opportunity to garner his 400th career win as head coach of the Saint Ignatius hockey program.
O’Rourke’s teams have lifted five state title trophies since his inaugural season of 2004-05.
“I think the whole team would be ecstatic to get Coach O his 400th win,” said Greg Langermeier. “We will use that as motivation. We aren’t going to settle for anything less than a sweep this weekend. We are going to run our systems and come out hard by doing what we do best.”
“I think we will play that much harder knowing Coach’s 400th career win is on the line,” said goalie Benny Savarino. “These games are crucial, winning against Michigan teams always boost the morale of the team.”
Langermeier and Savarino were both crucial pieces of last weekend’s sweep of A21 Academy. Expect much more of the same from the Wildcat captains. Savarino let in one goal over the two-game set, and holds a 2-0 record with a 2.00 GAA versus Michigan opponents this season. Langermeier scored the game-winner versus A21 this past Friday.
Another thing that the Wildcats can hang their hat on is their penalty kill. The Ice Cats are 90.0% on the penalty kill this year, and have only had one bad weekend. David Strick and Clay Gazdak amongst others are known for their aggressive penalty killing tactics. Earlier this season, Michael Boehm, another top tier penalty killer, went as far as to say being on the PK was an honor.
Despite the green pastures of today, the Wildcats will face three tough Michigan opponents this weekend.
The Wildcats are tasked with Salem HS, Plymouth HS, and Novi HS. MyHockeyRankings, which ranks teams on a scale of 100, would place Plymouth and Salem right behind the Wildcats for the #2 and #3 spots in Ohio. Novi would also be considered a top ten team.
On Friday night at 7:45 p.m., the Wildcats play Salem High School. The Rocks of Salem are ranked No. 5 in Michigan Division I and hold a 7-7-0 record. Salem has won three of its last five contests heading into Friday night’s showdown. The Rocks went on a four-game winning streak earlier this season, that included a win over Sunday’s opponent, Novi. Salem beat defending state champion Brighton 6-4, a team the Wildcats erased a three-goal deficit to before eventually winning in overtime thanks to a Michael Boehm goal. Colin Goleniak has done a bulk of the scoring this season for the Rocks. If the WIldcats see goaltender Gavin Hall, Hall will serve as a challenge for the Wildcats, as he is undefeated in the net.
Saturday’s 3 p.m. contest against Plymouth High School will be another great game to tune into on the SIBN. The Plymouth Wildcats are ranked No. 13 overall in the state of Michigan, and No. 7 in Division II. The Wildcats of Plymouth have played a few familiar faces to the Wildcats. Plymouth has beaten Salem and Novi, both in one-goal games. Plymouth also beat Brighton 3-1 earlier this season. The Wildcats of Saint Ignatius picked up a 2-1 win over Hartland, while Plymouth fell, 4-3. Ian Smith has been scoring in bunches for Plymouth this season. Smith had a hat trick performance versus Canton High School recently.
Sunday’s 1:15 p.m. start will be against Novi. The Wildcats were able to beat Novi last year, on a similar weekend trip in which the Cats beat Hartland and Brighton. Novi lost a close 5-4 game to Plymouth, while also falling closely to Salem. Novi’s only other common opponent is Hartland, who beat Novi in decisive fashion.
“This weekend we are coming off a sweep at Notre Dame, we want nothing less than another sweep this weekend,” said Aidan Conway. “We came up to Michigan earlier this year and got the sweep and that is what we hope to do again. Coach O’Rourke is going for #400 and I would say that we as a team are going to work for that win for him because of all he does on and off the ice for us.”
Conway, the Wildcats’ youngest defenseman, has grown up quickly. Conway has transitioned into a roll with much more playing time this season, and deservedly so. Aidan has worked hard this season and complements D-partner Greg Langermeier’s style well.
“These games are very important for us,” said Eric Lile. “We want to prove that we can play with the Michigan teams and it is important to us seniors that we finish strong.”
Lile, a returning scorer, is tied for fourth on the team in goals scored this season, and as a senior leader is the SIBN candidate for player of the weekend. Few play with the intensity of the Wildcat senior, and #9’s style shows it.
Lile, Connor McGowan and Charlie Erbs have been selected by Coach O’Rourke to don the “Skerl Jersey” in this weekend’s contests. The Skerl Jersey is worn in honor of Mr. Jim Skerl ‘74, who was a beloved Theology teacher who exemplified how to live in the footsteps of Christ.
The SIBN will cover all the action of this weekend’s contests. Pat Keane and Max Marazzi will join me for the coverage. The pregame show will take place five minutes before puck drop.