Gilmour is the #1 seed and defeated US in the Cleveland Cup semifinals, but it was the Preppers that won, 2-0, on the last day of the regular season to secure second place in the GLHL standings and a bye in the league tournament.
The SOM Center Rivalry could write its next chapter in the March 5 district final.
Gilmour is the defending district champ, winning the 2020 final 4-1 over Mentor. COVID denied the Lancers a trip to Columbus for the state tournament, so head coach John Malloy and his returning players are eager for another shot.
In building their resume for the top seed, GA went 9-2-0 down the stretch and took St. Edward, the state’s #1 team according to the coach’s poll, to overtime in their last two meetings. Unfortunately, it was Ed’s that came up with the win in the Cleveland Cup championship game (in a shootout) as the Lancers tried to defend their league title.
University School is flying under the radar a bit but they proved they can get past the rival Lancers. The Preppers started the season a disappointing 3-9-0 but went 6-1-1 over their last eight games that included a 1-0 OT loss to Gilmour in Cleveland Cup semis.
US is lead by All-League performer John Pape, who leads Preppers in goals (14) and points (26), and red-hot goaltender Jeffrey Fillion (also All-GLHL) who is 4-2-1 with a 1.52 goals-against average, .959 save percentage and two shutouts.
Not to be over-looked, #3 Walsh Jesuit went on a 10-2-2 run from November 28 to January 17, but the Warriors have not won back-to-back games since and were just 3-5-0 down the stretch, including a Cleveland Cup semifinal loss to St. Edward.
One reason to not take Walsh lightly is their sophomore goaltending tandem of Brodie Lerch and Zach Firment. Lerch has drawn more of the tough assignments this season, but Firment has won his last six starts with a 1.00 goals-against average and .952 save percentage in that span.
Rounding out the top four seeds is a true wildcard in #4 Shaker Heights. The Red Raiders had big hopes as they embarked on their 50th anniversary season of varsity hockey, but the team has been shut down on four separate occasions. The last quarantine wiped out the last week of the regular season and the league tournament.
Shaker did not show any rust in their 15-0 win over Brush in their first district playoff game, but the tournament begins in earnest for the Raiders on Tuesday night when they go up against #5 Mentor, a district finalist a year ago and a Baron Cup runner-up this season.
The East bracket at Brooklyn seems a little more top-heavy than the West, but there are a few more dark horse teams worth keeping an eye on, like Hudson and Baron Cup III champ Chagrin Falls.
--- Scott Harrington for Ohio Hockey Digest
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