By Ross Forman
Fritz Gallun was at a hockey crossroads, questioning whether this season would be his last.
He is a 16-year-old Evanston Township High School sophomore who has been skating since he was 5 and now in his second season on the school’s junior varsity team. Gallun centers the line with junior left wing Luis Martinez and sophomore right wing Will Robinson.
In a Thanksgiving tournament game November 28 against Glenbrook North that the Wildkits lost 5-2, Gallun suffered a concussion, and he missed the team’s next five games in which the team went 1-4 in that stretch, including three consecutive shutouts (to Carmel, New Trier and Deerfield).
Gallun also missed games last season due to a concussion.
“It was really frustrating,” to miss so many games, he said. “At one point (after suffering the concussion this season too), I wasn’t sure I wanted to play hockey next year.”
But Gallun’s outlook changed considerably on Sunday afternoon, January 3 – when he skated away with the MVP Trophy in the annual North-Central Division JV All-Star Game, played at the West Meadows Ice Rink in Rolling Meadows.
“This (trophy) definitely changes that,” thought of quitting the sport, he said.
Gallun’s team – with players from BG/H/W, Carmel, Evanston, the Lakers, Latin School of Chicago, Libertyville/Vernon Hills, New Trier, PREP and Warren – skated to a convincing 7-2 victory over the team featuring players from CHFS, Crystal Lake South, Deerfield, Highland Park, the Kings, Lake Forest, Lake Zurich/Mundelein, Lane Tech, Maine Township and St. Patrick’s.
It was scoreless after the first 16-minute period, with Latin senior goalie James Lawson stopping shot after shot after shot.
Jack Davis (Carmel) broke the scoring draught at 6:05 of the second on a goal off assists from Charlie Dir (Carmel) and Gallun. It went to 2-0 about 30 seconds later and was 4-0 after the second period.
Ethan Wilen (Latin) scored at 12:49 of the third to push it to 5-0 before Evan Lutz (Deerfield) blasted a long-distance slapshot goal to make it 5-1.
Then it was The Gallun Show.
Gallun scored at 10:12, with assists going to Davis and Dir – but that tally was all Gallun.
He skated through the opposing team, then brilliantly beat goalie Garrett Wiese (Crystal Lake South). Gallun’s highlight reel performance drew a round of applause from his bench and salutes of recognition from the other team.
“One of the guys on my line got the puck, so I started curling forward and he gave me a pretty sweet pass,” Gallun said. “I thought I had a breakaway, but then one of (the opposing team’s) players came from a line change and I just did a move on him, putting (the puck) under his stick, and then threw a little head fake on the goalie and was lucky enough to put it in.
“It was a fun one, and probably the second (most memorable goal ever).”
Yes, he did have a better tally this season – in a game against Lake Forest, which the Wildkits won, 3-0. “I pulled (the puck) behind my back, then through my legs and went bar-down on the goalie,” scoring against Lake Forest, he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have some good goals this season.”
Gallun also earned an assist on Bobby Donovan’s (BG/H/W) powerplay goal at 5:05.
The All-Star Game clearly was “a lot of fun,” Gallun said. “The game was a lot faster than the standard JV game.
“I was having fun, but that (goal) really put an exclamation point on the game for me.”
Gallun said after the game that he didn’t even know there was an MVP Trophy. “I just went out there to have fun,” he said. “It was surprising to hear my name announced, but I was happy.” He isn’t sure yet what he’s going to do with the trophy, “but I think I’ll find a place for it,” he said, laughing.
Gallun was joined at the All-Star Game by Evanston teammate Andrew Cousineau, a freshman defenseman.
The Wildkits are 8-6-3 this season, not counting seven November games played in two tournaments.
Gallun has seen limited action both this season and last on the Evanston varsity, “and those games really helped me,” said Gallun, an admitted playmaker. “When I have the puck (on my stick), there’s so much that I can do. I’m not just a highlight (reel) goal type of player; I like to make plays – and I’ve been doing a lot of that this season.”
