SLUH fights hard, can't stop CBC's title dominance

Sid Hastings

Christian Brothers College High School completed another successful season on ice with a 5-2 win against St. Louis University High School Feb. 26 to take the Mid-States Club Hockey Association Challenge Cup title.

CBC has won the Challenge Cup the last three years and four out of the last five years. SLUH defeated CBC in the Challenge Cup final in 2013 by a 2-1 score in overtime. The Cadets have finished either first or second for the past 15 years.

The win was the West St. Louis County team's 15th championship, passing De Smet Jesuit High School for most Mid-States titles. CBC has won the high school hockey championship 11 times under coach John Jost and four times under former coach Rick Kennedy.

Ethan Stahlhuth, Bud Winter, Spencer Sallenbach, Trevor Wilhelm and Jack Harrison scored goals for CBC. Jack Caruso starred in goal for CBC. Joseph Winkelmann scored in the second period for SLUH to cut CBC's lead to 2-1 and Christian Berger had a power-play goal to give SLUH life and a 4-2 score in the third before CBC shut down its opponent and added an empty-net goal.

Winter, who scored an unassisted goal by skating in front of the net while leaning to his left to avoid a defender and eventually tumbling over, received the Most Valuable Player Award. This season, the junior said, the team's 16 seniors "always worked as hard as possible and were great leaders. They really pushed us younger guys to really pick it up and work our hardest."

Winter said he has a lot of respect for SLUH's team. "Every time we play them we know it's going to be a tough game since they're a great team, and we work our hardest," he said. "We got the job done tonight."

Both teams competed their best, he added, glad that "we came out on top."

Winter praised his team's goalie, who "came out strong at the beginning of the game and really helped our confidence as a team. It's fantastic to have him back there. He's a great kid and a great goalie."

Caruso, a sophomore, deflected the praise, noting that the success on the season was due to his team. "We came together as a group," the goalie said.

His play early on helped CBC kill two SLUH power plays, stopping a shot in front of the net by SLUH's Henry Wagner. In the second period, he robbed SLUH's John Steckhaus with a glove save. SLUH outshot its rival 19-16 and dominated play in parts of the first two periods. Brendan Rasch, SLUH's freshman goalie, also made some tough saves look easy.

Jost said the victory wasn't easy, but his team kept playing hard and benefitted from Caruso's play — the major difference in the game — and getting the first goal by Stahlhuth, who rushed in along the boards and placed a perfect bad-angle shot in the top corner of the net. "We just beat a really good hockey team," the CBC coach said. "That game could have went either way."

The two-goal cushion provided by Sallenbach at the start of the third period was important to the victory as well, Jost said.

Keys to CBC's success, he noted, are the "good kids" who play for him, especially the seniors who didn't want to repeat the loss to SLUH in 2013, and the help of his assistant coaches Nick Carosello and Randy Staub: "We just have a blast doing this."

The rivalry with SLUH doesn't get out of hand, with the physical play seldom extending after the whistle is blown, he said. "We really do stress playing the right way. We want to win, we want to be competitive, but we don't want to cross that line. I think you saw that from both teams tonight."

The La Sallian mission and values taught to the players in the school play a role in shaping the program, with Lasallian prayer a part of the routine.

CBC, 36-3, had an 11-2 win vs. Lindbergh in first game of semifinal. CBC won 5-2 in the second game.

St. Louis U. High, 23-6, had won six in a row heading into Challenge Cup final. Coach Kevin Fitzpatrick's team has been in the finals four of the last five years. SLUH beat a fellow Jesuit Catholic high school, De Smet, 6-1 and 5-2 to sweep semifinal series. De Smet finished season 17-7-4.

In the Wickenheiser Cup, St. John Vianney High School fell just short of the finals, failing to advance in the semifinals after a 1-0 loss and 2-2 tie against Marquette. Marquette won the Wickenheiser classification 4-2 over Francis Howell Central.

The games were televised live on FOX Sports Midwest and aired live nationally on FOX College Sports.

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