When it comes to a rubber disc getting slapped around on a sheet of ice, a team could get blown away by an opponent on Friday and then return and defeat that very same opponent on Saturday.
So, when the Gilmour Academy varsity team took one on the chin during a 6-0 road loss against Great Lakes Hockey League foe St. Edward on Friday night at Winterhurst Arena in Lakewood, Lancer 16th-year head coach John Malloy could have said his team just had a bad day or that a few unlucky bounces went the wrong way.
But the hall-of-fame coach said none of that.
“I think it was just where the teams are right now,” Malloy said. “I mean, St. Ed’s has a good team, and, from my take, they’re the best team in the state. We’re a good team, but we’re not ready to play them. We just didn’t have the things in place that we will need to have in place in order to compete, and it might be a situation where, even if we do, we’re going to have to get some breaks along the way.”
St. Edward is a program that hasn’t been to the state frozen four since 2015, but that’s mostly because of the Eagles’ district collisions against four-time defending state champion St. Ignatius, which was fixing to capture a fifth consecutive crown before COVID-19 disrupted the state final-four tournament in March.
That said, St. Ignatius has been the team to beat in Ohio the past five seasons. That’s not the case this year.
After St. Edward defeated Gilmour, 6-0, on Friday, the Eagles turned around and put a 7-0 hurting on St. Ignatius 24 hours later. That was the Wildcats’ first loss against an Ohio team since a 4-2 regular-season affair with University School four seasons ago.
“We’re in the same ballpark St. Ignatius is,” Malloy said. “Ignatius beat us twice, and they’re a really good team, but they’re just like us. They’re going to have to figure some things out if they’re going to beat St. Ed’s.
“So, we’re in that next tier. There’s a number of teams in that next tier. And the ones that can become better during the course of the year could perhaps move up to that next level and differentiate themselves. So, that’s going to be the challenge.”
Through their dominant victories against Gilmour and Ignatius this past weekend, the St. Edward Icemen are 7-0-1, with a 3-3 tie against Toledo St. Francis in a game that they had 10 penalties to St. Francis’ one.
During the Edward-Gilmour clash on Friday, penalties were distributed evenly, but the Eagles made better use of their power-play opportunities on a pair of lamplighters in the second period.
“Our penalty kill was not good at all,” Malloy said. “Really, we didn’t do some basic penalty-kill formations and just made it real easy for them. So, I was just disappointed in that aspect of it. And I thought our power play was OK. We had some good chances, but, after the chances, they did a good job of pressuring, and we did not do a good job of regaining possession and setting up. I think we panicked a little bit.
“So, in games against good teams, your specialty teams have to be good, and ours were not good.”
The Ice Eagles showed themselves to be very deep, with good offense, good defense and good goaltending, Malloy said. All six of Ed’s goals came off different sticks, but senior forward Lucas Newton distributed three assists to go with his lamplighter.
Overall, Ed’s put 41 shots on goal compared to the Lancers’ 19, as Eagle junior netminder Ethan Payne put up the Plexiglas in front of his cage.
But coach Malloy didn’t point any fingers at his own junior goalie, Andrew Harrington.
“We had some turnovers that cost us goals early,” Malloy said. “The first two goals they scored were mistakes that our defensive units made, and we didn’t transition back well. So, they capitalized on it.
“I thought our goalie played well most of the game. There were a couple times he had some rebound control trouble, and some of that is where your defense can bail him out by picking people up and clearing pucks, and we haven’t done a real good job of that over the last few games.”
With a shortage of defensemen, including two injured, two that joined Gilmour’s prep and U16 programs on the offseason and two that graduated from a year ago, the Lancers utilized three forwards in their defensive third on Friday.
Offensively, Gilmour has seven varsity veterans and the depth of older players who joined the varsity team from other Gilmour programs this season, which allows the Lancers to still run four lines.
It can be difficult to keep guys motivated during a 4-0 deficit in the middle frame, but the Lancers performed well under those circumstances against Ed’s, Malloy said.
“I was really proud,” Malloy said. “I thought we played our best hockey after the score was 4-0. I mean, St. Ed’s ended up getting two more, but I thought we played really well from that point on.”
Three of Ed’s six goals came in the final minute of each period, including a 5-0 tally with 14 seconds remaining in the second stanza and then a short-handed lamplighter with 28 seconds left in the game.
With Gilmour owning a 4-3-1 record eight games into the season, Malloy said he’s starting to see patterns develop from his squad.
“Taking care of the puck at the beginning of periods and taking care of the puck at the end of periods is definitely an area that we have to get better at,” he said. “The penalty kill is another area, and then also just being more cognizant around our own net.
“There’s a lot of other times where we’re not technically doing the right things. And I think four of the goals St. Ed’s scored were those situations, which gives me hope. Those are changeable things. Those are things we can make adjustments from and grow.”