Junior forward Jake Hummel has netted 10 goals, including a game-winner and 2 assists, in the first 5 league games for the Fox Valley Hawks, a true title contender in the IHSHL Suburban Division.
Senior forward Trevor Kurtzhals also has 12 points through 5 league games for the Hawks, with 7 goals and 5 assists.
Junior forward Josh Gadow, meanwhile, has 3 goals and 5 assists, including a game-winning goal of his own through 5 games.
The Hawks are the only team in the Suburban Division with 3 players in the league’s top 12 scorers. And the Hawks are sitting pretty at 4-1 – with a league-leading 32 goals for and only 12 goals against. After losing 7-5 to DHS, the Hawks rebounded and crushed District 46, 9-1, and then toppled the Spartans, 5-1.
“With 10 new players to our team, we know we have to be patient and understanding in the development of (the) team,” said Hawks coach Phil Gabrielsen. “We would like to be one of the top teams in the ISHL, but we know the league is improving and it will be a tough task. So far we have been playing good, (but) our inexperience is showing with some of the mistakes we are making, but that is fine with the coaches – we realize what we need to improve on and the kids are working hard in practice and watching films. Our expectations are realistic at this point of the season.”
The Hawks are 5-2 overall.
“Last year’s team started in the lower tier and was able to get some experience before being moved up. The ISHL new scheduling process this season is for all the teams to play each other in the tiering round, and then we will split up after that. So, we are playing some good teams right away and I am also adding in some good non-conference opponents. We are being tested early and the kids are doing well so far.”
Gabrielsen, 49, who lives in Geneva, has been coaching for 25 years. This is his second season as the Hawks’ hockey director and head coach. He previously spent eight years at St. Charles East (hockey director & varsity head coach), eight years at Naperville North (JV & varsity coach), five years at York (JV & varsity head coach), and two years with the Cyclones peewee team. He also spent four years on the coaching staff of the Illinois Showcase Team.
The Hawks’ assistant varsity coach is Mark Sokniewicz and its goalie coach is Pete Garvey. The Hawks JV team is coached by Dan Bednarek and Chris Bednarek. Steve Sokniewicz is the assistant JV and assistant varsity coach.
“Mark, Pete and I have been together for over 10 years,” Gabrielsen said. “The entire JV coaching staff is ex-players of ours. So, our philosophy is the same throughout the program – The No. 1 goal is the kids need to work hard, stay disciplined, and most of all, have fun. It is their high schools years, (so) they need to enjoy what they are doing.
“As a staff, we are proud of our team’s successes throughout the years, but also just as proud of the disciplined hockey our teams have played.”
Gabrielsen said the strength of this year’s team is, without question, the camaraderie between the players. After all, this is a co-op. There are four players from Geneva, six from St. Charles East, five from St. Charles North, three from Batavia, and two from Kaneland.
The Hawks practice and play games at both Fox Valley Ice Arena and Carol Stream Ice Arena.
“Coming from different schools, you would think these kids would have a hard time getting along – and (yet) it is the exact opposite,” Gabrielsen said. “We stress from the beginning (of the season) that they need to be a team and the sooner that happens the better. These kids really put a lot of energy into becoming that team and it shows. Our captain, Trevor Kurtzhals, works hard at the team aspect. On the ice I think our team’s strength will eventually be our depth and team play. Once the kids get the experience and learn how we want the game played, we will be able to use our entire bench and stay fresh throughout a game. We also hope it will make it harder for other teams to match up with us.
Kurtzhals (St. Charles North) and Gadow (St. Charles East) were 2nd and 3rd in the league in scoring last season. Gio Pompilio (St. Charles East) and Jake Breivik (St. Charles East) return on defense and goaltender Aaron Karkos (Batavia) was a league all-star.
“A really good test for us will come at the PREP Thanksgiving Tournament,” Gabrielsen said. “We will get to play some teams from the other divisions and see where we are at that point of the season.
“I think there are some really tough teams in the ISHL and (though) it is still very early for us, we are looking forward to the (rest of the) season and hopefully can continue the success the program enjoyed last season.”
AROUND THE RINKS: Highland Park senior forwards Kieran Jagadeesh, Garrett Collopy and David Shapiro are 1-2-3 in scoring in the Champions League of the North-Central Division. Shapiro has a power-play, short-handed and game-winning goal already among his 4 goals…Zach Zentz, a junior defenseman for Lake Zurich, has 2 game-winning goals among his 4 goals in 2 league games, playing in the Platinum League of the North-Central Division…Michael Bradich has 10 goals and an assist in 6 games for the Lake Central (Ind.) JV team in the IHSHL Suburban Division…Despite a powerful offense that has generated 45 goals in 9 games, Neuqua Valley sits in 5th-place in the 13-team IHSHL West Division. Neuqua’s leading scorers are Ben Granato (4 goals, 10 assists) and Reid Martin (8,6). Thomas Factor and Ryan Rutherford also each have 11 points in 9 games…Naperville Central’s Cody Horvath is the first goalie to play in 10 league games in the West Division, and he’s only surrendered 27 goals in 510 minutes played…The battle for bragging rights as the scoring leader in Metro Girls has turned into a two horse race. Senior forward Katelynn Russ has 13 goals, 9 assists in 5 games for Upper Fox Valley, while sophomore forward Victoria Soukup has 10 goals, 10 assists for Lake Forest…Grace Giangreco has faced a league-high 167 shots in goal for the Evanston girls team, and she has 152 saves through 6 games…Loyola Gold is a third period team. Of the Ramblers’ 35 goals in Scholastic League games to date, 17 have been scored in the final period…New Trier Green has been averaging close to 6 goals per game in Scholastic League action…Dan O’Grady (Loyola Gold) is the only Scholastic League player with 8 goals scored in league games so far.
RIVALRY NIGHT: Two of the biggest games of the season are on the same night, played at rinks about 20 or 25 minutes apart.
Defending state champion Glenbrook North battles arch-rival Glenbrook South on Wednesday, Nov. 25, with the puck set to drop at 6 p.m. at the Glenview Ice Rink. The Spartans have dominated this rivalry in recent years, but South should put up a good fight this year. However, South will have to contend with a high-powered Spartan offense, led by Nick Mikhaylov (20 goals, 17 assists in 28 games), who already has 6 power play goals. GBN also features Jesse Lowell (16 goals, 15 assists) and Zach Knudson (7, 22). The Titans, meanwhile, are riding high after almost upsetting New Trier Green on Nov. 4 in Glenview. The Trevians won, 2-1. The Titans won 3-2 in overtime at Rockford on Halloween and skated past Fenwick, 3-0 on Oct. 25.
My prediction: GBN wins 6-2, with Lowell scoring the game-winning goal.
Highland Park, meanwhile, hits the ice at the Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills at 7:20 p.m., against arch-rival Deerfield – and an overflowing, animated crowd is expected. The Giants have been cruising, with a 3-0-1 record in their last 4 games, which includes wins over Loyola Maroon, Crystal Lake South and at Carmel. Ty Jablonski is the Giants’ primary goalie and carries a 9-6-1 record – and he has 3 shutouts so far. Deerfield also has been hot of late, with three consecutive wins, including a 3-2 W over Waubonsie Valley on Nov. 8 on the road. Eddie Hein, Marc Noeh and Shale Mack each scored in the win over Waubonsie. Other Warriors who the Giants must contend with are Christian DiBenedetto, Nolan Sornson and Noah Winston.
My prediction: Highland Park wins 5-2, with Kyle Powers scoring the game-winning goal.
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.