We are down to the short strokes in the league races for high school hockey around Ohio with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. In many leagues, favorites were established early, and fans are down to calculating what they need to clinch, but here in Northeast Ohio the race for the Great Lakes Hockey League remains wide open.
The winner of Friday’s game between University School and Shaker Heights will move into second place behind first-place Padua Franciscan, but with varying amounts of points still on the table for the league’s five teams, Friday will only begin to shape the race to the finish line.
In addition to the regular season points championship, the top three qualifiers go directly into the semifinals of the league tournament while the fourth- and fifth-place finishers will square off to determine the fourth semifinalist.
all games at OBM Arena in Strongsville
Tue., Feb. 7
6:00 p.m. #4 vs. #5
Fri., Feb. 10
6:00 p.m. #1 vs. Tuesday winner
8:10 p.m. #2 vs. #3
Sat., Feb. 11
8:00 p.m. championship game
Sometimes is good to get a rough patch out of the way before Tournament Time. Gilmour Academy lost a league game to University School, then let a lead slip away in the final minute against Saint Ignatius last weekend. Despite those setbacks, Gilmour is very much in the race for the regular season title and the first-round bye for the Cleveland Cup that comes with it…The Lancers lost five times in a 13-day stretch but are still ranked #6 in the state thanks to their strength of schedule. In addition to some stiff competition at a tournament in Ontario, three of the losses came against #8 Toledo St. Francis, #3 US and #1 Ignatius. They have an opportunity to avenge the loss to US, and keep themselves in the running for the #1 seed in the league tournament, when they visit the Preppers in Cleveland Heights on Sunday. First things first, however, as they head to Strongsville to face an upstart Walsh Jesuit team on Saturday at OBM Arena.
Padua Franciscan returned to action after an 11-day break to post league wins over Shaker Heights (3-1) and University School (4-2) last weekend. The four points the Bruins collected kept them atop the GLHL standings heading into this weekend with 10 points, but the three teams with a chance to catch them all have games in hand…Shane Helman figured in all three goals against Shaker, then scored two unassisted goals – one of them shorthanded – and assisted on a third in the win over US…Aidan Knox stopped 57/60 shots last weekend and has allowed more than two goals just once in his last six starts…The Bruins play Medina this weekend before hosting Gilmour Academy at OBM Arena on February 3 in their final league game.
Shaker Heights split a pair of GLHL games at home last weekend, leaving them with a 3-3-0 mark in league play. The Red Raiders defeated Walsh Jesuit, 3-2, on Friday night and fell to Padua, 3-1, on Saturday…Cooper Mears made 22 saves while the line of Jack Camp (2-1-3), Gavin Richards (1-2-3) and Sammy Gerber (0-3-3) accounted for all three goals in the win over Walsh. Richards’ game-winner came with :32 left in regulation…After a slow start, the Raiders won three league games in a row before the setback to Padua…Shaker continues at home Friday night against University School (also 3-3-0 in the GLHL) before visiting Mentor for a non-league game on Sunday.
University School only managed to collect two of a possible six points in a challenging 3-in-3 weekend of league games, making their path to the first place in the GLHL more challenging, but maintained their #3 ranking in the state primarily thanks to a 4-0 win over #6 Gilmour Academy on Friday. Noah Caballero stopped all 32 Lancer shots in that game to earn the shutout and improve his numbers to 8-1-0/0.86/.957 on the season. It was also his third straight shutout after blanking Dublin Jerome (7-0) and Toledo St. John’s (2-0) the prior weekend…Losses to Walsh Jesuit and Padua pulled US back to the pack in the GLHL standings, however. A re-match with Gilmour on Sunday provides an opportunity to strengthen the Preppers’ position in both the league standings and state rankings, but they can’t look past Friday’s tilt with Shaker Heights at Thornton Park…Prior to Saturday’s loss to Walsh, the Preppers were on a 14-2-1 run that included a 7-0-1 mark over their first eight January games…Sam Wade has points in his last five games and eight of his last nine, picking up 18 points (4-14-18) in that span…The two games this weekend wraps up the league schedule for US, which hosts Medina in their regular season finale/Senior Night February 4.
Walsh Jesuit stormed back from a 3-0 third period deficit to defeat University School in overtime, 4-3, for their first league win of the season. Andrew Holcomb, Joe Holtzer and Josh Weiner scored third period goals – Holzter and Weiner in the final 1:58 of regulation – and Ryan Kerscher won it in overtime…Weiner has picked up multiple points in eight of his last 10 games with 25 points (12-13-25) in that stretch…The Warriors may sit in the GLHL basement but their comeback win over University School, as well as a 2-2 tie with #2 Olentangy Liberty on January 15 demonstrates their ability to win against quality competition.
Shane Helman, Padua Franciscan
Shane Helman figured in six of Padua Franciscan’s seven goals last weekend, propelling the Bruins to two key victories as the school looks to secure its first-ever championship in the Great Lakes Hockey League.
Helman had a goal and two assists in a 3-1 win over Shaker Heights, then scored two more goals – including his 20th of the season – with another assist in a 4-2 win over University School.
“These were two of Shane’s most complete games,” said Bruins head coach Perry Cohagan. “Everyone in the league knows how dangerous he is offensively, but his effort on both ends of the ice really made a difference. His ability to handle the puck and beat people in the defensive zone created offense not only for himself but his teammates and that is reflected in his assists in addition to his goals in important league games.”
Helman has earned a point in 10 of his last 11 games with 20 points (12-8-20) in that span.
--- Scott Harrington for Ohio Hockey Digest