The Cougars just may be getting hot.
Lake Catholic Cougars lead by Head Coach Ryan OKicki are a team deserving of a watchful eye. Okicki is a young, modern and determined head coach and graduate of Lake Catholic. League play in his rookie year driving the Cougars see's a slow start. Loosing to Ignatius 7-2, Shaker 3-2, U.S 4-2, Strongsville 2-1 and St Ed's 4-1. We then see things turning around in January following the loss to St. Eds. The Cougars beat Padua 6-2, and then Shaker 4-1, and battle St. Ignatius in a 2-0 loss. Much improved. These past successful games are leading me to believe these Cougars are getting what coach Okicki is asking them to do on the ice. I am predicting this Lake team will drop only one of their 3 remaining league games and finish in 3rd place in the Red North division. Third place is will be great position for the Cougars. 3rd puts the emerging Lake Catholic squad in an ideal position to reach the finals of the Barron cup, where if they continue tracking as they have been, may be able to upset St. Ignatius in a Barron Cup final. Holding the Wildcats recently to 2 goals when they have been averaging over 6 goals per game is huge. The Cougars may win if they play to perfection.
The other Wildcat's
On the western edge of Ohio. The Sylvania Northview Wildcat's packed their gear and headed to Indianapolis. Where they played two of that states top 10 teams. Sylvania rolled in to the Forum at Fishers and defeated Hamilton 5-1, seeing scoring from Dalton Carter 2, Ian Clement, Drew Crandall and Cody Estrel. The following day, Sylvania came out and defeated Cathedral Chatard 6-3. The game was a highly contested battle up until the 3rd session where Sylvania exploded to a win. Sylvania now stands at 24 W, 1 L, 2T. Sylvania heads in to the final 4 games of North West Ohio Red Division game play leading the league 4-0. Toledo St. Johns is hot on the Wildcat's tail now sitting at 6-1 having just defeated Bowling Green and shutting out Findlay. The Titan's are poised well to Tie Sylvania for the regular season title with a win over the Wildcats this Friday evening. This is a big rivalry game, and under the guidance of Mike Jones, we have been witness to the Wildcats having choked when facing the Titans 3 times. On the flip and giving credit where credit is do, it just could be Mike Hays has Jones number, and out coached Jones at every turn. Anyway you slice it this is one of those matches you just can not predict an outcome for, and all ill-advised in trying. So not taking my own advice, I will say the St. Johns Titan run the Cat's threw. Leaving a steaming gut pile at center ice, as they are found hanging another Cat hide near the mantle as they take the regular season title.
Down South the Capital Hockey Conference
Dublin Jerome sits on top with a 19-9-1 record and is in my head, based upon the current state's near perfect execution of a P.C approach to "everyone's a winner". Where competition in no way is a true representation of the best teams in the state. That said, it is likely for the runner up down here I would wager that Olenatngy Liberty, may contend for that position, and could well launch to a state semi final match. Now considering that Dublin Jerome did just convincingly beat Sylvania only a few weeks back in a tournament, where all parties come championship time, opted to grossly alter who played who. Something that leaves me scratching my head. Imagine that New England opted to not play the Giants in the Superbowl and the Giants instead played Pittsburgh and New England played the Packers in another game. It would be very odd, confusing and disappointing.
More Cleveland Red South
The Cleveland Red south finds its strength in Walsh Jesuit and Rocky River, this year. While Walsh is leading in points at this point I predict Rocky River and that scoring machine will take the day. Holding 54 goals for and surrendering only 16. Rocky River is in league play in Cleveland is only being out produced by St. Ignatius. St. Ignatius is at 56 GF and 11 against. Since being loosing to Hudson 602 back on Dec 11th. Rocky River has on to humiliate Walsh Jesuit 7-0, Mentor 10-2, Elyria Catholic 11-1, Holy Name 5-3, and Holy Name again 7-2. Ridding a 5 game wining streak into this coming Jan 28th contest again against Walsh.
Now are we seeing the most competitive Red South division on record? No, its clear some of the usual suspects are just not playing the kind of hockey we know them to be capable of playing. Are we seeing a reemergence of a former Ohio HS hockey contender ? Seemingly so, but we need to see this seasons success carry over another season or two and there has to be clear success against that loaded Red North.
Where the state title is considered
None the less we will see a equal representation of all four districts in states again. Having the OHSSA demonstrating an inability to grasp how to properly establish two state divisions, two state titles and how to fairly allow every team to contend for said titles, guaranteeing the best teams in the state are not contending for said titles is a destiny we will continue to face, untill coaches, player and parents demand the OHSSA establish an arm for hockey, operated by those people who posses a competence in hockey.
Am I harping on this, am I preaching? You bet, a spade is a spade. I have no issue with each conference champion being admitted for contention, at any level, that achievement is a mark of distinction. Those teams have earned it. I do believe that barring any end of regular season tie breakers, that title should be crowned once earned. Advancing then to a 16 team play off. The four conference winners each playing home ice host to 3 other teams determined by state rank. Where the winners emerge to state semi finals. Semi finals and finals to be held anywhere but energy and life sucking void of an arena known as Nation Wide area, its just to damn big a barn for these games.
It is clear OHSSA has a lot of work to do.