By Ross Forman
Naperville North is on a roll, at the right time.
The Huskies stepped on the ice Sunday, Jan. 27, for the Crosstown Showdown against archrival Naperville Central, with wins in 5 of their past 6 league games, including victories over such perennial powers as Glenbard and Waubonsie.
The Huskies are 9-12-0-4 in the IHSHL West Division.
“It’s been a good start to the rebuilding of the program,” said North head coach Bill Driscoll, 46, who lives in Naperville and is a portfolio manager for Ballast Equity Management, LLC. Driscoll has been coaching for 10 years, the past two for North.
Driscoll spent 7 years coaching for the Sabres’ organization, and was the NWHL Coach of the Year during the 2015-16 season.
“The season started out tough, but the team has really come together and started playing better hockey over the last 10 games,” Driscoll said. “We can compete with the top teams in our league, and recently knocked off two of the top combined schools, Waubonsie and Glenbard.”
North topped West-leading Glenbard 7-3 on Jan. 6 in Naperville. A week later, North toppled Waubonsie, 5-3.
“The team has great character,” Driscoll said. “My senior captains are very competitive and keep the train moving down the tracks.
“The boys have realized that they need to work together and play hard every second they are on the ice. They’ve also realized playing hard and aggressive does not mean taking penalties. They’ve played with greater discipline and reducing our time in the box has helped our results.”
But, North still lacks offensive creativity, Driscoll said. “The ability to make something out of nothing is hard to find. There’s been glimmers, but no consistent shine,” he added.
Driscoll was a state champion high school player in Rhode Island who then played defense for four years at Colby College, an NCAA Division III team where Colby made the Frozen Four.
“The biggest influence on my coaching came from my high school coach, Mike Gaffney,” Driscoll said. “What he started at Toll Gate (High School) were the roots that grew into the program that finally ended Mt. St. Charles’ 26-year reign. His focus on discipline, team-play, and commitment to the program pushed us to be better than we should have been. There are about seven of us that now who coach at high school or above. John Hynes has achieved the most (fame) and is the current coach of the New Jersey Devils.”
The Huskies are led by senior center Brett Martin, who has “really improved during the season,” Driscoll said. “He’s a powerful and deceptively-fast skater. He gets low and he’ll just blow past the other team’s defense. Senior co-captain Kyle Harfoush, a right wing, is unorthodox but effective. His small area game around the net is his strength and he’s very driven to win and pulls everyone along with him.”
North has 4 players with 20 or more points in league play, led by junior forward Gavin Klaisle (24 points) and Kyle Harfoush (23).
Sophomore defensemen Gavin Driscoll and Tommy Boscarino have each logged a lot of minutes. “They both play a strong defensive game and I trust them in all situations,” Driscoll said.
“The players have learned to play much better when they don’t have the puck. Constantly being an option for a teammate or hustling off the ice on a change … all of the little things have improved.”
The biggest surprise on the North bench this season has been the play of junior wings Liam Curtin and Brett Hare. “They’re my go-to penalty-killers and have been adding some offensive spark when needed,” Driscoll said. “Both have been doing the little things: strong defensive zone board play, breaking hard to the net to force the opposing defense back, and hounding people on the backcheck.”
The West is led by Glenbard, followed by Maine Township and Wheaton West. Waubonsie and Hinsdale Central are next in the West standings.
“There’s some talent in the IHSHL West Division, but Maine is the team to beat,” Driscoll said. “They have some strong players (and) they player better team hockey than the other teams that sit atop the standings.”
On The Bench With … Naperville North Head Coach Bill Driscoll
Fastest Skater on Naperville North: Brett Hare
Naperville North Player Who Could Be A Coach One Day: Tyler Zuspann
Hockey Pet Peeve: “Players who change on a back-check.”
Hockey Superstition: “Your game jersey should never be on the floor.”
Around The Rink:
New Trier White is poised to claim the Champions League title in the North-Central Division, with an 18-5-1 record, ahead of Lake Forest, Loyola Maroon, Leyden and Lane Tech. The Trevians are led by sophomore forward Dan Budington (22 goals, 19 assists in 24 games played) – and his 41 points in most in the league, ahead of Highland Park junior forward Jack Elbaum (18 goals, 19 assists). Budington, sophomore forward Ryan O’Rourke and freshman forward John Hackett each have 3 game-winning goals in league play … Leyden junior defenseman Mason Perri has 4 game-winning goals among his 10 league goals … Leyden goalie Adam Johnson leads the North-Central with 997 minutes played, ahead of Libertyville’s Francis Gorham (988) … Barrington’s Jack Jones leads the Scholastic Hockey League with 17 goals, 13 assists in 19 games … Homewood-Flossmoor leads the IHSHL Suburban Division, with a 13-0-0-1 record (27 points), but AWF (12-0-0-0) is 3 points behind with 2 fewer games played. Sophomore forward Nick Sline has 18 goals, 19 assists for H-F, while junior forward Eric Gerecke has chipped in 14 goals, 15 assists. All Suburban eyes will be on The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville on Feb. 10, when H-F battles AWF, starting at 6:10 p.m … Warren, Glenbrook and Maine Township are fighting for bragging rights to the Founders Cup in Metro Girls. New Trier and Fenwick are likely winners of the top-tiered Scholastic Cup in Metro Girls.
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.