As a bantam playing for the Northbrook Bluehawks, Garrett Cohen was in goal for a three-overtime win over Rockford to advance to the state tournament. It was, without question, “one of the longest games I have ever played in,” he said.
A lasting memory, even years later, as Cohen is now set to end his local career in two months or so. Hopefully not less, he says, knowing the Illinois State Championship will be decided for the Red Division on Sunday, March 22, at the United Center.
Cohen wants another lasting memory – definitely a better one than last season, when the Spartans lost 2-1 to New Trier Green, as the Trevians won their second title in a row.
“I think we have a very good chance to go all the way this year. We have great team chemistry and have been playing great hockey recently,” said Cohen, 17, a senior who lives in Northbrook and is in his second season on the Spartans’ varsity.
The left-handed goalie who sports jersey No. 30 and a distinctive butterfly style of play is one of the main reasons GBN appears on cruise control bound for the United Center.
“Being a goalie on this team, with this coach, you must have thick skin and Cohen has that. He responds to big challenges and is a big game goalie,” said GBN head coach Evan Poulakidas.
Cohen said, “Even though I am not the tallest, I trust my glove enough to go down and take away the bottom of the net. I bring a positive attitude to the rink every day. I show up to every game expecting to win.”
And the Spartans have plenty of W’s so far this season, including the traditional rivalry game against Glenbrook South, played the day before Thanksgiving in Glenview. Cohen, though, missed the 2014 GBN-GBS battle due to a hamstring injury.
“(It) can’t get any better than this – (a) great atmosphere and almost everyone I know attends this game,” Cohen said of the late-November game, which is, arguably, one of Illinois’ biggest games of the season, and not just for these two tradition-rich teams. “(The) team played really well. We had control of the game from the drop of the puck and the fans were amazing.”
Days later, the Spartans stopped Barrington 3-2 to capture the championship in the 43rd annual Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament, played in Wilmette. GBN trailed 2-1 after two, but tied it, 2-2, in the third on a Chris Zhang goal, assisted by Logan Nein and Alex Merritt. Jared Epstein tallied the game-winner off an assist from Kyle Fisher at 1:51 of overtime.
GBN also scored a key win this season in late-December, defeating New Trier Blue for the championship of the annual Chicago Blackhawks Holiday Hockey Classic, played in Bensenville.
“My teammates mean a lot to me. I see them almost every day and we have all played (together) for almost 13 years now. I would consider all of them my brothers,” said Cohen, who will attend the University of Iowa in the fall.
Cohen also praised his coaches, all his coaches, past and present. “All of them taught me to never give up and they all pushed me to become a better hockey player,” he said.
More Garrett Cohen:
- First played organized hockey at age 6.
- “I remember my first game ever playing goalie. My parents and I didn’t even know how to put on the pads, but, with some help, I was able to get on the ice and record a shutout in my first game.”
- Why goalie: “I love the pressure. I want to be able to have an impact on a game and I don’t believe there is any other position in sports with more of the game riding on (your) shoulders than a goalie.
- Hardest shot on GBN: Logan Nein. “He may not be one of the bigger players on the ice, but he has a strong, accurate shot.”
- Hardest shot you’ve seen this season: “I don’t remember (the opponent’s) name, but, in a tournament in Culver, Indiana, we played New Trier Green in the championship game. On a 5-on-3 in the second period, a New Trier player wound up from the top of the circles and rifled a shot. By far, (that was the) best shot I have faced all year.”
- Hobbies: Football and basketball
- Favorite pro hockey team: Chicago Blackhawks
- Favorite pro hockey player: Carey Price. “He’s the screensaver on my computer.”
Around The Rink:
Brent Segvich (New Trier Green) is skating away with the scoring title in the Scholastic League. He has 26 goals, 12 assists in 18 games, including two powerplay tallies. Teammate Brad Glass is, though, the Scholastic points leader with 13 goals, 31 assists for 44 points – six more than Segvich. Fellow Trevian Jason Kuker is third with 13 goals, 24 assists … Slow Starters: Loyola Gold has scored 54 goals in Scholastic League games, but only 10 have come in the first period … Barrington has scored 22 goals in the third period of Scholastic League games, second most behind New Trier Green … Benet is one of the hottest teams around, as the team has won 12 in a row to push its record to 30-8-3. During that stretch, Benet blanked Fenwick 6-0, silenced Providence 7-4, cruised past St. Ignatius 5-2 and defeated St. Rita 4-2, among other wins … Cary Grove defeated the CHFS 6-4 on Jan. 3 for the team’s first win of the regular season. The Trojans jumped to an early lead when junior Dominic Miller scored less than two minutes into the game. Senior Jack McDonald tallied a third period shorthanded goal for the game–winner, which also gave him the hat trick … Crystal Lake South’s Josh Albrecht was named the MVP Goalie for the North Central Division All-Star Game, played Jan. 4 … The co-op Fox Valley Hawks (13-2 in the Illinois Suburban Hockey League) had four players chosen for the league’s annual All-Star Game, played Jan. 10 in Darien. Scott Soknieweicz, Dillon George, Vincenzo Spano and goalie Aaron Karkos were selected. Trevor Kurtzhals was an alternate … Deerfield had back to back shutouts, blanking the Lakers 4-0 and then Carmel, 6-0 … Bennett Furie is close to becoming a 50-goal scorer this season. A forward for the Libertyville Icecats, he has 39 goals, 11 assists in 31 games played. He has five hat tricks and even a 4-goal game against the CHFS last October … Kudos to the Mid Valley Rampage, a co-op club of teams representing the U-46 School District and eight area high schools, they have some of the best — and brightest — uniforms. However, the team has sputtered so far in 2015, losing 3-1 to the Cobras and then 6-0 to the Kankakee Irish … Naperville Central is riding a 10-game winning streak in league play … Stephen Hill and Alex Venezio each had 2 goals to lead the Lockport/Lemont Spartans past Joliet Catholic on Jan. 4 … Eric Simkowski has 28 goals, 30 assists in 35 games played for Sandburg … After a 6-3 New Year’s Day win over Wheaton West, OPRF has hit the ice – and not in a good way. The Huskies have lost four in a row, including a 9-4 thumping by Naperville Central.
Central Illinois Report:
Sacred Heart-Griffin is leading the five-team Lincoln Land High School Hockey League. They are 6-0-2 with 48 goals for and 20 against. Bloomington is in second with a 5-1-1 record. Jack Healy is one of the league’s top forwards with 17 goals and 27 points. Brandon Hay of the Chatham Glenwood has 16 goals and 23 points. Eric Gray (Chatham Glenwood) leads the league with 250 saves. The league also features Springfield and Decatur, which is still looking for its first league win of the season.
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.