What a difference a year makes.
Last year, Elyria Catholic beat Kirtland 7-1 in the season opener. The Hornets, behind a pair of goals from Stjepan Mijic-Barisic and one from Bradley Hauptman, turned the table on the Panthers in a 3-2 win in the 2015 season opener on Saturday.
“The guys had a memory of that from last year and we really focused on not conceding goals,” said Kirtland coach John Valentic. “We were very successful in the first half leading 2-0 and it was looking really good when it was 3-0 then we had some turnovers in the back. We gave them some chances and opportunities that got them back in the game.”
Mijic-Barisic, known to his teammates as Pepo, scored the first two goals of the game to give the Hornets a 2-0 halftime lead.
“Pepo is only a sophomore but he’s looking really good,” Valentic said. “I think he’s just got a world of confidence. He’s just going at people. He’s aggressive and attacking and trying to get shots. He’s really stepped up.”
Hauptman, who added an assist on a Pepo goal, made it 3-0 early in the second half. Ryan Friedenberg assisted.
“He had a good productive day for us too,” Valentic said. “It’s what we expect. He’s one of the co-captains with Colin McGreal. We’re trying to replace 25-30 goals from Jordan Ianiro so we’re looking for people that can take people on one-on-one and get some goals. Brad has really stepped up. He has a level of intensity that he hasn’t had in the past. As a leader and a senior he’s really looking to fill that role and expectation.”
A couple of defensive miscues allowed Elyria Catholic to get back into the game but the Hornets weathered the storm.
“We were good when they had the ball,” Valentic said. “We didn’t allow them to create chances so if we can minimize mistakes we’ll be in a good place going forward.”
Junior Danny Jahnke recorded four saves in his debut performance in goal.
“It’s his first year out and we’ve been working real hard with him,” Valentic said. “He had a good game and came up with some nice saves for us; one was a breakaway that was huge.”
The Hornets host Cuyahoga Heights on Monday.