Sean Freeman is celebrating his 15th season coaching the Highland Park Giants – and this could be one of his best teams.
“Once we have all players back in the lineup, we are a top 10 team in the state,” said Freeman, 40, who lives in Highland Park and is the president of Twenty9, Inc., a construction management company and more.
This season’s Giants are much younger than many past HP teams, but it’s a hard-working crew. “This team truly loves the game of hockey,” Freeman said.
The Giants stand at 9-10-1 overall (as of Nov. 20), and are 3-1-1 in the 11-team Champions League of the IHSHL North-Central Division. Evanston (3-0-2) has one point more than the Giants and the Wildkits are in first-place. Also competing for the top spot in the Champions League are Loyola Maroon, Carmel Catholic, New Trier Blue and New Trier White, Crystal Lake South and Maine Township, among others.
Freeman’s goal for this season is simple: “Win (the) IHSHL North-Central regular season and playoffs, (and) compete for a state title,” he said.
Highland Park’s long-term success will be anchored on the fact it has the ability to score. Lots of opportunities and avenues to score. “We have some very creative players who make opportunities for their teammates and we have one of the top snipers in the state,” Freeman said.
The Giants have an explosive, senior-led offensive. David Shapiro is a force, along with Kieran Jagadeesh and Garrett Collopy. The trio will battle for the North-Central scoring title all season.
“David Shapiro leads the way, with excellent opportunity maker Kieran ‘Jiggy Magic’ Jagadeesh, Garret Collopy, Dylan Abt and Tommy Quirk helping (to) create an offensive presence every night with many new young players rising up every game,” Freeman said.
But, those same young players also are one of the biggest worries that Freeman sees.
“We are very young at the defenseman position,” Freeman noted.
The team’s defense is led by Aaron Hope and Casey Eisenberg.
Goalie Tyrone ‘T-Bone’ Jablonski has been on fire, Freeman said.
Overall, the Giants have battled every game even while missing core players for a significant period of time,” Freeman said. Dylan Abt is a breakout star who, come February, could be all over the scoresheets. “He brings 100 percent (effort) every night and plays with a passion very rarely seen from a high school hockey player,” Freeman said.
Freeman said that the North-Central has “good competition” almost nightly, with a league structure that allows for every game to be competitive. “Teams not ready to be in the top bracket go down, (while) the teams in the mid or lower bracket earn their way up – that’s how it should be,” Freeman said.
“We have struggled (so far this season) while missing core players, but now that all are back, we are en fuego.”
Deerfield captured the championship in the Mad City Veteran’s Cup, held in early-November in Madison, Wisc.
The Warriors won 4 consecutive games (after a loss) for the title, led by captain Shale Mack and assistant captain Eddie Hein, who combined for 12 goals.
Deerfield defeated a team from Winnipeg, Canada, in the finals, 5-1.
The Warriors (11-11-1) attack also features Christian DiBenedetto, Marc Noeh, Noah Winston and Nolan Sornson, among others.
The OPRF Hockey Club is partnering with the Park District of Oak Park’s Ice Bears to fight hunger during the first week of December. The Huskies and Ice Bears will deliver door hangers to residences throughout Oak Park and River Forest starting Dec. 2. Donated items will be picked up from front porches the morning of Dec. 5 and then delivered to the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, which will serve more than 10,000 families in 2015.
Last year, the Hockey Checks Hunger Food Drive collected more 16,000 pounds of food.
Contact Pam Mulshine at firstname.lastname@example.org or Roy and Karen Phifer at email@example.com to volunteer or if you have any questions.
JOINING FORCES TO HELP OTHERS
For the third year in a row, OPRF will partner with York to provide toys for children and to collect food for families in need during the holiday season.
OPRF players will deliver new, unwrapped toys to the Addison Ice Arena on Friday, Dec. 4 for York’s Toys For Tots collection.
Last year, more than 1,000 toys were collected to share with children throughout Chicagoland.
Players and parents from York will deliver food to Ridgeland Common in Oak Park on Sunday, Dec. 6 for the Hockey Checks Hunger Food Drive.
AROUND THE RINKS
Freshman forward Jason Volpe (Lakers) has 2 powerplay goals in 3 Sterling League games within the North-Central Division … Senior Adam Daniels (Niles Township) has 5 goals in his first 5 Platinum League games … Warren has started out strong offensively, with 20 goals scored in the team’s first 4 games in the Sterling League … It is surprising to see Carmel Catholic with 90 penalty minutes through its first 5 Champions League games, the most of all Champions teams; the Corsairs have long been one of the least penalized teams in the state … Junior forward Connor Hochel has been a scoring machine for Cary-Grove. He scored twice Nov. 14 in the team’s 6-6 tie against Evanston Township, which was his fourth multi-goal game of the season. He has 15 goals, 11 assists in 17 games, including 2 game-winning goals … Play begins Nov. 30 in Lincoln Land High School Hockey, when such teams as Glenwood, Champaign and Decatur battle for area bragging rights … One of the hottest teams around is Hinsdale Central. The Red Devils are 7-1 in their last 8 games, with a 5-4 win over co-op Glenbard and a 9-0 crushing of Lincolnway … The Leyden Eagles opened the season with a 6-1 record, with four of those wins on the road. The Eagles topped Kankakee 8-2 on Nov. 6 in Franklin Park as James Weichbrodt had a hat trick and 2 assists. Jacob Rotolo made 21 saves for the Eagles … Christian Hmura is the first-year head coach for Loyola Maroon, which is off to a 5-3-5 start. The Ramblers defeated Carmel Catholic 7-3 on Nov. 10 … It’s been a slippery skate for Marist of late. The team lost 10-0 to Providence Catholic back on Oct. 24 – and Marist then lost six more in a row … Sandburg had a three-week skid that finally came to an end on Nov. 15, when the Eagles defeated Plainfield 5-4, ending a 5-game losing streak … St. Viator is 6-11-1, with two November wins already over Marist. The Lions have one tough turkey-day task: stopping defending state champion Glenbrook North in the annual Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament in Wilmette … York has shown it’s a force in the IHSHL West Division, as a 9-0 win over Naperville North on Nov. 13 pushed the Dukes’ league record to 8-1-3. Senior Will Borrows had a 4-point performance.
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.