By Ross Forman
It’s been a rebuilding season for Glenbrook South, which had to replace 13 graduating seniors from a final four team one year ago.
And injuries also have hampered the Titans, who skate in the state’s toughest league (Scholastic), along with defending state champion Loyola Gold and perennial powerhouses New Trier Green, Glenbrook North, Stevenson and others.
“This season has had its challenges,” said longtime GBS head coach Jim Philbin, now in his 28th season on the Titans’ bench. “We have two new goalies (a sophomore and junior), four new defensemen and seven new forwards.
“Even though we have replaced so many players from last year’s team, this group of players has grown together and has gotten better and better throughout the season. We knew coming into the season that we would have our challenges, but this group’s competitive level is strong and will be needed for the rest of the season as well as into the 2019-2020 season. We will only be losing four players next year at the varsity level.
“Our strength is speed through the neutral zone, which creates many offensive opportunities.”
The Titans are 8-22 overall, 2-8 over their last 10 games. They are 3-15 in league play.
“We have had some challenges in our defensive zone; however, with the hard work of our players in practices and in games, it has been improving with every game played,” said Philbin, who lives in Glenview and has been coaching for 30 years.
Philbin’s run at GBS has included Metro North titles in 2004,2006 and 2009. Philbin’s Titans also won the Illinois State Championships in the White Division (1996) and the Red Division (2006), and was the runner-up in 1999.
The Titans have made it to the state final four in 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2018.
“The first few months of the season were a bit difficult due to injuries,” Philbin said. “We didn’t play with a full varsity roster until the end of November and that can be challenging, but many players stepped up in their roles, (such as) junior Jack Przybylo, senior Stephen Bendewald, junior Max Ibarra, junior AJ Gnospelius, junior Gavin Miller, sophomore Parker Davidson, junior Peter Lanscioni, sophomore Hunter Niemann, and sophomore Lance Medina.
“Our team has improved in all areas of game and just keep getting better as the season moves along. We’re getting ready for the playoff push where anything can happen.”
Senior forward Max Abramov is the team’s leading scorer in league play, followed by junior captain Theo Papalas and junior forward Will Friedman.
Other key forwards are junior Daniel McKay, Nik Botvinnik and junior Joe Young.
Some of the noteworthy newcomers are sophomore goalie Jeffery Keating and junior goalie Connor Wall, plus defensemen Alex Ban (senior), Jack Muir (sophomore) and Mathew Coletta (senior).
To impact the league playoffs and the state tournament, Philbin said the Titans must limit their mistakes, keep creating more offensive opportunities and keep getting better in games.”
New Trier Green leads the Scholastic League with 35 points in 19 games, with a 17-1-0-1 record, followed by Glenbrook North (30 points) and Loyola Gold (29).
“Our league is extremely competitive year after year and only keeps getting stronger,” Philbin said. “Green, Gold and GBN have had a great season.”
But, Philbin added, “This team has worked hard all year long.”
And come playoffs, no one should take the Titans for granted.
On The Bench With … Glenbrook South Head Coach Jim Philbin
Favorite NHL Player: “Too many to name. All are different in how they approach and play the game.”
The 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Will Be: Tampa Bay, and Toronto is a darkhorse.
Hardest Slapshot on GBS: Theo Papalas
Most Accurate Shot On GBS: Nik Botvinnik
Fastest Skater on GBS: Will Friedman, Gavin Miller or Jack Przyblo
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.