Early in the season, Nordonia ice hockey has skated through the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League’s Blue South Division like its barely been there.
That trend continued Saturday, when Nordonia was set to travel to Garfield Heights, only to have the game postponed due to the Bulldogs not having enough players able to play due to illness.
"Their coach asked me if we could postpone it and said that was fine," said Knights coach Rich Cinalli. "I had my fourth line ready to start for that game, just to give them experience."
No make up date has been set for the contest, which was supposed to be a precursor to Nordonia facing rival Mayfield Sunday at Gilmour Academy.
The top-of-the-division clash lived up to the hype, as the game finished with a 5-5 tie.
"It’s one of those games that you like to be a part of," Cinalli said. "There was a great crowd. The penalties got us. I’m not going to complain about the officiating, but they hit us with some major penalties."
Nordonia’s record stands at 4-2-1, 3-0-1 in Blue South Division.
"We came out flying," Cinalli said. "They were really ready to go."
Nordonia took a two-goal lead a little more than five minutes into the game. Leading scorer Carson Carrell opened the scoring at 12:20 with a short-handed goal off an assist from Brian Sebastian.
That was followed by a unassisted goal at 9:41 from Nordonia’s Kenton Carrell, who unleashed a shot from the blue line that went in over the goalie’s shoulder.
"That was a shot," Cinalli said.
Mayfield then pulled starting goaltender Kevin Bluffestone in favor of Tyler Krueger.
However, Nordonia made it 3-0 off a power-play goal from Vinny Costello with 2:35 left in the first period.
"At that point, we were kind of feeling our oats. We thought we were going to walk all over them," Cinalli said.
However, Mayfield’s Kaden Jeppe got the Wildcats back in the game with a short-handed goal with 13 seconds left in the first period.
Nordonia was still in command at 3-1 until the turning point of the game happened with 10:40 left in the second period.
During one sequence, Costello and Carson Carrell each were given five-minute major penalties for checking from behind. That meant the Knights had to skate 5-on-3 for five minutes.
Mayfield’s Austin Jackson took advantage of the power play, scoring two goals to even the game at 3-3.
With 2:31 left in the second period, another power play goal from Kaden Jeppe gave Mayfield a 4-3 lead.
Nordonia was able to equalized with 2:11 left, as Sebastian scored on an assist from Carson Carrell, but Hunter Jeppe scored with 1:44 left, giving Mayfield a 5-4 lead at teh second intermission.
Cinalli admitted he let his team have it during the second intermission break.
"There was a small clipboard that didn’t make it through the game," Cinalli said. "At the same time, I felt good going into the third period down one goal after a five-minute penalty. It could have been a lot worst."
Freshman defender Daniel Kimpton was able to tie the game at 5-5 with 9:14 left in the third period, thanks to assists from Max Zuschin and Kenton Carrell.
Despite an intense final 10 minutes, neither team found the net during the rest of the third period overtime.
Nordonia goaltender Tommy Lippincott finished with 29 saves off 34 Wilcat shots.
"He really kept us in the game," Cinalli said. "He had to have seven to 10 saves within that five-minute penalty."
We learned a lot that we go to stay our of the box.
The Knights will take a hiatus from Blue North play with a couple of tournaments around Christmas. Nordonia is set to compete Normandy Christmas Tournem at the Mike Ries Ice Rink in Parma this weekend.
The Knights will play Normandy Friday at 1:30 p.m. and Lakewood Saturday at 7:15 p.m. before taking on Stow-Murnoe Falls next Monday at 11:30 a.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO