By Ross Forman
It was a nightmare start of the season for co-op LZMW under Mark Adler, who was named the club’s new director/head varsity coach in July – with no off-ice sessions planned and only a few scheduled on-ice sessions before tryouts.
LZMW – a mix of players from Lake Zurich, Mundelein and Wauconda High Schools – started the season 1-6, with penalty-filled games and multiple game suspensions.
Things turned around quickly, though, as LZMW played a more discipline game, lines came together, players were working hard and in game shape.
LZMW has since gone 19-5-7, including a 13-game unbeaten streak since the miserable start, and the team won a mid-January tournament in Madison, Wisc.
“The start of the season was challenging,” said Adler, 49, a Northbrook resident who works as a field sales manager for PartsTrader and is the president of Tickets by Request. He has been coaching for 20 years, though only two seasons at the high school level.
“The team is made up of 11 strong-willed seniors. For a three-school team, they get along well; I don’t notice any cliques. In fact, I don’t really know who goes to which school. They have the challenge of driving farther then (most) high school teams (for games or practices), but they all love to play and have fun, so it works.
“(Everyone) contributes and plays a role. The power-play is the best in the (Gold) League, by far, hitting on about 40 percent of its opportunities. The players play the systems well and do not quit. We also have two goalies that I have complete confidence in.”
Adler coached the Deerfield JV team in 2017 and in 2016 for the Chicago Bulldogs (squirt). He also has extensive coaching experience for the Northbrook Bluehawks and had a stint on the Northwestern University bench.
Adler played his youth hockey for Northbrook, then at Glenbrook North from 1984-87, followed by a run at the University of Kansas.
“I played wing and center growing up, then transitioned to defense in college,” said Adler, who also has been an on-ice referee. “I was a player who understood the game, strategy and positioning, and also got along well with all my teammates and coaches, which was a precursor for coaching.”
Adler said LZMW has had “tremendous improvement” this season, including the team’s overall endurance, cohesiveness and more.
LZMW is 13-6-5 in the nine-team Gold League of the North-Central Division. LZMW has 31 points, trailing Crystal Lake South (41), New Trier Gray (33) and the Fox Valley Hawks (32).
Junior forward Aidan Brendle (Wauconda) leads the Gold Division in scoring, with 24 goals, 13 assists in 24 games, including 3 game-winning goals and 7 multi-goal games. His 37 points is ahead of Warren senior Patrick Sharpe (13 goals, 18 assists, 31 points).
Brendle has “great hands and speed,” Adler said, and he is the team’s alternate captain.
Senior center Ryan Ruether (Wauconda), the team captain, is “a scrappy, smart player,” Adler said. Ruether has 13 goals, 11 assists in 22 games played.
Senior left wing Mitchell Dyer (Lake Zurich) is “a sniper … (an) offensive-minded player,” Adler said.
Senior defenseman Brandon Wuss (Mundelein) is one of the most talented players in the league, without question.
Senior goalie Nate Worcester has a 1.36 goals-against average in league games – and if the wind is right, he can hit a golf ball 300 yards.
“Nate is not a practice player, but he is a gamer,” Adler said. “At tryouts, (we) thought he would be (the backup) goalie, but he is such a gamer, (with) many shutouts and (he was named) the All-Star MVP. He has won many games against tough teams.”
Other key skaters for LZMW include sophomore center Kevin Winkiel (Wauconda) who earlier this season scored 3 goals in 18 seconds; and sophomore wing Frankie Concialdi (Wauconda) who is a strong, fast player, known as Frank the Tank.
“(Most of) the IHSHL North-Central Gold Varsity Division (teams are) very competitive,” Adler said. “There are several very skilled players (in the league).
“My son plays for GBN and (I) see New Trier Green, Loyola, and Stevenson play all the time. Mand of these players in our league would be top players in the Scholastic Hockey League.
“Don’t discount LZMW in the league or state playoffs.”
On The Bench With … LZMW Head Coach Mark Adler
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks … is a season ticket-holder for nine years.
Favorite NHL Player: Patrick Kane
The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Will Be: “Tampa Bay is the favorite and rightfully so, they are so deep and talented.”
Hardest Slapshot on LZMW: Ryan Selby
Most Accurate Shot On LZMW: Mitchell Dyer
Fastest Skater on LZMW: Aiden Brendle
LZMW Player Who Could Be a Coach One Day: Ryan Ruether
Best Coaching Advice: “Always be thinking ahead of what you’ll do if the puck comes to you.” – Tommy Miller, Glenbrook North former varsity head coach.
Hockey Pet Peeve: “Not hustling all the time. Not being on time. Not being a good teammate.”
Hockey Superstitions: “Always have a bottle of water on the bench and I do not want to hear during the game that the team we are playing stinks, or we are going to kill this team.”
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.