Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
February 4, 2016
There was a roaring hit behind the cage, an elbowing contest in front of the crease and bodies just crashing everywhere.
At the focal point of it all, Kenston senior forward Jonathan Wiegand was sliding head first across the ice and colliding into Chagrin Falls senior goaltender Jackson Markley.
The ice Bombers were trying to capitalize with 24 seconds remaining on a power play midway through the second period and there was so much commotion happening from every which angle that it was easy for fans to lose track of that little rubber disc.
While some might say, “That’s hockey,” those in attendance Sunday night at The Pond in Auburn knew it was a whole lot more. It was a rivalry at its finest – the kind where incoming records don’t mean a darn thing and athletic directors are up for the Nobel Peace Prize following the game. The whole school-night scenario did not matter for student glass bangers.
“It definitely pumps you up a lot,” Wiegand said. “Especially for the freshmen, they’ve never played like that before. It’s a really big environment for them. You have to fight for everything. And we just used that for our advantage. It’s what keeps us going. It’s why we play.”
Wiegand and Markley were battling all night, but Markley emerged with the cover-up for one of his 47 saves to help stave off Kenston’s power play.
Moments earlier, the ice Bombers had taken a 3-2 lead when Kenston senior defenseman Ryan Herpy wrapped around the net, dropped off the puck in the circle and drew away the Tiger defense across the zone.
On a beeline from the point, Kenston junior defenseman Von Houk intersected Herpy’s route and blasted a clear-look shot off the bottom of Markley’s leg pad and into the back of the net during a four-on-four opportunity.
“That was not a designed play,” Houk said. “I just had an open lane, and I went down, and I was just happy to be open. Markley’s five-hole was wide open, and I just slid it right under there. I usually don’t get that, but I was kind of surprised when I saw it go through.”
Back to full strength, the Tigers found the 3-3 equalizer 97 seconds later, when sophomore defenseman Andrew Guggenheim flung in a lamplighter from the right point.
Chagrin junior defenseman Matthew Rice scored the 1-1 equalizer in similar fashion on a lefty, far-post wrister from atop the circle with 11:18 to go in the first period, when Kenston’s backup goalie, junior Brandon Wenger, was just getting his feet wet in the wild atmosphere.
“It was a big game for him,” Kenston head coach Eric Horschler said. “The crowd and everything is definitely going to be a factor, but he’s going to have to learn how to deal with it, because next year he’s moving up. So a game like this is a good stepping stone for him to build his confidence and to progress as a player.”
Wenger wasn’t alone in letting an early one slip by, however, as Kenston’s Herpy got the scoring started with 12:09 to play in the first period, when the defenseman flew down the left wing and put one past veteran Markley.
While Herpy was on the ice with fellow starting defenseman Will Mulhern, Kenston’s fourth shift of forwards – freshman Kyle Silk, sophomore Liam Griffin and senior Richard Martin – were also on the ice for that score.
“I didn’t even notice, to be honest,” Herpy said of the Bombers’ depth, which was needed on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back. “The puck came to me, and I rolled with it. I came down the left side, and I think it tipped off Markley’s glove, but that was a good way to get it going.”
With 7:23 to go in the opening stanza, Herpy struck again by cleaning up some backdoor garbage off junior Jack Zalinsky’s rebound.
Chagrin junior forward David Herpst found the 2-2 equalizer 77 seconds later on a garbage goal of his own, when sophomore Cameron Lucas’ shot bounced right to him in front of the crease for a top-shelf rocket.
“It was pretty much back and forth the entire game, and the hardest thing is just to control your ups and control your downs to try and stay even keeled,” Herpy said. “I think that was kind of hard the first couple of goals, but, when it was 3-3, I think we finally settled down and just decided every shift is a new shift.”
As Chagrin Falls escaped the second period with the game knotted, 3-3, despite the Tigers getting out shot, 35-8, up to that point, Markley blew kisses and waved goodbye to the Kenston fans heckling him from behind the glass on that end of the ice.
But the Bombers still had 1:47 left over on a power play to carry into the third period, and they weren’t about to waste that opportunity.
Eighty seconds into the final frame, Kenston sophomore defenseman Tyler Holub caught a Tiger defender with his stick out of his hands and ripped one past him from between the circles and torching the back of the net for the 4-3 Bomber advantage.
“That’s big,” coach Horschler said. “That’s one thing we were talking about in the locker room between periods. We’re up on a power play. We’ve got to gain the momentum back right from the beginning of this period. I won’t say it won the game for us, but it definitely gave us a boost, as you could see the offensive control for us was at least 12 minutes that period.”
After Holub’s score, Kenston went on to kill a penalty of its own with Wenger making a save on a Tiger breakaway.
Once the Bombers were back to even strength, however, Chagrin opened up on another breakaway off a feed from Rice to junior defender Tommy Mallak, who streamed up the left wing and found yet another equalizer, 4-4, with 8:25 to play.
“Yeah, it hurts, but we just had to keep fighting, keep playing and answer back,” Kenston’s Wiegand said.
After Markley rejected a pair of shots off his goalie blocker, Herpy finally took the puck on one of his deadly wrap-arounds to the glove side, where he attempted the finish off a potential game-winner, but it hit off the post.
“It was such a big range of emotions,” Herpy said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my, God. It hit post.’ But then Wiegand coming in to bury it, and it was awesome.”
With 3:19 to play, Wiegand finished what Herpy started for the eventual 5-4 final. It was Herpy’s third apple of the evening.
“I’m always there. I’m always crashing the net,” Wiegand said. “I know my guys get the puck there, and they can believe in me to get it in, and I did my job.”
Preventing Chagrin from pulling Markley from cage in an attempt to skate six on five for a potential equalizer, Kenston hammered the puck in the Tigers’ zone for the remainder for the contest.
Wiegand specifically continued to harass Markley by sitting on top of the crease, despite taking some crotch shots from the Tiger’s goalie stick.
“All four years that’s what I’ve been known for,” Wiegand said about getting in opponents’ heads. “I always go to the net, get in front of the goalie, mess with them. I love doing that, and goalies hate when I do that. That’s just part of my game, and I love it, and my coaches know it, and they play me for that reason.”
Overall, Kenston outshot the Tigers, 52-13.
With the triumph, the Bombers improved to 14-11-1, while Chagrin Falls dropped to 10-15-1.
“It’s good that we learn to battle through games like this and come away with a win,” coach Horschler said. “Markley played a good game and is a solid goalie, but, hey, it’s the rivalry. That’s what it’s all about. So I’m glad it’s always a close game with them, because it helps bring fans out and helps keep the schools together.”
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