CBC, SLUH meet for the Challenge Cup championship
By: Warren Mayes
Keeping CBC out of the Challenge Cup championship game is like trying to sneak sunrise past a rooster.
The Cadets (24-3-1) have been in the championship game for 12 consecutive years.
CBC will be gunning for their 12th championship when the play the St. Louis University Junior Billikens (22-2-3) at 8 p.m. Wednesday (March 7) at the Scottrade Center.
The Mid-States High School Hockey championships will be televised live on FOX Sports Midwest Plus. Before CBC faces SLUH, the action from Scottrade Center starts at 5:30 p.m. with Lutheran South taking on Whitfield for the Wickenheiser Cup.
Scott Warmann will call the play-by-play alongside former St. Louis Blues forward and FOX Sports Midwest studio analyst Tony Twist. Andy Strickland of truehockey.com and KFNS will serve as rinkside reporter.
CBC won titles in 1983, 1987, 1988, 1993, 2001, 2003-2005, and 2007-2009. The Cadets lost in last year’s Challenge Cup championship to Howell Central.
SLUH has never won a Midstates championship.
Coach John Jost has led the Cadets to seven championships. The last one came in 2009 and it was against SLUH.
“We are thrilled to be back especially with as tough of a road we have had in the playoffs,” Jost said. “We expect another great game with SLUH.”
Junior Billikens coach Charlie Busenhart recalled that last championship meeting.
“When we played in 2009, CBC was the favorite and won,” Busenhart said. “ The game was very close and at the end we had two or three power-play opportunities which did not result in a goal. As the coach, I would say we relied on only two lines and by the end of the game they were out of gas.”
But now SLUH is back with another chance for a championship.
“We have worked very hard to get to this point in the season,” Busenhart said. “ The players are ready and looking forward to playing CBC. The preseason polls placed them as No. 1 and us at No. 2. In the 41 years in the existence of the league, SLUH has made it to the finals only twice this being the second time. Our overall experience has been six semifinal games but no championships.”
In the recent semifinals, CBC beat Chaminade 5-1 and 4-2.
“Chaminade gave us all we could handle,” Jost said. “We expected it so we were ready. Game Two could have went either way but, all in all, I thought we played well.
“Joe O’Brien was our best player in the series but I thought for a large part of the series, our defense was very good.”
The Junior Billikens are making their second trip to the Challenge Cup finals in the past four seasons after they got past Oakville in their semifinal series by scores of 5-3 and 4-2.
“In the Oakville series, we were very concerned about their excellent goaltending and their very good power play,” Busenhart said. “ When we took bad penalties, they took advantage of that asset. We thought that all three of our forward lines would be able to compete well with their two best lines In some ways, our using more players helped us to win the series. Oakville had an excellent team and as you can see the games were very close.”
In the regular season, SLUH won two of three games by scores of 5-1 and 2-1. In between those losses, and the Cadets won 3-1.
“I thought we did not play well in game one but thought we were very good in game two,” Jost said. “In game three, I felt both teams played well and it really could have went either way. You have to make your breaks against SLUH. They are skilled and work very hard.
“Hopefully we learned from the mistakes we made against them.”
Busenhart noted both teams were missing players in those contests.
“One thing about all three games is that each team was missing players who had commitments to other teams” Busenhart said. “ This time, each team should have everyone there and this should prove who has the better team — at least for this night.”
Jost said SLUH is talented and will pose problems for his Cadets.
“I think they have a very balanced attack with three very good lines,” Jost said. “Their defense is solid and their goalie has been outstanding against us. I think both teams are very similar. We cannot turn the puck over against SLUH. They are very good on transition.”
CBC’s experience in the big game gives Busenhart a little pause.
“As far as the game is concerned, we have only two players who have played in a championship games while CBC has a lot of experience in that situation” Busenhart said. “ We are going to emphasize the need to start the game quickly getting the first shots on goal testing them early. Play the game like you were at our home rink with a crow of 1,000. Focus on what is in front of you and not the venue.”
Everyone is looking forward to playing.
“As a team, we are as excited as ever,” Jost said. “This never gets old especially against our oldest rival.”