One of the best battles in the state is for supremacy of the Catholic League, with every team eyeing the prestigious Kennedy Cup – and at least four true contenders for the title this season.
Providence Catholic is the leader, barely. The Celtics have 27 points, thanks to a 13-2-1 record. They are two points ahead of Benet and five points ahead of Notre Dame, but Providence also has played two more games than those teams.
The Celtics have six league games remaining in January, including a brutally difficult final four stretch: Benet, Notre Dame, St. Rita and Fenwick.
Ah yes, Rita and Fenwick – these two powerhouses also will impact the final month of the Catholic League season, no doubt. In fact, St. Rita – with a lot of luck, a strong finish to its season, and help from others – could find itself near the top of the league.
The Mustangs are 9-4-1 (19 points) and they play six of their last eight league games at home, at their friendly confines of the Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood.
St. Rita lost to Fenwick in the best-of-three 2014 Kennedy Cup finals.
What about Fenwick? Well, this isn’t the best and brightest season in Friars’ history, but certainly not a lost cause. Fenwick is 4-9, and lost 5-1 to Benet on Dec. 23, but Kennedy Cup tradition is strong at Fenwick, so they should be an impact.
Two other teams that will affect the Kennedy Cup race are St. Ignatius and Brother Rice, with identical 7-8 league records. Ryan Willock has been an offensive machine this season for St. Ignatius. He has 21 goals (most in the league), 13 assists and his 34 points are tops, too. He has 5 powerplay and 2 short-handed goals.
Willock, a senior forward and the assistant captain, was named the November Player of the Month, as he tallied 8 goals and 7 assists in 6 games.
When it comes to offense, no team in the league is more powerful than Benet, which boasts three of the top five Catholic League scorers. Benet is 12-1-1, with 75 goals scored and only 23 against – fewest allowed by any team – and the Redwings have an 11-game winning streak.
Robert Ernsting and Thomas Feldman are battling for the Benet team lead in scoring, and they are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the league’s point leaders list. Ernsting has 15 goals, 17 assists. Feldman has 12 goals, 18 assists. Both have two game-winning goals. And teammate Lee Barnes has 8 goals, 18 assists, which puts him fifth in league scoring. Benet finished its 2014 slate of the league schedule with a convincing 5-1 win over Fenwick on Dec. 23 in Bensenville. Trenton Kunas had two first-period tallies for the victors, along with an assist on Connor Smith’s goal in the first.
Michael Ryan had the lone goal for Fenwick, which was outshot 43-21. Justin Davidson was in goal for Benet, while Paul Barker was in goal for Fenwick.
So how impressive are Ernsting and Feldman?
Just consider the Dec. 7 game between Benet and Mt. Carmel, which the Redwings won, 9-4 in Crestwood. Ernsting had 8 points; Feldman had 7.
St. Viator, Marist and Mt. Carmel have each struggled this season, and none likely will have a major impact on who claims the Kennedy. The Caravan had a 10-game losing streak at one point this season.
James Hall (Notre Dame) has recorded a league-leading eight wins in goal.
Glenbrook North skated away with a 2-1 win and the championship of the 21st annual Chicago Blackhawks Charities Holiday Hockey Classic, played in late-December at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville. Eric Doar netted the game-winner.
The Spartans defeated New Trier Blue 2-1 for the title after the Trevians slipped past Providence, 2-1, in overtime in the semifinals. GBN defeated Naperville Central 1-0 in the other semi.
Lake Forest, Neuqua Valley and co-op Maine Township also had impressive holiday tournament showings.
Mark Your Calendars:
Be prepared to spend Sunday, March 22, at the United Center, as that’s the day state champions will be crowned in the Red Division, the Combined Division and Girls Varsity.
The championship game for the White Division will be played Thursday, March 19, in Bensenville.
Slapshots Around The Rink:
It’s one thing to defeat two-time defending state champion New Trier Green, it’s another thing to do it twice – in an 8-day span. Well, that’s exactly what Barrington did, with the second victory, on Dec. 7, coming in a 5-2 fashion … Deerfield’s Daniel Goldberg has a 12-9-4 record in goal, including a 34-save showing Jan. 3 when the Warriors kicked off their 2015 slate with a 3-2 win over Crystal Lake South … Evanston finished 2014 with home wins over Deerfield and BG/H/W … New Trier Blue defeated host Highland Park on Dec. 17, giving the Giants their first league loss. The Trevians triumphed 3-1 in the IHSHL North-Central Division clash … On Saturday, Jan. 10, the Quad Header will be at Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood, kicking off with New Trier Girls against Loyola Girls at 4 p.m. It’s Maroon vs. Blue at 5:10 p.m., and then Gold vs. Green at 6:50 p.m. The evening wraps up with the JV match, starting at 8:50 p.m. … It’s Senior Night for the Rockford Icemen on Jan. 17 at the Carlson Ice Arena … New Trier Green leads the Scholastic League with its 15-1 record (30 points), ahead of Stevenson (21 points), GBN (21), Loyola Gold (19) and Rockford (19).
2. Glenbrook North
4. Naperville Central
11. Notre Dame
14. Glenbrook South
17. Waubonsie Valley
18. St. Ignatius
19. Highland Park
20. Fox Valley Hawks
Private First Class Brandon Brumm was honored Dec. 30, the first former player to participate in a ceremonial puck drop for the Lakers Hockey Club.
Brumm was one of the original members of the Lakers Hockey Club, and served as assistant captain. After graduating from Lakes High School in 2013, Brumm enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated on June 20, 2014, from Boot Camp at Marine Corp Recruit Depot in San Diego California, earning the title of United States Marine.
Brumm graduated from Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton before being stationed at New River Air Base in North Carolina where he is currently a member of the VMM261 “Raging Bulls” Squadron and set to deploy sometime this summer.
Michael J. Beranek, a longtime player, coach and referee, passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 18. He was 49.
Beranek, of Lake Villa, played the game to the Olympic Training Center as a young man, and then in adult leagues. He coached the Atoms and the Lakers Hockey team, plus, he was an amateur referee.
Beranek also enjoyed music, playing guitar, training his dog Sugar, model airplanes and avionics, and more.
On June 20, 1992, he married his high school sweetheart, Christine Coulter, in Mundelein.
Born in Evergreen Park, Beranek for more than 25 years worked for IBM, currently as a Technical Sales Leader in the software division.
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.