Baron Cup belongs to Mentor
Cardinals dispatch Rocky River to capture crown for first time since 1995
Mentor probably will only want to see Brooklyn this often in the near future if there’s one caveat attached:
The Cardinals get to be the ones to turn the lights out again.
Amid a weekend that tested the limits of perseverance, Feb. 10 in the Baron Cup I final against Rocky River, Mentor’s fortitude was boundless.
The high-flying Cardinals jumped out to a quick two-goal lead and steadied themselves when the seas got choppy for a ride to paradise, a 7-2 win over the Pirates for Mentor’s first Baron Cup championship since 1995.
“Our coaching staff is beyond proud of this group and what they accomplished today,” Cardinals coach Paul McKito said. “We made the point in our pregame talk, our first five-to-seven minutes, short, high-tempo shifts. Get our legs back and make sure we had enough energy to play on both sides of the puck and not make any mistakes.
“We brought it. We couldn’t stop coming. The night before, we played 85 minutes of hockey. We came back and just (played) harder than ever.” – Mentor captain Evan McBride
“We get a couple early. We get on the board first, which we mentioned would be a huge feather in our cap if we score first and get some mental momentum so to speak, too, after a long battle last night physically and mentally against Hudson. It was just what the doctor ordered.”
They went five overtimes to dispatch Hudson in a Baron Cup I semifinal Feb. 9. And if this Cup final was indicative, they would have willingly crossed the globe to finish this quest.
“All I thought was we’re the team that deserved it the most,” Mentor senior captain and program staple Evan McBride said of his thoughts as the clock struck zeroes. “We brought it. We couldn’t stop coming. The night before, we played 85 minutes of hockey. We came back and just (played) harder than ever. It felt like we were faster than them.
“Our team played so
good. Our goalie (Alex Toth) was on, and it’s just a good recipe to win a game.”
Evan McBride gave Mentor (28-4-2) a dream start at 4:30 of the opening period, throwing a wrister from the right circle that snuck low.
Then at 7:48, Andrew McBride delivered a tonesetting sequence. The Pirates telegraphed a zone breakout that the standout sophomore winger pounced on and snapped a wrister for a 2-0 advantage.
Somehow, after a marathon, Mentor emerged fresh.
“Andrew was down low and threw it on the net,” McBride said of his opener. “It bounced out right in front of me, and I just took it from the slot and it went in low left corner. His toepad couldn’t get on it and it went right through.
“Everyone was taking hot baths, lots of water, fluids. We just brought it today. I was a little nervous. We were all a little nervous. But that team I play with just brings it every time. It’s awesome to play with them.”
The Pirates (17-10-4)
cut it to 2-1 at 9:09 of the first with Hayden Weaver’s wrister top shelf.
But Jack Heller cleaned up a rebound off a Jack Perish shot at 2:17 of the second, and Luke Jeffery, the hero with the game-winning goal against Hudson, returned the favor at 7:50 for a 4-1 lead.
Danny Asmar briefly got it back to 4-2 for River at 10:30 with a wrister at the right bar.
But Jack O’Donnell netted a key tally as a crasher with 1:12 to go before intermission with a banger at the right bar, and Jeffery had a highlight-reel goal at 4:07 of the third that stifled any Pirates’ comeback hopes.
The junior forward had a gorgeous deke into the zone to create space and slotted a look coming in for his 24th goal of the winter and a 6-2 lead.
Mentor goaltender Alex Toth, who was credited with 64 saves against Hudson, had an efficient 27save outing against River. In stretches during which the Pirates were getting
good, deep looks in the zone, Toth had timely and quality saves as the Cardinals found their proverbial footing.
Mentor is the fifth NewsHerald coverage area program to hoist multiple Baron Cups, joining University with eight and Euclid, Mayfield and Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin with two apiece.
As the scoreboard still read 7-2 with zeroes on the clock and a quiet fell over Brooklyn, the Cardinals began to pile their bags in the west corner before they headed east.
It had been a generation since Mentor got to take the Baron Cup back with it. This generation of Cardinals, which has redefined the trajectory of the program the last two seasons after some lean years, now knows what that’s like, too, after a commendable display of fortitude heading into the Kent District.
“It’s confidence,” McBride said. “One-hundred percent confidence. That’s all. It’s going to push us to go farther.”
Mentor’s Jack O’Donnell celebrates his second-period goal as Rocky River’s Hayden Weaver reacts Feb. 10 during the Baron Cup I final at Brooklyn.
Mentor goaltender Alex Toth stares down a shot from Rocky River’s Luke Witzigreuter on Feb. 10 during the Baron Cup I final at Brooklyn. Toth had 27 saves as the Cardinals won, 7-2, for their first Baron Cup since 1995.