Various schools from around the state have been playing
ice hockey since as early as the 1920s. Conditions back
then could be somewhat primitive. For instance, in
1922, the icers from Cleveland’s old Cathedral Latin
School were holding their practice sessions on the
frozen Shaker Lakes over in Shaker Heights, and when the
sun came out things could get downright slushy. It
would not be until 1978, however, before the first state
tournament for the sport was held. The tournament would
routinely rotate between the Brooklyn Recreation Center
in Brooklyn, Ohio, near Cleveland, and the arena at
Bowling Green State University. Since 2003, however,
the tournament has found a home at Nationwide Arena, the
home of the NHL’s Columbus Bluejackets.
From its beginning the tournament, i.e., the semi-final
and final games, have pretty much been the exclusive
domain of schools along the state’s “northern
frontier.” Very seldom has a team from the Columbus
area cracked the Final Four, and not until the 2004-2005
season did a team from as far south as Cincinnati, in
this case Archbishop Moeller High School, manage to
advance as far as the Final Four, or as it is known in
ice hockey, the Frozen Four. Only two teams from
outside the northern tier have ever won the state title
in hockey. Findlay High School, which is not really
all that far south, won hockey championships in 1978 and
1983, and Centerville took the title in 1979.
The first tournament in 1978 featured Shaker Heights,
Bowling Green, Findlay and Bay (Bay Village) high
schools. Bay would be making its one, and so far only,
trip to the Final Four. Bowling Green and Shaker
Heights have gone on to become regular players at the
tournament. (Mike Bartley, the Shaker Heights coach and
one of the state’s all-time great coaches, has the
unique distinction of being the only person to have
coached a hockey team at the same school every year
since the tournament began.) Findlay, which won that
first tournament, would be a factor for the next several
years, but since 1983 has qualified for the tournament
on only two other occasions.
Parity was the watchword for the hockey tournament
during its earliest days. As mentioned, Findlay took
the first championship in 1978. Centerville captured
the title in 1979, followed by Bowling Green (1980),
Shaker Heights (1981) and Kent Roosevelt (1982).
Findlay became the first school to repeat as state
champion when it defeated Bowling Green by a score of
6-4 in 1983. Bowling Green came back in 1984 and
crushed Toledo Whitmer, 10-3, to earn its second state
In 1984, former Cleveland Crusaders back-up goalie Bob
Whidden was named the coach of the St. Edward High
School hockey team in Lakewood. The Eagles had been
making a name for themselves in high school wrestling
for a few years by then, and soon the Eagles would add
hockey to the list of sports in which they would become
a state power. Bob Whidden wasted little time taking
the Eagles to the top of the high school hockey world as
his Eagles defeated North Olmsted, 1-0, in 1985, and
Cleveland Heights, 6-5, the following year to become the
first school to win back to back state hockey
Cleveland Heights came back the next season to get its
revenge on the Eagles, but the Tigers would be extended
to double overtime before finally subduing g the Eagles,
4-3, in one of the most thrilling finals in hockey
Parma’s Padua High School made its first appearance in
the Final Four in 1983. Late in the decade, under a
young head coach by the name of Doug Hauser, the Bruins
returned to the tournament in a huge way by winning back
to back titles in 1988 and 1989. The Bruins, though a
threat every year, have only made it back to the
tournament on four other occasions, but each time they
have advanced to the championship game.
The decade of the ‘90s belonged to two schools as far as
Ohio high school hockey is concerned, Bowling Green and
St. Edward. In each year of that decade one, or both,
of these teams advanced to the state finals, winning all
but one of the championships.
The Eagles started off the decade by losing just one of
their 31 games in 1990, but made sure that that one loss
was not in the tournament, which they won for their
third state title. The next year it was Bowling Green’s
turn, as coach Dan DeWitt’s Bobcats also claimed a third
Over the years the Bobcats and the Eagles have faced off
against each other four times in the state championship
hockey game. The first of these meetings took place in
1992. The two teams, playing like the champions that
they are, were scoreless after regulation time, and
after the first overtime session as well. Finally, in
the second OT, the Eagles’ Joe Mazzone found the back of
the net with a 10-foot shot to give St. Ed’s a thrilling
1-0 championship game victory.
