By Ross Forman
It’s always a fun time of the season when the annual Illinois State Championship brackets are released by AHAI, so as January came to an end, high school teams throughout Illinois were trying to figure out how much longer their season might, could, or will be alive.
Win-or-go-home is the mantra come state tournament time.
Let’s start in the top-tiered Red Division, where the top four seeds in this field of 28 teams earned a bye into the sweet 16. So, No. 1 New Trier Green awaits the winner of No. 16 Neuqua Valley and No. 17 St. Ignatius.
And No. 2 Benet Academy awaits the winner of No. 15 Fenwick and No. 18 Hinsdale Central.
Providence Catholic is the No. 3 seed, so the Celtics will open state tournament play against either No. 14 Highland Park or No. 19 Naperville Central.
Loyola Gold is the No. 4 seed, so the Ramblers will open state play against either No. 13 Glenbrook South or No. 20 St. Viator.
Rounding out the top five seeds are Glenbrook North, St. Rita, Barrington, Stevenson, Brother Rice and York.
Lake Forest is the No. 28 seed.
Photos courtesy of John Sullivan of Photos by Sully
The road to the United Center certainly isn’t smooth for the top-seeded Trevians as Green might have to face – and defeat – Stevenson, GBN, New Trier Blue and arch-rival Loyola Gold just to play in the final game of the 2015-16 season.
In the 10-team White Division, New Trier White grabbed the No. 1 seed, and this Trevians team will open state play against either No. 8 Homewood-Flossmoor or No. 9 Cary-Grove.
Loyola Maroon is the No. 2 seed, and will open state play against either the No. 7 Spartan club or No. 10 Niles Township.
Rockford has the No. 1 seed in the Combined Division, followed by Waubonsie.
And several other Combined Division teams have strong shots at skating for gold at the United Center, including No. 3 BG/H/W, No. 4 Maine Township and No. 5 Glenbard.
The JV tournament features Providence at No. 1 and New Trier at No. 2.
The JV Combined Division is also a Rockford-Waubonsie 1-2 start, followed by Glenbard, the Kings and Maine Township.
The nine-team Girls tournament features first-ever No. 1 seed for Barrington. Loyola is No. 2, followed by New Trier, Fenwick and Lake Forest.
Another one of my favorite parts of the season is predicting the six High School state champions. Rarely, if ever, have I gotten them all correct. But it’s always awesome bulletin-board material for most teams – as Glenbard coach Jason Hawkins told me last season after his team won state, and I had predicted Glenbard was going to lose. So here goes:
New Trier Green defeats Providence Catholic, 4-1.
The Trevians this season won the Scholastic League regular-season championship with a 19-2 record. Green outscored its Scholastic League foes 109-24…and this Trevians team has 20 new players this season.
New Trier White defeats Crystal Lake South, 3-2.
Coach Rob Malstrom’s Trevians have had a great final two months of the regular-season. The team defeated the Kings 4-1 on Nov. 24 and was 15-5-1 over its next 21-games, including wins over Neuqua Valley, New Trier Blue, Evanston and BG/H/W.
Waubonsie Valley wins 5-4 in overtime over Rockford.
Waubonsie was 24-2 (first-place) in the IHSHL West Division late in the season, anchored by the league’s leading scorer: senior forward Daniel Pike (25 goals, 34 assists in 26 games). He is supported by senior forward Jake Stobart (32, 10).
Providence defeats New Trier, 4-2.
The Celtics never lost more than two in a row to Illinois teams this season, and was 8-2 in a 10-game stretch after trouncing St. Rita 7-0 on Jan. 26, as Dominic Borrelli led the way with a hat trick.
Junior Varsity Combined Division
Glenbard slips past Rockford, 2-1.
Joshua Weisz has been a scoring machine this season for Glenbard, with 24 goals in 35 games, along with 16 assists. The Glenbard offense is assisted by Matt Nowinski (12 goals, 19 assists), Zach Gunderson (10, 19), Jack Harper (14, 15), and Riley Piszczek (20, 28).
Loyola defeats Fenwick, 6-2.
The valiant efforts of Loyola sophomore forward Valerie Caldwell, who had 24 goals in 10 Metro Girls games this season, will pay off.
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.