By Ryan Kaczmarski
Rocky River breaks Green Wave, heads to Columbus
For the first time since 1979, and the second time in school history, the Rocky River varsity ice hockey team is district champion and has earned its way to play in the state semifinals.
It was an amazing week for the Pirates as they beat the No. 1 overall seed St. Ignatius, 3-1, on Feb. 26 and came from behind to defeat the Holy Name Green Wave on Saturday, 5-2, in the district finals, punching their tickets to the state Final Four.
“I’m so excited for these guys,” Rocky River head coach Chris Cogan said. “This has been their goal since day one.
“Here we are. We’re getting down there (to Columbus), and that’s the first step. Our job’s not done.”
The game did not start well for the Pirates, as Holy Name – a team Rocky River has lost to three times this season – took an early 2-0 lead.
“We know that they are a good team,” Cogan said. “I kept telling the guys all week that we have to keep playing our game, stick to our system, we got to get pucks on net and be there for the rebound.
“We stuck to our game plan, had a good week of practice and (our team) knew what we needed to do.”
After two first-period goals by Holy Name’s Alex Beruit and Tim Higgenbotham, Rocky River goalkeeper Jake Nicholson settled down and the Pirates’ offense went into action, scoring a late power play goal, by right-winger Cam Heider (assisted by Eric Sperli), cutting the Green Waves’ lead in half right before the first intermission. Holy Name started the second period with a flurry of shots, to no avail. Then, just 44 seconds into the second period, Matt Lowry found the back of the net (assisted by Sperli and Logan Drell), tying it up for the Pirates.
“I think that was kind of a momentum shift,” Nicholson said of his saves early in the second period. “After they didn’t get (another goal) – obviously momentum is very important – it seemed like it really took the wind out of their sails.
“We came back and just took it.”
The Pirates added another power play goal, which proved to be the game winner, in the third period by Bobby Perez (assisted by Lowry and Sperli), before tacking on two goals by Sperli to put the game away.
“We were definitely down, but that power play late in the (first) period definitely helped a lot,” Sperli said. “Coming into the second period, down 2-1 and on a power play, we knew we had a chance to tie it up and then just wear them down from there.”
Sperli had a hand in all of Rocky River’s scoring, finishing the game with seven points, while Nicholson tallied 29 saves.
The Pirates will face Shaker Heights in the state semifinals on Friday at 1 p.m. at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus.