By ROBERT CHALUPNY
For the Call
Playing at the Scottrade Center for high school hockey’s ultimate prize is one step closer for the Oakville Senior High School varsity hockey club.
The Tigers put their second playoff series behind them as they moved past longtime conference rival Lindbergh, paving the way to meet St. Louis University High School in the Mid-States Hockey Challenge Cup semifinal.
The Tigers met the Flyers four times this year, twice in the regular season — both ties — and twice in the playoffs. The Tigers won the playoff series opener 5-3 on Feb. 9 and then took the series with another 1-1 tie Monday night.
Tigers Head coach Derek Stephens told the Call he knew it was going to be a tough matchup because the Flyers were going to play a great series.
“We matched up well against them, I think. We knew what we had and what they had going into it,” Stephens said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys, the way they’ve stepped up in each series and each game.
“(Goalie Zachary) Jost has been tremendous and sometimes I ask a lot from these guys and when I do, they respond to the challenge and they respond positively.”
Jost made 21 saves in Monday’s contest, giving up the one goal to Lindbergh’s Cody Guidorzi in the third period.
Oakville tallied its goal in the first period on a shot by Brendan Nichting, assisted by Ryan Basgall and Andrew Kovacich.
Stephens said he’s excited to see his players realizing their potential and making things happen.
“It’s great, I am really excited,” he said. “As a coaching staff, I think we saw the potential early with this group and we are just extremely proud of them, but there still another level we think they can get to.”
The Tigers will need to get to that next level when they face (20-2-3) SLUH, which already eliminated Pattonville and Marquette from the playoffs.
“Our depth allows us to play with any team in the league,” Stephens said. “Going forward, it’s going to be hard work, playing our systems and elevating our game to the next level that I know these guys are capable of.”
The Tigers will spend the next week and a half getting ready for the semifinals, which are set to start Feb. 23 at the Hardee’s Ice Plex in Chesterfield.
“We have a little bit of a break and that’s good, I think,” Stephens said. “it will give us a good amount of preparation time to get ready for SLUH. They are a real strong team, a real strong offensive team and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
If the Tigers can move past SLUH, looming on the other side in the final will be the winner of the CBC-versus-Chaminade series.