It’s official: Nordonia ice hockey is the 2019-20 Blue South Division champion in the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League.
What’s more, Nordonia didn’t even have to drop a puck in anger to get the title.
Sunday’s scheduled game with Garfield Heights, which had gone winless on the season and struggled to field a full team, was not played as the Bulldogs chose to forfeit the game.
As a result, the Knights finished at 11-0-1 in the Blue South Division, giving Nordonia its first GCHSHL division title.
"The head coach gave me a text saying that they only had six players, one doesn’t play on a Sunday and one was sick," said Knights coach Rich Cinalli of the Bulldogs. "Our athletic director got together with them and they said they weren’t coming."
Instead of playing the Bulldogs, the Knights were able to close out their regular season with 6-0 loss to Blue North member Chagrin Falls. This loss followed a 5-2 to Stow-Munroe Falls Feb. 2 at the Kent State University Ice Arena.
The Knights concluded the season at 13-13-1 overall.
Cinalli said the Knights got behind early vs. the Tigers and never recovered.
"We came out a little sluggish [in the] first part of the game and gave up three quick goals," Cinalli said. "After that, it was just playing from behind. It was a great warm up going into the Baron Cup, though. We needed to see that kind of speed instead of Garfield Heights’ speed.
"We played a lot better in the second and third periods. We only had one penalty the entire game."
Knights goaltender Tommy Lippincott notched 22 saves off of 28 Tiger shots. Nordonia was able to put 20 shots on goal, but Chagrin goaltender Charlie Gunn made all 20 saves to get the shutout.
"All of our shots came from the outside," Cinalli said.
Nordonia’s defense had no answer for the Tigers’ Darrin Buckner, who finished with four goals and an assist in the win.
"He’s a good player. We just didn’t keep up with him," Cinalli said.
Regarding the Stow game, Cinalli said the Knights were emotionally spent after their overtime win over Mayfield 24 hours earlier.
"We had an issue with one of players from the Stow game," Cinalli said. "Max Zuschin picked up a game misconduct, so we needed to play that extra game in order for him to serve that suspension."
By virtue of winning the Blue South, the Knights earned the No. 3 seed in Baron Cup III, which will be contested this week at Brooklyn Recreation Center.
Nordonia will open Cup play Thursday at 5:30 p.m. by facing sixth-seeded Westlake. If victorious, the Knights would advance to face the winner of Normandy-Mayfield game Saturday at 3 p.m. The Baron Cup III final will be Sunday at 1 p.m.
Cinalli said the Knights feel they have a shot to win their first Baron Cup game in school history.
"Another one of our goals we set for the year was to get into the Baron Cup and win a game," Cinalli said. "We beat them earlier this season in our tournament. We like our chances. it’s going to be a great game."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO