About 30 feet separated Mentor’s locker room from Strongsville’s on Feb. 8.
From one emanated plenty of noise.
From another emanated a shroud of silence.
The Cardinals were in the less-preferable predicament. Mentor built a two-goal lead five minutes into the second period, but it evaporated quickly as the Red South champion Mustangs dispatched the Cardinals, 4-2, in a Baron Cup I first-round showdown.
Amid a campaign that has been impressive in its turnaround form — beating standard bearers such as Shaker Heights and Rocky River, winning four holiday tournaments and reaching 20 wins for the first time since the 2004-05 season — this evening at venerable Brooklyn was confounding for Mentor (20-9-1).
“We were trying to press and trying to take chances, create some more offensive opportunities,” Cardinals coach Paul McKito said. “I think we put up (25) shots in the last two periods — but (25) shots don’t matter when you only score two goals.
“After the first period, being 0-0, we were kind of lucky — we just weren’t playing real good and we weren’t moving the puck. It wasn’t our brand. We had a little talk in between one and two and said, ‘Hey, we’re a little flat right now. We need to create some more tempo by moving the puck and moving our feet.’ ”
That came to fruition as Mentor built a 2-0 lead. Evan McBride opened by burying his own rebound at the right bar 56 seconds into the second. Jack Heller lit the lamp at 4:26, jumping on a loose puck on the left side of the crease.
But Strongsville (23-6-3) remained persistent in its offensive zone. First it was Kyle Mattson at 6:25, then Jake Schuette tied it at 2 at 9:32, which is where it remained into the third despite the Cardinals logging 16 shots in the period.
The most frustrating part of the night for Mentor may have been the go-ahead goal. During a third period when puck possession was not an issue, the Mustangs’ Logan Schramm did nicely carrying the puck through the neutral zone. The Cardinals were not assertive on the backcheck, and Schramm used a blueliner as a screen and slotted a wrister shortside.
Mattson added an empty-netter with five seconds left for the final margin.
“We get the 2-0 lead, and we kind of just relaxed,” McKito said. “You’ve got to give those guys credit. They didn’t lay down and say, ‘Hey, you guys can have it now — it’s 2-0.’
“A couple missed assignments. We don’t tie up a guy. A couple screens on our own goaltender. It’s just basics — mistakes we haven’t been making all year. And we make them tonight in Round 1 of the Baron Cup. As everyone knows, there’s no tomorrow.”