Anyone who does not believe that Bowling Green High School hockey is back, did not see the Bobcats defeat state perennial powerhouse Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit Saturday.
At Bowling Green State University’s Slater Family Ice Arena, the Bobcats took down the Warriors, 4-2, to improve to 6-2 on the season. It was a marquee win that showed how much better BG’s program is from last year.
“They (Walsh Jesuit) made the final four last year,” said BG senior forward Shane Cassin. “We played them last year and they beat us 5-2, so to beat them this year just shows where our team has come from last year.
“We’ve got good forwards on every line, five who can do a legitimate job every night and get the job done,” Cassin added.
Walsh Jesuit lost to eventual state champion Toledo St. Francis in last year’s state semifinals. So far this year, BG’s only two losses are two state powerhouses — St. Francis (3-2) and Lakewood St. Edward (4-1).
“We’ve gradually built up the last couple years,” BG coach Connor Rogowski said. “I feel like we are in a solid place right now, but we’re still building.
“The culture is building from the ground up and we are starting to get better. We’re starting to put it together.”
In Saturday’s win, Cassin scored twice, and senior forward Nick Powers and sophomore defenseman Drake Joseph had one goal apiece for the Bobcats.
Powers, senior forward Luke Johnson and sophomore forward Cooper Feehan had two assists each and senior forward Brayden Clauson added one assist.
Cassin scored the game’s first goal four minutes after the opening faceoff on a turn around shot from 15 feet, assisted by Powers and Feehan.
The Bobcats never trailed at any point in the game, and even after line shifts did not let up, demonstrating BG’s depth.
“I think our top three lines can play with any lines in the state. I think we can compete, we can battle, and we can beat anybody,” Rogowski said.
“We have three lines that we can rotate through, and we feel confident day in and day out. It’s an exciting point for us, but we’re still moving forward. We are not where we want to be yet.”
Walsh Jesuit scored on a power play goal on a 20-foot shot by senior forward Noah Colasanti, assisted by junior forward Joe Holtzer, to tie the game at 1-1 with 35.4 seconds remaining.
After over eight minutes of scoreless play in the second period, Powers and Johnson in transition had a two-on-one with a Walsh Jesuit defender.
A shot by Johnson was rebounded by Powers, who scored with 3:28 remaining, putting the Bobcats ahead for good, 2-1.
Less than two minutes later, Joseph nailed a 30-footer into the corner of the net during a 4-on-3 power play, assisted by Clauson and Johnson, giving the Bobcats a two-goal lead, 3-1, with 1:43 remaining in the second.
Walsh Jesuit made it interesting as Holtzer caught a rebounded shot by senior Aiden Cook and scored, closing the gap to one goal, 3-2, with 11:20 remaining in the game.
After a BG shot from the right side opened the left side of the net, Cassin one-timed a 30-footer that got past Walsh Jesuit senior goalie Brodie Lerch before he could make the adjustment.
Cassin’s insurance goal with 4:20 remaining was assisted by Feehan and Powers.
Then came the barrage of shots by Walsh Jesuit, which pressed through the final four minutes, even getting whistled for a roughing penalty with 1:38 remaining.
BG senior goalie Gavin Sudlow was up to the task, getting 22 saves. Both Warriors’ goals came on power plays.
“Gavin Sudlow, our senior goaltender, plays well every day and he kept us in this game in the third period,” Cassin said.
Rogowski added, “Senior goaltending is just a huge part of it for us. He’s saved us games, he’s won us games, he’s kept us in games, and it is nice to have somebody back there that we can rely on and feel comfortable about when we have a defensive breakdown.
“We have somebody back there who can get a stop for us when we have to,” Rogowski continued.
The Bobcats outshot the Warriors, 26-24, and Lerch also had 22 saves for the Warriors.