And yes, he will be doing that next season, too.
Holiday Hockey Classic
The 22nd annual Chicago Blackhawks Charities Tournament, held December 26-29 at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, was all St. Ignatius – the team with that name from Ohio, not the Illinois version, though.
St. Ignatius defeated Providence Catholic 3-1 to win the championship.
St. Ignatius, a day earlier, crushed St. Ignatius of Illinois 9-1 in the quarterfinals and then trounced Rockford 6-0 in the semifinals.
Providence, meanwhile, turned away St. Viator 7-3 in the quarterfinals and New Trier Green, 2-1, in the semis.
A few games from the tournament that caught my eye were:
- New Trier Green 4 -2 winners over Waubonsie Valley. These could be the state champions in a few months – in the Red Division and the Combined Division, respectively.
- Providence defeated New Trier Blue, 3-2. I can see Blue pushing deep into the state tournament.
- Glenbrook North defeated Missouri powerhouse CBC 4-3.
- Ignatius (Ohio) crushed New Trier Green 6-0.
- Notre Dame won 7-3 over Waubonsie in a game that I thought would be closer.
- Stevenson silenced Glenbrook North, 1-0.
Central Illinois Report:
Decatur is off to a 7-0 start in the Central Illinois Prep Hockey League, followed right behind by the Pekin Dragons (6-1). Ironically, both Decatur and Pekin have scored 43 goals and allowed only 11. Pekin sophomore Peyton Swearingen has 7 goals, 8 assists. Mike Gardiner, a junior defenseman for Peoria Notre Dame, has 10 goals and 3 assists.
North Central Report:
The battle for bragging rights in the Champions League of the North-Central Division is a great one. Let’s see, there’s Highland Park, BG/H/W and Maine Township each with 16 points, while New Trier White and Evanston each have 15 points. New Trier Blue, meanwhile, has 13 points, followed by Loyola Maroon (12) and Carmel (10).
Lake Forest appears to be a lock to land the Sterling League title of the North-Central Division, with a 12-2 record. Senior forward Connor Knop has 18 goals, 18 assists in 14 games for the Scouts.
Can DHS Do It?
DHS is in a prime position to grab the IHSHL Suburban Division title. The team is 12-2 with 24 points and has only played 14 games to date. The Fox Valley Hawks also have 24 points, yet played 15. Joliet Catholic is in third-place with 23 points and has played 17 games … Senior Jared Hippman (Joliet Catholic) has 17 goals, 19 assists in 16 games … Trevor Kurtzhals (Fox Valley Hawks) and James Weichbrodt (Leyden) each have 5 game-winning goals.
Way Out West:
If Waubonsie Valley doesn’t capture the West Division title, I’ll be surprised. York and Neuqua Valley are the two likely teams that might topple Waubonsie … Cody Horvath (Naperville Central) has played a league-leading 969 minutes in goal this season.
Will it be Barrington or Upper Fox Valley to capture the league title? Barrington has 26 points, two more than Upper Fox Valley, and Loyola is within striking distance with 23 points … Senior forward Katelynn Russ (Upper Fox Valley) puts on a show every time she steps on the ice. She already has 37 goals and 20 assists in 13 games. Barrington senior forward Andrea Renner has 30 goals, 6 assists.
New Trier Green (14-1) is primed to capture the Scholastic Hockey League title, as long as the Trevians can contain Loyola Gold and Glenbrook North, both 5 points back.
Here is the Illinois High School Hockey Top 20 Rankings (as of January 4, 2016), as compiled by Ross Forman:
- New Trier Green
- Providence Catholic
- Benet Academy
- Glenbrook North
- Loyola Gold
- Waubonsie Valley
- St. Rita
- Brother Rice
- Highland Park
- St. Ignatius
- Notre Dame
- Glenbrook South
- New Trier Blue
- Maine Township
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.