In 1993 Bowling Green knocked St. Ed’s out of the
tournament, 2-1, in one of the two semi-final games, but
Shaker Heights used the same score to defeat the Bobcats
in the state championship game, giving the Red Raiders
their second state championship. The next season St.
Ed’s set a tournament scoring record by defeating Toledo
St. John’s Jesuit, 11-0, to advance to the finals.
There the Eagles had a tougher time of it against
Findlay, but emerged victorious by overcoming an early
2-0 deficit, then getting a goal by Seth Andregg just
1:11 into overtime to take home their fifth state title.
From 1995 to 1997 the state hockey Final Four would
become something of an exclusive club, one dominated by
the Eagles of St. Edward and the Bobcats of Bowling
Green. In 1995, Bowling Green skated past St. Ignatius,
3-1, and St. Edward whitewashed Toledo St. Francis, 7-0,
as both teams advanced to the finals. This time the
Eagles-Bobcats match-up would go to the Eagles by a
score of 2-1.
The Frozen Four line-up in 1996 and 1997 would be
identical each year: Bowling Green, St.Edward, St.
Ignatius and Centerville high schools. For the second
straight year, in 1996 the Bobcats would send St.
Ignatius to the sidelines by a 3-1 score. St. Ed’s then
crushed Centerville, 11-1, to again meet BGHS for the
championship. The Eagles would win a championship hat
trick, their third consecutive title, by defeating
Bowling Green 3-1.
In 1997 St. Ed’s and Bowling Green switched partners for
the semi-final round, but the results were much the
same. St. Ed’s sent the Wildcats of St. Ignatius back
home with a 7-2 thumping, while Bowling Green eliminated
Centerville by a 4-1 count. Meeting in the finals for
the third consecutive year, the Bobcats would finally
get the better of St. Ed’s, ending the Eagles’
three-year reign as Ohio’s ice kings by capturing the
state championship with a thrilling 2-1 victory.
This victory by Bowling Green would start the Bobcats
off on a championship hat trick hunt of their own, but
it would take the most unusual of circumstances to
The Bobcats’ trip through the tournament in 1998 was no
walk in the park. That year, after defeating Toledo St.
John’s 3-2 in the semi-finals, the Bobcats met the Red
Raiders of Shaker Heights in the finals. The two teams
entered the game with almost identical records – 21-7-1
for the Bobcats and 21-6-2 for the Raiders – and they
played like it. The Bobcats trailed 4-2 entering the
third period, but rallied to tie the game at 4-4 after
regulation time had expired. Just 39 seconds into the
overtime period, the Bobcats’ Rob Ellis backhanded a
rebound that found the net to give BGHS a thrilling
championship victory. It marked the second time that
season the Bobcats had rallied from a two goal deficit
to defeat Shaker Heights in OT.
It would be an even stranger twist of fate that would
give the Bobcats a state championship the next season.
BGHS crushed University School, 6-0, in one of the 1999
semi-finals, while Toledo St. John’s defeated Shaker
Heights, 2-1, in the other. In the finals, the
surprising Titans crushed the Bobcats, 7-0. However, it
was announced two weeks later that St. John’s would have
to forfeit its state title when it was discovered that
the Titans had an ineligible player on their roster, one
who had played in the championship game. With the
forfeit the state championship was awarded to Bowling
Green, giving the Bobcats their third consecutive state
As the new century dawned, both Bowling Green and St.
Edward found themselves temporarily removed from the
championship picture. In 2000, BGHS lost in the semi’s,
with St. Ignatius taking the hockey title for the first
time. In 2001 neither team advanced to the tournament,
which was won for the third time by Mike Bartley’s Red
Raiders of Shaker Heights.
