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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2012

SIDELINES: HOCKEY

Northview, St. John's battle for district crown

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

For the fourth time this season Northview and St. John's Jesuit will clash on the ice at Tam-O-Shanter, but the stakes this time are much higher.

The Wildcats (28-1-3) battle the Titans (25-9-1) in the district hockey championship Saturday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the state semifinals.

Northview has had the upper hand this year with three wins -- 5-2, 4-3, and 3-1.

"Our previous results have zero to do with Saturday night," Northview coach Mike Jones said. "[St. John's] has a heck of a product. They pour out quality team after quality team. They won a state title a few years ago and then they were back there a few years ago."

St. John's coach Mike Hayes said his team is not ignoring the fact that it hasn't beaten Northview.

"Obviously we are aware that three of our losses are to them," he said. "That doesn't have to be put aside. It's the old adage that those that don't understand history are bound to repeat it.

"You learn more about yourself in losses than your victories. We need to learn why we lost those games. We have to make sure we don't repeat those games."

Northview was ranked No. 2 in the final state poll, and St. John's was sixth.

"They are worth of all the accolades they've received," Hayes said. "They've had a great season."

St. John's knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs last season with a 5-2 win in the district final.

"I'm sure they are talking about us being the team that knocked them out last year," Hayes said. "I don't think they have to go far for their motivation."

Northview has reeled off 15 straight wins and has not lost since Dec. 29.

"Momentum is a funny thing," Jones said. "We just hope to continue to nurture it."

Jones said every game is different and he expects the same on Saturday.

"The place will be packed and it will be fun," Jones said. "It will be two great squads going at it."

Jones said his players have gone above and beyond.

"It's an easy, coachable group," Jones said. "They've put in a ton of work. They have a belief that they can obtain something special."

Senior forwards Zach Felser and Dalton Carter continue to be the offensive leaders for Northview, while senior defenseman Brady Storer solidifies the other end of the ice.

Jones said he has not decided which senior goalie he will start -- Austin Gryca or Phil Bowles.

The Titans are led offensively by junior forwards Austin Kelly and Colin Suter, while defenseman Danny St. John is solid on the blue line. Sophomore goalie Mike Barrett will get the start in net.

"The mind-set is how bad do we want to go to Columbus and what they're willing to do to get there," Hayes said. "I have a group that feels they have something to prove."

Hayes said the Titans have played in tight contests and he hopes that will pay dividends.

"You hate to go through a whole year and not deal with any adversity. We are familiar with those types of [tight] games," Hayes said.

Hayes said the outcome will come down to momentum shifts.

"Both sides have practiced to have an opportunity to play in a game like this and be able to move on," Hayes said. "The kids will be excited. Emotions will be riding high."



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