By Ross Forman
Optimism is Scouts-high at Lake Forest, where Steve Sarauer takes over the head coaching reins, bringing 18 years of coaching experience, including 15 at the high school level, plus a playing resume that included a stint skating in the Phoenix Coyotes’ rookie camp.
Sarauer, 36, a Mundelein resident who is a Carrier Development Project Manager for Coyote Logistics, coached the past six seasons for co-op LZMW, a mix of players from Lake Zurich, Mundelein and Wauconda High Schools. He also coaches for the Chicago Mission.
Sarauer previously coached at CYA, Barrington High School, the Barrington Redwings, Wisconsin AAA and the Pettit Selects High School Hockey Club.
“Every program is unique, and Lake Forest is no different,” Sarauer said. “I’m looking forward to bringing my experience and coaching philosophies to the Scouts.
“The Scouts have an outstanding coaching staff which will be returning this fall: varsity assistant coach Mike McCann, JV head coach Claude Desgagne, and JV assistant coach Tom McKinnon. All the coaches are very knowledgeable, work well with the players, and are on the same page with the direction I (want) to take the club. We’ll be working together to integrate my strategies and systems into both teams and I’m looking forward to working with them throughout the season.
“The most intriguing aspect of the program is the potential that the players have. All the components of a strong team are present at Lake Forest; they just need to be pushed with the proper strategy and motivation to bring it all together.”
Lake Forest graduated 13 seniors from this past season, yet there is a strong junior class returning. Thus, expectations for the 2018-19 season are high.
“I’m very excited to take over the Lake Forest program,” Sarauer said. “I have many ideas for the program and the board has been extremely supportive with my thoughts (about) the future. There is a real teamwork type attitude that is great to be a part of.
“It was very difficult decision to leave LZMW as I have spent the last six seasons building the program from one school and one team to three schools and two teams.”
Sarauer said the Scouts will have simple, yet accomplishable goals throughout the upcoming season that will make both teams successful. “The overall goal is to have both teams finish in the top of the leagues’ standings and also to be a serious contender in the state tournament at their respective levels,” he said.
Long-term, Sarauer wants Lake Forest “to consistently be ranked in the state’s Top 10 (among) varsity teams and be a serious competitor for a state championship.”
The 2018-19 Scouts will be a mix of players that will “fit well into the system and strategies that I will be introducing into the program,” Sarauer said. “The high skill level of the players will allow for more competition in practice and therefore make us better in games. Commitment will be a point of emphasis and the team will come before any one player.”
Some of the key returning players are senior forward Hunter Heitman, senior defenseman Dennis Eveleigh, and junior forward Charlie Altounian, Will Dee and Hunter Dee.
“Lake Forest will go as far as they choose; it’s their team,” Sarauer said. “Coach McCann and I will give them the tools to be successful; it’s their choice to use them. My philosophy is not to dictate how every aspect of the team will operate; this is their team just as it is the coaches’ and we will all succeed or fail together. If the team is willing to commit to the systems and philosophies that are presented to them, we can be a top high school hockey program.
Sarauer played his youth hockey in West Bend, and he won a Wisconsin State Championship in 1997 before heading to play for the Pettit National Selects AAA program in 1998-1999 and 1999-2000.
“After I graduated, I had my first son and decided to forgo chasing the dream of playing hockey and started coaching with Wisconsin AAA and was able to learn more about the game both from coaching and from working alongside Gino Cavallini,” Sarauer said. “After a season of coaching, Cavallini pushed me to get back into the game and I received an invite to the Phoenix Coyotes’ rookie camp in 2002. Unfortunately, I suffered a knee injury that didn’t allow me to complete the camp.
“I returned to Wisconsin and kept coaching while I attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Since UWM had an ACHA team, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to keep playing and was on the team as a defenseman for three seasons.
Sarauer the player was an offensive defenseman.
“The offensive defenseman is a new component in today’s game and it will be beneficial to get more offense this season,” he said. “Along with the offensive defenseman comes mistakes, and making mistakes is a key component to long-term success for the entire team. Every player makes mistakes. It’s not the mistake that matters; it’s how you recover and learn from them.
“I’ve learned that knowing more about every position helps you play better against it. When the coach talks about the forwards, for example, everyone should listen and learn. Knowing more about everyone on the ice will make you a better all-around player at the end of the day. Players should learn to play all positions and when I had an opportunity to play another position it was a huge benefit to my individual development. I always move forwards to defense in practice (because) you never know when you’ll find yourself defending two-on-one rush.”
Sarauer added: “I like to work with my players and make the team about them. I believe that hockey teaches more than just hockey. Players learn how to work with a team, what commitment really is, and how to deal with adversity – all components needed for a player’s life after hockey. I’m intense as a coach and absolutely hate losing. If you’re going to play, then play to win. As a group we’ll have fun and the kids will enjoy their time at Lake Forest because that is the most important aspect of the game: having fun!”
Going from a co-op team to a true team, any difference: Yes, the difference is that there is very real feeling of being involved in the school and the pride that comes along with it. Working with a co-op is always challenging as having an identity is always something that is hard to nail down while working with multiple schools under one program.
Slapshots With … Coach Steve Sarauer of Lake Forest High School
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL player: Dustin Byfuglien – “How can you not like a guy who can score goals, plays every position, plays physical and beats up multiple guys at the same time.”
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Ping-pong
Favorite app: The Weather Channel
Favorite TV Show: Wheel of Fortune
Favorite Sports Movie: Talladega Nights
Best High School Jerseys: LZMW
Worst High School Jerseys: Oswego Hockey Club, for the co-op of Oswego High School and Oswego East High School.