The top-seeded CBC Cadets have just one loss this season and that team is their opponent in the Midstates Club Hockey Association’s Challenge Cup semifinals.
The Cadets (25-1) carry a 14-game winning streak into the Challenge Cup semifinals. The lone loss came to the Kirkwood Pioneers back on Dec. 21. CBC had scored a 2-1 win over Kirkwood on Nov. 15.
“As far as the regular season in our split with Kirkwood, the team that won each particular game definitely deserved to win,” CBC coach John Jost said. “It’s that simple.”
CBC meets sixth-seeded Kirkwood (13-8-5) at 6:20 p.m. Saturday. Game 2 is set for 9:15 p.m. on Feb. 29. Both games will be played Centene Ice Center. The winner of the two-game series will play for the Challenge Cup championship at 8 p.m. March 11 at the Enterprise Center. On the other side of the bracket, Lafayette, the eighth seed, plays Vianney, the No. 2 seed.
Jost said the Cadets will be facing a quality opponent in the Pioneers.
“Kirkwood is outstanding in goal, very consistent defensively and has some excellent forwards that can hurt you,” Jost said.
Goalie Mitchell Day made 32 saves in Game 2 of Kirkwood’s quarterfinal series against De Smet. Day has a 1.42 goals against average this season. Seamus Campbell has recorded 22 points and Carson Day has added 19 to lead Kirkwood offensively.
Jost and his staff were able to see the Pioneers play against De Smet.
“We did see Game 2 of the quarterfinals,” Jost said. “It looked like a heck of a series. We expect nothing different between us and Kirkwood.”
CBC defeated Summit 6-2 and 6-1 to sweep its quarterfinal series. Jost was pleased with how the Cadets performed in the series against the Falcons.
“I thought we played well in both games but we understand we can certainly play better,” Jost said. “We certainly will need to in the semifinals. Rockwood Summit was a very good test for us. They played hard both games and never quit.”
The Cadets had many players step up in the games against Summit.
“To be honest, offensively the scoring was really spread out,” Jost said. “We used our depth throughout the series including all four lines and everyone contributed. Defensively as a team especially in Game One, we felt we had too many lapses. We cleaned them up in Game Two which helped us close out a very tough and desperate Rockwood team.
“Both goalies (Matt) Smith and (Ryan) Yaeger played well in the series and each earned victories.”
Jost liked what he saw overall from his squad in the Summit series.
“Our team, especially in Game 2, showed us they understand how critical every shift is this time of year,” Jost said.
The Cadets keep getting better as the season has progressed. That’s important, Jost said, because this is the time of the season a team needs to be playing its best hockey.
“I think each game especially later in the season and throughout the playoffs we have improved,” Jost said. “Our older guys are realizing this may be their last go around and it is trickling down to the younger players.”
The Cadets skate into the series in good shape, Jost said.
“For the first time all year, despite a few minor illnesses, we are injury free,” Jost said. “Knock on wood it stays that way.”
CBC has missed playing for the Cup championship the past two years after winning the title in the previous four years. Overall, the CBC program has won 16 titles.
To have a chance to play for No. 17 and get past Kirkwood, Jost said every Cadet must step up and be ready to play.
“For us, it will come down to using our depth,” Jost said. “We have a 30-man roster and throughout the season, all 30 have contributed somewhere along the way. We need to keep that mentality.”