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Looking Back at the OHSAA Ice Hockey Championships

Looking Back at the OHSAA's Ice Hockey Championships

A centennial moment
By Timothy L. Hudak 
Sports Heritage Specialty Publications
4814 Broadview Rd.
Cleveland, Ohio 44109
Various schools from around the state have been playing ice hockey since as early as the 1920s.  Conditions back then could be somewhat primitive.  For instance, in 1922, the icers from Cleveland’s old Cathedral Latin School were holding their practice sessions on the frozen Shaker Lakes over in Shaker Heights, and when the sun came out things could get downright slushy.  It would not be until 1978, however, before the first state tournament for the sport was held.  The tournament would routinely rotate between the Brooklyn Recreation Center in Brooklyn, Ohio, near Cleveland, and the arena at Bowling Green State University.  Since 2003, however, the tournament has found a home at Nationwide Arena, the home of the NHL’s Columbus Bluejackets.
From its beginning the tournament, i.e., the semi-final and final games, have pretty much been the exclusive domain of schools along the state’s “northern frontier.”  Very seldom has a team from the Columbus area cracked the Final Four, and not until the 2004-2005 season did a team from as far south as Cincinnati, in this case Archbishop Moeller High School, manage to advance as far as the Final Four, or as it is known in ice hockey, the Frozen Four.  Only two teams from outside the northern tier have ever won the state title in hockey.   Findlay High School, which is not really all that far south, won hockey championships in 1978 and 1983, and Centerville took the title in 1979.
The first tournament in 1978 featured Shaker Heights, Bowling Green, Findlay and Bay (Bay Village) high schools.  Bay would be making its one, and so far only, trip to the Final Four.  Bowling Green and Shaker Heights have gone on to become regular players at the tournament.  (Mike Bartley, the Shaker Heights coach and one of the state’s all-time great coaches, has the unique distinction of being the only person to have coached a hockey team at the same school every year since the tournament began.)  Findlay, which won that first tournament, would be a factor for the next several years, but since 1983 has qualified for the tournament on only two other occasions.
Parity was the watchword for the hockey tournament during its earliest days.  As mentioned, Findlay took the first championship in 1978.  Centerville captured the title in 1979, followed by Bowling Green (1980), Shaker Heights (1981) and Kent Roosevelt (1982).  Findlay became the first school to repeat as state champion when it defeated Bowling Green by a score of 6-4 in 1983.  Bowling Green came back in 1984 and crushed Toledo Whitmer, 10-3, to earn its second state title. 
In 1984, former Cleveland Crusaders back-up goalie Bob Whidden was named the coach of the St. Edward High School hockey team in Lakewood.  The Eagles had been making a name for themselves in high school wrestling for a few years by then, and soon the Eagles would add hockey to the list of sports in which they would become a state power.  Bob Whidden wasted little time taking the Eagles to the top of the high school hockey world as his Eagles defeated North Olmsted, 1-0, in 1985, and Cleveland Heights, 6-5, the following year to become the first school to win back to back state hockey championships.
Cleveland Heights came back the next season to get its revenge on the Eagles, but the Tigers would be extended to double overtime before finally subduing g the Eagles, 4-3, in one of the most thrilling finals in hockey tournament history.
Parma’s Padua High School made its first appearance in the Final Four in 1983.  Late in the decade, under a young head coach by the name of Doug Hauser, the Bruins returned to the tournament in a huge way by winning back to back titles in 1988 and 1989.  The Bruins, though a threat every year, have only made it back to the tournament on four other occasions, but each time they have advanced to the championship game. 
The decade of the ‘90s belonged to two schools as far as Ohio high school hockey is concerned, Bowling Green and St. Edward.  In each year of that decade one, or both, of these teams advanced to the state finals, winning all but one of the championships. 
The Eagles started off the decade by losing just one of their 31 games in 1990, but made sure that that one loss was not in the tournament, which they won for their third state title.  The next year it was Bowling Green’s turn, as coach Dan DeWitt’s Bobcats also claimed a third state championship. 
