Saturday, March 3, 1:00 p.m. @ Brooklyn Recreation Center, 7600 Memphis Avenue
1. Saint Ignatius (26-5-2, ranked #1 in Ohio) vs.
2. St. Edward (21-13-3, ranked #5 in Ohio)
For the fourth year in a row, the Saint Ignatius Wildcats and St. Edward Eagles will go head-to-head in the Brooklyn District Final to determine who represents the Cleveland area at the state tournament in Columbus.
It is the eighth time these two rivals will play with the district title on the line. St. Edward leads that all-time series 5-2, but the Wildcats have won the last two.
The Wildcats, two-time defending state champions, have come out on top in their last six overall meetings with the Eagles – including the 2016 and 2017 district finals.
Saint Ignatius has played out-of-state competition for most of the year except for the Padua Holiday Hockey Tournament where they ran the table, including a 6-1 win over Toledo St. Francis in a re-match of the 2017 state championship game, and a tilt with the Eagles on December 2 at Brooklyn – the Wildcats’ home rink.
Saint Ignatius junior goaltender Benny Savarino posted one of his five shutouts in that early-season game, and senior forward Bain Kurtz scored both of the goals in the 2-0 Wildcats win.
Kurtz leads Saint Ignatius with 19 goals on the season. Fellow senior Michael McCaffrey leads the team in assists (23) and points (35).
Saint Ignatius vs. St. Edward in the Brooklyn District Tournament
* = championship game
2003 St. Edward 5, Saint Ignatius 2 *
2004 St. Edward 3, Saint Ignatius 2
2008 St. Edward 2, Saint Ignatius 0 *
2009 St. Edward 3, Saint Ignatius 2 * (OT)
2012 St. Edward 3, Saint Ignatius 2 *
2015 St. Edward 3, Saint Ignatius 2 *
2016 Saint Ignatius 3, St. Edward 1 *
2017 Saint Ignatius 6, St. Edward 4 *
Saint Ignatius goaltender Benny Savarino posted a 16-save shutout of the Eagles on December 2
St. Edward head coach Troy Gray was happy for the opportunity to continue the rivalry after the Wildcats left the Great Lakes Hockey League to play an independent schedule this season, but he urges caution when trying to take too much away from a single game in the second week of the season.
“They play a very competitive schedule over the course of the season,” said Gray. “And we were a very young team when we played them (December 2)”.
And, despite the recent success that Saint Ignatius has enjoyed, let’s not forget that St. Edward has won 11 state championships and earned 20+ wins for the eighth consecutive season.
“We know them very well and they know us,” Gray said. “It will come down to who executes, minimizes mistakes, and ultimately who wants to work and compete.”
Gray’s counterpart, Saint Ignatius head coach Patrick O’Rourke, agreed that you can throw the records out when these two programs come together to write another chapter in the storied rivalry between the schools.
“It's become a titanic battle with both sides having some success over the years,” said O’Rourke. “We played St. Edward earlier this year, but both teams are different and better now, to be sure.”
Games on a big stage between two closely-matched teams can often come down to goaltending. St. Edward senior goaltender Andrew Stewart will likely be tasked with going up against Savarino. Stewart stopped 28 of 30 shots in the 2-0 loss.
The Eagles may be young, but they have been getting significant contributions from their young talent. Freshmen forward Tanyon Bajzer (19-35-54) and freshmen defenseman Tyler Fowles (9-17-26) were both named to the All-Star Team for the Great Lakes Hockey League.
“All these kids have grown up and played together since they were five years old,” said Gray. “This one is just a little more special.”
In addition to their seven previous district final meetings, Ed’s and Ignatius also met in a district semifinal game in 2004. The Eagles won, 3-2, then defeated Padua Franciscan for the district title on their way to the state championship.
“I expect a close game – one that could go either way,” said O’Rourke. “Some player on one team or the other is going to have a memory for life when he scores the game-winning goal. It should be epic."