NORTH OLMSTED — Neither Mother Nature nor North Olmsted could stop Westlake in Greater Cleveland High School High League play Thursday afternoon at the North Olmsted Recreation Center.
The Demons, braving the harsh weather and the rival Eagles, dominated action from start to finish in posting a 5-1 Red South Division victory.
Statistics don’t always tell the story, but it was all about scoring chances, and the Demons’ offensive pressure resulted in a 55-6 advantage in shots on goal.
“It’s been a struggle for a month now,” North Olmsted coach TJ Murray said of his team’s offensive woes. “Part of it is being low on numbers and part of it is our better offensive players are younger. We are going through a bit of a lull and there is no question that (younger players) have hit the wall. They will get through it, though.”
The Demons (9-6, 2-3 RSD) wasted little time putting the pressure on the Eagles (3-8-1, 0-4) with a 16-1 first-period advantage in shots on goal, but only connected once when Rudy Keppler scored the first of his three goals off a face-off with 6:34 left in the period.
Keppler added his second score at 13:19 of the second period on a power play, when he beat North Olmsted goalie Chase Cullinan by going top-shelf on assists by Nathan Greenburg and Paul Freedman.
“We see these guys (Westlake) here all the time and we have had some tough battles the last couple of years,” Keppler said. “We were really working the puck down low, especially on the power play, and everything was just clicking and flowing to let us take a lot of shots.”
Freedman scored with 2:31 left in the second period for a 3-0 lead and Nathan Greenburg upped the score to 4-0 with just one second left in the period.
“North Olmsted is really one of our rivals and we had some heated games over the years,” Greenburg said. “We see them a lot and it’s always fun to come out and beat them. We just need to keep this up as the season goes along.”
Keppler finished off the hat trick — his seventh of the year — with 8:01 left in regulation when he took a pass from Max Prexta from the left side of the ice to the right post and scored on a nifty backhanded shot that went high again on Cullinan.
The Demons lost the shutout 96 seconds after Keppler’s third score when North Olmsted’s Tyler Merth unleashed a slap shot that went off Joe Guay’s glove and into the net.
“We played a real good game today and we were able to keep the puck in our territory for long periods of time,” Demons coach John Duke said. “We put a lot of pressure on them with each and every shift.
“When we start rolling the lines like we did today, we are a much better hockey club. We kept North Olmsted off balance and our defense did a good job of getting back to defend the puck.”
The Eagles will be back on the ice Saturday when they face Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Kent. The Demons will also be playing Saturday when they face Midview at North Park Rec in Elyria at 8 p.m.
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westlake 5, North Olmsted 1
FIRST PERIOD: (W) Rudy Keppler (unassisted), 6:34. Penalties: None.
SECOND PERIOD: (W) Keppler (Nathan Greenburg, Paul Freedman), PP, 12:59, (W) Freedman (Adam Sandor), 2:31, (W) Greenburg (Chris Hunter, Brandan Teets), 0:01. Penalties: (NO) Nathan Schmitt (hooking), 13:19, (W) Sandor (interference), 11:42.
THIRD PERIOD: (W) Keppler (Max Prexta), 8:01, (NO) Tyler Merth (Mario DeJoy), 6:25. Penalties: (W) Sandor (elbow), 14:41.
Westlake 1 3 1 — 5
North Olmsted 0 0 1 — 1
Shots on goal: Westlake 55 (16-23-16), North Olmsted 6 (1-3-2). Goalies: (Westlake) Joe Guay (6 shots, 5 saves); (North Olmsted) Chase Cullinan (52 shots, 47 saves), Omar Mansour (3 shots, 3 saves). Power-play opportunities: Westlake 1-1, North Olmsted 0-3.