STRONGSVILLE --- Holy Name senior goaltender Ross Conforto stopped 29 of 30 shots sent his way and the Green Wave withstood a late push by University School to win, 2-1, and claim the 2019 Cleveland Cup – the championship tournament of the Great Lakes Hockey League.
With 7:49 left in the third period, and Holy Name leading 1-0, Brennan Dickey stuffed a wrap-around attempt just inside the post to the right of University School goaltender Critter Coughlin, giving the Namers a two-goal lead. University School, playing in the GLHL championship game for the fifth time in six years but looking for their first championship, increased their pressure in response.
With 3:12 left in the game, Jack Henry Muha fired a hard, low shot from the left boards with a University School teammate screening Conforto. Again, the Namers senior made the save and US used their timeout.
The Preppers pulled Coughlin and got an extra-attacker goal with 1:22 left – Andrew Rozenshtraukh assisted by Muha and Beau O’Sickey – and the pressure increased.
With US buzzing the Holy Name end, Sebastiano Layne cleared the puck 150 feet. He missed the empty net, putting the faceoff in the Green Wave zone with 31 seconds to go. Dickey won ensuing the faceoff and cleared it himself, but the faceoff was to the right of Conforto again now with 24 seconds left.
This time, Holy Name defenseman Patrick Ehlert collected the puck off the faceoff and circled his net but, before he could clear the zone, he was triple-teamed and lost the puick. There was a roughing penalty on the play, however, and the faceoff was moved to the US end, allowing the Namers to run out the clock.
“I think both teams were extremely tired from yesterday’s games – two very emotional and physical games,” said Holy Name head coach Tim Sullivan, who was recognized as the Great Lakes Hockey League Coach of the Year during the first intermission. “We were definitely short-staffed due to some injuries but were able to hold on.”
Conforto and Coughlin combined for 85 saves in the semifinal wins for their respective teams, so it should be no surprise that the title game was a low-scoring affair.
With just over six minutes remaining in the second period, with a delayed penalty coming up on the Preppers, Milo Henry made a nice toe-drag move to the middle of the slot right on top of Coughlin (21 saves) but his shot went just wide.
That led to a power play goal by Ehlert that broke the ice at the 9:55 mark. He swept through the US zone with the puck from the blue line on the left boards, all the way to the right circle, before whipping a wrist shot back across his body and inside the far post.
The Preppers responded with a little more energy following the goal, but Conforto was equal to the task every time. Shots were 19-15 University School after two periods and 30-23 for the game.
Holy Name went on the power play at 4:59 of the first period when University School’s Andrew Rozenshtraukh hooked down Ehlert as he attempted to carry the puck out of the Green Wave end. Playing with the man-advantage, the Namers had trouble establishing possession in the US zone and only created one Grade-A scoring chance, that by Chris Callahan from 10-feet out to the right of Coughlin.
Ironically, the Green Wave started to build some momentum after the Preppers returned to full strength. Layne intercepted a cross-ice pass just inside the US blue line and fed Dickey for a wrister. Then it was Layne set up on a drop pass by Henry for a shot from the right circle that Coughlin stopped with his blocker.
The Preppers spent most of the remaining time in the period on the defensive. Conforto wasn’t tested a lot early, but made a few 10-bell saves, kicking out a re-directed shot with his left pad and squeezing a 15-foot wrist shot between his right arm and body.
The period ended without any scoring but, with seven seconds left in the period, US forward Tyler Alt was taken hard to the boards by Ehlert who was given a roughing penalty. As a result, University School started the second period on the power play with a fresh, smooth sheet of ice to work with. They were unable to generate any significant scoring chances, however, before Ehlert returned to the ice.
With the Green Wave back at full strength, Atticus Durst made a nice feed to Layne and, from the bottom of the right circle, he labeled a sharp wrist shot for the near corner under the bar that Coughlin deflected with his left shoulder.
While University School was playing in their fifth Cleveland Cup championship game in six years, Holy Name was making their first appearance.
As a matter of fact, the Green Wave had won just one game in Cleveland Cup play in the first five seasons of the Great Lakes Hockey League.
--- Scott Harrington for Ohio Hockey Digest