By Jim Smith | Special to the Record-Courier
The Kent Roosevelt ice hockey team capped off a week of demanding mid-term exams with a grueling weekend of hockey, playing four games in three days in the Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Winter Invitational Tournament at the Mentor Ice Arena.
While report cards will update the players on their academic performances, Roosevelt hockey coach Ben Barlow gave his team a “B” on its performance in the tournament.
The Rough Riders compiled a record of three wins, no losses and one tie in the third annual event.
Over the course of the tournament, Kent Roosevelt recorded victories over Cleveland Benedictine 6-0, host ND-CL 4-2 and Cleveland Heights 11-1. The Rough Riders tied Mayfield 1-1 on Saturday.
“What’s keeping us from an ‘A’ is that tie against Mayfield,” said Barlow. “We played well enough to win the game but we just couldn’t pop in that second goal. That, coupled with play in our defensive zone, as we need to tighten some things up. Our young defensive unit tends to panic with the puck a little bit.”
Another area needing improvement, according to Barlow, is his team’s continued hesitancy to go after loose pucks.
“Up the blue line, when we have an opportunity to attack a puck and gain possession, we’re sometimes a little hesitant there,” he said.
Commenting on his team’s Friday night opening-round game against Benedictine, Barlow expressed pleasure with his team’s overall performance.
“We just kind of held on in the first period 0-0, but we got started early in the second period with a goal right away and I think that set the tone for the rest of the game,” he said. “I was really proud of our effort from the second period on.”
Saturday’s schedule required the Rough Riders to play two games, with an extended period of time between the first and second contests.
“We knew it was going to be a long day, but a fun day, a fun day to be a part of,” he said. “The boys and coaches got to spend a lot of quality time together and that’s why we’re here. We love being around each other.
“It’s a great team weekend at a critical time of the season. Our locker room atmosphere is top-notch. It’s dynamite and our kids are having a ton of fun together.”
Saturday’s opening game with Mayfield was a back-and-forth effort by both teams, resulting in the tie. After a scoreless opening period, the teams traded goals in the second and third periods.
“That was a good, clean game,” said Barlow. “It was enjoyable to be a part of it.”
On Saturday night, after falling behind 2-0 in the first period against ND-CL, the Rough Riders scored four unanswered goals en route to victory.
“I was really proud of the way we played against ND-CL,” said Barlow. “After being down 2-0, I loved the way our kids didn’t panic and we took it shift-by-shift, goal-by-goal and took control of that game over a good ND-CL team.”
Due to the scoring and bracket system utilized in the tournament, the Rough Riders, although they had accumulated the second-most points of participating teams, were relegated to a consolation game Sunday morning.
“The kids were disappointed in that but were still excited to play,” said Barlow.
And play they did in an 11-1 victory over Cleveland Heights.
“We worked on the importance of keeping our shot on the ice during the game,” said Barlow. “Instead of a laser-beam shot to the corner, just a hard pass to the net that will create second and third chances.”
Offensively over the weekend, the Rough Riders were led by senior captain Kyle Manning and sophomore Gabe Smith, each accumulating 12 points. Manning scored eight goals and four assists, while Smith earned five goals and seven assists.
Roosevelt junior goaltender Nate Grootegoed performed impressively throughout the weekend, stopping 86 of the 89 shots he faced in four games for a .966 save percentage. Grootegoed’s goals-against average was at less than one goal per game in the event.
“We want to make sure he (Grootegoed) is always sharp and always focused, and so this weekend could be a springboard to create an opportunity for him to feel success,” said Barlow.
Roosevelt’s overall record is 16-10-2 for the season.