By Ross Forman
Sophomore Harrison Proud is one of the main reasons York should stand tall in the Scholastic Hockey League and, perhaps, secure some state tournament victories.
He is a smart, skilled two-way winger with great vision, playing alongside juniors Billy Paschen and Chris Lee. Their line has the potential to play with any top line in the state.
“I think he was a little overmatched and overlooked last season as a freshman on a pretty deep varsity team, but the experience of playing at that level has pushed him to build and grow his game,” said York head coach Bruce Turpin.
Defensively, senior Ethan Horne is the heart and soul of the team. “He provides a spark off the bench and consistently does the little things you wish every player would bring to the table, whether it’s a big hit, a blocked shot, or winning a corner battle,” Turpin said.
The Dukes are 3-12 in league play, 10-15 overall as of Nov. 27, on a five-game losing streak.
But there’s still optimism at the Elmhurst-based school.
“This is a very tight-knit group of players. They are all great kids who get along well and hang out as a group,” Turpin said. “On the ice, we have great team speed and play a solid defensive game. Team defense coupled with solid goaltending keeps us close in most games, but we are struggling with puck possession and creating scoring chances. This team is very coachable and demonstrates a willingness to put in the extra work in practice to improve individually and as a team.
“Even though we are not scoring as much so far this season, I think this year’s team has more depth offensively than last year’s team, but our defense is not as experienced.”
York started strong this season, going 7-3 for the month of September, including a 2-1 loss to GBN in the championship game of the Pre-Season Invitational, winning 2 of 3 games against Providence, and a big win over St. Ignatius.
League play has been a struggle so far.
“Special teams play has been a thorn in our side so far this season – our opponents have continued to capitalize on undisciplined penalties and our power-play has struggled to consistently put the puck in the net,” Turpin said. “We have some key non-conference wins against top teams in other leagues, but we need to play more consistently in our league to better position ourselves for the postseason. We believe we have the pieces in place this season to make a deep run into league playoffs and the state tournament.”
York did not play in either of the two Thanksgiving tournaments. Last season the Dukes played in two tournaments in November and it took its toll physically on the players, Turpin said.
“The SHL has the best competition across the board. I think there is a little more parity this season, as some of the perennial heavyweights are not as deep as they have been in recent years,” Turpin said. “Loyola Gold has emerged as the early favorite, but New Trier Green and Glenbrook North are not far behind. These three teams come to the rink expecting to win games.
“The competitiveness of the league from top to the bottom means that any team can be beat on any given night. We have played a lot of close games, but have struggled to consistently play three full periods of hockey, and in this league, if you take a period or two off, you dig yourself a hole that is tough to get out of. We are pushing our players to develop the competitive mindset necessary to compete as a team every single night.”
Turpin, 46, who lives in Villa Park, has been coaching for 17 years. He started coaching hockey while at graduate school. After moving to Chicago in 2002, he began coaching with the Chicago Blues (four seasons), then spent a year assisting with Loyola Maroon and the Northbrook Bluehawks before moving on to coach with the CYA girls program for two years.
He then returned to the Chicago Blues (two years) and also coached a Winnetka girls team. In 2012, he was asked to coach the JV team at York High School and led them to a Final Four showing.
He has now coached high school hockey for seven seasons.
This is his sixth season as the Hockey Director and Varsity Head Coach at York.
“My goal from the beginning has been to improve our program each and every year,” Turpin said. “After winning the West Cup at both the JV and varsity levels in 2015-16, we were presented with an opportunity to join the Scholastic League. After a number of disappointing exits in the state tournament, we felt that this was the direction we needed to go to as a program. The competition in the league is top-notch, forcing you to play at a higher level every game. Consistently playing better competition helps foster development at a higher pace.”
York finished 20-32 last season.
Turpin also is the Director of Coaching and Player Development with the Elmhurst Chiefs, and he coaches his son’s squirt team, too.
York added Jeff Salzbrunn as an assistant coach this season. “He brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience to the table. Coach Salzy is very adept at picking out and teaching the nuances of the game and his tactical knowledge of the game is outstanding,” Turpin said.
York also added alum Nicholas Albergo to the coaching staff. Albergo was one of the top high school players, a flashy forward who seemingly could score at-will from 2007-2011. He then played for the Chicago Steel, Janesville Jets, and Dells Ducks before playing NCAA D3 hockey at Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota. “He will oversee the forwards and should be a great asset as we strive to improve our offensive game,” Turpin said.
Junior Chris Lee, who has been splitting time at defense and center this season, is one of the key returners for York. Junior Billy Paschen led York in scoring as freshman, then played CYA last season, and is back with the Dukes for his junior year.
Senior goaltenders Nolan Knupp and Dylan Reynolds also are key.
“Goaltending has been one of our strengths, (as both) Nolan and Dylan have played exceptionally well; both possess the ability to steal wins for us on any given night,” Turpin said. “We expect them to thrive as the season goes on and be pillars for our team come playoffs and the state tournament.”
Key newcomers this season include senior forward Matt Anderson, senior defenseman Matt Atristain, senior forward Ben Semmelhack, and junior forward Joseph Geurino.
“We have struggled all season to score consistently, but we have several very dynamic forwards with the ability to dominate in the offensive zone,” Turpin said. “Juniors Chris Lee and Billy Paschen give opposing teams a difficult match up to cover as both are highly skilled players with good size and strength, great hands and deadly shots. If they can learn to complement each other and play to their strengths, they will quickly become one of the top lines in the state.
“Senior Matt Anderson is a work-horse, very quick, aggressive two-way center with a great shot. Seniors Ben Semmelhack and Matt Shephard are giants out there who need to learn to use their size to their advantage and get to the net to do the dirty work. Junior Anthony Baran and senior Colin Stasica both have exceptional hands and once they find their groove, they will start racking up the points.
“Our defense is anchored by seniors Liam Gardner and Matt Atristain. Both have the ability to deliver big hits and well-timed passes. Junior Matt Anikiej is a beast in the corners and has a way of getting under an opponent’s skin. Our defense is rounded out by senior Jack Foley, junior John Temple and sophomore Will Ciannella, all of whom moved up from the JV team and are quickly adapting to the speed and physicality of varsity hockey. Juniors Sam Gemini and Tyler Bare are two forwards that we can count on to get the job done defensively.”
Off the ice, Turpin said York prides itself on academics. “We are dealing with student-athletes, so it’s not just about developing hockey players. Over the past few seasons, we have averaged over 70 percent of our players on the honor roll. And it’s a trend we hope continues,” he said.
“York also strives to get involved with the community. We do two large fundraising events each season, (and) several of our players also help coach at the Elmhurst YMCA house hockey league.”
On Oct. 20 at its home rink, the Addison Ice Arena, the team held its annual Spirit Night. In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the club dedicated 100 percent of its silent auction proceeds and donations, about $6,000, to cancer research.
On Dec. 1, York Hockey will hold its annual Toys for Tots Night, with the varsity game against Glenbrook North starting at 7:05 p.m., followed by the JV game at 8:55 p.m. There is no admission fee, but attendees are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy.
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.