Linsly Hockey Looks for Back-to-Back Titles

WHEELING – The Linsly hockey team is on the quest to do something no other team at the school can accomplish.

Win a state championship.

Actually, make that back-to-back state championships.

”It’s something (the team doesn’t) take for granted,” Cadets first-year coach Kris Smith said. ”The boys’ and girls’ basketball teams had great seasons this year, but they know they have the opportunity to do something that other kids don’t.”

The Cadets have had a great season themselves. The squad tore through the Independent School Hockey League as it compiled an 11-1 league record before beating Sewickley Academy, 8-1, in the championship game.

”We’ve had a very successful season,” Smith said. ”We already have one championship under our belts.”

The Cadets’ second opportunity to capture a championship begins tonight at the Wheeling Park ice rink as they’ll take on Wheeling Central in the semifinals of the West Virginia state hockey tournament at 7.

”They’re a solid team,” Smith said of the Maroon Knights. ”They have a really great player in Michael Tighe. They’re looking to come out and wear us down. We have a lot of fire power and are used to high-scoring games, but if they can come out and control the tempo and get a few stops it’ll be a low-scoring game.

”You can never underestimate a Wheeling Central team when they play Linsly. We’re not going to take anything lightly. We do have the top seed coming in, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

Wheeling Park and John Marshall will be the second semifinal matchup tonight at 9.

”I know that Park, John Marshall and Central have all beaten and lost to each other,” Smith noted. ”Park has a great player in Michael Grove. He’s an offensive leader for them and he likes to hit. He’ll be ready to lead his team. Josh Merriman for John Marshall is another terrific player. You can never rule out any of these teams. It’ll be a great competition.”

The championship game will be held at 7 on Sunday night at WesBanco Arena.

If the Cadets (18-13) are able to capture the Bob Otten Cup, they’ll tie last year’s victory mark, which is a school record, with 20. Prior to last season, the most victories Linsly had in a season was 12 since the school began its hockey program in 2002.

Smith, who was an assistant coach last season, has 11 players back from that squad.

”Our core has stayed pretty intact,” he said.

Senior captain Brandon Henry leads the Cadets.

”He’s always been a great player,” Smith said. ”He came to Linsly his sophomore year and every year he has grown. He leads the team with the amount of effort he gives. (Tonight) he’ll be ready to lead his boys onto the ice.”

The Maroon Knights had won three straight Bob Otten Cups before Linsly snapped that streak with an 8-5 victory against Wheeling Park in last year’s championship game.

John Marshall has never hoisted the Bob Otten Cup since the tournament began in 2005.

Due to a scheduling conflict, Morgantown, the usual fifth team to compete for the cup, will not be able to attend.

”Most winter sports have rounded out their seasons, so if people don’t have any plans, come watch some good hockey,” Smith said. ”They all are great teams. I’m hoping we can get a lot of support.”