After a scoreless first period, Elyria Catholic turned up the offensive pressure, scoring four goals in the second period and claiming a 6-0 win over Avon in the sectional tournament at the Brooklyn Recreation Center.
Elyria Catholic (15-10) will most likely face St. Ignatius, the top-ranked team in the state, Feb. 23 at noon. The Wildcats first have to play Avon Lake on Monday at 6 p.m.
Avon was banged up, entering the game without leading scorer Erik Novakovic, goalie Erik DeChant and Neal Novotny and losing Christian Hieronymous during the second period.
The Eagles managed 18 shots on goal to 37 for Elyria Catholic. Seven of Avon’s shots came in the scoreless first period as it went check-for-check with the Panthers.
Hayden McDougald and Pat Baeder had the best scoring chances for Avon (15-17), but each was turned away by Elyria Catholic goalie Luke Farmer, who registered his third shutout of the year.
“Between the first and second periods we addressed the issue of playing more as a team, because we felt there was too much solo play in the first period,” EC assistant coach Mike Haszto said.
“The kids came out flat, we addressed that and they responded.”
The Panthers outshot the Eagles 15-5 in the second periods with four crossing the goal line.
Colin Lester went top shelf on goalie Joe Sefchik on assists from Will Gentry and Stephen Donat for a 1-0 lead.
The second goal came on a nifty play between Taylor Reaser and Gentry. Reaser started to skate behind the Avon goal and flicked the puck backward to Gentry, who backhanded the puck into the net.
“You can’t say enough about Taylor and the rest of the underclassmen coming through for us,” Haszto said. “Tonight was one of those days where Taylor made a next-level play.”
Donat added his 34th and 35th goals of the year at 4:21 and 1:38 as the Panthers built a commanding lead.
“We really started passing the puck much better in the second period and things started opening up for us,” Donat said. “Getting that first goal in the second really gave us the momentum we need to get things going.”
The Panthers put the final touches on the scoreboard as Jeremy Ng knocked in a slap shot from the right wing and David Kukucka scored off Ng and Gentry assists.
“I think we took them a little light and thought it would be an easy win with all their guys hurt,” Ng said. “It’s one-game elimination from here on out and Avon certainly didn’t want to lose.
“We had to tighten up our defense and our passing. I’m just glad we have a hot goaltender in Luke Farmer.”
Avon coach Nick Novakovic knew the Panthers would come out with a different approach in the second.
“I warned the kids that they would come out harder in the second period,” he said. “I was pretty happy with a 0-0 first period. I knew the first goal was going to be important and they were the ones to get it.
“We aren’t going to use the injuries as an excuse, it affected the rotation and it is what it is. We were trying to flop guys around (in the lineup) to get some more punch upfront and we just couldn’t get it tonight.”
Elyria Catholic 6, Avon 0
FIRST PERIOD: None. Penalties: Brian Fielding (tripping), 13:20, (EC) Stephen Donat (slashing), 5:06.
SECOND PERIOD: (EC) Colin Lester (Will Gentry, Donat), 12:45, (EC) Gentry (Taylor Reaser), 7:24, (EC) Donat (Jeremy Ng, Lester), 4:21, (EC) Donat (Reaser). Penalties: None.
THIRD PERIOD: (EC) Ng (Ryan Saunders, Lester), 11:23, (EC) David Kukucka (Ng, Gentry), 8:52. Penalties: (A) Zack Jazwa (roughing), 0:20.
Elyria Catholic 0 4 2 — 6
Avon 0 0 0 — 0
Shots on goal: Elyria Catholic 37 (10-15-12), Avon 18 (7-5-6). Goalies: Elyria Catholic: Luke Farmer (18 shots, 18 saves); Avon: Joe Sefchik (37 shots, 31 saves). Power-play opportunities: Elyria Catholic 0-1, Avon 0-1.
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or email@example.com.