By Terry Stasica
In early February 120 high school players were invited to the 2013 America’s Showcase Illinois team tryouts. Evaluating the field of players were the 2013 Illinois team coaching staff led by former NHL player Brian Noonan (Naperville North), along with assistant coaches Jeff Nelson (Naperville Central), Kurt Kabat (Fenwick) and Mike Rohdenburg (Hinsdale Central). Twenty other varsity coaches from around the state were also invited to participate in the evaluations. After the final tryout session, the coaching staff collected information from all of the evaluating coaches, and put together a list of recommended players for the 2013 Illinois Showcase team. Coach Noonan in his 4th year as head coach of the team then made final selections for the team. On March 25, Those twenty-two (22) Illinois High School Juniors and Seniors assembled at the Edge in Bensenville to begin practicing for the first time as the team that would represent AHAI and Illinois in the annual America’s Showcase event in Pittsburgh. After two practices the team played the National Bound Chicago Bruins Midget Major team for a tune-up game. The Bruins won that contest 1 – 0 but the Showcase boys learned a lot as a team. The next day the team traveled to Moline to play Team Midwest, another Showcase team representing the USA Hockey Iowa affiliate. Illinois came out on top 9 – 2. After three more intense practices, the Illinois Showcase team traveled to Pittsburgh for the America’s Showcase event. The America’s Showcase started out as the Chicago Showcase in 1984 with the Illinois team winning their first, and some say, only Showcase event. In 2010, after 25 years in Chicago as an AHAI event, the Showcase became the USA Hockey sponsored America’s High School Hockey Showcase and moved to Pittsburgh. Since the Showcase moved to Pittsburgh, the Illinois team has reached the final game one time and the semifinals two other years.
The 2013 schedule had Illinois playing Indiana (5 – 0 win), New Jersey (4 – 3 win) and Ohio (4 – 5 loss) before reaching the semifinals against a strong New England team (2 – 1 win). This led to a rematch from last year with the powerful Pittsburgh team in the final game. Pittsburgh had gone 4 and 0 to reach the finals outscoring their opponents 24 to 4 and outshooting them 132 – 76. The final game against Illinois saw Pittsburgh score the first goal and lead 2 – 1 after the first period. The game changed in the second when Illinois scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game then took the lead for good later in the second. The third period saw Illinois play at a level Pittsburgh could not maintain. At the final buzzer, an elated Illinois team accomplished a feat that some say only happened one other time since the Showcase event began….Champions of the America’s Showcase.
Congratulations to all of the players of the 2013 Illinois Showcase team on this great accomplishment!
Click HERE for 2013 Team Illinois Roster
Click HERE for Tournament Recap