By Ross Forman – Junior forward Nick Sline, the top goal-scorer last season in the Hayes-Suburban Division, is once again an offensive force for Homewood Flossmoor. He’s leading HF with 14 goals and 11 assists in 10 league games, as the team carries a 6-4 record.
Sline tallied his first hat trick of the season Oct. 25, in a 10-1 win over Plainfield, along with 1 assist in that victory. Sline and teammate Eric Gerecke (10 goals, 4 assists) each had 2 goals, 1 assist in the team’s 6-2 rematch win over Plainfield on Nov. 15.
“Sline has the ability to create open ice and put the puck in the back of the net,” said HF head coach Wayne Perry. “He is a hard-working center who has the ability to create space between opponents to rip a great shot. Sline loves to set up on his off-wing and look for the one-time from his line mates.”
Sline is one of many keys for HF, which is looking to topple the Mid-Valley Rampage, the AWFM Renegades and others for the league title. Other HF stars to watch include goalie Patrick Hutton, forward/defenseman Eric Gerecke and forward Carter Andersen.
“Our junior class is the core (of) this team. Without them, we would not be able to compete like we have been,” Perry said. “Players like Hutton, Sline, and Andersen really take control of game play whenever they want. Senior leadership from Gerecke and (Jacob) Spencer have led our team in a positive, successful, direction this season.
“Hutton is solid goaltender who has improved a ton since his freshman (season). Hutton received the award from the Hayes-Suburban Division as the Top Goaltender last season.
“Gerecke is our work-horse all over the ice. He is a utility player who is used in any critical situation. Gerecke leads by example as the hardest worker on the ice.
“Andersen has the speed to create scoring opportunities for his teammates (and plays) aggressive in the corners to win puck battles. Andersen brings grit and intensity to the team. He’s always working hard to win puck battles and is not afraid to stand in front of the opponents’ net to look for rebounds. He also has great hands with the puck.”
HF finished 19-5-4 last season.
“The team really did a great job working hard (and) competing all (last) year. I was really proud of the focus these players brought to the ice, at every practice and game,” Perry said. “Being able to compete against some great clubs and being able to play in all three periods was a (great) effort by this team. Losing four seniors has really shown in the 2019-20 season, but the team is playing with everything they have.
“This year’s team keeps improving every game. Players continue to work hard at practice, and it shows every shift. Their commitment and dedication to this team has really come a long way. Keeping the focus each week is hard to do, but these players do.
“HF has (had) a slow start, facing a very tough AWFM and (the) Mid-Valley Rampage, but we have rebounded well.”
Goalie Patrick Hutton “has been dominate in games and really keeps us alive each and every period,” Perry said. “Hutton’s focus in net gives our team the confidence to go out and compete against anyone.
“This is a tight group and players (who) just love being around each other. They have known each other since grade-school, so the team bonding is always positive. The senior leadership from Gerecke and Spencer has really had an impact on our team and the amazing skill level from our core players has really stepped up.”
Perry, 37, who lives in Orland Park, is a physical education teacher in Homewood School District 153. He has been coaching for 14 years, from mites through high school. This is his seventh-year coaching HF, which plays its home games at the Homewood Flossmoor Ice Arena.
The rink is on campus, so players can walk from school to the rink for their 3:30 p.m. practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Players have their own locker room, along with individual stalls to hang their gear.
Before landing on the HF bench, Perry coached the Lemont/Bolingbrook/Downers squad, then at St. Rita. He also has coached for the Orland Park Vikings.
Perry has been named the Hayes-Suburban Division Coach of the Year each of the past two seasons.
“The Hayes-Suburban Division is great league to be a part (of). Tops teams like AWFM and Marist should be a favorite to win, with a sleeper pick (being) Mid-Valley,” Perry said. “HF has been able to hang against these teams.”
Some of the key newcomers to HF are forwards Jack Keigher and Luke Romans. “Keigher (brings) a ton of speed to our team and (is) a quick and shifty player to stop,” Perry said. “Romans (is) smart with the puck and able to handle critical game play situations.”
On The Bench With … Homewood Flossmoor Head Coach Wayne Perry
The 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Will Be: Boston Bruins
All-time Favorite Chicago Blackhawk: Denis Savard
Hardest Slapshot on HF: Nick Sline
Most Accurate Shot: Eric Gerecke
Fastest Skater: Eric Gerecke
Best Playmaker: Carter Andersen
Player Who You Could See As a Coach One Day: Kaden Paris
On Kaden Paris: “He is injured this season, (so) Paris is on the bench learning the game and helping out his teammates. I am glad to have him as a student-coach and join our team for his senior year.”
The Quote: “Sports ideally teach discipline and commitment. They challenge you and build character for everything you do in life.”- Howie Long … Perry said, “This is a quote I read often as it really hits home for me. Coaching hockey is not solely about the sport but teaching these athletes values to help them succeed in life. “
**Photos courtesy of Michael J. Prepelica**
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.