STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — A fourth straight February included the St. Ignatius ice hockey team’s posing with the Cleveland Cup trophy. This time, that image came after the defending state champions dispatched rival St. Edward, 5-2, in the championship game on Saturday night at OBM Arena.

The Eagles scored in the first minute of action and stood even with the Wildcats midway through the second period. But the defending state champions again proved superior in this pre-playoffs tournament, scoring the final three goals.

“I think all year long we’ve played in tough games, been down and have been tested. This is just another one for us,” St. Ignatius senior forward Connor Koehnke said. 

The Great Lakes Hockey League player of the year, Koehnke was one of five players to score for the league champions. Benji Rechin, Greg Langermeier, Gray Gerard and Seth Whitney also found the net for the Wildcats (24-6-2, 9-1 GLHL). St. Edward’s Josh Tomasi scored with more than 14 minutes left in the opening period, and the Eagles (26-7-1, 8-1-1) kept pace for two stanzas. The third provided closure for the Wildcats, who also beat the Eagles, 3-2, in an overtime December matchup.

Ranked fourth in the Ohio state hockey poll, St. Edward advanced to the Cleveland Cup finals for the first time in the tourney’s four-year history, breaking up a string of St. Ignatius-University School title games. The Eagles beat the defending state runner-up Preppers, the No. 3-ranked team in the Ohio poll, 3-1 in Friday night’s semifinal round. No. 2 in the state rankings, St. Ignatius ousted Holy Name, 8-1, earlier Friday night. 

“We had a big night last night, a big tough game. They kind of had a scrimmage,” St. Edward coach Troy Gray said of the disparity between 14-15 Holy Name and 24-9 University School. “It cost us a little bit, but (St. Ignatius) is a great hockey team. We look forward to seeing them again.”

St. Ignatius and St. Edward traded power-play goals — from Koehnke and GLHL points leader Curtis Szelesta — in the second period following Langermeier’s long-range rocket, but the Eagles couldn’t sustain the production.

In addition to Gerard’s long-range goal early in the third and an in-traffic shot from Whitney with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining, St. Edward squandered two power-play opportunities in the final two periods. The second of which featured a shorthanded breakaway when defenseman Andrew Zedella broke up an Eagles attack near center ice and darted goalward. St. Edward goalie Andrew Stewart won the one-on-one sequence, but with the Eagles trailing by two goals with more than 10 minutes left, a second straight scoreless power play wounded the effort.

“The first (power play), we didn’t do so well and they scored on that one, but we adjusted something and were a lot better after that,” St. Ignatius coach Patrick O’Rourke said. “We were a little bit more aggressive.”

St. Ignatius defeated St. Edward in the teams’ district championship tilt last March. The rivals will venture into this year’s bracket as the Brooklyn District’s top two seeds. The teams’ respective odysseys will begin with the Wildcats facing the Normandy-Brecksville winner — at noon on Feb. 18 — and the Eagles encountering the Parma-Benedictine winner at noon a day later.

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