Much of the buzz surrounding the 31st Ohio High School Athletic Association
ice hockey championships was that the semifinal between Lakewood St. Edward
and St. Francis DeSales would be the unofficial state title game. The combined
resumes of the teams had 21 Frozen Four appearances, compared to zero for the teams in the second game.
At least in terms of quality of play, emotion and controversy, St. Ed's/St. Francis certainly lived to its billing as the tournament's a Clash of the Titans.
In the end a goal from somewhat surprising source proved the difference Sunday
night, as St. Ed's (28-11-3) won a 4-2 decision at Nationwide Arena and in the
process earned to right to play for the program's eleventh state championship.
Midway through the third period Brett Carter beat St. Francis goalie Mychael
McAninch stick-side from between the circles, the power play goal breaking a
2-2 tie for the eventual game-winner. It was Carter's fifth goal of the year.
“Most of the time I just throw the puck at the net,” said Carter, who was set-up at 7:14 of the third on a pass from senior Vinny Buttitta. “He just put
the puck right on my stick.”
Despite Carter's modest goal total, St. Edward coach Rod Whidden was not
shocked at the source of the winner.
“Brett's got that shot,” said Whidden, who reaches his first state final as a head coach. Monday's game against Gilmour Academy will be the Eagles' first state final since its championship in 2005.
Sophomore Ross Kivett scored an empty-netter at 14:31 to seal the victory. At
that point the game turned ugly.
After the goal Kivett skated up to the St. Francis student section to celebrate the goal. Several teammates joined him against the boards, at which point St. Francis senior Louis Woody skated into the group.
That ignited a brutal fight between all players on the ice along with McAninch, who had been pulled for the extra attacker but came over the boards and was involved in the skirmish.
Six players were given penalties totaling 32 minutes as a result; four of them from St. Francis. McAninch was ejected for leaving the bench and Kivett was called for both taunting and fighting.
As a result, St. Ed's will not have the use of either Kivett or Ryan Seibolt in the final. Each was given five minute fighting penalties and rule must sit-out the next two games.
Following the game, Whidden said he was unhappy with the suspensions.
“You don't ever want to see fighting in high school sports, that's fine,” Whidden said. “But this was awful, their kid came off the bench.”
According to Whidden, one of the St. Ed's players had a black eye and another
had a stick-mark visible on his back.
“Our guys have to be able to defend themselves.”
St. Francis coach Brian Kinsella said he told McAninch to return to the ice, because he wanted him back in net for the face-off.
“I told him to get back in the net,” Kinsella said. “He was going on the ice to get back in the game, not to fight.”
Kinsella said he thought his players did not appreciate the location of the St. Ed's celebration and said one of the St. Francis players was bumped as he left the ice, which he thinks began the altercation.
“It was an intense game,” said Kinsella. “You wish that it didn't happen, but that's hockey.”
The worst part of the incident is that it detracted from what had been a well-played, back-and-forth contest.
St. Ed's got on the scoreboard first via the power play. After Will Grossman had been called for roughing, Alex Novack collected a pass from Ross Kivett at the top of the zone and scored the game-opener through traffic at 7:02.
But the Knights answered right away. Senior Will Gerken got the puck near the St. Ed's bench and took it untouched down the right side and into the zone, beating Robby Ginsburg low at 8:17 of the first.
St. Francis (19-14-3) grabbed a 2-1 early in the second period when Gerken ook advantage of a loose puck in front the St. Ed's net for his second goal it 4:26. McAninch made a sprawling save on one end, and St. Francis forward Chris Dyer took the rebound down the right side of the ice toward the Eagles' goal.
Ginsburg (29 saves) was up to the task against the streaking Dyer, moving to his right to prevent the initial opportunity. But the subsequent rebound sat right in front of the abandoned goal mouth for Gerken. The Knights doubled up St. Ed's in shots on goal during the second period, 16-8. Only coming away with a single second period goal was where St. Francis felt it let the game get away.
“We had a lot of great chances, but just couldn't get the puck in the net,” Kinsella said.
In the nightcap, Gilmour Academy got two goals each from sophomore Billy Davis and junior Roc Gossett on its way to a 4-2 victory over St. Xavier.
Gilmour’s second, or “red,” line – Davis, Gosset and junior Andrew Phillips – accounted for all the goals and ten total points.
“They have been known to put some goals in the net,” Gilmour coach John Malloy said, adding that the pair Davis scored in the first nine period were particularly important. “Those two really got us going.”
Trailing 2-0 after two periods, the Xavier (16-13-5) bench was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after a roughing call nine seconds into the third. 51 seconds later Gossett cleaned up a rebound from behind the net and seeming to take much of the air out of the Bombers.
After a Jordan Kemp goal pulled Xavier to within 3-1, Gossett scored his second on a stick-side backhand at 13:06. Xavier got a power play goal from Stephen Louie with 41 seconds left in the game.
“We only played 30 minutes of hockey tonight,” Xavier coach Adam Tramonte
said. “The better team tonight won the game.”
The win by Gilmour (23-17-1) sets up a third meeting this season with St. Ed’s. The Lancers lost both regular season meetings, each by three goals.
“We’ve done enough to get there, tomorrow will be the challenge,” Malloy said. “We’re where we want to be.”