By Ross Forman
Let’s start in the classroom at the New Lenox-based Catholic League School. Zschach had a perfect 4.0 GPA, which he simply credited to, “just doing my homework and studying in my free time.”
Zschach, 15, who lives in Plainfield, admitted that his 4.0 GPA “was kind of shocking,” especially with the countless hours spent at rinks this past season.
The 4.0 GPA, he said, “means that I’m setting myself up well (for) later in life, for when hockey isn’t an option.”
Zschach tagged math as his favorite subject. “My most challenging class this year was biology because it is just not something I’m interested in, no offense to the people (who) love science,” he said. “But, focusing and setting time aside when I would rather do things like watch hockey or go shoot (pucks) in the garage,” was helpful.
Zschach played for the Jaguars starting as a mite. His last year as a bantam, he was voted team captain.
His Celtics’ JV team won state and the Catholic League title this past season.
“Being a freshman, and not being used to (the high school game), I was taking it all in and learning from the upperclassmen on what to do,” he said.
The highlight of the season, he said, “was the huge open ice in the state championship game.”
As for winning the Catholic League title, Zschach said, that was extra special, especially after falling short in playoff runs in the past. It was emotion-filled.
Winning state, with a 3-0 victory over Loyola on March 16 at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, he said, “was probably the best hockey we played, and when we won it, it wasn’t like the CCHL title, it was just pure joy.”
Zschach said the key to the team’s success was, “realizing it is a team sport and playing as a team.”
Zschach had 6 goals, 15 assists in 18 Catholic League regular-season games, including 2 power-play, 1 short-handed and 1 game-winning goal. His 21-points were third-most on the team behind forwards Tom Davis (25 goals, 17 assists, 42 points) and Colin Ries (19, 16, 35).
Providence finished 14-3-1 in the regular-season and the Celtics’ 29-points were 2 behind regular-season champion Fenwick (31 points).
Providence was 4-1 in the Kennedy Cup, culminating with a championship-winning game over Fenwick on Feb. 27.
Providence JV coach Mark Bandzi said Zschach has many on-ice strengths, such as his size. “He is a big, solid kid and surprisingly quick and agile (on) skates,” Bandzi said. “He sees the ice very well and has the patience to find the right pass or shot to take. He is an offensive threat with his speed, puck skills and a very hard and heavy shot. He also can be a very strong stay-at-home, physical defenseman.”
Zschach said he improved over the season by simply working on the things he needed to.
“I will have to get faster and make quicker decisions on (the) ice,” to skate at the varsity level, he said.
Zschach said it was difficult watching the Providence varsity fall short at the United Center in the state championship game against New Trier Green this past season. It also gave him motivation.
“It was hard seeing them work so hard, preparing for (that) game and especially the team they played (against), but they played their hearts out,” he said. “My motivation to get to the UC is just to beat New Trier Green (on) that (same) stage.”
Zschach is a two-way player who is not afraid to join the offensive rush, nor let anyone near his goalie.
“I really haven’t molded my game after anyone; I just used to play forward and liked scoring, but I also like clearing out the front of the net. That is how I got my game,” he said.
His dad, Ken, has carried the ‘coach’ label too in the past. Tommy said his dad has definitely been instrumental in his improvement as a player. And when asked how he’s improved over the years, Zschach said, “Just by going in the garage and shooting pucks, and doing every extra thing I could possibly do on the ice.”
Zschach said he is already focused on the 2017-18 season. After all, the goals at Providence remain the same: winning the Kennedy Cup and the state championship. So, this summer Zschach will be working hard in the weight room and running a lot, he said. And also shooting a ton of pucks.
“I have come a long way (as a freshman), athletically and academically, and it shows that hard work year-round will do wonders,” he said. “The term student athlete means nothing that special to me; it just means that I am busy (the) majority of the time with my sport and school work.”
But Zschach certainly shined as a freshman student-athlete.
More From The Table of Tommy Zschach:
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Duncan Keith
Favorite TV Show: The Office
Favorite Movie: Happy Gilmore
Favorite App: Snapchat
Best HS Uniforms (excluding Providence Catholic): Stevenson
Worst HS Uniforms (excluding Providence Catholic: Marmion Academy
Jersey Number: 5
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.