GARFIELD HEIGHTS — When Twinsburg and Nordonia ice hockey met Friday at the Dan Kostel Icena, its was Senior Night for the Tigers, while playing their backyard rivals with postseason position on the line.
Needless to say, emotions were running high for both squads.
Twinsburg did a better job handling those emotions, which led them to a 3-1 win over the Knights.
The Tigers improved to 11-12, 11-2 in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League’s Blue South Division. With the win, Twinsburg clinched a spot in Baron Cup and set up a chance to play for the Blue South championship when it travels to Brooklyn Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Nordonia dropped to 12-13, 9-4 in the Blue South. In order to reach the Baron Cup, Nordonia will need to defeat Westlake by three goals when the two teams play Sunday.
In a hard-hitting game, discipline turned out to be the key. Tigers coach Jim DiRosa said his team was prepared.
"We stress discipline to our team and our captains stress discipline," DiRosa said. "We did a good job staying within ourselves. Our defensemen are our strength. They did a good job clearing everything in front."
Nordonia coach Rich Cinalli admitted the moment overwhelmed the Knights.
"We allowed the crowd to get to us tonight," Cinalli said. "It’s the first time we’ve played in front of a crowed like this. I told them them you could use a crowd like this to get energy, but we didn’t do that."
Nordonia was called for eight penalties on the night, while the Tigers were able to go 2-of-6 on the power play. The Knights’ issues began from the drop of the puck as the Knights’ Carson Carrell was called for interference less than a minute into the game.
That led to Tiger center Anthony Sciarabba getting loose down the right side of the ice and scoring a power-play goal with 12:59 left in the first period.
Nordonia was able to reply, thanks to their top sniper. A pass from Nate Owen allowed Knight left wing Nick Peters to skate into the zone and fire a low shot past Tiger goaltender Hannah Zochowski, tying the game at 1-1 with 8:14 left in the first.
However, Zochowski was perfect for the rest of the night, as she came up with 23 saves on 24 Nordonia shots.
"My defense did a really good job clearing everything out in front of me," Zochowski said. "It’s pretty exciting to be part of this, especially coming off of soccer season, to see all the guys grinding out there."
"For us, it all starts from the goal line out," DiRosa said. "She’s kept us in a lot of games this year."
"She played a great game," Cinalli said. "We wanted to get some screens in front of her, but we didn’t have much traffic in front of goal tonight"
Nordonia goaltender Tommy Lippincott had a solid night as well, coming up with 21 saves on 24 Twinsburg shots.
However, Twinsburg took advantage of a charging penalty on Peters, as senior defender Troy Sutliff scored an unassisted goal with four minutes left in the first period.
Up 2-1 after one period, Twinsburg made it 3-1 early in the second period. With 13:08 left in the second, Cody Preston was able to get off a shot in traffic to beat Lippincott. Antonio Berndardo was credited with the assist.
Nordonia had a golden chance to get back in the game midway through the second when two Twinsburg penalties gave Nordonia a two-man advantage with 10:32 left in the second.
However, Twinsburg’s penalty kill unit was a perfect 5-of-5 on night.
"They did a really good job cutting off the rink on us," Cinalli said.
DiRosa said Nordonia’s team speed hurt the Tigers in the neutral zone, but his defense did a good job stopping the Knights’ rush.
"The small rink hurts you when you play against teams that can skate, and this is the smallest rink in the city," DiRosa said.
Down 3-1 after two periods, Nordonia hurt its cause with more penalties in the third period. These included a bench minor to Nordonia assistant coach Ben Soltis, who was ejected from the bench after arguing a tripping penalty on Nordonia’s Drew McKinley.
The Knights were able to kill off the two-man disadvantage, but then lost Kenton Carrell to a 10-minute misconduct penalty after his twin brother Carson was penalized for roughing.