Rebuilding year, but optimism high for Glenbrook Girls

By Ross Forman

Ten games into its Metro Girls season, Glenbrook has scored only 13 goals while surrendering 62.

Glenbrook stands at 2-8.

“This year brings different challenges than the last two years,” said Glenbrook assistant coach Alex Botvinnik. “We have a younger team and are focused on developing skills and working together. (Head) coach (Steve) Hamelin and I enjoy working together to help our girls have fun on and off the ice, and to continue developing at the high school level.

“We have a fantastic group of girls, led by our senior captain Shannon Schmitt and alternates Nora Curtis and Lily Cataldo, both seniors. They’re doing a great job helping our 10 freshmen and sophomores feel welcome, understand their value to the team, and develop together.”

Glenbrook – a mix of players from Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South and Regina Dominican – has more underclassmen than upperclassmen, which at least “bodes well for Glenbrook’s future,” Botvinnik said.

Cataldo (GBS) has been injured to start the season and no return-date is known yet. “We’re hoping she heals up so she can get back to doing what she loves to do,” Botvinnik said.

The strength of Glenbrook is the team’s “ability to learn from our challenges and mistakes,” he said. “(The team) never (has a bad) attitude on the bench (and it carries a) willingness to work on team goals and individual skills.”

Still, “Having such a young team means we will be challenged,” Botvinnik said. “Our returning players have tasted very successful seasons the past two years, (so they must) learn to be patient, not get frustrated as we rebuild and focus on development.”

Botvinnik, 43, who lives in Glenview, is the operations officer at Smiling Patient Dental Care. He has been coaching locally for about 10 years. “Many years ago, I enjoyed volunteer head coach duties for my son and Coach Hamelin’s son, and Coach Steve was the assistant coach.

“We have been looking forward to coaching together again someday, and when Coach Hamelin was named head coach to the Glenbrook Girls, he asked me to be his assistant. (I was) thrilled to coach together, and this is my third year coaching the Glenbrook Girls with Coach Hamelin.”

And what a run it’s been for Glenbrook the past two years, a first- and second-place finish in state.

“I have truly enjoyed helping the youngest hockey players launch positive hockey experiences. I have been coaching at the youngest dynamite and mite levels for many years as our three kids have been introduced to the sport. Currently, I am a Level 4 coach and have had great experiences developing specific skills, how to think on the ice, work ethic, how to be good teammates, and showing that the game is more important than any trophy.”

Botvinnik also has been a local referee and still plays in local adult leagues. He played at Glenbrook North, class of 1993.

Glenbrook graduated seven “extremely talented” players who each excelled offensively and defensively. Some are now playing in college.

But this season’s Glenbrook squad has 16 players, and 10 of them are underclassmen. “They’re hungry to skate, learn, and play hockey. And they have so much fun doing it,” Botvinnik said.

The team’s drive this season is anchored on development, and motivated to win the Founders Cup.

“(We want) continued development of individual skills, team skills, and how to think about the game,” Botvinnik said. “We want every girl to walk away at the end of the season with a great memory of their hockey family working together toward our common goals.

“We want to compete, no matter what level our team finds itself in at the end of the season.”

Senior defenseman Shannon Schmitt (GBS) is one of the key returners, along with senior Kat Poulos (GBS) who has played forward and defense, sophomore defenseman Addie Carr (GBS), senior forward Nora Curtis (GBS) and junior forward Ella Hackett (GBS). “Each player brings something special to the game and are leaders on and off the ice,” Botvinnik said.

Some of the key newcomers are freshman Bella Crist (GBS) who has played both offense and defense, freshman forward Molly Erickson (GBN), sophomore defenseman Caroline Curtis (GBS), and freshman defenseman Natalie Peters (GBN). “These young players are competing with extremely talented players who are older, stronger, and have played together longer … but they’re holding their own just fine and get better every game,” Botvinnik said.

Senior goalie Rachel Lugo (GBS) has been tested and tested and tested over the first few months of the season, with many high-quality shots.

“She’s always battling and helping our team,” Botvinnik said. “She helped our team win state two years ago, took last year off, and has returned for her senior year. We’re thrilled she’s back!”

On The Bench With … Glenbrook Girls Hockey Assistant Coach Alex Botvinnik

Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: “Anyone who wins the Lady Byng Trophy.”
The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Will Be: Toronto
Hardest Slapshot on Glenbrook: Nora Curtis
Most Accurate Shot On Glenbrook: Lily Cataldo
Fastest Skater on Glenbrook: Alena Mandell
Best Coaching Advice: “When someone yells at you, do you listen better or do you tune them out? Treat your players with the same respect you would want. Learning the lessons from failure doesn’t mean pointing it out, rubbing it in, or shaming players. It’s about creating a culture where it’s OK to fail, and to take responsibility for actions, and take ownership of improving.”
Hockey Pet Peeve: Lack of integrity or respect for the game.
On Metro Girls: “It’s thrilling to see so many good teams and players. Chicagoland hockey continues to produce talented players and to see them proudly play for their high school is fantastic. There are 25-plus players that are currently on pace at greater than 1.5 points per game. That’s a crazy stat!”
Leading Contenders To Win The State Championship: New Trier, Naper Valley, Fenwick and Loyola.
Sisters Nora and Caroline Curtis of GBS: “We are thrilled to have the Curtis sisters playing together. I asked their dad, Tom, when the last time they played hockey together, and he said this is the first time in their life they’ve been on the same team. We’re thrilled they get to play together.”

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

Categories: Girls' Hockey, High School, Hockey Headlines, Players in the News, Ross Forman's High School Hockey

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