Stow ice hockey looking forward to strong future
AUBURN TWP — No matter how things went Friday night at the Pond at Auburn, Stow-Munroe Falls ice hockey coach Ryan Schelien knew his team was in a great place.
Completing their second season at a club team, the Bulldogs had a winning record, 15 players in the program — none of whom are seniors — and a solid incoming freshman class in the wings.
The goal moving forward for the Bulldogs: Become a full varsity team and member of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League, perhaps as early as next winter.
"The goal every year is to get better and show we're ready for varsity," Schelien said. "We just have to do our thing. We had some freshmen that had a really good season and the kids who came back from last year did well."
Stow closed the season against a formidable opponent in Chagrin Falls. The Tigers came into the contest at 11-1-1 and recently won Baron Cup III.
A four-goal second period gave the Bulldogs (14-12-1) a chance to win, but the Tigers scored twice in the third period to score a wide open 6-5 victory.
Both coaches noted turnovers were a major factor.
"It was a little sloppy on both sides," Schelien said. "I thought it was a good back-and-forth game. At the end, they just got one more than us."
"We'd never given up five goals this season and to do it two periods shows we struggled at times," said Tigers coach Jim Revak. "I coach a lot of Stow's players in off-season, so we knew their skills. They have a lot of players who put the puck in the net."
Schelien noted the Bulldogs took some time to adjust to Chagrin's speed, particularly Tiger captain Garrin Bunker.
Bunker gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead, scoring at the 11:43 and 5:31 marks of the first period.
"They came out shooting and we took some time to adjust to that," Schelien said. "I think we really turned in around in second period."
Before the first was over, however, Stow cut the lead in half.
Off an assist from Reece Hricik, Stow's Logan Brugmann scored his sixth goal of the season with 3:40 left in the first.
Down 2-1 at the first intermission, the Bulldogs came out firing the second period, as it turned up the pressure on the forecheck.
"The forecheck is what created all those turnovers," Schelien said. "We were able to get forward and keep things in the center off the ice."
Stow tied things at 2-2 just 34 seconds into the period, as Christian Gier found a goal in traffic.
After the two teams traded penalties, Chagrin took the lead back on the power play. Tyler Bookman scored a goal on the back door with 11:24 left in the second.
The Tigers were of 1-of-5 on the power play, though Stow was able to kill off a 5-of-3 situation in the second period. Stow went 1-of-3 on the man advantage, but also gave up a short-handed goal.
Stow took the lead, thanks to a pair of unassisted goals off turnovers in the Tigers' end.
First, Gier got his second goal on the power play with 5:13 left.
Then, Hricik took a puck off his chest and beat Tiger goaltender Charlie Gunn with 3:45 left.
However, a Bulldog turnover allowed Chagrin to tie things up again. The Tigers' John Ranien stole the puck and scored with 3:03 left.
Just before the second intermission, Stow retook the lead with its prettiest goal of the night.
Brugmann fed a puck from behind the goal to Hricik, who hit a backhand shot into the net with 11.6 seconds left in the second.
Up 5-4 after two, Stow fought of a penalty and had a chance to take command early in the third quarter when Chagrin was penalized for too many men on the ice.
Instead, Bunker was able to complete his hat trick and tied the game at 5-5 with a short-handed goal. After a poke check at center ice, Bunker had a breakaway on Stow goalie Nathan Nyitray and put it home.
Although Stow out shot the Tigers 8-6 in the final period, a pretty passing sequence gave Chagrin the game-winning goal with 1:40 left in the game.
Bunker and Elliot Despres were able to feed Bookman at the back post of Stow's goal, who one-timed it in.
The teams each finished with 22 shots. Nyitray finished with 16 saves, while Gunn finished with 17.