Icers win one, lose one in Baron Cup II; OHSAA tournament next

Brent Flanik
Conor McMahon sends a Kenston player flying as Nathan Funk looks on.

The Aurora High School ice hockey squad participated in the Baron Cup II tournament this past week, making it to the second round with a win over Kenston before ultimately falling to Avon Lake to put their overall record at 8-4.

It was the 50th year that the Baron Cup annual postseason ice hockey tournament was held at John M. Coyne Recreation Center in Brooklyn, showcasing the top Northeast Ohio area teams. The teams are divided into three tiers based on regular-season division placement, with Aurora being assigned a spot in Baron Cup II, the middle of the three tiers. It was the sixth consecutive season the Greenmen qualified for the tournament and they drew a first-round contest against Kenston on February 7, a team that Aurora had defeated twice previously earlier in the season.

Senior captain Cam Mullin opened the scoring for Aurora five minutes into the game against the Bombers, but Kenston struck back quickly, as Jameson Parker and Troy Krohe each netted goals in a 90-second span to grab a 2-1 lead midway through the first period.

The Kenston lead wouldn’t last long, however, as junior Nathan Funk scored for the Greenmen with five minutes remaining to tie the game 2-2. As the clock ticked down under to under a minute remaining in the first period, Aurora sophomore Will Genovese wristed the puck past Kenston goaltender Nate Linsz with 46 seconds left to take the lead, followed by sophomore Zane Martin who scored just 10 seconds later to grab a 4-2 lead over the stunned Bombers headed into the locker room after one period of play.

Mike Mancine tries to move the puck up ice against two Kenston players.

Greenmen junior Mike Mancine netted the eventual nail in the coffin just 30 seconds into the second period to grab a three-goal lead and that would be all the scoring in the contest as junior goaltender Nolan Sullivan shut the door on all remaining Kenston chances to secure a 5-2 Aurora victory.

Genovese also had four assists in the game, Mullin added three helpers of his own, and freshman Will Pfiffner had one assist.

Sullivan finished with 17 saves between the pipes for the Greenmen and Linsz made 49 saves in goal for Kenston.

“Playing in the Baron Cup is always one of the highlights of the season and we were fortunate to be in it for the sixth consecutive year,” said Aurora coach John Sheridan. “I was proud of our game against Kenston. It’s always difficult to play a team three times in one season and sweep all three games, but we came in prepared and punched our ticket to the second round.”

The win propelled the Greenmen into the second round where they faced Avon Lake, which had a first-round bye, on February 11.

After both teams went scoreless for most of the first period, the Shoremen finally opened the scoring with 2:30 left and then found another goal with just two seconds left in the period to grab a 2-0 lead.

Avon Lake scored twice more midway through the second period to take a four-goal advantage before Martin finally got the Greenmen on the board with three minutes left, and the second period ended with the Shoremen on top 4-1.

Cam Mullin takes a faceoff against Kenston as Zane Martin looks on.

Aurora put the pressure on Avon Lake late in the third period though, and Martin found another goal with 2:28 left in the contest to pull within two goals. The Greenmen pulled goaltender Sullivan for an extra attacker as time ticked down and freshman Will Pfiffner scored for the Greenmen with 13 seconds remaining to suddenly pull within one goal and put nervous Shoremen fans on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately for Aurora the comeback ended there as Avon Lake was able to control the puck on the ensuing faceoff and seal a 4-3 victory.

Mullin, Genovese and Mancine all finished with two assists for Aurora and Sullivan made 38 saves in goal for the Greenmen.

Isaac Young led the way on the scoresheet for Avon Lake with a goal and two assists and Shoremen goaltender AJ Jagels made 30 saves in net.

“Avon Lake is a good team and I was proud of the heart we showed late in the game, but unfortunately four goals was just too big a deficit to make up,” said Sheridan. “We obviously would’ve liked to make it deeper into the tournament, but these are all good teams and unfortunately we came up short.”\

The Greenmen will next participate in the OHSAA state tournament, which will also be held at John M. Coyne Recreation Center in Brooklyn. Aurora is in the Brooklyn East District of the tournament and was ranked by area coaches as the ninth seed out of 20 teams in the district. Their first contest will be February 21 at 6 p.m. against 13th-seeded Kent Roosevelt. A win against the Rough Riders would send Aurora into the second round against the winner of Chagrin Falls and University School on February 24 at 8 p.m.

Goaltender Nolan Sullivan makes the save and stops play as Drew Pfiffner, Nathan Funk and Michael Phillips fend off a Kenston forward.