By Terry Stasica
In a few short weeks at the end of the 2013-2014 high school hockey season, the Illinois Showcase team led by head coach, Dave Dyson (OPRF) and assistant coaches, Jon Grzbek (Benet) and Jeff Nelson (Naperville Central), came together with a handful of practices and two practice games (Chicago Junior Bulldogs and Team Midwest) and headed to Pittsburgh.
The 2014 Illinois Showcase team was led by four players that were also on the 2013 Illinois Showcase team: Michael Trapp (Stevenson) and David Kellner (St Viator), Liam Conroy and Ben Kohen (Fenwick). This year’s team had 6 juniors, Jack Junge and Matthew Kenyon (New Trier), Chad Yale (Glenbrook North), Jordan Ernst (Providence Catholic), Thomas Feldman (Benet Academy) and Troy Nelson (Naperville Central). The 2014 team was rounded out with seniors, Kevin O’Hara and Evan Langer (Benet Academy), Justin Klich (Lincoln Way Central), Jake Dillman and Ben Brandau (Providence Catholic), Nate Harris, Nick Day (Glenbrook North), John Cappuccitti (John Hersey), Jared Projansky (Stevenson), and Tommy Stobart (Waubonsie Valley). Twelve high school varsity hockey teams were represented in this year’s team.
Each of the 18 skaters figured into the scoring with Nate Harris (4 goals, 4 assists) and David Kellner (3 goals, 5 assists) leading the way with 8 points each, Nick Day lead in goals with 7 including a hat trick and Junior forward, Troy Nelson led our Juniors with 3 goals and 4 assists. Junior Jordan Ernst led the defense with 3 goals and 3 assists.
The Illinois goalies, Junior Jack Junge (.940 save % 1 shutout), and Senior, Kevin O’Hara (9.46 save %, 2 shutouts) allowed only 6 goals in six games, recording three shutouts along the way.
In sports, a team’s success is typically measured by wins and losses, but for the America’s Showcase, the measurement of a team’s success is by the number of future opportunities each player receives as a result of that player’s and the team’s showing for the tournament. America’s Showcase is the premier scouting event for Junior and Senior High School Hockey players. After every game, scouts came down to speak to the players from various teams that they felt would fit well into their system. This year the Illinois team was very successful as Illinois players were very heavily scouted (even in an 8 a.m. game).
The 2014 America’s Showcase started with Illinois going up against Team New England. Illinois scored the first goal – Michael Trapp from Jared Projansky and Tommy Stobart with 1:02 left in the first. The second period saw Illinois scoring twice more – Ben Kohen from Jake Dillman at 10:05) and Harris at 7:03 unassisted before New England scored their first goal of the game at 4:14. Illinois came back with two more – Michael Trapp from Tommy Stobart 3:05, Troy Nelson from Ben Brandau: 27 to end the second. New England came back to score two more in the third 15:26, 5:11 to make the final 5 – 3 Illinois. Kevin O’Hara came up strong with 22 saves.
Team New York
In the second game of the Showcase tournament Illinois faced Team New York. Illinois scored first John Cappuccitti from Nate Harris and David Kellner, but New York scored two quick goals 6:42 and 6:21 in the first to take the lead. Illinois came back on the first shift of the second period to tie the game on a goal by Jordan Ernst from Michael Trapp at 16:38. The teams traded shots through the rest of the second and most of the third with both goaltenders making some great saves until 1:18 of the third when Illinois went ahead – Troy Nelson from Chad Yale with 1:18 remaining in the game. Jack Junge made 18 saves in the game. The final score of the game, Illinois 3 New York 2,
The final game of the seeding round saw Illinois facing Team Texas. With Kevin O’Hara making 14 saves in net, Illinois recorded its first shutout of the tournament. After a scoreless first period, Illinois opened their scoring at 13:51 of the second on a goal by Troy Nelson from Ben Brandau. Illinois continued in the third with goals by Nate Day from Jake Dillman and David Kellner at 9:29, Ben Kohen from Evan Langer 3:19, Ben Brandau unassisted at 2:03 and Tommy Stobart from Jared Projansky and Liam Conroy 1:21 to end the game with a final score 5 – 0.
First round playoffs
In the first playoff round Illinois played Team Utah. With Jack Junge in net making 10 saves, the team recorded its second shutout of the tournament. Illinois kept Utah off the board with a fast puck controlled game scoring 10 unanswered goals. At 3:03 Nick Day from Nate Harris and David Kellner scored the only goal of the first period against a very strong Utah goalie making 17 saves. The second period saw Illinois goals by Jordan Ernst from Jake Dillman at 9:13 on the power play then even strength by Thomas Feldman from Evan Langer 8:19, and another power play goal by Jared Projansky from Tommy Stobart at 2:43 to end the second period. The third saw power play goals by Jordan Ernst from Troy Nelson 15:24 and Nate Harris from Troy Nelson 10:44 then even strength goals by Tommy Stobart from Thomas Feldman 8:34 and John Cappuccitti from Jake Dillman 5:41 before and even strength goal by Nick Day from Justin Klich and Tommy Feldman 2:35. Illinois closed the scoring on a goal by Tommy Stobart from Jared Projansky at 1:42.
District of Columbia
The semifinal game had Illinois playing District of Columbia. With only one goal in a very even first period Nick Day from Nate Harris and David Kellner 14:22. Illinois opened up in the second period scoring Jake Dillman from Jordan Ernst at 5:32 then the second goal of the game by Nick Day from Ben Brandau on the power play. The third period scoring started on a goal by Liam Conroy from Nate Harris 12:43 then John Cappuccitti unassisted at 9:47. Nick Day then scored his third goal of the game from Tommy Stobart and Jared Projansky on the power play at 4:11. Illinois went on to close the scoring on goals by David Kellner from Matthew Kenyon and Nate Harris at 3:40 then Nate Harris from Troy Nelson and Chad Yale at 2:58. Goalie Kevin O’Hara recorded his second shutout of the tournament and third win of the tournament allowing Illinois to advance to the Championship game for the second straight year.
To reach the Championship game, California went through Team Arizona (4 – 0), Team Colorado (8 – 1), Team D.C. (7 – 3) and Team Pittsburgh (4 – 0) outscoring their opponents 27 – 5 with 2 shutouts Illinois outscored their opponents 31 – 5 with 3 shutouts and outshot to make for a great final game.
Illinois and California skated evenly in the first period with neither team yielding a goal making it 10 straight periods Illinois held their opponents scoreless. The second period opened with California scoring with just 15 seconds into the period. The teams played evenly for another three minutes before Illinois got their first tally of the game on a goal at the 4:01 mark by David Kellner from Jordan Ernst. This was followed by goals by Ben Brandau from John Cappuccitti and Troy Nelson at the 6:30 mark. Jake Dillman scored at 11:42 with assists to Michael Trapp and Ben Brandau. Nate Harris closed the 2014 scoing at 13:43 of the third period with assists from David Kellner and Jordan Ernst. The third period saw some unbelievable goaltending and defense leaving Jack Junge with his third win of the tournament.