After a season where Nordonia ice hockey has broken many barriers, the Knights went looking to make more history Thursday at Brooklyn Recreation Center.
The Knights skated into Baron Cup III action Thursday confident they could score the first cup win in school history vs. Westlake.
Nordonia confidence seemed well-founded, as it went toe-to-toe with the Demons, but victory remained just out of reach.
Westlake held on for 3-2 win to eliminate the Knights. Westlake then was routed 7-0 by Normandy in the semifinals.
Orange claimed Baron Cup III with a 7-5 win in the final Sunday.
Nordonia coach Rich Cinalli said the effort was there from the Knights, but Nordonia couldn’t find the equalizing goal.
"It was just rough. Westlake is a good team," Cinalli said. "We just couldn’t get it anything past their goaltender. We had no traffic in front of the goal, which meant we couldn’t get any rebound shots."
Nordonia started the game well, particularly because it got some offense from its third line. With starter Carson Carrell playing center with the third line, Carrell scored the opening goal off an assist from junior Anthony Rock at the 3:22 mark of the first period.
"Our third line came out and did some work, which was nice to see," Cinalli said.
However, Westlake came back hard at the Knights by playing Nordonia’s style of offense.
"It was a like looking in the mirror," Cinalli said. "They were doing a dump-and-chase into the corners just like us, so they controlled a lot of the puck in our end."
Westlake tied the game at 4:47 of first period off a goal from Mike Hajer, followed by a goal from Sam Kieger at the 12:40 mark, giving the Demons a 2-1 lead after one period.
The Knights fell behind 3-1 early in the second period when Kieger scored a power-play goal at the 14:27 mark.
Nordonia went 2-of-3 on the penalty kill.
The Knights captain got them back in the game at the 9:11 mark of the second period. This time, Carrell scored while working with first-line running mates, as junior Brian Sebastian and sophomore Max Zuschin were credited with assists.
From there, Nordonia threw everything it had the Demons. The Knights would outshoot Westlake 13-4 in the third period, but could not find a way past Demon goaltender Alex Rendziak.
"We did everything we possibly could," Cinalli said. "We just didn’t get any second shot opportunities."
Rendziak finished with 26 saves in the game off 28 Nordonia shots on goal. Nordonia goaltender Tommy Lippincott made 24 saves off 27 Westlake shots.
Nordonia will open the OHSAA postseason looking to make more history, as the Knights have never won a state playoff game. On Wednesday, Nordonia was given the No. 14 seed in the Kent district tournament.
The Knights will open the postseason Sunday at 1:00 at the Kent State University Ice Arena against 12th seeded Orange.
"It’s going to be a nice measuring stick for us, because Orange did win the Baron Cup," Cinalli said. "We want to go out and prove to ourselves that we absolutely belong there. I’m excited. It’s going to be a good game."
=Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO