Nordonia coach Rich Cinalli’s stated goal this season is for the Knights to start their climb out of the basement division of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League.
How does one climb out of the GCHSHL Blue South Division? Get experience vs. teams in higher divisions.
The Knights did just that at the Nordonia Thanksgiving Tournament, as it took on two teams from the Blue North Division and one from the Blue South Nov. 24 and 25.
Nordonia lost 9-1 to Aurora of the Blue South, 3-1 to Westlake of the White Division and 9-2 to Parma Senior of the Blue North Division at the tournament, which took place at Gilmour Academy.
Despite the losses, Cinalli said he was pleased with his team’s overall play.
"You can’t beat the experience, playing two upper blue division teams and a white division team," Cinalli said. "Morale was up for us coming out of it."
Unfortunately, that morale boost didn’t produce a win in Nordonia’s Blue South opener Sunday. The Knights fell 3-0 to Lakewood at Gilmour.
Nordonia’s record stands at 0-4, 0-1 in the Blue South.
The Aurora game, which took place Nov. 24, saw Nordonia senior goaltender Anthony Cinalli in a bit of a shooting gallery. The coach’s son registered 39 saves, keeping the game from getting more out of hand.
Nordonia’s lone goal came from Nick Peters off an assist by Brian Sebastian.
Coach Cinalli noted Aurora was the champion of the tournament.
Rich Cinalli was very pleased with his team’s perfromance against Westlake Nov. 25, as the Knights tested the White Division Demons.
Peters again scored Nordonia’s lone goal, while Zach Savol had the assist. Anthony Cinalli had 26 saves in the loss.
"That was a very good team effort that we gave against Westlake," Cinalli said. "It was the best game of the weekend for us."
Cinalli noted fatigue played a role in the loss to Parma, as the Knights were playing their third game in 24 hours.
Carson Banks and Carson Carrell each scored their first goals of the season for the Knights in the loss. Sebastian recorded two assists, while Nate Juchnick and Everett Butler each had one assist.
Anthony Cinalli had 21 saves in the loss.
"It was the second game of the day," coach Cinalli said. "We seemed to run out of gas a little bit. I think they were just a little bit faster than us."
On Sunday at Gilmour Academy, Cinalli said penalties were the bane of the game for the Knights. Lakewood scored on power plays in the first and second period and also scored on a four-on-four situation in the second.
"We had the penalty bug bite us a little bit," Cinalli said. "That’s what gave them the edge. We took three tough penalties and they took advantage of it. Overall, the team played well. We certainly needed to pick up our speed in the game. They outshot us 20-15."
Anthony Cinalli finished with 17 saves in the loss, while Lakewood goalie Bob Holden got the shutout with 15 saves.
Cinalli said traffic in front of the game was another key issue: Nordonia didn’t get enough bodies in front of Lakewood’s net, while Lakewood got two of its goals by screening the keeper.
"If we would have got a lot of quality shots, it could have been a bit different," Cinalli said. "They had guys in front of our net all night long. Don’t get me wrong, Lakewood is a good team. They outplayed us in that game. We didn’t get a lot of rebound opportunities."
Nordonia returns to action Saturday at Gilmour when it takes on Mayfield. Although the game is at Gilmour, this will be a home game for the Wildcats.
The Knights then host Brooklyn Sunday at 7:10 p.m. at Gilmour.
"I’m told the Pep club will be at the Brooklyn game," Cinalli said. "We’re hoping to get a lot of people out to see the game. This weekend is a big weekend for us."