After blanking Strongsville 6-0 Saturday night at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center in Brooklyn, the Pirates got another crack at Mentor in the Baron Cup I final the following afternoon.
The Baron Cup tournament is known for drawing out a heightened level of play in its participants, but for the second-seeded Pirates (22-7-3), there was added motivation. The top-seeded Cardinals had beaten them in last year’s final by a lopsided 7-2 score, and in three previous Greater Cleveland High School Hockey Association Red Division meetings this season, the scores had been decidedly closer — two games decided by a single goal.
“I think we know we’re a better team, and we’re ready to go at them,” Pirates winger Danny Asmar said after the semifinal win.
So, with Mentor on their minds, the Pirates worked hard and dominated play all week, beating Cleveland Heights, 10-0, in a Wednesday quarterfinal Wednesday, then following with Saturday’s shutout of third-seeded Mustangs.
Once the final buzzer sounded on their win over the Mustangs (18-14-1), there was a growing excitement. The Pirates, who won the Baron Cup I title in 2018, were right back in the hunt.
“(Winning a Baron Cup) is a goal that, I would think, every team would put at the top of their list,” Pirates coach Chris Cogan said. “You start with a division title, then roll into the Baron Cup. It’s the city championship for your division, and it’s a big game and it’s what you play for. To get your name on the trophy, getting to hold it for a year and keep it in your locker room, that’s great.”
Much like in the quarterfinal win, they were able to show off their depth against the shorthanded Mustangs. Five different players scored, led by Reece Rochester’s two-goal night. Along with Asmar, Matthew Steuber, Logan Fortune and Hayden Weaver all found the back of the net. Five different players recorded an assist, led by three from Asmar.
Rocky River, which outshot Strongsville 36-16 on goal and largely controlled the ice from midway through the first period onward, scored two goals in each frame to build its lead. Tested early on by the Mustangs, Pirates goalie Ethan Mylett stopped everything that came his way, making 16 saves. Conversely, Mustangs keeper Nick Harris finished with 30.
Even when the Pirates were down a man, they remained the aggressor. The Mustangs went on the power play four times during the game, all killed by the Pirates, who narrowly missed on some shorthanded goal attempts.
“I think our defense is clearing the puck out of the zone pretty good, and we’re just keeping it away from (Mylett),” Rochester said of the team’s defensive effort during the tournament.
Though they dropped the Baron Cup final 6-1 to the Cardinals, the Pirates can look forward to the state tournament, which begins Feb. 23 at the same location. As the third seed in the Brooklyn qualifying bracket, they’ll face 18th-seeded Elyria Catholic at 5 p.m.
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