Northview players, from left, Dalton Carter, Drew Crandall, Nick Laplante, and Kyler Omey celebrate Laplante's goal in the first period Saturday against St. John's Jesuit in the district championship game at Tam-O-Shanter. Northview has achieved state runner-up four times.
Only two banners recognizing state championships hang on the wall at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania and neither features the name of the rink's main tenant.
Northview hopes to raise its own flag when the Wildcats return from the program's ninth trip to the state semifinals this weekend.
Northview captured a district title on its home ice last Saturday to earn a berth in the state final four.
"It would mean a ton," Northview coach Mike Jones said. "We talk about the past and rich tradition. It's a tight knit group of alumni. But this is the 2011-12 hockey team. They will write their own chapter."
The program has reached the state final four times only to finish runner-up each time (1982, 1990, 2006, and 2010).
St. John's Jesuit has a banner for its title in 2007 -- the first for a Toledo metro team -- and St. Francis de Sales has one hanging in honor of its championship last season.
Northview's aspirations are high as the Wildcats (29-1-3) enter the state semifinals on a roll. They've won 16in a row, finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state poll, and have not lost since Dec. 29.
Senior forward Zach Felser, who leads the team with 34 assists, said becoming the first Northview team to get over the hump would mean a lot on many levels.
"It would be unreal," Felser said. "I think being the first one to do something is one of the most difficult things in life. I'd like to win it for all the alumni, for my family, and for the school."
Zach's father, Bob Felser, played for the program, and Zach was a member of the team that reached the title game two years ago only to lose 4-1 to Cleveland St. Ignatius.
Northview has never won a team state title in any sport.
"I'd be kind of speechless," Felser said. "It would be great for the fans and school."
Senior Brady Storer, who has 25 assists to go along with 12 goals for 37 points, said the team considers Tam-O-Shanter its home rink even though many teams also play there.
"[To raise a banner there] would be crazy," Storer said. "It would be a memory and something I would see the rest of my life. We have so much support behind us. It would mean a ton to everyone."
Northview goaltender Austin Gryca, left, and Brady Storer hold the district championship trophy after the Wildcats defeated St. John's.
Northview first must get past unranked Olentangy Orange (34-8-0) in the semifinal at 3 p.m. Saturday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
"It means a lot to be able to keep the rich tradition that [longtime coach] Jim Cooper has built going," Jones said.
The Wildcats' lone loss was a 4-2 setback to Dublin Jerome, which was knocked out of the tournament by Olentangy Orange with a 3-2 win in four overtimes in a district final last Saturday.
"It's a little bittersweet because we wanted another shot at Dublin Jerome," Jones said. "But this is a wake up call. We will have our hands full. Their goalie is fantastic and their defensemen are very good."
The title pursuit got easier when No. 1 ranked and previously undefeated St. Ignatius was upset 3-2 by Lakewood St. Edward in a district title last weekend.
Senior forward Dalton Carter, who leads the team with 54 points (31 goals and 23 assists), admitted that "on paper" it seems the path is less daunting.
"We haven't heard much about [Olentangy Orange]. But we know they are a quality team. But we've been there before and we know what it takes."
Ten players were on the roster when the team defeated Dublin Coffman 4-0 in the state semifinals in 2010.
Senior goalie Austin Gryca posted the shutout. Gryca has a 15-0-1 record with four shutouts and a 1.58 goals-against average this season. He stopped 25 shots in Northview's 2-1 win Saturday over St. John's Jesuit.
"That was the perfect game," Gryca said. "I couldn't have done anything without my teammates. Now hopefully we'll bring back home a state title."
Jones said the fact that his nine seniors were able to absorb the energy and emotions of playing in an NHL rink with so much on the line in 2010 is significant.
"A good half of the locker room has been through this. They know what it all feels like," Jones said.
Others such as sophomore forward Cody Estrel, junior forward Drew Crandall, and sophomore Jacob Koback are expected to make an impact in their first action in state competition. Estrel ranks third on the team with 44 points (20 goals and 20 assists), while Crandall (13 G, 19 A) and Koback are tied for fifth with 32 points.
Sophomore Kooper Carter got a taste of excitement when he scored the game winner on Saturday. It was his first goal of the season.
"Hopefully we will take it all the way," said Kooper Carter, Dalton's cousin.
Junior Nick Laplante, who has 14 goals and 15 assists, gave Northview a 1-0 lead over St. John's in the first period.
Northview's Zach Felser, left, and Kooper Carter battle for the puck against Austin Kelly of St. John's Jesuit in the District final.
"This is a great time. We're hoping to go down there and do big things," Laplante said.
Northview has scored an average of 4.46 goals per game and has given up just 1.33 per contest.
Felser said the team has moved on after beating St. John's for the fourth time this season, while avenging a loss to the Titans in the district semis last year.
"We were still celebrating a little bit [on Monday] but toward the end of practice that died down. Now we're on to state," Felser said.
Olentangy Orange goalie Clayton Horvath made 54 saves, including 30 in the OT periods, in the district final.
Olentangy Orange is in Lewis Center, 20 miles north of Columbus. It is going to the final four for the first time.
"We have to be ready," Felser said. "They are there for a reason."
Storer said the team's goal since the start of the season has been to win it all.
"We've gone step by step and we're working toward our next goal," Storer said. "It takes teamwork. Everyone has to do their part. If you're missing one piece of the puzzle you can't make the picture. We still have to win two games to win the state title.
"I think when we went down there two years ago we were just happy to make it. But this year we want it all. It's business. We're going down there to win."
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.
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