By Ross Forman
Waubonsie Valley was cruising along in the championship game of the Stevenson Thanksgiving Tournament, pushing its 1-0 lead over the host Patriots in the first period into a 3-0 advantage in the second.
But the road went awry for Waubonsie with 14 seconds left to play in the second period, as Stevenson’s Thomas Krebs tallied on assists from Benjamin Moschea and Timothy Fogliatti.
Waubonsie wasn’t able to silence Stevenson in the third as goals by Michael Dowd and Jason Spector tied the game, 3-3.
It stayed tied after the first 10-minute sudden-death overtime period.
And it was tied for more than 7 minutes in double-overtime – until Stevenson freshman Seth Cohen netted the game-winner off an assist from Spector.
“We played well in the tournament, but came up just a little bit short,” said Waubonsie head coach Jimmy Frasco. “In the four games leading up to the championship, our average winning margin was more than four goals, and we outscored our competition 30-13. The best part of the tournament was a stretch of almost three games where we had seven different players scoring on average seven goals a game – we have tremendous balance on this team and can pick up a goal from any player on the ice.
“We certainly would have enjoyed bringing the championship banner home; we played some good hockey games over the weekend and are not disappointed in our team’s effort.”
Waubonsie, you see, has had plenty to brag about this season. Case in point, a win over St. Rita. “I saw the team coming together,” after that victory, Frasco said.
“We started off the season 2-6 and our only conference loss and tie came in those first 8 games. Our record over the next 23 games was 19-3-1, with a wins over St. Rita, York, Neuqua Valley and Naperville Central.”
The Warriors this season boast a roster that is deep and filled with leaders. “We have some players that are as good as any we have had come through our system, but what gets noticed is our balance on both the offensive and defensive ends of the rink,” Frasco said. “We run four offensive lines and three defensive lines and put skilled players on the ice with every shift. This creates matchup challenges for our opponents. We talk a lot about the team – not about player stats – and this group understands that. We like being a quiet, focused, confident team on and off the ice.”
“Jake and Evan are looking to repeat that story line this year.”
Waubonsie features 12 seniors, 10 returning varsity players from last year’s team, and statistically are at the top of the IHSHL West Division in multiple categories.
“We have three very good defensive pairings and our goaltending has been excellent. Jakob Swanson, our starting goaltender, is a senior and has an 11-1-1 conference record and a 2.08 GAA,” Frasco said. “Our defense controls the puck well in front of our goalie and does a great job of moving the puck up ice in our transition game. Our defensive support and strong goaltending has provided a strong scoring focus for the offensive lines.”
So how far can Waubonsie go in the Combined Division?
“We have a strong core group of players and the character to go deep in the IHSHL West Division and the state playoffs,” Frasco said. “We also have a team that wants to win and is willing to sacrifice as a team to make that happen. We have multiple players – multiple leaders – more go-to guys than we have had in the past. We have several players that can spark the team at any time, (and they are) very creative playmakers.”
Let’s look at this season’s Warriors:
- Senior Evan Pike is 17, lives in Aurora and centers the line of senior Jake Stobart (left wing) and Kade Kenyon. “I like to control the game on the ice through the neutral zone and set up plays,” Pike said. He models his game after Jonathan Toews and scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year. He also is a high school golfer. “He is our best goal-scorer and playmaker. He is unselfish and leads by example,” Frasco said. “One thing that stands out about Evan is that he is the first one to back-check and always supports our defense, digging the puck out of the corners. Evan has great vision and an uncanny ability to see plays develop before anyone else does.” Pike has scored in 27 of 31 games this season – and has a current 23-game point streak, along with 8 games with either a hat-trick or playmaker (3 assists). Pike has 10 games with 3 or more points, including one game with 6 points, and 2 with 5 points.
- Senior Jake Stobart, nicknamed Stobs, is 17, lives in Naperville and is in his third season on the Waubonsie varsity. Stobart scored against Rockford in the state semifinals as a sophomore en route to the state title. “I love every point I get,” he said.
