Gaglioti is Tigers' key in injury-plagued year


Tim Warsinskey
Plain Dealer Reporter

Cleveland Heights played much of the season with a sense of wondering about what might have been. Several key players were injured, and it seemed like when one came back, another went down.

For the first time since December, the Tigers are healthy, and they pulled off a first-round sectional upset by beating No. 7 seed North Olmsted, 3-2, in overtime Sunday.

Coach Kirk Guenther said the injury-marred season might be having a positive impact now.

"It might have helped developed the kids because they had to play through a lot of stressful games and we were missing key players," Guenther said. "They did a good job of hanging in there until we got everybody back."

The major constant for the Tigers has been goalie Ben Gaglioti, who has played every minute of the season. He has nearly 500 saves and an 87.6 save percentage. Gaglioti stopped 33 shots against North Olmsted.

"He really kept us in the North Olmsted game," Guenther said. "He's played well all season. There's games where our defense hasn't been there for him."

One reason for that was a shoulder injury suffered by Jared Lavender, a captain and fourth-year regular. He has returned and is playing well.

"He had a great game on defense," Guenther said. "With about 30 seconds left [in the third period], we had pulled our goalie and North Olmsted had a breakaway. Jared caught him from behind."

Cleveland Heights tied it on Ben Winger's goal with nine tenths of a second remaining. The Tigers had lost a faceoff with six seconds left, but Carl Rose dug the puck out of the corner and fired it to Winger in front of the net.

Jeff Hauser scored the game-winner in overtime. He took a rebound, stepped back with the puck and lifted it over the goalie's pads.

Cleveland Heights (9-14-1) plays Trinity (11-17) in a sectional final Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Unsung in Parma:

Padua goalie Zac Clark has had an outstanding season and received plenty of credit for the Redmen's solid season thus far.

However, coach Doug Hauser said the team's unsung hero has been defenseman Chris Essey, whose veteran leadership has been invaluable this season. The senior isn't flashy and doesn't score often, but he is among the area's best on defense.

Hauser said a season-ending injury Essey suffered last season was a major factor in the Bruins not winning the Baron Cup or the state championship.

Comeback kids:

Hudson came from behind in three of its four victories en route to winning the first Western Reserve Conference Cup. The Explorers beat Kent Roosevelt, Kenston, Solon and Mayfield.

Contact Tim Warsinskey at:, 440-602-4784

© 2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

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