If one looked merely at the scores, it could be thought Nordonia ice hockey had a rough weekend at the Nordonia Thanksgiving Tournament, which it hosted Friday to Sunday at Gilmour Academy.
The Knights dropped a 9-0 loss to Parma Senior Friday at Gilmour, followed by a 5-1 loss to Aurora and a 6-4 win over Westlake Saturday in the tournament.
However, Knights coach Rich Cinalli is quick to point out the Knights were playing against tougher competition all weekend. Nordonia is a member of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League’s Blue South Division — the lowest division — while Westlake is a member of the Blue North and Aurora and Parma are members of the White South Division.
It should also be noted the two teams that beat Nordonia played in the championship game of the tournament. Parma won the title 7-1 Sunday.
Thus, Cinalli was pleased overall with his team’s effort, as Nordonia (2-2) went skate-to-skate with three quality programs.
Cinalli said the game with Parma saw the Knights beaten by the Redmens’ depth.
"Parma was a very good team, a very disciplined team," Cinalli said. "In the first period we went down 2-0. There was only a two minute break between period, so they came back and put six goals on us in the second period.
"That was how deep their bench went," he added. "They beat us up on their third line."
Cinalli said Nordonia goaltender Tommy Lippincott had a solid game, making 25 saves on 34 Parma shots. Nordonia registered 13 shots in the loss.
"We only two had penalties in the game," Cinalli said. "Our defense played up really nice. Our power play got better. We got shots of the power play but we still have work to do."
On Saturday, the Knights came out sluggish vs. Aurora and paid the price.
"We came out a little bit slow in that first period," Cinalli said. "They put in one goal quickly on us. There was no giving up on our end though."
"The fact that we lost to Aurora 5-1 when Parma beat them 7-1, that tells me we’re right where we need to be as far as our division goes."
Nordonia was able to avoid the shutout when Carson Carrell scored with 3:31 left in game off an assist from from Nate Owen. The Knights had 14 shots.
By contrast, Aurora sent 48 shots on net, as Lippincott made 43 saves in the contest.
"Our defense kept those shots out of the house, so to speak," Cinalli said. "Our goaltender did a great job. Once they got into the zone, they were shooting."
Four hours later, Nordonia was back on the ice vs. Westlake, who had defeated Mayfield 3-2 earlier in the game. The Knights won a back-and-forth affair, erasing two second-period deficits in the win.
"That’s a big plus for us. It shows where we can play," Cinalli said. "It gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. We jumped out early."
Indeed, Carrell scored twice in the game’s first six minutes, notching a goal with 14:11 left in the first off an assist from Nate Juchnik, followed by a goal with 9:32 left from Brian Sebastion and Jucknik.
"Our first line was really working," Cinalli said. "I think we slowed down a bit at the end of the first period. It just felt like our energy came down."
Westlake cut the lead to 2-1 after one period and then took at 3-2 lead before Carrell got his hat trick with 5:08 left in the second period off an assist from Juchnik.
Weslake then took the lead back, but the turning point of the game came when Sebastian scored a short-handed goal unassisted with 3:40 left in the second. The goal was rare because it happened when Nordonia was facing a 5-on-3 situation.
"That was the one that really got the kids going," Cinalli said.
Nordonia would get the winning goal with 4:37 left in the game, as Carrell got his fourth goal of the night off of Sebastian’s fourth assist of the night.
With three minutes left, defender Kenton Carrell scored an unassisted goal to give Nordonia some insurance.
Lippincott had 32 saves on the night off 36 shots from the Demons, while Westlake goaltender Alex Rendbiak had 38 saves off 44 Nordonia shots.
"It was great to see that. [Lippincott] kept us in the game," Cinnali said. "We had two 5-on-3s that we had to kill and he did a great job."
Nordonia will return to Blue South Division play this weekend. The Kngihts will take on Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Saturday at 6:15 at the Mentor Ice Arena before returning home to Gilmour Academy Sunday at 7:10 p.m. to face Brush.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO