The Northview hockey team hopes the third time is the charm, while St. Francis de Sales hopes to keep inflicting the harm.
The Wildcats (30-3-1) and Knights (18-13-4) meet again tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the district final. It is the third meeting between the area's top teams and St. Francis won the first two. This time a berth in the state final four is at stake.
The Knights won the first contest 6-1 and then took the rematch 2-0.
"I don't know if that is an advantage," St. Francis coach Brian Kinsella said. "I know the guys understand what they need to do to win. But Northview played awfully well in that second game. We look at them as a real threat. They're No. 1 and we've been stressing that. They are a very good team."
Northview, which was ranked No. 1 in the final coaches poll, ousted defending state champion St. John's Jesuit from the tournament last weekend, 4-1. But of the Wildcats' three losses this season, two came against the fourth-ranked Knights.
"We've won 30 games and we will build on the positives," Northview coach Jim Cooper said. "We're not going to spend time dwelling on things that we didn't do well. You can't change the stripes on this Wildcat at this point in season. We'll go with the guys that got us here."
Two senior goalies have positioned their teams on the cusp of making the state semifinals. St. Francis netminder Mychael McAninch and Northview's Craig Trego have been strong between the pipes.
"We want to get the puck to the net and make Mychael save the puck," Cooper said. "It will be a great game. We haven't proved anything yet."
Kinsella agreed the game will come down to goaltending.
"Mike must have another outstanding game and outplay Trego," he said.
Trego's biggest threat is St. Francis senior Chris Dyer, who has scored six goals in the last two playoff games. Dyer has 46 goals and 53 assists in 34 games. Senior forwards Will Gerken and Nick Wawrzyniak are the Knights' other top scorers.
Northview, which was 22-0-1 before losing to Cleveland St. Edwards in late January, also relies on seniors for most of its scoring. Forwards Brandon Snead and Carter Bourland and defenseman Tyler Puhl have paced the Wildcat attack.
"Sometimes it's not just the big stars that come through in games like this," said Kinsella, a former NHL player.
He said grabbing an early lead is essential.
"We need to take command of the game and make them press harder," he said.
Cooper said he expects several swings of momentum.
"We want to make sure we maintain our composure," he said. "We want to stay about our business."
The Wildcats reached the state final in 2006 and the Knights made it to the state semis in 2005.
St. Francis has outscored its opponents 30-1 in the postseason. The Wildcats have rolled with a 22-2 edge over their foes.
"If you want to get to the final four, you have to beat the best," Kinsella said. "This is it. There is no tomorrow."
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