Rolling out four full lines of forwards has the St. John’s Jesuit hockey team rolling along this season.
There is quality depth and experience among the Titans, backed by strong senior goaltending.
Led by 14 seniors, St. John’s has compiled a 12-2-2 record and is ranked No. 2 in the state coaches poll.
Coach Mike Hayes, who has a 243-99-23 record in 11 seasons, said the team’s depth creates matchup problems.
“We’re rolling four lines, and by the third period teams have a hard time competing with us,” he said. “I can put my second and third lines against any top line in the state, and they are competitive. I can even put my fourth line against pretty much any first line. We have a matchup advantage.”
All but one of the 21 players have collected at least one point, and six have 14 points or more.
Meanwhile, senior goaltender Mike Barrett, who has started since his sophomore year, has an 8-2-2 record with four shutouts. Barrett has a 1.14 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
“The main thing with the depth is that we can wear teams down,” Barrett said. “With most teams in the state they only have one or two good lines. But our whole team can skate with the other team's top line.”
Junior Ian Rapp, who anchors the No. 1 line at center, leads the team in goals (22) and total points (39). Rapp also has 17 assists and is a team-high plus-22.
“Our whole team can score,” Rapp said. “Even our fourth line scores. That gives us a lot of energy. The scoring has been spread around.”
Senior forward Caleb Hauenstein is second on the team with 24 points, including a team-leading 19 assists. Junior forward Nick Baumgartner has 21 points with six goals and 15 assists.
Hayes said he does not play his top three scorers on the top line.
“We have enough quality players that we can be versatile,” he said. “In past years we've relied on too few people. I think we can get 10 goals out of eight different guys, and we're on pace to do that.”
Not to be overlooked are four returning starters on the blue line. Senior defenseman Dominic Horvath is fourth on the team with 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists).
“We have a ton of role players,” Horvath said. “No one is trying to do too much. It’s not a one-man show out there.”
Horvath’s partner, senior defenseman Ben Hamilton, has 15 points in 16 games with five goals and 10 assists. Senior defensemen Ryan Rafac (goal, 5 assists) and Nick Gibb (goal, 5 assists) also are back along with Ben Pfeifer (5 assists). “As a goalie I trust my defensemen,” Barrett said.
Senior forward Nate Miller has 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists).
“We have 14 seniors that are determined, and it’s a more mature team,” Hayes said. “We also have good chemistry inside the locker room.”
Hayes said the closeness of the team pays dividends when the team faces adversity.
“You’re pulling for each other, and that goes a long way,” he said. “Games that we might have lost by a goal we are now winning because of guys look forward to coming to rink and they get each other excited about the game.”
The Titans are 3-0-1 in the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division with wins over Northview (7-3), St. Francis (7-3), and Bowling Green (5-0). St. John’s, the defending champion, meets the Wildcats again at 9 p.m. Saturday at Tam-O-Shanter.
The team’s only losses are to Parma Heights Holy Name (2-1) and University Liggett of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. (2-0).
Rapp and Hauenstein, a right winger, form the top line along with senior left wing Jake Roman (6 goals, 3 assists).
Baumgartner, a left winger, and Miller at center are joined by senior right winger Derek Dohanos (3 goals, assist) on the second line.
Senior center Xander Homer (goal, 3 assists), senior left winger Nik Verbosky (4 goals, 2 assists), and junior right wing Brendon Schultz (2 goals, 4 assists) make up the third line.
The fourth line is centered by senior Jason Wietecki (2 goals, 3 assists) with junior Andrew Mancy (goal) on the right wing and senior Thomas Williams (goal, 5 assists) on the left wing.
Barrett, who had a 1.68 GAA last year, has led the Titans to the district final the last two seasons.
“He keeps us in games until we change the game offensively,” Hayes said. “It’s a comfort to everyone else.”
Barrett said he feeds off the energy of the crowd.
“We have so much experience,” he said. “We know when it is time to be serious and when we have to grind out a win because we’ve been in that situation.”
The Titans have reached the district final three straight seasons, only to be denied a trip to Columbus.
In 2007, St. John’s ended a 29-year state title drought for Toledo area teams when the Titans won the championship under Hayes.
But the Titans have not won a district title since 2009, when they finished second in the state. They lost in heartbreaking fashion to Northview in the last two district finals.
“That bites at me every time I play a game,” Horvath said. “We’ve talked about it, and we don’t want it to happen again. We use it as fuel.”
In order to better prepare for a postseason run, Hayes put together the most difficult schedule his team has ever played. The Titans have been invited to the prestigious the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Showcase next month.
“It’s the who’s who of high school hockey in Michigan,” Hayes said. “We are the first Ohio team ever to be invited. It’s 40 of the top teams in Michigan.”
Horvath called it a “huge measuring stick.”
“It will prepare us for the playoffs,” he said. “The seniors understand this is our last shot. Everyone is buying in and contributing to reach our goal. We want to win the last game of the season.”