By Steve Silvey, IHSHL President
History was in the making over the weekend of September 19 – 22, 2018. For the first time, Illinois was invited to the prestigious NAHL and NAPHL event in Blaine, Minnesota. Our team showed Illinois high school hockey players belong on the national map. The Illinois Showcase team went undefeated against 3 Minnesota elite U18 Tier I AAA development teams and a high school all-star team from Washington State.
According to the North American Hockey League website about the event, the NAHL Showcase attracts over 9,000 people in overall attendance, including more than 350 professional, college and junior scouts. For scouting purposes, the NAHL Showcase is the premier event of its kind and is a yearly gathering for every NCAA program and NHL team as they get their first look at some of the best and brightest hockey talent North America has to offer. The North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), was also present and played in conjunction with the Showcase. The NAPHL is made up of elite level USA Hockey-sanctioned teams that compete in the 18U and the other age specific categories.
Illinois jumped to the head of the class and had the scouts buzzing about Illinois high school hockey. The team received direct communication from Tier I Junior teams about several players, which is a real measure of success for high school participants looking for opportunities to move up and continue playing at the highest levels.
The Illinois team had 4 players in the top 20 for scoring. Tom Davis was the second leading scorer with 8 points in 4 games. Jack Nimrod, Eamon O’Brien and Tim Burke all tied for seventh place in scoring with 6 points each. The entire team contributed with 15 players putting points on the board. Goalies Brennan Nein and Charles Doherty had a combined .918 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average.
The coaching staff was led by Head Coach Evan Poulakidas (Glenbrook North); Assistant Coach Nick Iaciancio (Providence); Assistant Coach Steve Silvey (IHSHL) and; General Manager Mike Mullally (AHAI). The administrative and coaching staff combined almost 100 years of high school coaching experience. Commenting on the weekend, Coach Poulakidas said that in “30 years of coaching, this is a true memory.”
Indeed memorable for all the players and staff, down 2-0 in the final game on Sunday, Illinois scored 4 straight unanswered goals ultimately winning 6-4. In the real measure of why Illinois high school hockey belongs on the big stage, after the last game, the scorekeeper congratulated the team and said “In the last four days, we’ve scored several dozen games of some of the best U18 teams in the country. Your team is by far the most respectful we’ve seen”, and that was when they were in the penalty box!
On the ice and off, Illinois high school hockey earned and showed they deserve the respect at the national level.
Congratulations to the team. A historic weekend for Illinois hockey.