The stakes aren’t as high, but the Columbus Icemen are battling for a state championship again this season, nonetheless.
The Icemen, who have played in the Class 5A state championship game two of the past three years and have been in the 5A final four each of the past three seasons, went through a rebuilding phase this year and landed in the Class 3A tournament. The top teams are placed in the 5A bracket, with the rest filtering down to the lower four classes.
Thanks to three shutout wins last weekend, the Icemen are in the 3A state final at 3 p.m. today against Penn at the Indiana Fairgrounds Coliseum.
“We’re pleasantly surprised that we’ve been able to come this far over the course of the season and have this kind of success late in the season,” first-year coach Andy Cesarski said. “You hope you peak and play your best hockey at the end of the year. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to extend our season one more week and play for a state championship.”
The Icemen, who lost 11 seniors from last year’s 5A runner-up squad, are 20-23-5. They entered last week’s 3A pool play as the No. 8 seed, but beat No. 1-seed Evansville 2-0, Lakeshore St. Joe 1-0 and Adams-Marian 4-0 to reach the final.
“We had a very good weekend,” Cesarski said. “We overachieved.
“What I was most pleased with was the consistency we were able to demonstrate three games in a row. That’s been missing. Inconsistency was part of our issue early in the year, so putting three games together in a row was a huge step in the right direction.”
Junior Luke Fry posted all three shutouts in goal.
“He had a great weekend,” Cesarski said. “He played well, and our overall team defense was fantastic, as well.”
Cesarski’s son, Ryan, provided plenty of offense with three goals and three assists last weekend. Dustin Rodgers added two goals and two assists, and Jordan Kelley and Christian Corbin each scored a goal.
“We didn’t have a lot of scoring, but we had just enough,” Andy Cesarski said. “We’re starting to get more balance. It’s not just Ryan doing all the scoring.”
Ryan Cesarski, a senior, leads the Icemen with 55 goals and 32 assists.
The Icemen played Penn once during the regular season, falling 5-4 on Jan. 16 in a crossover game at Fishers. The Kingsmen are 21-15-6.
“I think this is going to be a very even match coming up,” Andy Ceasarski said. “If we play like we did this past weekend, we’ll be in good shape.”
Schedule for Saturday’s Hoosier High School Hockey Association state finals at Indiana Fairgrounds Coliseum:
10 a.m.: Class A, Fort Wayne Summit City Panthers vs. Fort Wayne Bruins
12:30 p.m.: Class 2A, Bloomington Blades vs. South Bend Riley
3 p.m.: Class 3A, Columbus Icemen vs. Penn
5:30 p.m.: Class 4A, Lawrence Bearcats vs. Hamilton Southeastern A
8 p.m.: Class 5A, Carmel Gold vs. Culver Varsity A
There will be a pep rally for the Columbus Icemen beginning at 11:30 a.m. today in the parking lot of Hamilton Center Ice Arena. A caravan will leave for the game around 12:30 p.m.
All Columbus Youth Hockey families are welcome and encouraged to attend the pep rally and the game. Admission to the game is $5.