By DAVE HANNEMAN
Toledo St. John’s started fast and finished strong in Friday night’s Northwest Hockey Conference game against Findlay High.
And if it was up to Titans’ coach Mike Hayes, he’d trademark that game plan and use it as a blueprint for the entire season.
“We came out strong in the first period, let it get away from us there a little bit in the second, then did what we set out to do in the third,” Hayes said after St. John’s rallied for three goals in the third period to beat Findlay 5-3 in NHC action at Huntington Bank Arena.
Sophomore winger Ian Rapp scored two goals and assisted on two others as St. John’s (9-2) improved to 6-0-0 in NHC play. With two-thirds of the regular season remaining, the Titans have already won six of their 10 NHC games. St. John’s has 18 points in the NHC Red Division standings; Sylvania Northview (2-0-0 NHC) and Findlay (2-2-0) are tied for second with 6.
“That’s a scheduling quirk with our conference. We had nothing to do with that,” Hayes said. “We’ve set a mark, though. And now everyone has to try and keep pace.”
State champion in 2007 and state runnerup in 2009, St. John’s last two seasons have ended in district final losses to the teams (Sylvania Northview last year, Toledo St. Francis in 2010) that went on to win the state title. When Hayes talks about the Titans finishing strong, he’s not referring to just one game.
“I wouldn’t say we’re on a mission. But yes, our guys do have high expectations,” Hayes said.
With a strong senior class, Findlay has high expectations as well. And despite the loss, a dominating second period was indicative of what the Trojans can accomplish.
“We’ve really developed as a team, and we’re making big strides,” FHS coach Joe Longo said after Findlay, down 2-0 after the first period, surged ahead 3-2 after two.
“We’re at the point now where it’s all mental. If we believe we can, we’re as good as anybody out there.”
Rapp, assisted by his brother Ryan, scored 49 seconds into the game and Colin Suter, after intercepting a pass at his blue line, went one-on-one against Findlay goalie Alex Woolley and made it 2-0 with 46 seconds left in the first period.
When the teams swapped ends for the second period, the momentum swapped sides as well.
Four minutes into the second period, Andy Martin pushed a pass to Connor Curlis as he was falling to the ice and Curlis one-timed a slap shot past St. John’s goalie Mike Barrett.
When St. John’s got a bit sloppy with the puck, Zach Wohlgamuth capitalized, spinning to his left and rifling a shot past Barrett to tie it 2-2 at the 8:36 mark.
Findlay took the lead three minutes later. Martin, who entered the game with a team-high 14 goals, blasted a shot from out front that was deflected over the goal. In the scramble behind the net, the puck scooted back out front to Martin, who didn’t miss on his second opportunity.
St. John’s outshot Findlay 15-9 in the second period, but could get nothing past Woolley.
“Woolley was tremendous in goal. He kept us in it when we needed him to,” Longo said.
“Evidently there was a force field on one net today,” Hayes said.
The switch in ends for the third period seemed to support that theory.
One minute into the final period, Ian Rapp raced up the left side, drew a defender to him and slipped a pass to Austin Kelly for the tying goal.
On an identical attack, Rapp got the assist on Caleb Hauenstein’s goal that put St. John’s up 4-3 with 9:15 left in the game.
When Findlay pulled Woolley in the final minute, Rapp capped his night with an empty-netter with 43 seconds left.
“It was fortunate for us that we got that goal right away (in the third peirod),” Hayes said. “I think that really changed the attitude on our bench. Right from there, I thought we were good the rest of the way.”
“We made a mental error and they tied it,” Longo said.
“We gathered ourselves a bit, but made another error and they capitalized.
“When we don’t believe in ourselves or are a little hesitant, we can give up a lead like that.”
St. John’s had a huge 50-28 advantage in total shots. Barrett finished with 25 saves, while Woolley stopped 44 of the 49 shots he faced.
Findlay will host Centerville today as the Trojans take a break from league play. Findlay will take part in the Parma Padua Tournament on Dec. 21-22, then host the annual Trojan Invitational on Jan. 26-28.
TOLEDO ST. JOHN’S 4, FINDLAY JV 0
GOALIE SAVES: Logan Bern (Fin) 17.