By Ross Forman
The hole was just too deep for Stevenson. Make that, 3-deep.
New Trier Green struck Stevenson fast and hard in the championship game of the 24th annual Chicago Blackhawks Charities High School Holiday Hockey Classic, presented by the Chicago Blackhawks. The Trevians built a 3-0 lead about 8 minutes into the first period, played Dec. 29 at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville.
The Trevians ultimately skated away with the title – and the plaque presented to the champions – of the 20-team tourney that was held Dec. 26-29.
“We played pretty well (in the tournament) … until today,” Stevenson head coach Tom Wood said after the title-game loss. “We’ve been stressing team-defense all tournament, and coming into the championship game, we had only given up three goals. So we were doing a really good job defensively … until the finals.
“It was quick, 3-0 less than halfway into the first (period) and it’s hard to come back from that deficit against Green. They put a lot of pressure on us and were finding the (open) guy in the high slot, and they put it away.”
The Patriots cut the lead to 3-1 on a 5-on-3 powerplay goal, and that’s the way the first-period ended.
Stevenson made it 3-2 early in the second, but that’s as close as the Patriots got.
Green scored at 13:35 of the second to open a 4-2 edge, and it went to 5-2 at 4:54 of the second.
The Trevians added their final goal at 7:40 of the third period.
“Our team is coming together at the right time,” New Trier Green head coach Bob Melton said. “The 20-team Ho-Ho Tournament win is a nice accomplishment.”
Wood said he was happy with how the Patriots played in their first five games of the tournament. “We just didn’t have our A-game (in the championship); we looked slow and tired,” he said. “Ultimately, I think we can play with Green … if don’t spot them a few goals early in the game. Today was just one of those days. And Bob (Melton) did a real nice job with his game plan.”
The Trevians were a dominant force throughout the tournament, outscoring their opponents 33-7.
Jacob Travis had 1 goal, 1 assist in the Trevians’ 3-1 semifinal win over Providence. He also had 2 goals in their 4-0 win over Fenwick, when John Robinson had 1 goal, 2 assists.
Green, which has won back-to-back state championships, vaults to No. 2 in the new state rankings – now only behind their arch-rival, Loyola Gold, which remains the No. 1 team in the state.
The Trevians have won 10 consecutive games, and 13 of their past 15. Their two losses during that stretch, which dates back to Dec. 9, were to Stevenson and Carmel (Indiana), both by identical 3-2 scores.
The Ramblers are an amazing 21-0 in Scholastic League play, with three wins (over Glenbrook North, York and Barrington) over a four-day stretch in mid-December.
Gold played Dec. 28-30 in Washington, D.C.
“I think Loyola and New Trier are pretty evenly matched, with the big difference being goaltending. Loyola’s goaltending is excellent; New Trier’s goaltending is very good,” Wood said. “Both of those teams are very, very good. That said, I think if we are playing our game, we can compete with either of those two.”
Stevenson is now ranked No. 3.
So will the Ramblers return to the United Center? And will they finally claim the championship, which has eluded Loyola for more than two decades? Heck, none of the current Ramblers were even alive the last time this perennial powerhouse last won state.
Things certainly look bright for Loyola – and for all of the top six teams to potentially skate this March at the United Center.
But, there are others, too, who could surprise and ultimately skate in the final game of the 2017-2018 High School Hockey Season. Here are my Super Six Surprises – teams that could skate for state: York, Providence, Notre Dame, Barrington, Glenbrook South and Fenwick.
Here are the Top 20 Rankings of Illinois High School Hockey Teams (as of Dec. 29, 2017), as compiled by Ross Forman
1. Loyola Gold
2. New Trier Green
4. Saint Viator
5. Glenbrook North
6. Glenbrook South
7. Providence Catholic
8. Benet Academy
9. New Trier White
10. St. Ignatius
12. Highland Park
17. Notre Dame
20. St. Rita
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.