By Ross Forman
The Illinois High School leagues will select a team from a 40-player tryout held Sept. 5 in Northbrook to comprise a 20-member Fall Showcase team (18 skaters, 2 goalies) for a showcase held Sept. 20-23 in Blaine, Minn.
Evan Poulakidas (Glenbrook North) and Nick Iaciancio (Providence Catholic) will be the co-head coaches, with Steve Silvey (IHSHL President) the assistant coach.
The NAPHL will offer a high school division in which Illinois will participate, coinciding with the NAHL and the NA3HL showcase events in Minnesota.
“The fall may be a better time than the spring to introduce kids to college,” options for the following school year, said AHAI / USA Hockey Central District Director and Showcase General Manager, Mike Mullally. “Years ago, kids didn’t decide (their college) until March or April. Now, with early enrollment, kids are deciding in October and November for the following year.
“Plus, the Fall Showcase is in front of a number of coaches that kids normally wouldn’t be able to skate in front of. Players have the opportunity to skate in front of coaches from the USHL, Tier 1 Hockey, the NAHL, Tier 2 Junior Hockey, NA3HL, and more.”
The Illinois Fall Showcase team will play four games, against the Wenatchee Wolves, Metro SE Moose, Metro NE Loons, and the South Gray Ducks.
In addition, the Lake Forest Academy prep team will be participating, with games against Meijer AAA, the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders, Sioux Falls Power Hockey, and the Arizona Bobcats.
The costs of the Fall Showcase, such as jerseys, socks and coaching, will be borne by AHAI, while the costs for the players’ travel, hotel and meals will be borne by the player.
The traditional spring High School Showcase will be held in St. Louis in 2019.
Mullally said, starting with the 2019-20 season, AHAI will send a team to only one showcase event, be it the fall or the spring, “depending on which is more successful for our players,” and there are benefits now for both, he noted.
“It’s not so much (about) winning, but rather, about being competitive. This is a showcase as opposed to a tournament, though with a tournament format,” Mullally said. “The ultimate goal is to be competitive against the teams we play so coaches will come out and look at our players.
“So winning is not the ultimate goal.”
But yes, there definitely is pressure on the Illinois Fall Showcase Team to succeed, if only because of the success of the spring Showcase teams of the past 5-10 years or so.
That said, the Fall Showcase Team will not have any practices, nor games, before heading to the Minnesota. The spring Showcase team traditionally plays at least one game and has about six practices before its first Showcase game.
“It’s going to be difficult to get on-ice bonding, chemistry,” Mullally admitted.
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.