By Ross Forman
The No. 3-ranked Spartans shined in one of the most high-profile games of the season – the championship game of the 25th annual High School Holiday Hockey Classic, presented by the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation. GBN defeated No. 1-ranked New Trier Green on Dec. 29 to capture the title in the prestigious 16-team, 4-day tournament held The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville.
GBN enters 2019 on a 7-game winning streak, its last loss coming Dec. 15, at home against …. Green.
The Trevians have seemingly had the Spartans number all season.
The two teams first met in a preseason tournament on Sept. 9, and the Trevians coasted to a 5-0 win. In other games between the two teams, the Trevians have won 4-3 and 3-2 in overtime.
“Anytime you can defeat New Trier, you’ve done something special; they’re that good,” said GBN head coach Evan Poulakidas, who has now led Spartan teams to four championship game victories in the annual post-Christmas tournament. “It was just a great hockey game, a cleanly physical game – everything you’d think a championship game would be. We were fortunate to be on the winning side.
“We changed up a few things heading into the game, and that seemed to work. We managed the puck much better on the boards and made very few mistakes in our (defensive) end.”
The Spartans struck first, but the Trevians answered. It was 2-1 and GBN iced the victory with an empty-net tally.
“You have to play three full periods against New Trier; you cannot let up at all – and we were able to do that,” Poulakidas said.
Andrew Rubin and Michael Rabkin were among the Spartan scorers.
GBN skated past Maine Township 3-1 in the semifinals, while the Trevians topped Benet academy 9-2 en route to the finals.
“After the semis, the kids really wanted to play New Trier again. They were eager (to face the Trevians) and believe we can match up well against them,” Poulakidas said. “Getting the first goal really gave the team confidence. When we were ahead 2-1, the team was pretty calm; the kids knew what they had to do. And they stuck to the game plan throughout.”
Or will Loyola Gold be skating at the United Center, looking to repeat?
And there are many others looking to skate for state at the UC, including Stevenson, Glenbrook South, Saint Viator and St. Ignatius, among others.
“We hope we’re there,” Poulakidas said. “New Trier is a really tough, deep team that just never lets up. You have to win against New Trier; they won’t lose the game.
“That’s why I’m really thrilled for the kids – for winning the High School Classic which, along with the Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament are, in my opinion, the two biggest tournaments of the season.”
David Wilcox and Tim Burke shined for the Spartans in the tournament, as each has all season. Brennan Nein was solid in goal and Charlie Slovis did so many of the little things, such as winning face-offs that often don’t show on a stats sheet.
The stage is now set for the GBN-Green rematch on Saturday, Jan. 19 in Northbrook, starting at 4:30 p.m.
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.