All Roads Now Lead to the United Center for High School Varsity State Championships

By Ross Forman


One day, three games, and that will wrap the 2018-19 Illinois High School Hockey season.

All roads now lead to the United Center, home of the Blackhawks, which will be the showcase setting for three varsity championship games – the boys’ Red Division, the boys’ Combined Division and the girls.

And it’ll be the No. 1 vs. No. 2 seeds in all three games, ironically.

The action Friday, March 22, kicks off with the girls’ game at 4 p.m., pitting No. 1 Fenwick against No. 2 New Trier.

GIRLS DIVISION

The Friars are looking for their first-ever girls’ state championship, and have out-scored their first two state tournament foes (Glenbrook South and Latin School of Chicago) 14-2.  Ellie Kaiser must be stopped if the Trevians are to triumph, but that is not an easy task as she is the team’s leading scorer – and she had a hat trick against the Trevians in a home victory, 6-3, back on Jan. 14.

The teams skated to a 3-3 tie back on Dec. 17, 2018, and the Trevians defeated Fenwick, 4-3, about five weeks ago.

Two other talented Fenwick skaters are Erin Proctor and Kelly Millins. Lena Flores has had an exceptional season in goal for the Friars.

Fenwick went 11-0-2 in the Metro Girls regular-season for first-place.

In Scholastic Cup play, it was New Trier with an 11-1 record – and the Trevians’ 22 points in 12 games was 3 more than Fenwick.

Ella Huber is New Trier’s offensive machine, as she tallied 22 goals, 12 assists in 10 Scholastic Cup games.

The Trevians’ also will rely on the playmaking of Kathryn McLaughlin, and the scoring skills of Hadley Freedman and Julia Laden, among others.

RED DIVISION

No. 2- seeded Loyola Gold wants to repeat as state champion, but arch-rival New Trier Green, the No. 1-ranked team most of the season and in the state tournament, stands in the Ramblers’ way.

The Red Division final starts at 7:30 p.m.

The Ramblers are, of course, on a roll, riding a 5-game winning streak, with wins in 15 of their last 16 games.

On March 3, Gold blanked Green, 2-0, and the Ramblers skate into the finals with a 49-12 record. Their most-recent win over New Trier gave Gold the Scholastic League championship for the second year in a row.

AJ Cornelison scored the game-winner against Green in the first period on a power play.

Two other talented Ramblers are Eamon O’Brien and Aiden Finegan, but stopping either, or both, won’t be easy. That said, the Trevians have plenty of firepower, too, starting with Robert Soudan, Mark Ashmore and Ryan Gallagher.

Green and Gold have split the four times they have played this season, with Loyola winning 2-0 two times.

Green last won state in 2017.

COMBINED DIVISION

Waubonsie Valley and Glenbard are each very familiar with the United Center, and each carry a chip on their shoulder entering the finals.

No. 1-seed Waubonsie is back on the UC ice and definitely wants to avenge its second-place finish a year ago. Waubonsie was the Illinois West Champions this season, led by junior forward Zach Pearce, who netted 36 goals, 20 assists in 30 West games, including 11 power-play and 9 game-winning goals. Other talented Waubonsie forwards include Michael Alberts, William Naffziger and Will Troy.

Glenbard is led by three flashy forwards: Zach Lupori, Sam Ruffolo and Brett Quinn. All three had 40 or more points in West play this season.

Glenbard won state in 2012 and 2015, but lost in the final in overtime in 2016, and lost again at the UC in 2017. Last season, Glenbard was eliminated in the state semifinals – by Waubonsie.

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES

  • The finals are presented by Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Chevy Dealers.
  • NBC Sports Chicago will provide multi-platform coverage of the Red Division game. Chris Boden and Patrick Sharp will be broadcasting the game, along with Leila Rahimi. The Red Division game also will be available via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive.
  • The United Center scoreboard feed of the Girls and Combined Division games will be streamed live on Blackhawks.com and the Blackhawks mobile app.
  • General admission tickets for the championship games are on sale now for $5 and can be purchased online at blackhawks.com, in person at the United Center Box Office or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.
  • Parking for the event is free in all official United Center parking lots, and the first 10,000 fans to enter the United Center will receive a Chicago Blackhawks expandable backpack.

PREDICTIONS

Girls Game: Fenwick slips past New Trier, 4-2, with senior Kelly Minnins chipping in 2 assists, including on the game-winner.

Red Division: A physical battle with be golden for Green.  New Trier wins, 3-2, with Mark Ashmore scoring a power-play goal in the second period that proves to be the game-winner.

Combined Division: Zach Lupori will score the game-winning goal with less than a 1:00 remaining in regulation-time, as Glenbard will celebrate its 5-4 victory.


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.



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