York Looks to Shake Things Up at Top of SHL

Key Returners Paschen, Lee Anchor Dukes’ Drive for Success

By Ross Forman
York graduated 10 seniors off last year’s team that finished 18-24, including both varsity goalies, but the 2018-19 Dukes have much better depth than previous York teams. All of their JV players making the jump to varsity have a high level of skill and ability to contribute offensively.

But defense is where this group needs to step up its game, especially with the talented teams York faces throughout the Scholastic Hockey League, starting with defending Illinois state champion Loyola Gold.

York has some gritty forwards and expects to play a fast-paced puck possession style of play.

“We need to establish a better team defensive system in our zone and need to improve our transition game from a year ago,” said York head coach Bruce Turpin. “Special teams play caused us headaches last season, and with our roster this year, this is an area that we need to excel at to consistently win games.”

York last year lost a total of 15 games by 2 goals or less, including seven 1-goal losses in league play. “Everyone was disappointed we missed the SHL playoffs,” Turpin said. “Mental mistakes and undisciplined play hurt us a year ago and cannot be repeated this year. In the SHL, every game is a hard-fought battle, and one or two bad defensive plays can cost you the W on any given night. We also had difficulty putting the puck in the back of the net, averaging just over 2 goals per game.”

York opened SHL play this season with a 4-2 home win over Glenbrook South.

“Every (SHL) team has good depth and several impact players, forcing you to play at a higher level night in and night out,” Turpin said. “The most disciplined and hardest working team usually comes out the victor. Defensive mistakes at this level usually end up in the back of the net and special-teams play becomes crucial to win games.”

York returns its top two players from last season (seniors Billy Paschen and Chris Lee) and both are expected to anchor the team’s success. Both played on the recent AHAI Showcase team and “are two of the more dynamic players in the state,” Turpin said. “They have been friends since first-grade, but never played together growing up until they both made the varsity team as freshmen.”

Paschen describes Lee as “really fast, strong on the puck and physical.”

Lee describes Paschen as “a quick, very skilled player with great hands and great puck possession skills.”

Seniors Joseph Geurino, Collin Stasica and Tyler Bare will help anchor the offense. Defensively, the Dukes are led by returning seniors Anthony Baran, John Temple and Matt Anikiej, and junior Will Ciannella.

“We have high expectations for this team,” Turpin said. “Our goal is to make a solid run in both the league and state playoffs. If we can stay healthy and pull off an upset or two along the way, we could play deep into March.”

Goalie Thomas Wesolowski steps into a high-pressure role as a sophomore. “He seems poised and ready to make the jump from JV, but has some big shoes to fill,” Turpin said. “His work ethic is excellent and he has played very well so far this season. If he can continue to grow as a goalie and develop the confidence and resiliency in his game, he can help propel this team to a very good season.”

The top three JV points leaders (sophomores Mike Kamienski and Quinn Haller, and junior Tyler Gelsomino) are making the jump to varsity. “We have high expectations for all three and need them to be solid contributors to our offense,” Turpin said.

Turpin, 47, who lives in Villa Park, is in his 18th season coaching, his eighth at the high school level and his seventh at York. He also is entering his sixth year with the Elmhurst Chiefs Hockey Program as Director of Player and Coach Development. Previously, he coached with the Chicago Blues, Northbrook Bluehawks, Loyola Maroon, CYA Girls and Winnetka Girls programs.

“Top-to-bottom the (SHL is the) toughest league in the state,” Turpin said. “The state’s final four last season were all SHL teams and that’s certainly a possibility again this year. Loyola Gold returns the bulk of (its) key players from last season’s State Championship team and will be very difficult for anyone in the state to match up against. New Trier Green and Glenbrook North are always a handful to play against. GBS and Barrington also should be very good this year.”

For York to shine, goaltending and special-teams play will be key.

“I like how we have started the season, going 3-4-1 in preseason play, with wins over OPRF, Fenwick and Waubonsie Valley,” Turpin said. “Our younger players have adapted well so far and we have been without our leader and top player Chris Lee who has only played 10 minutes so far this season.”

Sophomore Mike Kamienski is one of the smartest players that Turpin has coached in recent years and ultimately will play right wing alongside Paschen and Lee. “If he can elevate his game, they could be a potent trio. He is not a very big kid, so he will need to adapt to the daily grind of varsity hockey,” Turpin said.

Junior defenseman Ciannella is a smooth, strong skater with a great shot and offensive instincts. “If he can dial in his defensive game and his decision-making skills, he will develop into a tremendous asset for us this season,” Turpin said.

“Year-in year-out, we play one of the toughest schedules in the state, supplementing SHL league play with non-conference games against the top CCHL and West division teams. Our win-loss record may not show it, but we have been a very good team over the last few seasons. We need to build on this success, attracting more and more of the top players in Elmhurst, so one day York can have its day in the sun at the United Center.”

On The Bench With … York Head Coach Bruce Turpin
Favorite NHL Team: Montreal Canadians
Favorite NHL Player: Larry Robinson
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Basketball
Favorite Pro Athlete: Tim Duncan
Favorite Sports Movie: Youngblood

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.

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