From 2002 to 2005 it would be back to “business as
usual” as both St. Edward and Bowling Green returned to
the tournament. However, the Bobcats would not be able
to advance beyond the semi-finals in any of those
seasons, giving the Eagles a new opponent in the finals
for a few years. In 2002, St. Ed’s defeated the
Preppers of Hunting Valley’s University School, 5-3, to
win the state title. It would prove to be the first of
three consecutive championship game meetings between
these two schools. The following year it was the
Preppers’ turn, avenging their loss of the previous
season with a 2-1 victory in the finals, giving
University School its first state hockey title. In 2004
the Eagles and the Preppers met in their rubber match.
This time it was no contest as the Eagles totally
dominated play with an 8-0 triumph. Coupled with St.
Ed’s 5-0 win over Oxford Talawanda in the semi-finals,
it marked the first time that a team had recorded
shutouts in both of their tournament games.
In 2005, St. Edward duplicated its effort of the
previous year’s tournament by recording a pair of
shutouts on the way to the school’s record 11th
hockey championship. In their semi-final game the
Eagles defeated Cincinnati Moeller, 5-0, then handed
Shaker Heights a 2-0 defeat in the championship game.
Last year’s tournament was significant in that none of
the traditional state hockey powers were in attendance.
The Golden Bears of Upper Arlington High School made
their tournament debut. Sylvania Northview was back in
the tournament for the first time since 1990. Padua was
returning for the first time in five years, while
University School took on the role of “regular” by
making its fourth appearance of the last five seasons.
New faces or not, the 2006 state championship game was
one of the most exciting on record, pitting Padua’s
Bruins against Northview’s Wildcats. The game featured
three lead changes and four ties. The Wildcats raced to
a 3-1 lead in the first period, but the Bruins matched
that in the second to make it a 4-4 tie as the game
headed into the final period. Each team scored once in
the third session to send the game into overtime. At
2:05 of the extra period, Padua’s Ryan Saunders’ 12-foot
shot managed to elude the outstretched glove of
Northview goalie Bobby McElheney for the game winner.
The 6-5 victory gave the Bruins their third state
championship, moving them up among the state’s hockey
While Padua’s championship gave veteran coach Doug
Hauser his 466th victory at the school, there
are three Ohio hockey coaches who have recently
surpassed the 500 victory mark to become Ohio’s
winningest hockey coaches. The first to reach that
milestone was Shaker Heights coach Mike Bartley, who
wrapped up #500 late in January of 2005. During his
career at Shaker Heights, Bartley has led the Red
Raiders to the state tournament 10 times, reaching the
finals six, and winning three state championships.
When questioned as to his biggest thrills during his
career at Shaker Heights, coach Bartley mentioned two,
both of which just happened to take place in the same
year, 2001. That year the Red Raiders won their third
state championship, and what made it so special for Mike
was that his son, Matt, was the captain of the team that
year. The other achievement that year was that Mike
Bartley was awarded the OHSAA’s Sportsmanship, Ethics
and Integrity Award in recognition of the manner in
which he carries out his professional responsibilities
both on and off the ice.
Now in his 31st year with the Red Raiders,
Bartley began the season with 516 victories – and
A hockey star at Bowling Green State University, Mike
Bartley attended a training camp of the old Cleveland
Crusaders with the second man to coach his team to 500
victories, Bob Whidden. Whidden, who was a back-up
goalie for the Crusaders from 1972-1976, notched his 500th
victory at St. Ed’s just a few days after Bartley got
his. Now retired after 21 seasons at the helm of the
Eagles, Whidden finished his career with 507 wins. He
guided the Eagles to the state tournament 16 times,
reaching the finals 14 of those years and recording a
state record 11 championships.
The third man to reach the 500 victory plateau is
Sylvania Northview coach, Jim Cooper. Cooper, who is
the only coach that the Wildcats have ever had in the 33
years of that program, just missed getting #500 within a
few weeks of both Mike Bartley and Bob Whidden.
Instead, he had to until the Wildcat’s first win of the
2005-2006 season to reach that lofty mark. Entering the
current campaign, Cooper had amassed 530 victories.
While Jim Cooper has guided the Wildcats to the state
tournament four times, and has reached the state finals
twice, he is still waiting for that elusive first state
championship. Jim Cooper is also a proud recipient of
the OHSAA’s Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award,
with which he was honored in 2000.