By Ross Forman
The skates have been sharpened, the sticks re-taped and even that nasty odor of hockey sweat is back. The High School Hockey Season has returned. Tryouts for most teams are complete and teams are now making internal decisions of which forwards to line up and which defensemen to pair up. And of course goalies are facing hundreds of slapshots, all hoping to stop the most and secure the starting role.
Welcome to the 2015-16 Season, where the ultimate goal for every team is to skate at the United Center next March.
That means knocking Glenbrook North off its perch as the defending state champion.
“It’s a tough road to (try to) defend the title with a lot of players that haven’t been through that experience,” said GBN head coach Evan Poulakidas, who leads his Northbrook club into battle without the 18 seniors who stopped Benet Academy, 3-2 in overtime, this past March for the state championship.
Kyle Fisher and Joe Day return and they are “outstanding forwards,” Poulakidas said.
Newcomers Jesse Lowell and David Rubin also will have an impact. Plus, the Spartans feature four defensemen who should carry the club, including Zach Knudson.
“I don’t know how good we are going to be; we are fairly deep, though. Our depth is pretty good,” Poulakidas said.
The Spartans’ first game is Sept. 6 against Providence Catholic, which “will give us an indication of where we are, where we need to get to,” Poulakidas said.
The Spartans spent the summer of 2015 in celebration mode, naturally. The team had a float in a local July 4th parade; they had a ring ceremony right before last season’s seniors left for college; and the team was honored with a proclamation by the Village of Northbrook.
Northbrook even posted street signs around town, proclaiming it is the home to the 2015 state champions.
“There have been a lot of festivities; it’s been a lot of fun,” said Poulakidas.
The team’s road to repeating started July 7.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” at this point, Poulakidas said.
So, can the Spartans return to the United Center?
“Sure, why not,” Poulakidas said.
“Playing at GBN, we always want to win the Scholastic Hockey League (title), make it to the United Center (for the state tournament) and ultimately win the state championship,” Poulakidas said. “I think the kids understand what it takes to get there and the pressure that goes with playing at Glenbrook North.”
The Spartans will be in six tournaments this season. “Testing your team against the best (competition) is the best way that you can get ready for the playoffs and state championship,” Poulakidas said.
GBN added former Spartan standout Jared Lowell as the team’s new skills coach.
“I’m ready to get going,” Poulakidas said.
Words that, no doubt, have been echoed around high school teams everywhere.
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.