Ross Forman’s High School Hockey

nick1Brothers Matt and Ryan Iaciancio have different paths to prepare for games. Matt, a senior center, spends time by himself and takes an ice bath. Ryan, a sophomore goalie, is always watching video tape of past games, whether he was playing in the game or just of his next opponent.

“Preparation is something that always helped me as a player and something I always talked about to them, but never really pushed them into it, but they really have adapted some good pre-game habits and it has been great to watch,” said Nick Iaciancio, who doubles as Dad and Coach.

No one enjoys the true meaning of Thanksgiving more than the Iaciancio trio, which has helped build Providence Catholic into a state powerhouse and certainly a contender to skate for state next March at the United Center. Turkey and stuffing mix with slapshots and kick-saves for this family that lives in Tinley Park.

Nick has coached Matt all four years on the varsity and Ryan the past two years. Nick, 46, has coached for 24 years, all at the high school level, and this is his sixth season at Providence. He led his alma mater, Mt. Carmel, for 18 years.

“The best part of coaching my sons is the time spent at the rink, whether it is on the bench, the ice or locker room,” Nick said. “I enjoy watching them interact with their friends and teammates.  Most of them are kids I have known for years, so it is really watching a group of 12-15 kids growing up at the same time dealing with regular teenage issues. The worst part is the losing. My kids are not the best people to be around when they lose or don’t play well. I always feel like I let them down when we lose.”

Still, Nick tagged the family link through hockey as “the highlight of my hockey career, (be it) playing or coaching.”

Nick skated for the Caravan from 1983-1986, winning two Kennedy Cup championships and the 1986 Illinois High School Hockey State Championship. He finished playing organized hockey at St. Norbert College.

“A lot of our family memories revolve around hockey, whether it was a practice, game or road trip,” Nick said. “I enjoy the mornings during hockey season before school when we watch the NHL Network and watch the highlights from the previous night and just talk the game. Most of our family vacations have been to hockey tournaments, so we have shared a lot of family time with our friends and teammates over the years.”

Nick said his favorite hockey memory came last season – when the Celtics grabbed the Kennedy Cup championship, thus becoming the first father-son combination to go undefeated in the regular-season and playoffs in 51 years of Catholic League hockey. “I will always remember hugging them after the game and the expressions on their face,” Nick said. “I also really appreciated taking a picture outside the locker after the game with the boys, my father, and the Kennedy Cup. It was my best moment in hockey.”

Matt, who sports jersey No. 22 and shoots left-handed, said having Dad as Coach has its ups and downs. “This being my fourth year with my dad as my coach, I have really gotten used to it. At this point I enjoy spending time with him almost every day on the ice,” he said. “The best part is the fact that he knows what I am capable of and will always put me in a situation to succeed. The worst part is always being held to a higher standard than every other player on the team.”

Matt said the best advice he’s received from his dad is to lead by example.

Ryan, who wears jersey No. 33, said winning the Kennedy Cup last season was “the best bonding moment with my dad.” And the best advice Ryan has received is, “stay calm and control the game.”

The 2013-14 Celtics:

Providence is an inexperienced team, with 14 new players. However, the team is, in no way, in re-building mode. With a strong bond and team chemistry, Providence is showing it could be skating for state – and also another Kennedy Cup championship – when the season winds up next March.

Strong leadership has been provided by four-year players Matt Iaciancio and Dan Ricker, along with senior defenseman John Duzansky. Offensively, the team is led by Matt Iaciancio, who is coming off a 100-point season last year and he was last year’s leading scorer. Defensively, the team is led by seniors Duzansky and Matt Francis.

The team has continued to receive strong play in goal from sophomore Ryan Iaciancio, who is coming off a school-record 10.5 shutouts last year – and he recorded six of them in a row. Ryan led all CCHL starters last year with a 1.28 GAA in league play as a freshman.

Clearly, Providence is among Illinois’ best teams.

“It has taken some time, but we had a five-year plan to be among the elite teams,” Iaciancio said.

“I think we got there last year, in year five. We wanted to make this transformation correctly by developing our players in-house through our JV program. Our JV program has been one of the better programs the past five years, winning the JV Kennedy Cup the past four years and the JV State Championship two of the last four years.

“Our kids have bought into playing for our school, regardless of the team and that has help develop a true sense of family throughout our entire program. The key for us is continuing to attract great kids from great families that are good student-athletes. The other important factor in our success has been our administration and staff. We are fully supported by our school, (particularly the Providence) athletic director. We also have a full staff of nine coaches for two teams, and eight of the nine coaches have head coaching experience. This dedicated staff has really paid off in our skill development and team building.”

The strength of this year’s team is the Celtics’ depth. “We play four lines and six defensemen regularly,” Iaciancio said. “We feel those line are evenly balanced with each line capable of being productive. Defensively, we are playing two forwards that were converted to defensemen and they have done a great job making that tough adjustment. We also feel we have one of the best goaltending tandems in (the state, with) Ryan Iaciancio and Nick Hahn.”

Quoting Coach Iaciancio:

“I was always worried about being fair to my kids. I always said you can either be too hard or too easy on your kids when you coach them. My kids would probably tell you I chose the too-hard route, but I felt it was necessary to make sure our team knew that everyone was accountable and that everyone is treated fairly. I think my boys made coaching them easy. I think they listened to all the stories, the good and bad, over the years of past players. They have grown up as a coach’s kid and I think that comes with the added responsibility to do things right and lead by example. The last thing any coach wants is a problem on his team which his own child (is) the root of the issue. It is tough to appreciate them as they are playing because you become too involved with coaching the team that you can’t just concentrate on your own kids. However when I get home and rewind for a while, I do try to enjoy their game.”

Turkey Time:

The 2014 PREP Thanksgiving Showcase Tournament kicks off Wednesday night, Nov. 26, when the Lakers face CHFS. No games will be played on Thanksgiving Day, and then there will be seven games played Friday and Saturday, all at the West Meadows Ice Arena. The tournament features Crystal Lake South, Warren, Plainfield and Lincoln-Way, among others.

The annual Stevenson Thanksgiving Tournament, held at Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove, features the host Patriots, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Glenbard, Lyons Township, New Trier White and others.

The annual Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament features heavy hitters New Trier Green, Glenbrook North and the host Ramblers (Gold). The tourney also features St. Rita, Sandburg, Glenbrook South and St. Viator, among others.

 What’s Cooking:

New Trier Blue assistant coach Sean Keane claimed the championship in the Chicago Bacon Takedown, thus qualified for a national competition in Las Vegas. It is, the Bacon World Championships.

ross formanRoss Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814

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