Battling to gain some stability, a youthful Twinsburg ice hockey squad team used strong defense to capture the program’s first ever tournament title.
Twinsburg went 3-0 to win the Bay Rocket Holiday Tournament at Winterhurst Arena in Lakewood Friday to Sunday.
It was the perfect setting and performance for the young Tigers, who had been struggling against a very strong schedule.
"This was the first tournament championship in program history," declared 10-year head coach Jim DiRosa, after his Tigers defeated Lyndhurst Brush 4-0 Sunday.
An exciting victory, it also marked the first career shutout for first-year varsity starting sophomore goalie Mark Schroeder, who registered 13 saves in the nets.
DiRosa, who made some recent lineup and position changes, was happy with Schroeder’s effort, the Tiger’s strong team defense and some timely goals.
"I thought it was another great performance by our defense," said the coach. "Colby [junior Colby Smith] is playing solid on the blue line and Mark got his first career shutout, and Sean Shirokov got a hat trick."
Shirokov scored three goals against goalie Sean Miller as the freshman right wing is playing well.
Center Andrew Henderson had a goal and two assists while junior left-wing Ian Lashua was credited with three assists.
Adding one assist was senior Antonio Bennardo, sophomore Cody Preston, and sophomore Cassie Whitelaw.
Schroeder also made some huge saves in a big 6-1 win over Bay Saturday as Twinsburg’s offense got untracked. He had 21 saves in all.
"Mark played solid in the net all game, making some timely big saves on several breakaways," noted DiRosa, whose club had a season best 56 shots on goal.
Freshman forward Jackson Smith scored his first career varsity goal!
"We played well and Jackson got his first career goal," said the coach.
Henderson had two goals and one assist while Shirokov had one goal and three feeds. Lashua added a goal and two assists.
Preston had one goal and Bennardo had two assists.
Junior Matt Bierworth added one assist as did senior Travis Poznik.
In the first game of the tournament, Twinsburg held on to win 5-4 over Elyria Catholic Friday at Winterhurst.
"That was a hard-fought game until the end as Elyria Catholic gave us all we wanted in the third period," pointed out DiRosa.
Lashua had two tallies and one helper for the improving Tigers.
What became the eventual game winner was ab unassisted goal by Henderson at the 9:03 mark of the third period.
Shirokov had two goals as well. Whitelaw added one assist as did Bierworth, Bennardo and Preston.
"We moved our seniors Antonio Bennardo and Travis Poznik back to defense and they came up big all weekend," said DiRosa.
"The line of Andrew (Henderson), Ian (Lashua) and Sean (Shirokov) generated all the offense and are starting to gel as a group," he added.
Besides Smith, a slew of Tiger newcomers saw action on the ice over the long weekend.
"All of our new skaters Arianna Bennardo, Sarah Zammikiel, Aiden Holt,
Chase Lowy, and Aiden Johnston all got quality touches this weekend," commented DiRosa.
"Being able to use the whole roster really helps when you have three games in three days," added the coach.
Twinsburg will meet Stow-Munroe Falls Sunday at the Kent State University Ice Arena. The puck drops at 6:50 p.m.
The Tigers return to KSU for the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Christmas Tournament Dec. 29 and 30.