- Zac Lyons is 16 and wears uniform number 27. He is a right-handed shooting defenseman who lives in Naperville, in his first season on the varsity. “I am an offensive defensemen; I try to join the play as much as I can,” he said. Lyons models his game after Duncan Keith and tallied the game-winning goal against the Northwest Chargers in the 2014-15 Winter Classic. He also plays football and competes on the track & field team. “This (hockey) team is successful because of the brotherhood we share, and we all work hard in practice to make everyone better,” Lyons said.
- Mitch Collins, nicknamed Wookie, is a 17 year-old Aurora resident who shoots left-handed and plays right-wing. He is a senior in his third season on the varsity. “I like to carry the puck deep in the zone and draw the defense, then dish the puck to a linemate for a tap-in goal. I also like to hit players,” said Collins, who models his game after Mario Lemieux. Collins said the Warriors are built this season around team chemistry. “Everyone gets along, on and off the ice,” he said. “Playing style varies – every single line brings something different. One line hits, one line scores, one line brings speed – it makes match ups difficult for other teams. Also, we have great goaltending.”
- Jakob Swanson, in jersey No. 50, is a 17 year-old goalie who lives in Oswego. He is a senior in his first season on the varsity. “I kind of just sit there and stop pucks,” Swanson said. Swanson played 25 games in a row during one stretch on the JV.
- Zac Cope, nicknamed Nip City, is a senior goalie sporting uniform No. 51. He models his game after Jack Eichel.
- Jackson Kozari is a left-handed shooting left wing who skates with senior center Arnuv Aurora and junior right wing Tyler De Boer. Kozari is in his second season on the varsity and said his style of play is “just dirty.” He models his game after Alexander Ovechkin and enjoys watching assistant coach Brian Finnerty “trying to skate.”
- Arnuv Aurora, nicknamed Arnie, lives in Naperville and in his third varsity season. The 17 year-old Aurora shoots right-handed and tries to “outwork opponents and move the puck,” he said. Aurora models his game after Jonathan Toews and tagged the 2014 state championship as his career highlight. “Coming back against Rockford in the 2014 State semifinal game after being down 3-1 in the third period,” also was a highlight, he said.
- Alex McIntosh is a right-handed shooting center in his first varsity season. He is a “sniper and playmaker,” McIntosh said. He once scored against York with: 01 left on the clock.
- Kade Kenyon is a varsity rookie, a sophomore who lives in Aurora. He shoots right-handed and plays right wing. Kenyon is a playmaker who “sets others up, (with) not a ton of speed, but good hands and good vision,” he said. Kenyon also plays baseball and golf.
- Known as Cappy, Sam Capadona sports jersey number 7 and is a right-handed shooting defenseman who lives in Naperville. “Playing defense, my job is to keep people away from Swanny, which usually involves hitting someone,” Capadona said.
- Known as DB, Tyler De Boer is an Oswego resident who shoots right-handed and plays right wing. He is in his second season on the varsity and skates by the motto, “Play hard and score goals.” De Boer said he also enjoys pre-game motivational speeches.
- He is simply CoCo to his friends, yet it’s Cody Coconate in jersey number 5. An Oswego resident, Coconate shoots left-handed and is a senior defenseman. His approach to the game: “Keep it simple, move the puck quick, (and) keep the puck away from our net as much as possible,” he said. Coconate also models his game after Duncan Keith.
- Nicknamed “Soda Can,” Jake Cirino skates in jersey number 49 and shoots left-handed. He is a senior in his third varsity season. One of his fondest hockey moments was the assist he registered in the 2014 state final game.
- Charles Collins, nicknamed Chockie, is a butterfly-style goalie who models his game after Carey Price.
- Nathan Thomas, a Naperville resident, plays left wing yet shoots right-handed. He is a senior in his first varsity season. “I primarily use my speed; our line is usually the fastest on the ice,” he said of his style of play. Two years ago against Plainfield, Thomas tallied 5 goals and 2 assists. He also plays baseball. Thomas said the Warriors have “the drive to be successful, and not settling for poor performances.”
The road back to the United Center for Waubonsie certainly could run through Rockford, or such co-op powers as Maine Township, Latin School of Chicago, or BG/H/W. Glenbard also stands tall among Combined Division teams.
Waubonsie Valley stands at 21-9-1 overall and has out-scored its opponents 155-87. The Warriors are 14-1-1 in the IHSHL West Conference.
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.