By Ross Forman
Every Trevian was sad, disappointed.
The Trevian coaching staff was sad, disappointed.
Head coach Bob Melton looked around the room and reminded everyone that tomorrow is a new day – and the team’s ultimate, season-long goal of winning the state championship was still obtainable.
Green then stopped York 6-1 on March 5 and Saint Viator 5-1 in their next two games, pushing the Trevians into the state championship game, played Friday night, March 22, at the United Center.
Arch-rival Loyola Gold was the opposition, and the Ramblers were seeking their second consecutive state championship.
There were 10 days between the semifinals and the championship game, “and we really took advantage,” of that break, Melton said. “We put in systems to stop their top line, and I just felt really good going into the game; I thought we were more prepared, (particularly) since we put our three best penalty-killers on a line to go against their top (offensive) line – and they shut them down.”
Green triumphed, defeating Gold 2-0.
“I truly am blessed,” said Melton, who has now coached Green to 13 state championships in 21 seasons. “I never thought when I took over this job that I would have this type of success as a coach.
“This year, from a team standpoint, was so enjoyable because we truly were a team. We used every player and prided ourselves all year of every guy on this team counts, every player contributes.
“This team was a little different from (past state-winning Green teams), as some of those teams had a line with (all three forwards collecting) 100 or more points. That was not the case this year. This team was four lines, six defensemen of kids just working so hard, and the sum of the parts equaled a great hockey team.”
Mark Ashmore tipped in Thomas Kempf’s second period shot at 9:25 for what proved to be the game-winner. Bobby Soudan gave Green a bit of insurance with about 3 minutes remaining in the second period, scoring off an assist from Brian Dolby, as the Trevians won their third state title in four years.
“We really wanted traffic in front of the Loyola goalie, and our first goal, on the power play, Mark Ashmore re-directed (a shot), with a beautiful tip in (from in front of the net),” Melton said.
“I try to look at each year independently. Our team went through a very rough part during the season, so it was a very special season. The boys really rallied.”
Alex Pegler passed away unexpectedly on October 21, 2018, at his home in Chicago. He was 24, and a New Trier graduate.
Pegler was one of the captains during the 2013 season when New Trier also won state, and he was an assistant coach this season.
“Sure, we wanted to win it for ourselves, but we definitely also wanted to win it for Alex because New Trier Green was his life,” Melton said. “It was and is still very emotional,” talking about Alex.
“There were times early in the year when I honestly did not think that this was a state championship team, based on some losses and our inability to score at times. So winning state is a great title, one that I will remember for a long time.”
“(Soudan) has been a strong player all year,” Melton said. “Late in the season, we put him on the off-wing a la Patrick Kane, a left-handed shooter playing right wing. He was on the line with Ashmore and Kempf. That really seemed to put some juice into Bobby. They opened the ice for him a lot more. He scored some really big goals for us in the playoffs.”
Green goalie Preston Watt returns next season, along with four defensemen and four forwards from a team of 23.
“It is a lot to lose, but, this reminds me a lot of when we had (goalie) Jack Junge,” Melton said. “He won state as a sophomore and again as a senior. Preston is a lot like Jack, the real deal. So, with a talented goalie, plus four (returning) defensemen, plus the top line from New Trier White (likely moving up top Green) … I think we’re going to be in good shape next season.”
The Trevians’ title also was the seventh championship for assistant coach Chad Bidwell, who has been coaching alongside Melton for eight year and he also won state as a player.
“Chad is a big part of our staff,” Melton said. “He coaches the defense and we really work well together. Our defense was absolutely huge for us, particularly Friday in the state championship.”
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.