Many people will use this weekend to finish up their holiday shopping, but the players on the Gahanna-Lincoln Lions and St. Charles Cardinals high school hockey teams will be lacing up the skates on Sunday for this week’s Skyline Chili Game of the Week at the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
The game constitutes a surprising rivalry between two teams who have unique connections to each other – and to the Blue Jackets. Not only do the two head coaches know each other, but Scott Howson, general manager of theBlue Jackets, has been an honorary assistant coach at St. Charles this season, helping head coach Rob Sangster run practices.
According to Sangster, the Game of the Week has been a highlight on their schedule for some time now.
“We’ve been looking forward to it since the summer,” Sangster said. “It’s going to be a high energy, fast-paced game.”
For the Lions, the Skyline Chili game will be excellent exposure for a hockey program that has grown in the past couple of seasons.
“We’ve changed the culture a bit here,” said JJ Stallsworth, head coach of the Lions. “We’ve done a lot to get the community behind us, and they’re starting to recognize hockey as a fun sport to watch.”
This is the first contest between the two teams this season. The Lions go into this weekend’s play sitting at No. 1 in the Blue Division of the Capital Hockey Conference with a 6-4-1 record. The Cardinals hold second place in the White Division with an 8-5-0 record.
This will also be the second game on the weekend for both teams. The Lions will take on the Olentangy Braves this Saturday at 6 p.m. at The Chiller Easton while the Cardinals will compete at 8 p.m. on Friday against Upper Arlington at the Ice Haus.
“We need to move the puck, use our speed, and stay out of the box,” Sangster said, noting that staying out of the box might be a challenge with the emotions running high for this game.
The Lions will need to focus on playing a tight defensive game while also finding ways to put the puck behind two talented Cardinals goalies. Still, Stallsworth insists that winning is not about what the other team does.
“It’s how we play, not who we play,” he said. “We need to keep the focus on what we can control – our attitude and our effort.”