Cats Magical Season Ends With Heartbreaking OT Loss In State Final

by admin on March 20, 2006

The Northview Wildcats finished off a remarkable season with a thrilling 2-1 victory over University School in the State Semi-Finals, and an equally thrilling but heart wrenching 6-5 overtime loss to Parma Padua Franciscan in the State Final to complete its 4th state runner-up season. Backed by an unbelievable fan base of students, faculty, alumni and family the Cats experienced a week like no other in Northview Hockey history.

Monday began with the first practice in preparation for the trip to Columbus. Media personnel from television and papers were on hand to get interviews with players and coaches. Family and friends then gathered at the High School for a meeting and to decorate the hallways and gymnasium. On Tuesday the Cats were able to get back into a more traditional routine and get ready for the University School Preppers. After an off day Wednesday the Cats returned to practice on Thursday for work on the special teams and to wrap up the details of the weekend. That evening the players and coaches were treated to a feast at the McElheney house as the seniors enjoyed one last team dinner together. Friday morning the school was rockin as the Cats were sent off to Columbus with a pep assembly that some staff members called the best they have seen in 30 years of teaching.

Spotlights, video highlights and player introductions sent the school community into a frenzy. Upon arrival in Columbus the players got a taste of the first class treatment they were to receive from the Blue Jacket organization with a tour of Nationwide Arena. The stadium and tour of the Blue Jackets locker room had all the players a buzz. After a last pre-game skate the players and families gathered at Bucca’s Italian restaurant for a nice evening together. With all the pre-game activities over it was finally time to play hockey.

Being in the State Final Four for the first time in 16 years and a fan base that outnumbered the University crowd at least 10-1 the Cats were fired up. But even though they controlled the pace of the game and had a huge shot advantage the score remained deadlocked at zero mid way through the game. The Cats would strike for 2 goals near the end of the second period to take a lead into the second intermission. The first goal came on the power play as great puck movement and passing lead to a goal by Brandon Snead. He was able to redirect a great feed from Thanasiu to give the Cats a 1-0 lead. Moments later an unlikely hero Zak Pizza extended the lead as his apparent pass deflected off a U School defenseman and into the net for a 2-0 lead. The third period was a nail biter as great defense by Northview kept the Preppers at bay.

However a power play opportunity opened the door for University School as they were able to claw within 1 tipping a shot past Bobby McElheney at the 6:43 mark of the period. A determined group of seniors would not let this one slip away. They tightened the clamps and did not allow another good scoring chance the rest of the way in the 2-1 win.

After a month of games and over 80 teams being eliminated the Cats found themselves in the State Championship game. Just over a year after a devastating loss to St. Francis that cut short the promising 04-05 season the Cats were playing in the biggest game of their lives. All of the summer running, lifting and all of the practices seemed very much worth the time. The Wildcats would face Parma Padua, a 7-4 winner over Upper Arlington, for the title.

Padua would strike first as a centering pass early in the first redirected off of McElheneys stick and into the net for a fluky goal and a 1-0 lead. But as they have all year long the Cats answered. Eamonn Reynolds blast from the point moments later found the net to tie it at 1-1. Alden Hirschfeld then found his way to the net for a goal and a 2-0 Northview lead. The Bruins physical play resulted in a couple of penalties and Northview went on a 5 on 3 advantage. In what has to be considered the shot of the year, Hirschfeld sent a rocket into the upper corner to give the Cats a 3-1 lead heading into the break.

The turning point of the game came at the beginning of the second period. With another long 5-3 advantage Northview was poised to take a stranglehold on the game. It was Padua however who was able to siege the momentum as they killed off both penalties and scored a goal to close within 1 at 3-2. With the momentum on their side Padua was awarded a power play of their own and converted to tie the game at 3. Northview was on their heels before Erik Lavoy’s tip in goal gave Northview the lead 4-3. The seesaw battle continued as Parma tied the game moments later as the teams went into the 2nd intermission tied at 4.

Both teams tightened up defensively in the third. Padua was able to gain the lead with 11:23 left in the game. Just under 3 minutes later Cody Bourland was able to pick up a loose puck in the slot to tie it once again at 5. Both teams had their chances to win it in regulation as the play went back and forth. Matt Cook hit the cross bar and many other shots went just wide or were blocked by the Bruins defense. For the 6th time in State Championship history the game was headed to overtime. After winning the previous 4 overtime games the magic just wasn’t there this time. Padua dashed the dreams of the whole Northview hockey community with the game winner just 2 minutes into the extra session.

In a moment everything that the players and coaches had worked so hard for was gone. Summer running at Olander park, tryouts, 4 months of practices and games, trips out of town and out of the country all seemed like a distant memory. As the tears flowed and the pain set in, it seemed so hard to reflect on all of the things that were good. The 31 wins set a new record for the team and the 4 losses tied for the fewest. A league championship for the first time since 87’, 2 holiday tournament championships, a district championship for the first time since 90’ and a 4th state runner-up were as an impressive of a trophy total as any team in history. Individual accomplishments were also great. Adam Thanasiu set a new all-time record for assists and became the first defensemen to win NHC player of the year honors. Alden Hirschfeld set a new single season record for goals and moved into 2nd place on the all-time points list in Northview history. Bobby McElheney took an undefeated record into the final game and moved into 2nd place on the all-time wins list. Erik Lavoy and Tim Hurst combined with Hirschfeld to create the most potent line in the state and Cat history. Thomas Monteith’s hustle and determination along with Greg Carlson’s attitude to do whatever he could to be a part of it all. These seniors and their teammates captured the heart of the Sylvania community and took all of us on a ride we will never forget. Let none of us forget what a magical season it was. The State record book might list you as runner-up, but you will always be champions to us. Congratulation boys on a truly unbelievable season.

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