The path St. Ignatius is burning through the Kennedy Cup playoffs thus far could set the world on fire.
The Wolfpack has now earned a running clock in all five of its Cup playoff games. After winning by scores of 8-0 and 7-2 over Notre Dame, then 7-1 and 6-1 over Brother Rice, St. Ignatius opened the Kennedy Cup finals on Monday with an 8-2 win over Providence Catholic.
St. Ignatius scored three goals in roughly the first 10 minutes of the game at Fifth Third Bank Arena in Chicago. The running clock began with five minutes remaining in the second period.
“We knew coming in today that we've had a running clock every every game thus far,” St. Ignatius forward Corbin Klein said. “Once we got three in the first (period) that was the standard once again — to get out of here a little earlier. We’ve got school tomorrow.
“First shift, first shot — that definitely set the tone. You net that first one and it's contagious. Then the next thing you know, eight are in the net.”
Providence coach Nick Iaciancio saw warning clouds forming before the puck even dropped to start the game, and things got worse from there.
“We broke three sticks in warmups and on the first shift, Travis Briar lost the steel on his skate,” Iaciancio said. “As he was crawling to the bench, they moved the puck to Klein, and he came down and scored the first goal.”
The game was 33 seconds old when Klein scored the first of his two goals on the day, with an assist to Charlie Reif. Michael Hollub made it 2-0 at the 11:15 mark with Tiernan Ryan and Jack Perreault on the helpers, and the Wolfpack led 3-0 with 6:20 left in the period on a Jack Rhyner goal, off a Simon Moynihan assist.
That’s seven different players who had a hand in the first-period scoring binge.
“Up and down the lineup, everyone's contributing and it was really great to see a bunch of goals and assists for everybody,” Perreault said. “We knew to expect a good game from them but we were ready to play and we took care of business.”
Iaciancio saw a change in his boys’ demeanor after the Wolfpack's quick scoring strike.
“Our body language changed a minute into the game, like ‘what are we in for?’,” Iaciancio said. “But we talked before the game about how there’s going to be adversity in this series, so how are we going to respond to it? They’re going to push the play and we have to have a response.”
St. Ignatius posted an 11-3 edge in shots through 17 minutes of play.
“Our forecheck dictates our offense, and when they’re going in and making an opponent’s (defense) uncomfortable, it's hard to play three periods against us,” St. Ignatius coach Spencer Montgomery said.
“It’s being prepared to compete and you saw it from us tonight. On our first shift, the puck’s in the back of the net and then it's 3-0 five minutes in. The one thing we talked about is just focusing on the next shift and not the results of the game. And that took care of itself tonight.”
Providence cut its deficit to 3-1 when Noah Oliver scored from the mid-slot on an assist from Nick Mastro, at the 13:06 mark of the second period.
“At 3-1 I was starting to feel a little better about it, and then the penalties started to mount,” Iaciancio said. “It didn’t seem like we could get anything going, and those were mental mistakes — retaliatory penalties, frustration penalties —and you can’t do that in the playoffs, especially against a team that’s faster and heavier than you.”
It was indeed a St. Ignatius power play that put the Wolfpack up 4-1 less than three minutes after Oliver’s goal. Klein scored on a wraparound goal at the 10:33 mark of the second period, with Jackson Steinlauf and Luke Vega assisting on his goal.
At that point, St. Ignatius held a 22-5 edge in shots. Puck possession played a large role for that stat, but the boys in back also did well in protecting goaltender Ethan Laughlin.
“Charlie Reif, Cam Kosmala, and Jack Perreault in the backside really dictate what we do,” Montgomery said. “Jack is the Defenseman of the Year in the Catholic League.
“We've been working on our hinge, where one (defenseman) is a little bit lower than the other, which allows us to reverse and get out of there, and switch sides. So if they want to be aggressive on their forecheck it’s going to allow us to move the puck, possess, and then get out the other side.”
St. Ignatius made it 5-1 on an unassisted, short-handed wraparound goal by Tiernan Ryan, with 7:57 remaining in the second period. The running clock began at the 5:10 mark, when Steinlauf scored on assists from Klein and Laughlin.
“Up top, everything flows through Corbin Klein,” Montgomery said. “He's a big body that uses deception to create space. And a rising player to watch is Jackson Steinlauf. He’s the smallest guy on the ice but he’s so shifty.”
Third-period goals for St. Ignatius came from Victor Ventura, on assists by Vega and Perreault, who scored the game’s final goal on an assist from Ventura. Providence got its second goal from Nico Felice, unassisted.
St. Ignatius finished with a 38-19 edge in shots for the game.
“I mean, we're sticking to our game, sticking to our recipe,” Klein said. “We’re getting pucks deep, causing chaos in front the net, throwing pucks on, and seeing what happens. We’ve got a good (coaching) staff and when we do what they tell us, good things happen.”
And never underestimate the devious nature of high school hockey players; the precursor activity to St. Ignatius’ win over Providence Catholic actually came when Providence and Benet were slugging it out in their 3-game Kennedy Cup semifinal series.
“We went to Game Three of that series in togas and messed with Providence’s student section a little bit,” Klein said. “We pretended to be from Lincoln-Way East. We infiltrated them. It was great. When Providence won, they celebrated wth us.”
Hockey player hijinks aside, St. Ignatius is clear-eyed and serious about the Kennedy Cup finals and beyond.
“The standard just gets raised every year,” Perreault said. “We want to get this Kennedy Cup and then move on to the state tournament.
“The care level and bond came a long way this year. The bond got a lot stronger and we came to the rink every day with a goal in mind. It’s just fun to play hockey with each other. We’re showing up to the rink every day for practice at 6 AM and we're happy to be there.”
Game Two of the Kennedy Cup finals will be played Sunday at Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park at 5 PM, on Providence’s home ice.
“We were probably due for a stinker and you just hope it wouldn’t happen during the finals,” Iaciancio said. “We’ve got another shot at them Sunday. Guys were on the bench reminding everyone that we have two more games if we want it. We have a couple days off so hopefully we can regroup.”