Loyola Gold Looks To Repeat, New Trier Green Shoots To Reclaim, All Others Fight for the Title
By Ross Forman
There’s something about this time of the season – the energy, the excitement, the bragging rights, even the agony of defeat.
About a month to play in the 2018-19 season, hard to believe … this is hockey, the best hockey!
The Road to the United Center is lined with snow and ice, but perfectly paved for a few teams.
Will Loyola Gold repeat as State Champions or will the Ramblers’ arch-rival New Trier Green win another state title to add to coach Bob Melton’s amazing run?
Green carries the No. 1 seed in the Red Division and opens state play on March 1, but does not yet know their opponent for that game, which will be played at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, starting at 6:30 p.m.
No. 16 Lake Forest blanked Neuqua Valley, 4-0, and now faces Notre Dame. The winner faces powerhouse Trevians, winners of 10 in a row. That streak that included victories over the likes of York and Stevenson, hard charging challengers in their own right.
The always dangerous Ramblers are the No. 2 seed in the state tournament, and they too will play their first state game on March 1, immediately after the Trevians’ game. Loyola faces Hinsdale Central, winner in overtime over Brother Rice.
The Ramblers also have won 10 in a row, with victories during that stretch over Stevenson, Barrington, Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South.
“Playoff hockey is where dreams are realized or dreams are crushed,” said York head coach Bruce Turpin, named this season’s Scholastic Hockey League Coach of the Year. “It’s the exhilarating time of year where all of the hard work and effort you have put in for the last six months comes to fruition. Players are prepared to go to war, to sacrifice for their brothers, and compete for the Y on their (York) jersey. All of the little things the coaches have preached all season must come together at the right moment and as a team. If we can band together for the next couple of weeks, control our effort and emotions, stay disciplined, we can make great things happen on the ice. With the right mindset we can compete with anyone in the state.”
York earned the No. 9 seed in the state tournament, and will face No. 8-seed Benet Academy on March 3, starting at 4:20 p.m. at The Edge. Benet is led by captain Will Sammons, who played in the annual All-State Game on February 11 at The Edge.
No. 3-seed Saint Viator awaits No. 12 Barrington on March 3 for a state tournament game, starting at 2:25 p.m. The winner of that game will, likely, face No. 4 St. Ignatius.
But hey, this is playoff hockey, so nothing is guaranteed, and upsets are commonplace.
Case in point, No. 33 Marmion Academy. They upset No. 14 OPRF 6-3 on Feb. 17 followed by a win over Evanston to move two steps closer to every player’s dream: hoisting the trophy overhead at the United Center as the state champion.
“There is nothing like playoff hockey, it’s when everything you have been doing for the past nine months comes into focus, when every shift matters, when every bounce of the puck can be exhilarating or agonizing, when players and coaches can’t sleep at night,” said Glenbrook North head coach Evan Poulakidas. “It’s exhausting (and) frustrating, it’s the most alive part of the year. We would not want it any other way.”
The GBN Spartans skate into the state tournament with the No. 3 seed and are now prepping for a March 2 game against either Carmel Catholic or Highland Park. The Spartans are certainly among the favorites to be skating at the United Center, as the GBN roster features such stars as Scholastic League Player of the Year David Wilcox, and All-SHL goalie Brennan Nein. The Spartans also feature standout defenseman Tim Burke and high-scoring forward Matt Dahlke, who has 61 points in 63 games played this season, which ties him with Wilcox for the team lead in points.
Wilcox has 29 goals, 32 assists in 66 games, including a team-leading 9 powerplay goals. Dahlke leads the team with 34 goals, 27 assists, including a team-leading 7 short-handed goals.
Wilcox is +80, Dahlke is +63.
The All-SHL first team also features defenseman Chris Lee (York), plus forwards Eamon O’Brien (Loyola Gold), Jack Jones (Barrington) and Bill Pashcen (York).
The final four in the Scholastic League playoffs include Green, Gold, GBN and York.
The Trevians were the regular-season champion, with a 19-1-0-1 record, which was 2 points ahead of Loyola Gold (18-2-0-1).
The Trevians scored a league-high 106 goals in 21 regular-season games, allowing only 34.
Stevenson was the Scholastic League JV regular-season champion, beating out Glenbrook North by 2 points. But it’s the GBN JV that carries the No. 1 seed in the state tournament. The Spartans’ JV team opens state play March 1 at The Edge.
The varsity Combined Division is led by No. 1 Waubonsie, which opens state play on March 4 against the winner of No. 16 Cobras/No. 17 Fox Valley Black.
Glenbard is the No. 2-seeded team in the Combined Division.
On the girls’ side of state, Fenwick is the No. 1 team, and will open play March 7 at The Edge against the winner of Latin School of Chicago/D211/214.
New Trier is No. 2, while Loyola is No. 3. The Ramblers have already moved into the final four with a 4-0 win over No. 6 Barrington.
Kudos to AWF, which skated through the IHSHL Suburban Division season with 19-0-0-1 record, the lone blemish coming in a 4-3 overtime loss to District 46 on Feb. 8 in Geneva.
Senior Blake Vaca finished the season tied for the league lead in points with sophomore forward Nicholas Sline of Homewood-Flossmoor, who had 24 goals, 24 assists. Sline had two 4-goals games this season, including Feb. 8 in an 8-3 victory over Plainfield.
New Trier White won the North-Central regular-season title behind a trio of flashy forwards: sophomore Daniel Budington (22 goals, 19 assists), sophomore Charles Acri (12, 25) and freshman John Hackett (23, 11).
Peering into the crystal-ball, here’s a look at my predictions for the state finals:
New Trier Green defeats Glenbrook North 3-2 in overtime, with JT Travis scoring the game-winning goal less than a minute into OT.
Glenbard topples No. 1 Waubonsie Valley, 5-2, with a 2-goal night from forward Brett Quinn.
Darkhorse: Wheaton West
JUNIOR VARSITY DIVISION
Glenbrook North defeats Stevenson, 4-1, with a goal and an assist from Spartan forward Robert Sasaki.
Darkhorse: Glenrook South
JUNIOR VARSITY COMBINED DIVISION
PREP Black defeats Wheaton West Black 6-1, with junior Bryce Hennig and senior John Connelly each scoring 2 goals for the victors.
Darkhorse: Prairie Ridge Black
GIRLS VARSITY DIVISION
Loyola Academy shocks No. 1 Fenwick, 5-4, with junior forward Jayna Park setting up the game-winning goal.
Darkhorse: Latin School of Chicago
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.