By Ross Forman
He leads the team with 26 goals, 13 assists in 22 games played – and is an Illinois West stats leader too, of course.
“Hockey is practically in my blood,” said Lupori, 17, a right-handed shooting forward who attends Glenbard West High School and is commonly called ‘Lupo.’
Glenbard is in the four-team Stan Mikita Division (with Christian Brothers College of Missouri, Lane Tech and Providence Catholic) for the 25th annual High School Holiday Hockey Classic, a 16-team tournament presented by the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation, which will be held at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, December 26-29.
“My dad started skating while learning to walk, and still plays in leagues today. My grandpa was the Zamboni driver and my aunts practically lived in the stands as cheerleaders,” Lupori said. “While there may have been unspoken pressure to follow in my dad’s footsteps, the sport quickly became just as much central to who I am as it is central to my dad. I loved the sport from the second I started playing. I like the fast play and the physicality of hockey, but most importantly, my identity has been sculpted by this sport and I love the constantly overcoming challenges with my teammates.”
Glenbard had a 17-5-4 overall record as of mid-December.
“We struggled to start the season, but the more games we have played, the better we have gelled as a team,” Lupori said. “We are winning a lot of games and everyone on our team is buying into the system. I believe that, come playoff time, Glenbard will be a very tough team to contend with.
“The fact that we’re in first-place in the (Illinois West) League is impressive given we lost a considerable number of players. While this would ordinarily be a rebuilding year, we’re finding ways to win. The forwards from my line stayed intact from last year, which has been a stronghold going into the season. We’re a really well-rounded team. Each person brings something special to the ice and we’re learning how to play to everyone’s strengths.”
Glenbard was 14-2 in league play as of mid-December.
Lupori’s hockey career dates back to a Saturday morning at Center Ice of DuPage, as a peewee. “What I will say about my early skating days is, I used to get so excited about my practices and games that I would insist on getting dressed hours before I left the house,” he said. “My dad would help me tape my shin guards and lace my skates, and when it came time to leave, I would hobble out to the car. I guess you could say that I’ve always been an eager player.”
Lupori landed on the Glenbard varsity as a sophomore, and the team has been “talented and competitive” each and every year.
As a sophomore, Lupori was on Glenbard’s team that toppled BG/H/W in the semifinals, then AWF in the state championship game at the United Center.
But it was AWF that hoisted the title trophy.
“While the loss was painful, nothing compares to playing on the same ice as the professionals I look up to, in an electric atmosphere,” said Lupori who, as a junior, was again in the state semifinals – but last year Glenbard lost to Waubonsie Valley, which ultimately lost at the UC to BG/H/W.
“I’m excited to see what this season brings,” Lupori said.
Glenbard head coach Jason Hawkins said, “Zach brings great veteran leadership to this team. With 15 new varsity players this year, his work ethic and drive is something we hope helps get Glenbard back to the UC. Zach is the only player on our team that has played at the UC and after losing in the semis last year, he is motivated to get back there again.”
After all, “Nothing really compares to playing at the United Center,” Lupori said.
Lupori also has been on the school’s honor roll each semester.
“(One) career highlight was playing in an outdoor game against Maine Township,” Lupori said. “I love skating at the rinks near my house in the winter, so having a real game while the snow was falling was unforgettable.
“I proudly wear the ‘C’ on my Glenbard jersey and don’t take (the role as captain) lightly. The team looks to me to keep the bench positive, the ice fair and each teammate accountable. I’m thankful that I’ve had awesome team captains come before me that have set an awesome example. I know my duties as captain extend far beyond the ice and getting the guys to bring positivity and healthy competition to every game and practice is my responsibility.”
And everything with Glenbard always revolves back to returning to the UC.
“It’s hard for me to put my experience at the United Center into words,” he said. “The ice was fast and being at the UC made the competition that much more exciting, giving us another reason to fight our best fight. Seeing all of the Glenbard fans bring a sea of red into the UC made the energy of the place feel electric.
“It’s always our goal as a team to get back to the United Center. None of my teammates have played there, and I want them to have that chance. While we take our season one game at a time, I’d love to not only see our team on the UC ice, but bring home a Glenbard win.
“My career highlight has to be going to the State Championship at the United Center my sophomore year. As a team, you have to win five games straight to get to this game. As the youngest player on the team (that season), it was special opportunity surrounded by an awesome group of guys who brought out my strengths. And I mean, c’mon, it doesn’t get better than the Blackhawks ice.”
Lupori is a fast, physical forward who is always around the puck, and he has a great playmaking ability. “I love to win and pressure motivates me,” he said.
Slapshots With … Glenbard’s Zach Lupori
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Patrick Kane
Favorite sport (other than hockey): Lacrosse
Favorite Pro Athlete: Khalil Mack
Favorite app: Snapchat
Favorite TV Show: The Office
Favorite Sports Movie: Miracle on Ice
Hardest Slapshot on Glenbard (excluding yourself): Cole Kenny
Most Accurate Shot on Glenbard (excluding yourself): Christian Corner
Fastest Skater on Glenbard (excluding yourself): Sam Ruffolo
Teammate Who Would Make A Great Coach: Brett Quinn
Best High School Jersey (other than Glenbard): York
Worst High School Jersey: BG/H/W
Jersey Number: 10 – “There’s not a whole lot of meaning behind the (the number), other than I like the number.”
Hockey Influence: “The biggest influence on my hockey career has been my dad. He is constantly teaching me the game, whether it’s coaching via the bench back when I was a mite or debriefing every game on the car ride home. My dad continues to teach me about the game and I’m super lucky that we have that bond.”
Most Memorable Game: Last season against Wheaton West. “We were taking on a powerhouse team at our home rink that I’ve played at my entire life. To this day, I have never seen more fans in the stands. The place was electric. We were down two goals in the third period, but we came together as a team to rally, winning the game in the third period.”
Most Memorable Goal: Against Lincoln-Way last year in the league semi-finals. “The game was tied late and I had two goals earlier in the game. There was a shot from the point with about two minutes left and the rebound bounced around in traffic and landed on my stick. I threw it on net and it slid in, five-hole, to give us the lead. I didn’t even see it go in; I just remember my linemates jumping on top of me as the crowd went crazy.”
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.