Experience and depth are two characteristics of a team any coach appreciates, and the Mentor Cardinals ice hockey team has both.
With a 20-player roster that includes 11 seniors and seven juniors, the Cardinals won four consecutive games en route to winning the championship of the inaugural Adam S. Hamilton Memorial Tournament hosted by Kent Roosevelt and played at the Kent State University Ice Arena this weekend.
The Cardinals claimed the championship Sunday afternoon with a 5-1 victory over Kent Roosevelt.
"Coming in, I knew they were a good team," said Roosevelt coach Ben Barlow after his team's second-place finish in the tournament. "They're definitely an upperclassmen team and, over the course of two days, that really helped to grind us down and put all kinds of pressure on our depth. It kind of took its toll on us."
Mentor struck quickly in the championship contest, scoring a goal in the opening 33 seconds of play when senior forward Jimmy Wallette scored with an assist by Ryan Posipanka.
Later in the opening period, seconds after Roosevelt had a completed a successful penalty kill, Mentor's Nikita Goldman extended the Cardinals' lead to 2-0, assisted by Jacob Fisher.
The Rough Riders responded with their only goal of the game on a power -play goal recorded by junior Gordie Fisher. Senior Kyle Manning and freshman Lyndon Rainey teamed up for assists on the effort.
But as Mentor had started the period with an early goal, the Cardinals also scored near the end of the period with Wallette's second of three goals in the game, providing Mentor a 3-1 lead after 15 minutes of play.
"After they scored that third goal it kind of deflated us a bit," said Barlow.
Wallette completed his hat trick on a short-handed effort, assisted by Andrew Cannata, in the second period.
Finally, in a déjà vu kind of moment, the Cardinals opened the third period with Goldman scoring the game's final tally in the first minute of play. Jacob Fisher picked up his second assist of the night on the effort along with Matt Madison.
"I think we learned a little bit about ourselves this weekend," said Barlow. "We learned we can compete with some pretty good teams and know we should have a really competitive team in the White East Division as we head into division play on Thursday night."
BLUE LINE NOTES
n Roosevelt's two victories in the Adam S. Hamilton Memorial Tournament were against league foes Chagrin Falls and Solon.
n The Rough Riders begin White East Division League play with a home game at the KSU Ice Arena on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. against Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA).
n The Rough Riders travel to The Pond in Auburn Township on Saturday to play league foe Kenston at 6:30 p.m.