Bears fall in quarterfinals; finish in top 8 at Nationals.
North Royalton hockey has a lot to be proud of this season; the Bears finished the season as the USA Hockey, Ohio State High School Championship Runner-Up, placed in the top 8 at the 2014 USA Hockey, High School Hockey National Championships and won a team best 37 games this season.
North Royalton qualified for Nationals as a result of their solid play in the USA Hockey, Ohio High School State Championships where they placed second, falling to the Jackson Polar Bears in the State Championship game, 1-0. The National tournament featured the top 32 USA Hockey High School Varsity teams from across the country battling for the National Championship. The tournament featured 8 different pools of 4 teams each with every team playing a 3 game round robin within its own pool. North Royalton’s pool included Stoneman Douglas HS (FLA), Alton HS (MO) and Lake Central HS (IN).
The Bears kicked off their week at the National Championships with an embarrassing, 8-2, loss to Stoneman Douglas (FLA) Eagles on Wednesday, March 26th. “It was our worst performance in quite some time” said North Royalton head coach Jeff McCarthy. “Sadly, we just looked happy to have been invited.” The Bears found themselves trailing 3-0 after the opening frame but managed to get on the board early in the 2nd when Branden Walsh buried a Michael Dzoba feed; also assisting on the goal was Aaron Schmitt. In picking up the helper, Dzoba eclipsed the 100 point mark on the season- a feat that Walsh had accomplished just a few games earlier. The Bears didn’t seem to gain any momentum with their score as they surrendered three more Eagles goals before adding another one of their own- Walsh again scored with assists being awarded to Dzoba and freshman, Logan Kieklak. The Bears entered the final period trailing 6-2 and showed little fight giving up two more Stoneman Douglas goals.
North Royalton looked like a new group in their 2nd game of the tournament on March 27th, settling in and defeating the Alton (MO) Redbirds, 6-2. The Bears took the early lead when Branden Walsh scored his third of the tourney, this one on the power play, assisted by Steven Vinyard and Aaron Wynbrandt. The Redbirds evened the score at one apiece midway through the 1st period only to see the Bears take a lead they would never give back as Walsh beat the Alton keeper back door assisted by Michael Dzoba. The Bears took a 2-1 lead into intermission and came out flying in the middle period scoring the next two goals. Angelo Nero buried the Bears 3rd goal of the game from the slot assisted by Timmy Orlosky and AJ Bogdan and Michael Dzoba deposited the Bears 4th goal assisted by Walsh. Alton scored late in the period to cut the lead to two entering the break. North Royalton came out in the final period with purpose and scored two more to extend their lead to 6-2. Aaron Wynbrtandt crashed the net hard and was rewarded for his efforts tapping home a Dzoba feed, also assisting on the goal was Walsh and AJ Bogdan capped off the scoring for the Bears with just two minutes to play in the game assisted by Nero.
The Bears needed two things to happen on day three, March 28th; a win in their 3rd game of pool play and an Alton win over Stoneman Douglas to clinch the pool and make it to the quarter finals; they got both! The Bears left little doubt that their opening game loss was a fluke defeating the Lake Central (IN) Indians, 6-1. “We picked a good time to execute on the power play, we struggled all year with the man advantage but not today” said Coach McCarthy referencing the fact that all six of the Bears goals were scored on the power play. Michael Dzoba scored the Bears first goal assisted by Aaron Schmitt and Steven Vinyard and Schmitt added North Royalton’s 2nd goal with assists being awarded to AJ Bogdan and Branden Walsh. Schmitt’s goal was his 100th point of the season putting him with his linemates Branden Walsh and Michael Dzoba as the only three Bears in North Royalton hockey history to eclipse the century mark in a single season. The Bears put the game away in the middle frame scoring four times to take a commanding 6-0 lead into the final period. Branden Walsh scored the Bears 3rd goal assisted by Dzoba and the 4th goal assisted by Dzoba and Angelo Nero. Timmy Orlosky scored the Bears 5th, tapping home a Nero rebound, also assisting on the goal was freshman, Christian Fernandez. Nero capped the Bears scoring at six with less than a minute to play scoring a beauty assisted by Dzoba and Jeremy Gripp. North Royalton did their part, defeating Lake Central, but still needed some help and thankfully they got it as Alton scored nine times to defeat Stoneman Douglas, 9-7.
The Bears as a result of their win and a Stoneman Douglas loss clinched their pool and a berth in the quarterfinals where they would face off against the Des Moines (IA) Oak Leafs. The Bears took to the ice on March 29th for their quarterfinal matchup falling, 6-1, to the Des Moines (IA) Oak Leafs. “We have nothing to hang our heads about, we went further than any team from our home state and lost to arguably the deepest team we have played all season” said Coach McCarthy after the loss. The Bears hung tough for most of the game thanks in large part to their senior tender, Tyler Roesch, who led the tournament in shots against and saves made. In regards to his keeper, McCarthy beamed, “without Tyler, we’re not here- it’s that simple- Tyler stepped up big time, his performance throughout States and now Nationals makes him MVP of our club- no doubt about it.” Scoring the lone goal for North Royalton was senior Branden Walsh, his goal putting him in a tie for 1st on the Nationals leaderboard for goals and tied for 3rd in points with 10 tallied in the tournament.
The Bears finish the 2013-14 season, their most successful season in team history, with an overall record of 37-19-1.