Glenbard is making a strong push for a return trip to the United Center, to avenge last season’s second-place finish after losing to Waubonsie Valley in the Combined Division state championship game.
Glenbard is 21-8-1 overall, 15-4 in the West Division of the Illinois High School Hockey League, which puts them in second-place, four points behind league-leading Neuqua Valley (17-1). Glenbard rolled into Christmas on a four-game winning streak after victories over Wheaton West, Plainfield, Hinsdale South/DG, and OPRF.
Glenbard has outscored its opponents 115-91 in the team’s first 30 games, and 86-55 through 19 league games.
“We have gotten off to one of our best starts, including (a stretch) with eight consecutive wins,” said Nick Pietro, a center who attends Glenbard North. His linemates are junior left wing Sam Weiss (Glenbard South) and senior right wing Nikko Parisi (Glenbard East).
“Right off the bat we have gelled, and have the chemistry to make plays that have led to the large amount of goals we have (scored).”
Pietro isn’t just the team leader on offense, nor one of the best in the West. He is one of Illinois’ best. In 30 games, he already has 60 points – 36 goals, 24 assists, including 9 powerplay, 4 short-handed and 2 game-winning goals.
“(The) team has several strengths – from strong goaltending to shut down defense,” Pietro said. “With our defense’s efforts of keeping the puck out of our net and getting it up to our forwards, that allows us to get as many chances as we do and put in goals, whether they have been grinder goals or finesse goals.
“(Everyone on the) team knows their roles, which is a huge key to success. The goalies know that every night they need to have a big night for us. Our hitters know that they have to play a physical game to throw the other team off their game, and the goal scorers know that they have to keep putting the puck in the net, which they are having a lot of success doing.”
Weiss is the team’s second-leading scorer with 24 goals, 25 assists in 29 games played. He also has 6 powerplay and 6 game-winning goals.
Parisi is one of Glenbard’s top playmakers with 11 goals, 24 assists in 25 games.
Jacob Weisz has played 18 games in goal for Glenbard and recorded a 12-4-1 record, with a 2.61 goals-against average. Jim Bertane has a 9-4 record and a 2.75 GAA.
“My linemates and I are doing well this season, being able to find each other all over the ice and getting the puck to the net,” Pietro said. “It’s not hard to score playing with some of the best linemates in the league. They always find a way to get the puck to the open guy for the best chance to score.”
Pietro has 5 hat tricks this season, most recently in the team’s 9-3 win Dec. 19 over Plainfield. He also has two 4-point games, one 5-point game and one 6-point game. Pietro has been held off the offensive scoring sheet only five times in the team’s first 30 games.
And in a game against New Trier Blue, Pietro was used three times in a shootout, and he went 3 for 3.
“I have been making an effort to play a very two-way game this season,” Pietro said. “I think that, if I back-check and take the puck away from (an opponent), then the offensive opportunities will come, which they have.”
Pietro said he models his two-way approach off the play of Pavel Datsyuk. “My favorite part of his game is that, after he takes it away, he comes down and is a huge offensive threat also, being such a great playmaker,” Pietro said.
Pietro, 17, who lives in Carol Stream, sports Glenbard jersey No. 11, “because growing up and just learning about hockey I was guided to watch Mark Messier and look up to him as a role model of how to play the game to its’ best potential,” he said.
This is Pietro’s third season on the Glenbard varsity. Still undecided on his college choice for next fall, he is leaning toward DePaul University and Miami University – and he hopes to play club hockey in college, too.
And his team hopes to avenge last season’s 3-0 loss to Waubonsie Valley for the state title.
Glenbard hits the ice at The Edge in Bensenville for the 21st annual Chicago Blackhawks Charities Holiday Hockey Classic. Glenbard battles Maine, Lincolnway and St. Viator in its first three tournament games.
The tournament’s championship game is Monday, Dec. 29, starting at 4:10 p.m.
Ross Forman’s tournament predictions:
Stan Mikita Division:
First-place: Glenbrook North
Second-place: Notre Dame
Glenn Hall Division:
Second-place: Neuqua Valley
Denis Savard Division:
Second-place: Naperville Central
Bobby Hull Division:
First-place: St. Ignatius
Tony Esposito Division:
Glenbrook North 4
Around The Rink:
The annual North Central Division All-Star Games will be played at the West Meadows Ice Arena in Rolling Meadows on Sunday, Jan. 4. The JV game will be played at 2:30 p.m., followed by two varsity games … New Trier Blue sophomore Michael Graham had quite a memorable night Dec. 17 when his Trevians defeated Highland Park 3-1 on the road. Graham scored the first goal of the game at 14:05 of the first period off assists from Tom Cahill and Charlie Burton. At the end of the second period, Graham got an assist on Burton’s goal, and then with 5:43 remaining in regulation time, and the Trevians leading only 2-1, he earned an assist, along with Brandon Koch, on Cahill’s goal … The Fox Valley Hawks are running away with the Suburban League race. The Hawks are 13-1 and have outscored their opponents 75-26. Brother Rice (9-1) is in second-place, followed by the Cobra and the Irish … The Hawks feature a terrific trio: senior Dillon George (18 goals, 13 assists), sophomore Josh Gadow (10,16), and junior Trevor Kurtzhals (15,8) … The race for the Metro Girls title is one of the best in years, with Loyola (10-1-2), Upper Fox Valley (10-0-1) and Latin School of Chicago (10-1-1) at the top. At least six other teams are within striking position, or certainly could have a major impact on who claims the title … Loyola sophomore Valerie Caldwell has 24 goals, 7 assists in 10 games, including 4 game-winning goals.
Ross 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@aol.com.