The Chagrin Falls Tigers hockey team just cannot stay out of the penalty box this season.
The Tigers once again were their own worst enemy when they lost 9-3 against Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Blue East Division rival Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy last Saturday afternoon at the Dan Kostel Recreation Center in Garfield Heights.
“Going into the locker room after the first period we honestly think we can compete with every team in our division and there is no reason why we could not compete with CVCA,” said Coach Craig Hoberman. “We went into the second period feeling pretty good, knowing there was a lot of game left ,but our expectation was to come out strong in the second period, which did not happen.”
Chagrin Falls’ (13-6-0, 7-3-0) regular season finale had high stakes because a win against its GCHSHL Blue East foe would have given them a share of the Blue East Division title and a chance to secure the top seed in the Baron Cup III.
However, the Tigers will finish as the runners-up in the Blue East Division and earn the third seed.
“We are pretty happy with our performance,” said the second-year coach. “We had limited personnel and a lot of developing players this season, which will continue for next season, so at the end of the day we were very pleased with the performance of the team Most of our games were very competitive and we had a couple of games that got a little out-of-hand, but all in all, I think we had a pretty successful season across the board for this group of players.”
On Saturday, the Royals got off to a fast start by taking a 2-0 lead with sophomore forward Noah Chadima scoring the first two goals.The sophomore first scored with 9:42 remaining in the first period off assists from sophomore Jarod Outward and sophomore forward Jacob Schwarzbek, then followed up with another goal at the 5:51 mark with assists from Schwarzbek and Outward.
“We were motivated coming into the game and talked about the things we wanted to accomplish and the importance of the game right out of the gate,” said Hoberman. “In the very first shift of the game, I think we did an excellent job. I think we had a shot on net within the first 20 seconds of the game which was great but then the next couple of shifts we had were a bit lackluster and I would say CVCA came out buzzing and Chadima was able to light the lamp a couple of times.”
The Tigers needed less than 30 seconds to get back into the game as senior center Henry Westendorf sparked the rally.
Westendorf trimmed the lead to 2-1 when he scored with 2:35 remaining in the opening period off assists from freshman defenseman Josh Baraona and freshman forward Henry Cimperman.
The Tigers’ senior center evened the score at 2-2 when he scored again, this time with 2:13 left in the period with an assist from senior right wing Matt Revnew.
“That is really our top line-up with Henry leading that line for us,” said Hoberman. “It was Henry, senior left wing Eliott Despres and Matt and they were buzzing.”
Chagrin Falls went ahead 3-2 at the 1:05 mark when senior forward Caden Smith buried the puck in the net on a shot from the slot with assists from senior forward Zech Armstrong and Cimperman.
The second period is when everything came crashing down for the Tigers.
Chagrin Falls committed five penalties in the second period, accounting for 10 minutes in the penalty box and surrendered five unanswered goals, including one power play goal.
According to Hoberman, the penalties buried any momentum the Tigers built in the first period and were skating on their heels in the second period trying to stave off power play after power play.
Hoberman said once the penalties started piling up, the Tigers could not get out of their own way.
“We had three penalties that were high-sticking,” said Hoberman. “They were not malicious, they were accidents where our players just effectively lost control of their stick and unfortunately it clipped one of the CVCA guys in their helmet. They were not trying to slash them but it was us not being in control of our stick.”
Hoberman admitted that most of the penalties were self-inflicted but some were also in defense of sophomore goalie Nathaniel Newton.
“From our players’ standpoints, CVCA was crashing down on Nathaniel in the net after shots and our guys are not going to let somebody do that to a goalie,” he said. “Our guys will go hard to the net but when the whistle blows we do back off but against CVCA, our guys did not feel like CVCA was respecting Nathaniel’s space.”
Chagrin Falls ultimately served 16 minutes of penalties in the game and could only muster 15 shots in the final two periods after recording 12 shots in the first period.
In addition to the penalties, the Royals also made a change at goalie and inserted junior Mark Mosher to replace senior goalkeeper Karsten Houk.
Houk earned the start because CVCA was celebrating senior night and wanted to give its senior goalkeeper some minutes but once Mosher entered the game, the Tigers could not get the puck past him.
The Royals’ goalie kept a clean net in the second and third periods and CVCA outscored the Tigers by a 7-0 margin in the final two periods.
Even when the Royals committed penalties in the third period, the Tigers could do very little with their own power plays because they would then commit a penalty and erase their plus-one advantage.
“We still played on our heels during the third period and it was tough,” said Hoberman.” We were down and gave up five straight goals and hung in there for most of that third period but we just did not have it in us and it became more of an emotional battle than a physical battle.”
Should the Tigers be victorious in their Baron Cup III opener against Lakewood on Wednesday evening, they will advance to the semifinal game at 2 p.m. Saturday to compete for a berth in the championship game, which takes place at 11 a.m. on Sunday at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center in Brooklyn
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