By Ross Forman
Wait, they are they only returning players.
Youth is served on skates at Fenwick this fall, though, when winter rolls around in December and January, head coach Chris Lappin is optimistic that the Friars, “will be able to compete with anyone in the state.”
Lappin added, “I’m very much looking forward to coaching this year’s team as there is a great, electric attitude.”
However, Fenwick skates in, arguably, the two toughest leagues in the state. They play in the Scholastic Hockey League and the tradition-rich Chicago Catholic Hockey League. So, Scholastic foes include defending state champion Loyola Gold, plus perennial powers New Trier Green, Glenbrook North and Stevenson, among others. Then when the calendar shows Catholic League games, the foes include St. Viator, Providence Catholic, Benet Academy, St. Rita, St. Ignatius and Mt. Carmel, among others.
These rookies need to rise to the challenge early in the season, or the season-ending state tournament won’t come fast enough.
“I am excited and nervous,” Lappin admitted. “We have a very young team which I think has a lot of talent. The primarily underclassmen squad has a lot of raw talent which I look forward to helping develop into better hockey players.
“Some of the strengths of this year’s team are willingness to compete, speed, and great work ethics.”
Team weaknesses, though, include its youth and inexperience. But, those can be conquered by an overall team desire to learn the system and work as a team toward a common goal, Lappin said.
So how far can Fenwick go this season?
“We have very high aspirations for the season. Hopefully, everything will go well and the players will stay healthy,” Lappin said.
Fenwick finished 8-17-0-2 last season in the Scholastic Hockey League, and only York and New Trier Blue had fewer points. The Friars started strong in the majority of Scholastic League games last season, only surrendering 29 goals in the first. But that ballooned to 44 goals-against in the second and 41 in the third.
Luke Rohrbacher was the team’s top scorer, with 14 goals, 12 assists in 27 Scholastic League games.
Lutz had 9 goals, 6 assists. Meade had 2 assists in 23 league games.
Fenwick finished 9-9-1-1 in the Catholic League last season, with Dominic Centracchio leading the teams with 12 league goals. Rohrbacher had team-highs in assists (16) and points (25).
Fenwick clipped St. Viator in its first-round Kennedy Cup playoff game last January, winning 4-0. The Lions responded two nights later with a convincing 6-1 win, and then, on Jan. 28, St. Viator eliminated Fenwick with a 2-1 overtime win.
“We are hoping that (the newcomers) are able to do their best at the varsity level and adapt to our extensive schedule,” Lappin said.
Unfortunately, the team did not mesh over the summer. “I’m going to be honest with you, our summer session was poorly attended. We had a number of players doing their own thing. Hopefully, it won’t hurt us in the beginning of the season,” Lappin said.
Fenwick lost its preseason opener on Sept. 7, falling 4-1 to OPRF in the Pre-Season Invitational, hosted by Wheaton West and held at Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. The next day, Fenwick lost 4-2 to York.
“Our goal every year is to win the state championship. That said, developing the younger players and getting them ready for the upcoming years is key,” Lappin said.
St Rita, St. Ignatius and Providence Catholic look to be the three to beat in the Catholic League, though Lappin added, “I’m sure there (are) some sleepers out there.”
In the Scholastic Hockey League, the top four are easy picks: Loyola Gold, New Trier Green, Glenbrook North and Stevenson.
“GBN probably has two of the top players this year, so I’m counting on them to be good this year,” Lappin said. “Like us, I’m sure there’s a lot of unknowns (in the league) this year.”
Fenwick, Lappin said, must stay healthy “and getting the younger guys accustomed to the rigors of our two leagues,” will be the key. “Hopefully they become seasoned veterans by the end of the year.”
Lappin, 51, who lives in Geneva, is the owner of CHL Enterprises, Inc. He has been coaching for 24 years, including eight at the high school level. This is his third season at Fenwick.
Lappin coached at Barrington (bantams and midgets) from 1994-99, and for the Chicago Mission before that. He led St. Viator in 1998, and then again from 2010-14. He also coached the Geneva Cyclones U15s.
“I think our two returning players have the ability to be top players in both leagues, and, we have a lot of underclassmen with the potential to be future all-stars,” Lappin said.
On The Bench With … Fenwick Coach Chris Lappin
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Wayne Gretzky
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Golf
Favorite Pro Athlete: Joe Montana
Socially Speaking: “(Am) not on social media.”
Favorite Sports Movie: North Dallas Forty
Best High School Jerseys (other than Fenwick): 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.