By Ross Forman
The sanity of a goalie is often called into question. After all, who wants a blistering slapshot heading straight at you, regardless of how much equipment you’re wearing.
For Tyler Anzelmo, he brings the smarts into goal too as the netminder for the BG/H/W Stampede, the defending Combined Division State Champion and the No. 1 seed in the 2017 tournament.
Anzelmo, 17, who lives in Wheeling and is a senior at Buffalo Grove High School, boasts a 4.89 GPA out of 5.0. His best subjects are “anything having to do with history, (which) has always fascinated me,” he said.
“It’s not that grades are necessarily important to me, but rather, that it’s my job to go to school every day and do what I can to be my best.”
Anzelmo is book-smart and ice-smart. He has played three years of varsity hockey and also practiced with the varsity as a freshman on the JV. Last March, he was in goal at the United Center when BG/H/W slipped past Glenbard 3-2 in overtime to win state.
“I do what I can to stop the puck,” Anzelmo said. “You learn techniques your whole career to do this, but I think every goalie can agree that sheer instinct of sometimes diving in the right direction can prove better.”
His style? A bit Dominik Hasek, when he’s diving around. But mostly pure Anzelmo, as he doesn’t try to copy someone else’s style, “because what works for one guy is not always true for the next one,” he said.
Anzelmo played wing in his first season as a mite, but that team’s goalie didn’t return the following season, so he offered to switch positions.
“My uncle, who passed before I was born, was a goalie growing up and I always felt a strong connection between him and the position ever since I found out he played in net,” Anzelmo said.
His first game in goal, well, it wasn’t too memorable. “I was not good,” he admitted.
Flash-forward to today and it’s Anzelmo who’s anchoring the hockey hopes for all students from three schools: Buffalo Grove, Hersey and Wheeling.
“Being on a combined team has been extraordinary,” he said. “I’ve made friends with kids from other schools that I would never have had the opportunity to do so with just a Buffalo Grove team.
“I feel that I have become more focused and mature after four years with this organization, both on and off the ice.”
Anzelmo said one of the biggest saves of his career came just over a year against in a practice game, tied 2-2 at the time, against Highland Park. Anzelmo was being screened in front of the net by an opposing forward as a Giants’ defenseman took a shot from the point. A Highland Park player actually jumped in the air to not block the shot, yet Anzelmo was able to direct the puck toward the corner, yet a Giants forward fell on him.
No penalty was called.
“While I was laying down, the Highland Park center passed the puck up to his defenseman. I remember diving before the shot was (was) even made. I was like a shortstop, perfectly horizontal to the ice,” Anzelmo said. “The next thing I know, the puck was in my glove. I probably dove six feet with no thought in my head (other than) the defenseman is going to shoot and there’s nothing else I (could) do (except) dive.
“It would have been the game-winning goal.”
Sure enough, a few minutes later, BG/H/W scored, and they ultimately won the game.
“It was a meaningless game (overall), but I won’t forget that moment,” Anzelmo said.
Nor the skate around the United Center on that March night last year, holding the state championship trophy.
“We honestly thought 2016 was going to be our rebuilding year,” Anzelmo said. “We had lost quite a few seniors, a couple of whom were some of the best in the state at the time.
“No one on the team thought we would amount to anything last season, except for one guy: Chris Waters, who was in his first year as (the team’s) head coach and (he) said, ‘We are winning a state championship this year.’
“No one believed him and a part of me thought that he was talking just to talk. But 10 months later, in the middle of the night, we couldn’t believe he was right.”
Anzelmo added: “The fact that we didn’t even think we would make it past the semifinals and into the UC was phenomenal. Then to prove ourselves wrong and win it all was something I can never forget.”
Can BG/H/W repeat?
“Stranger things have happened,” Anzelmo answered. “We have a lot of skilled guys who (can) make great plays. We somehow have made it so that no one would be selfish and have created plays and have won games because these skilled few have been able to work together.”
More From The Net of Tyler Anzelmo:
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Jaromir Jagr
Favorite NHL Goalie: Braden Holtby
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Golf. “I grew up playing (golf) every now and then with my grandfather. I never thought of playing competitively, but it is a sport that allows you to take your mind off things in a relaxing manner.”
Best HS uniforms (excluding BG/H/W): New Trier Green’s beige jerseys
Worst HS uniforms (excluding BG/H/W): Carmel’s Yellow jerseys
Hardest slapshot on BG/H/W: Gavin Spahr (Buffalo Grove High School). “Guys will get out of the way in practice because they don’t want to get injured. You can hear them say, ‘I ain’t blocking that.”
Toughest teammates to stop on breakaways in practice: Nick Christianson and Connor Kelly, both from Buffalo Grove High School. “Both have skills beyond anyone else and their quick hands make it hard for any goalie to stop a breakaway.”
Jersey number: 34. “There’s not really a specific reason (for selecting that number); it was just available when I came in my first year of spring.”
College Plans: Will attend Xavier University in Cincinnati to study occupational therapy.
Brotherly Love: Zach Anzelmo, now 22 and a student at Saint Louis University, was a four-year, right-handed-shooting defenseman for BG/H/W. “Having four years of
knowledge of the team before playing myself made it a much more enjoyable experience coming in,” Tyler said.
Lots of Brotherly Love: BG/H/W has had more than 10 brother combinations skate for the club during Coach Bob Wagner’s 15-year run, including Wagner’s sons (Chris and Patrick). “When you first come (to the team), it’s a little scary having to skate with new guys, some being three years older than you. But when they realize that they played with your brother in the past few years, they start to warm up to you a lot faster. It helps to make the transition easier,” Tyler said.
Photos Courtesy, Tyler Anzelmo
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.