Four locals are playing for the Wildcats in the rugged Red Northwest Division of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League that features several state-champion contenders.
St. Ignatius is ranked first in the state in the coaches poll with a 24-5-3 overall record, 7-1-2 in the league. The ’Cats did, however, lose to St. Edward 5-2 on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Wildcats senior goaltender Bernie Cook (Columbia Station) is 8-3-3 playing one of the toughest schedules in the state with a 2.14 goals-against average and a sparkling .900 save average.
“Bernie is really a top-notch goaltender,” St. Ignatius coach Pat O’Rourke said. “He’s small, but he is really skilled and quick.”
Avon residents Russell Ellis and Logan Sellers are also contributing to the Wildcats’ success.
Ellis, a junior forward, has three goals and 10 assists and has spent a lot of time on the penalty-killing unit. Sellers, a junior defenseman, has four assists while providing depth for the ’Cats.
As a freshman, Cam Gerard (Avon Lake) is the youngest of the group, but he possesses good hands and has a solid hockey sense that has helped him score six goals and assist four others for a team that has just six seniors.
St. Edward, which is 18-12-2, has seven locals on its roster. Mike Vetrano (North Ridgeville) and Justyn Gilles (Vermilion) split time in goal and have combined for 16 wins with identical 8-6-1 records through last Sunday. Gilles is a sophomore and a rising star, having participated in the U16 USA Hockey Prospect Camp.
Senior Gabe Lampron (LaGrange), a captain for the seventh-ranked squad, has 28 goals and 40 assists.
He added a pair of goals in Saturday’s victory over its biggest rival.
“Gabe is a real leader on the team,” St. Edward coach Troy Gray said. “He really should make first-team all-everything this year. If he doesn’t there is a real problem.”
Brothers Connor and Ryan King (Avon) also play football for the Eagles, which put them a little behind the rest of the team when the season started, but they have fresher hockey legs late in the year.
Connor is another one of the Eagles captains with 14 goals and 31 assists. He also plays a large part on the penalty-killing unit. Ryan is a defenseman and adds depth.
Todd Price (North Ridgeville) and Hal Lane (Columbia Station), the last of the locals, scored goals against St. Ignatius. Price plays right wing on the second line and has nine goals and eight assists. Lane, a senior forward, has chipped in eight goals and 10 assists.
“The Lorain County guys have played a big part for us this year,” Gray said. “They have all added something different that has helped make us successful this season.”
There were several big performances turned in recently. Avon went 3-0, beating Avon Lake, Olmsted Falls and Benedictine as Erik Novakovic had 10 goals and three assists, Alex Guzik three goals and six assists, Hayden McDougald seven assists and Neal Novotny three goals and four assists.
Avon Lake’s Pierson Callander had three goals, one short-handed, and a pair of assists in a 10-7 loss to Westlake, and Midview’s Brock Behler had three goals and three assists in a pair of games.
Bring on the Baron
The three Baron Cup tournaments kick off today at the Brooklyn Ice Rink and the final spots in the tournament were not decided until Sunday afternoon. Midview, Elyria Catholic and Amherst clinched spots in the Baron Cup and will begin play today or Tuesday.
In the Baron Cup III (Blue Division), Midview, winner of last year’s tourney, will play Tuesday at 4:30 against Cleveland Heights.
Avon had a chance to get in the Baron Cup, but needed a win or a tie against Parma on Saturday. The Eagles couldn’t get the job done, falling 6-1. They finished in a tie for third with the Redmen, but lost out on a tiebreaker.
In Baron Cup II (White Division) play, defending champ Amherst grabbed the top seed after capping a 10-0 league record with an 8-0 win over Westlake on Saturday in its regular-season finale.
Amherst will play Solon today at 6:30 p.m.
Elyria Catholic qualified for the first time in five years with a 6-1 win over North Olmsted on Wednesday. The Panthers play Kent Roosevelt tonight at 8:30.
The Baron Cup I (Red Division) tourney features seven of the top 10 teams in the state in the latest coaches poll. The Red Northwest will have top-ranked St. Ignatius, Shaker Heights, Lake Catholic, University and St. Edward, while Walsh Jesuit of the Northeast has also qualified, leaving Rocky River, Hudson and Holy Name fighting for the last two spots.
Big changes ahead
The GCHSHL won’t be the same after this year as eight of the top teams in the top-flight Red Division are bolting for the brand new Great Lakes League.
St. Edward, St. Ignatius, Gilmour Academy, University School, Walsh Jesuit, Lake Catholic, Holy Name and Padua are leaving to form their own league in hopes it will allow better control of their schedules.
The teams forming the new league have won 18 state championships and finished second 11 times.
All of the schools participate in out-of-state tournaments that draw some of the best competition in the country. The league change will allow them to keep doing that.
The two schools that will be hurt the most by the change are Rocky River and Shaker Heights, who will be left scrambling for more top-notch non-league games.
The GCHSHL is expected to stay together but there’s no word yet on whether it will be divided into two or three divisions.