Over the years the Bobcats and the Eagles have faced off against each other four times in the state championship hockey game.  The first of these meetings took place in 1992.  The two teams, playing like the champions that they are, were scoreless after regulation time, and after the first overtime session as well.  Finally, in the second OT, the Eagles’ Joe Mazzone found the back of the net with a 10-foot shot to give St. Ed’s a thrilling 1-0 championship game victory. 
In 1993 Bowling Green knocked St. Ed’s out of the tournament, 2-1, in one of the two semi-final games, but Shaker Heights used the same score to defeat the Bobcats in the state championship game, giving the Red Raiders their second state championship.  The next season St. Ed’s set a tournament scoring record by defeating Toledo St. John’s Jesuit, 11-0, to advance to the finals.  There the Eagles had a tougher time of it against Findlay, but emerged victorious by overcoming an early 2-0 deficit, then getting a goal by Seth Andregg just 1:11 into overtime to take home their fifth state title.
From 1995 to 1997 the state hockey Final Four would become something of an exclusive club, one dominated by the Eagles of St. Edward and the Bobcats of Bowling Green.  In 1995, Bowling Green skated past St. Ignatius, 3-1, and St. Edward whitewashed Toledo St. Francis, 7-0, as both teams advanced to the finals.  This time the Eagles-Bobcats match-up would go to the Eagles by a score of 2-1.
The Frozen Four line-up in 1996 and 1997 would be identical each year: Bowling Green, St.Edward, St. Ignatius and Centerville high schools.  For the second straight year, in 1996 the Bobcats would send St. Ignatius to the sidelines by a 3-1 score.  St. Ed’s then crushed Centerville, 11-1, to again meet BGHS for the championship.  The Eagles would win a championship hat trick, their third consecutive title, by defeating Bowling Green 3-1. 
In 1997 St. Ed’s and Bowling Green switched partners for the semi-final round, but the results were much the same.  St. Ed’s sent the Wildcats of St. Ignatius back home with a 7-2 thumping, while Bowling Green eliminated Centerville by a 4-1 count.  Meeting in the finals for the third consecutive year, the Bobcats would finally get the better of St. Ed’s, ending the Eagles’ three-year reign as Ohio’s ice kings  by capturing the state championship with a thrilling 2-1 victory.
This victory by Bowling Green would start the Bobcats off on a championship hat trick hunt of their own, but it would take the most unusual of circumstances to complete it.
The Bobcats’ trip through the tournament in 1998 was no walk in the park.  That year, after defeating Toledo St. John’s 3-2 in the semi-finals, the Bobcats met the Red Raiders of Shaker Heights in the finals.  The two teams entered the game with almost identical records – 21-7-1 for the Bobcats and 21-6-2 for the Raiders – and they played like it.  The Bobcats trailed 4-2 entering the third period, but rallied to tie the game at 4-4 after regulation time had expired.  Just 39 seconds into the overtime period, the Bobcats’ Rob Ellis backhanded a rebound that found the net to give BGHS a thrilling championship victory.  It marked the second time that season the Bobcats had rallied from a two goal deficit to defeat Shaker Heights in OT. 
It would be an even stranger twist of fate that would give the Bobcats a state championship the next season.  BGHS crushed University School, 6-0, in one of the 1999 semi-finals, while Toledo St. John’s defeated Shaker Heights, 2-1, in the other.  In the finals, the surprising Titans crushed the Bobcats, 7-0.  However, it was announced two weeks later that St. John’s would have to forfeit its state title when it was discovered that the Titans had an ineligible player on their roster, one who had played in the championship game.  With the forfeit the state championship was awarded to Bowling Green, giving the Bobcats their third consecutive state hockey championship.
As the new century dawned, both Bowling Green and St. Edward found themselves temporarily removed from the championship picture.  In 2000, BGHS lost in the semi’s, with St. Ignatius taking the hockey title for the first time.  In 2001 neither team advanced to the tournament, which was won for the third time by Mike Bartley’s Red Raiders of Shaker Heights.
