Powered by the line of seniors Connor Koehnke, Seth Whitney, and sophomore Connor McGowan, Cleveland St. Ignatius beat Toledo St. Francis de Sales 5-1 in the OHSAA hockey championship game Sunday at Nationwide Arena.
The victory earned St. Ignatius their fifth state championship and third in four years. They became just the fourth team to repeat as OHSAA ice hockey state champions.
"The whole thing was a team effort," said St. Ignatius head coach Pat O'Rourke. "These guys scored today but different guys scored last night and different guys scored in the district final. That's our whole idea is to come at you in waves. All of our lines can score, some of our four defensemen can score and then you have solid goaltending and that's a solid formula."
When the puck dropped in the championship game, the St. Ignatius Wildcats wasted no time gaining the lead. Their first goal came just 10 seconds in when McGowan's shot created a rebound that Whitney tapped in from the right side of the net.
Captain Koehnke, who had the secondary assist on the first score, added a goal of his own just over 10 minutes later when he carried the puck into the zone, skated down the left side and shot to beat the Knights' goaltender, sophomore Jacob Coward.
"They score ten seconds into the first period, that's a wake up call if you want to call it that," St. Francis head coach Chris Varga said. "I think it stunned us. But we said 'we've been here before it's no biggie.'
"I think what really got us was that second goal because it felt we had so much pressure going on and we out shot them 3-1 and we were attacking and they come down and score."
In the second period, St. Ignatius made it 3-0 when Whitney fired a pass from behind the net to McGowan who was in the slot.
St. Ignatius survived a five-minute penalty kill after McGowan was called for boarding. It was an opportunity missed in the eyes of St. Francis.
"In my mind if we could get one if the first one-two minutes of the power play, then we'd be in a ball game but it didn't go our way," Varga said. "It seemed like we were hesitant. Sometimes your 100 percent isn't good enough. I feel bad for the kids. They gave us everything they could throughout the year."
Michael Boehm added a fourth St. Ignatius goal when he lifted the puck high and over Coward off a rebound amidst a flurry of activity in front of the net.
St. Francis got on the board with 3:18 left in the game when, while on the power play, Gabe Barrow backhanded a pass from below the goal line to Blake Storer who was in the slot for the Knights' lone goal of the game.
Koehnke scored his second goal of the night into an empty net with 2:23 to play to cement the final score 5-1. Koehnke had four points on the game (2-2-4).
Wildcats' netminder Benny Savarino turned away 35 shots to get the win.
"We're trying to build something that will outlast all of us," O'Rourke said. "We're trying to put together a run where we come down (to the state championships) all the time. This is what we work all year for and we want to send kids off to play junior hockey and college hockey. We're all willing to put in the time and the energy and the work. It's cool when it pays off with trophies."
St. Ignatius got into the championship game the hard way. After scoring the first goal of its semifinal matchup against University School, they allowed three goals against before tying it up in the final frame. The game went to triple overtime before Brian Kurtz scored the game winner to make it 4-3, St. Ignatius.
University School's goaltender, Jackson Polish, had a busy night in the loss, turning away 52 of the 56 shots he faced.
St. Francis de Sales dominated Olentangy Liberty in their semifinal game. The Knights won 8-2 off of a three-goal performance by Kevin Hack including one short-handed tally and an empty net goal. Ben Mitchell also added a short-handed score. St. Francis dominated the shot battle 58-21. Liberty's Logan Senhauser stopped 50 of the shots he saw.
OHSAA CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS