CLEVELAND — It wasn’t as easy as it was the two other times. Elyria Catholic coach Rick Montgomery didn’t expect it to be.
In fact, in the first period it was a little tense for the Panthers. Normandy, a team Elyria Catholic beat 10-0 the first time they met and 11-1 in the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Holiday Tournament, scored the game’s first goal Thursday afternoon and was behind just 3-2 before the Panthers hunkered down for a 10-4 victory in a non-conference game at Quicken Loans Arena.
“When you play a team for a third time they get to know who your stars are,” Montgomery said. “They know where you want to go for scoring, and they try to shut down those players. That was what Normandy did.”
Elyria Catholic (7-5) usually gets its scoring from Steve Donat, Jeremy Ng and Colin Lester. Those three were productive, but so were a pair of freshman — David Kukucka and William Gentry.
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Kukucka scored three goals and assisted on two others, while Gentry had two goals and an assist.
It was by design.
“Colin Lester is such an unselfish player,” Montgomery said. “He can almost shoot at will. Today, he was trying to set up the three younger kids (Kukucka, Gentry and fellow freshman Paul Demer). You saw how well that worked.
“We played everybody. Our goal was to have fun playing here, get a win and to try to execute some things we have worked on when we’ve practiced. I was pleased with the way things went.”
It wasn’t so pleasing when Normandy (1-14) got the first goal after Jake Kerlin intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and easily put a shot past Elyria Catholic goalie Luke Farmer just 1:21 into the game.
The Panthers scored an equalizer two minutes later. A shot by Gentry rebounded off Invaders goalie John Schmook and lay on the ice in front of the left post.
Kukucka got his stick on it and scored just before Schmook could cover it.
Lester scored two minutes after that on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that whizzed over Schmook’s left shoulder and into the top corner of the net. Elyria Catholic made it 3-1 when Gentry put in a rebound off a shot by Kukucka 10 seconds into a power play.
The Invaders got another unassisted goal with 4:02 remaining in the first period. A shot by Preston Vinyard struck the right pipe, then glanced off Farmer’s stick and into the net. Donat scored the first of his two goals 1:08 later on a wrist shot that caught the upper left corner.
The Panthers dominated the second period, limiting Normandy to only one shot on goal and putting 13 shots on the Invaders goalie. Four different Elyria Catholic players — Kukucka, Gentry, Ng and Ryan Saunders — scored in the second.
Normandy nearly made a game of it with a pair of goals early in the third period. Jack Pienta had a breakaway at 3:00 and slipped one past Farmer at 4:31 to go before the Panthers slammed the door. Kukucka got his hat trick with 8:21 to play.
Elyria Catholic meets Normandy one more time in the regular season, a Jan. 26 White West game at Reis Arena.
Elyria Catholic 10, Normady 4
FIRST PERIOD: 1. N, Jake Kerlin (unassisted), 1:21; 1. EC, David Kukucka (William Gentry), 3:20; 2. EC, Colin Lester (Ryan Saunders), 5:21; 3. EC, Gentry (Lester, Kukucka), 7:34; 2. N, Preston Vinyard (unassisted), 10:58; 4. EC, Steve Donat (Saunders), 12:06. Penalties — N, Jordan Frietchen (interference), 7:24; EC, Donat (hooking), 12:28.
SECOND PERIOD: 5. EC, Kukucka (unassisted), 2:35; 6. EC, Gentry (Kukucka), 7:44; 7. EC, Jeremy Ng (Donat), 9:46; 8. EC, Saunders (Tanner Reaser, Ng), 13:20. Penalties — N, Craig Jarzen (holding), 7:13; EC, Taylor Reaser (tripping), 14:40.
THIRD PERIOD: 3. N, Jack Pienta (Vinyard), 3:00; 4. N, Pienta (unassisted), 4:31; 9. EC, Kukucka (Lester, Donat), 6:39; 10. EC, Donat (Ng, Paul Demer), 11:38. Penalties — N, Jarzen (tripping), 4:45; EC, Donat (roughing), 8:53; N, Kerlin (hooking), 9:34.
Normandy 2 0 2 — 4
Elyria Catholic 4 4 2 — 10
Shots on goal — Normandy 5-1-9-15, Elyria Catholic 11-13-10—34. Goalies — (N) John Schmook (24 shots, 16 saves), Tino Salvo (10 shots, 8 saves); (EC) Luke Farmer (15 shots, 11 saves). Power-play opportunities — Normandy 0 of 3, Elyria Catholic 3 of 4.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.