From 2002 to 2005 it would be back to “business as usual” as both St. Edward and Bowling Green returned to the tournament.  However, the Bobcats would not be able to advance beyond the semi-finals in any of those seasons, giving the Eagles a new opponent in the finals for a few years.  In 2002, St. Ed’s defeated the Preppers of Hunting Valley’s University School, 5-3, to win the state title.  It would prove to be the first of three consecutive championship game meetings between these two schools.  The following year it was the Preppers’ turn, avenging their loss of the previous season with a 2-1 victory in the finals, giving University School its first state hockey title.  In 2004 the Eagles and the Preppers met in their rubber match.  This time it was no contest as the Eagles totally dominated play with an 8-0 triumph.  Coupled with St. Ed’s 5-0 win over Oxford Talawanda in the semi-finals, it marked the first time that a team had recorded shutouts in both of their tournament games.
In 2005, St. Edward duplicated its effort of the previous year’s tournament by recording a pair of shutouts on the way to the school’s record 11th hockey championship.  In their semi-final game the Eagles defeated Cincinnati Moeller, 5-0, then handed Shaker Heights a 2-0 defeat in the championship game.
Last year’s tournament was significant in that none of the traditional state hockey powers were in attendance.  The Golden Bears of Upper Arlington High School made their tournament debut.  Sylvania Northview was back in the tournament for the first time since 1990.  Padua was returning for the first time in five years, while University School took on the role of “regular” by making its fourth appearance of the last five seasons. 
New faces or not, the 2006 state championship game was one of the most exciting on record, pitting Padua’s Bruins against Northview’s Wildcats.  The game featured three lead changes and four ties.  The Wildcats raced to a 3-1 lead in the first period, but the Bruins matched that in the second to make it a 4-4 tie as the game headed into the final period.  Each team scored once in the third session to send the game into overtime.  At 2:05 of the extra period, Padua’s Ryan Saunders’ 12-foot shot managed to elude the outstretched glove of Northview goalie Bobby McElheney for the game winner.  The 6-5 victory gave the Bruins their third state championship, moving them up among the state’s hockey elite.
While Padua’s championship gave veteran coach Doug Hauser his 466th victory at the school, there are three Ohio hockey coaches who have recently surpassed the 500 victory mark to become Ohio’s winningest hockey coaches.  The first to reach that milestone was Shaker Heights coach Mike Bartley, who wrapped up #500 late in January of 2005.  During his career at Shaker Heights, Bartley has led the Red Raiders to the state tournament 10 times, reaching the finals six, and winning three state championships. 
When questioned as to his biggest thrills during his career at Shaker Heights, coach Bartley mentioned two, both of which just happened to take place in the same year, 2001.  That year the Red Raiders won their third state championship, and what made it so special for Mike was that his son, Matt, was the captain of the team that year.  The other achievement that year was that Mike Bartley was awarded the OHSAA’s Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award in recognition of the manner in which he carries out his professional responsibilities both on and off the ice.
Now in his 31st year with the Red Raiders, Bartley began the season with 516 victories – and counting.
A hockey star at Bowling Green State University, Mike Bartley attended a training camp of the old Cleveland Crusaders with the second man to coach his team to 500 victories, Bob Whidden.  Whidden, who was a back-up goalie for the Crusaders from 1972-1976, notched his 500th  victory at St. Ed’s just a few days after Bartley got his.  Now retired after 21 seasons at the helm of the Eagles, Whidden finished his career with 507 wins.  He guided the Eagles to the state tournament 16 times, reaching the finals 14 of those years and recording a state record 11 championships.
The third man to reach the 500 victory plateau is Sylvania Northview coach, Jim Cooper.  Cooper, who is the only coach that the Wildcats have ever had in the 33 years of that program, just missed getting #500 within a few weeks of both Mike Bartley and Bob Whidden.  Instead, he had to until the Wildcat’s first win of the 2005-2006 season to reach that lofty mark.  Entering the current campaign, Cooper had amassed 530 victories.  While Jim Cooper has guided the Wildcats to the state tournament four times, and has reached the state finals twice, he is still waiting for that elusive first state championship.  Jim Cooper is also a proud recipient of the OHSAA’s Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award, with which he was honored in 2000.