Nordonia hockey coach Rich Cinalli has noted his team has made signs of progress, thanks to some work in the offseason.
The most concrete sign of that progress, however, comes in form of wins.
Nordonia improved to 3-2 recently after going 1-1 at the Nordonia Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 24 at Gilmour Academy. The Knights lost 10-3 to Aurora, but then defeated Westlake 4-3 in a shootout.
On Sunday at Gilmour, Nordonia picked up a big win in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League’s Blue South Division, smashing Elyria Catholic 9-0. The Knights improved to 2-1 the Blue South with the win.
Cinalli likes a lot of what his team has done in recent games.
"All the work we put in in the offseason has paid off," Cinalli said. "The kids are passing the puck well. They’re looking up and communicating well. We’ve still got to get away from penalties. That is the place where Aurora really hurt us."
A member of the Blue North division of the GCHSHL, Cinalli said Aurora was the best team the Knights have played thus far.
Nordonia kept things close early, playing the Greenmen to a 1-1 tie after one period. However, a trio of penalties in the second period allowed Aurora put four goals into the net in the second period, followed by five Greenmen goals in the third.
"That was the first game that we played in the tournament," Cinalli said. "Once we started getting those penalties, we had to shorten the bench a little bit. The first two lines got a bit tired and they took advantage of some of lower lines.
"Overall, we played well as a team," he added. "When we didn’t have penalties, we were skating with them. The experience we get from these tournaments is the most valuable thing for us."
Nordonia got a goal in each of the periods. Forward Nick Peters scored on an assist from Kenton Carrell in the first, Carson Carrell scored with assists from Brian Sebastian and Nate Owen in the second and sophomore Anthony Stutler scored on an assist from Anthony Rock in the third period.
Because of a scheduling quirk, Cinalli said his team had virtually no time to rest and prepare for Westlake.
"We had like a … 15-minute break," Cinalli said. "We came out and put in two goals up. Skated really well in the first period. We had two goals and killed three penalties in the first period.
Sophomore Matt Monaco had a big first period, scoring on assist from Owen and assisting Nick Peters with his goal. Peters also scored in the second period off a goal from Carson Carrell.
After taking the early lead, Cinalli said it felt like his team was hanging on for dear life in the third period until Westlake scored the tying goal at the 13:09 mark of the third period,
Tied 3-3 at the second of regulation, the game went directly to a three-man shootout, per tournament rules.
Lippincott made saves on both of Westlake’s shots, while the Carrell twins each converted their shots to give Nordonia the win.
Nordonia finished with a 34-32 edge in shots as Lippincott had 29 saves.
"The team was really excited to get back on Westlake," Carrell said, noting Westlake beat the Knights in their season opener. "We put a lot of shots on them the first time we played them."
Cinalli said the Knights did what they needed to against the Panthers Sunday.
"Elyria Catholic this year, they’re short. They only had eight players," Cinalli said. "We played really well. We were able to get all four of our lines out and play. We did the right thing by skating past them when we played."
Lippicott recorded nine saves in the win to earn his first career shutout.
"The team was really excited for him," Cinalli.
Peters led the Knights’ attack by recording a hat trick, while Nate Juchnik and Anthony Rock each recorded their first first goals of the season.
Cinalli also noted sophomore defender Kenzie Stroh recorded her first career point, assisting on a goal by Sebastian in the third period.
Nordonia has a pair of Blue South Division games coming up. The Knights will play Garfield Heights Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Dan Kostel Ice Arena, followed by a home game with Brush Sunday at 7:10 p.m. at Gilmour.
"We’re going to get a full week of practice in," Cinalli said. "The way that we’re playing, I feel really good about our chances."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC