After cruising through the first two rounds of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Baron Cup I playoffs by shutting out both Solon and Mentor, the Rocky River varsity ice hockey team experienced its first taste of adversity in the championship game Sunday night at the Brooklyn Ice Arena.
The Pirates faced Shaker Heights for the city championship in what was hoped to be a thrilling matchup, and the game did not disappoint, as the Pirates overcame a first period 1-1 tie, to go ahead and take it all, 2-1.
“Obviously (Shaker Heights) is a good team, and we’ve battled with them all year,” Rocky River head coach Chris Cogan said. “We knew we were going to have a tight competition tonight, and our effort was unbelievable.
“We killed off penalties and we did all the little things we needed to do to come out on top.”
Pirates goalkeeper Ryan Kostelnik posted the shutouts in the first two games, and followed that with a 21-save performance in the championship game, none more important than two break-away saves coming late in the third period.
“(Kostelnik) has been huge this whole Baron Cup,” Cogan explained. “The first two games were shutouts, while making unbelievable saves late in games and keeping the confidence going on the bench.
“Ryan has been playing great the whole year, especially the second half of the season,” he added. “We needed that, and hopefully we can keep him going throughout the state tournament.”
Rocky River opened the scoring on a goal by P.J. Sperli (assisted by Jack Mallett and Cam Heiden) just two minutes into the first period, but the Red Raiders followed up with a power play goal – the only goal scored on the Pirates in the tournament – four minutes before the first intermission.
The Pirates knew that they needed to score right away in the beginning of the second period, and Logan Drell did just that, scoring the go-ahead, power play goal (assisted by Matt Lowry and Tom Robenault) three minutes into the middle act.
“We’ve worked on the power play all year, and Matt Lowry made the perfect pass to my stick and it just went in,” Drell said. “Shaker is a great team. We battled against them whenever we’ve played them in my whole high school career, but this year has been something special, because the games have been close every single time.
“It’s just great to come out on top.”
Drell was given the Vince Locastro Award for his performance in the tournament.
The Pirates went all the way to Columbus in the state tournament last season, but that did not diminish the importance of winning the Baron Cup I title.
“It’s pretty nice,” Drell said. “A state title is the ultimate goal, but winning the Baron Cup is awesome; an unbelievable feeling.”
“Winning this was one of the team’s goals since the beginning of the season,” Cogan added. “This is just a stepping stone, and we have to build off of the three victories in the Baron Cup and keep it going into states.”
The Pirates now sit at 27-5-1 on the season and start their run back to Columbus tomorrow when they face the winner of first-round game between Olmsted Falls and Parma, with the puck scheduled to drop at 5:30 p.m., at the Brooklyn Ice Arena.
Avon falls to Western Reserve Academy in Baron Cup II championship
Avon took the early 1-0 lead in the game on a goal by Eric Novakovic (assisted by Alex Guzik and Joe Goetz) right before the first intermission, but WRA rattled off three unanswered goals to win the division II city championship Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Ice Arena, 3-1.
“I kind of felt that the game was going to be close all day – we knew we were playing against them since Friday night – and it turned out to be a good game,” Avon head coach Mike Novakovic said. “I told the boys that they played a good game and there is nothing to hang their heads about.
“(WRA) got a couple goals, and they came out on top.”
Avon is only in its second season as a varsity program, and Novakovic was happy for his team to make the city title game this year.
“There are 10 other team that would have been happy to play in this game today,” he said. “To be here – in our second year in the league – and playing in a championship game is outstanding.
“Hopefully the guys will be able to take a look back at this, and see what a special event it was. Also, the next time they have an opportunity to play in a game like this, hopefully they will have a little better understanding of what it takes to come out on top.”
Avon goalkeeper Joe Sefchik tallied 25 saves in the losing effort.