Turkey, Pumpkin Pie & Plenty of Slapshots

High School action features rivalries, tournaments around the holiday

By Ross Forman – The day before Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the Illinois High School Hockey season. Always is, probably always will be.

That Wednesday night is when the season really gets rolling.

Sure, teams have been skating for about three months, with games for about two months, but late-November is traditionally when the season really kicks in.

Players who were busy with football or soccer commitments are mostly now skating full-time and focused on goals and hockey glory. And teams are gearing up for Thanksgiving Tournaments.

Loyola hosts the longest-running tourney, with games starting on Thursday, Nov. 28, and the championship game played Sunday afternoon in Wilmette.

The host Ramblers skate into their tourney on shaky ice as the perennial power has sputtered to a 5-6 record, including 3 consecutive losses – to Barrington, New Trier Green and Glenbrook South.

Perhaps no team needs a stronger Thanksgiving weekend showing than Loyola – and you can bet Joe Walker (5 goals, 4 assists), Nicholas Brain (2,5) and others will show it’s a great day, er, weekend, to be a Rambler.

New Trier Green has been a dominant force in the annual Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament. The Trevians, though, can be beat – Stevenson proved that on Wednesday, Nov. 13, in Buffalo Grove, with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

Green led Stevenson 3-1 after two periods, but the Patriots tallied three in the third for the victory, which was the first loss of the season by the Trevians to an Illinois high school team.

Davis Jegers, Emmett Baker and Liam Jones each scored for Stevenson in the third, which had to be one of the most memorable wins in the long Stevenson career for Tom Wood, as both a player and its head coach.

Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament Prediction: Another title for the Trevians. Green has been dominant all season and this is the tournament they want to win perhaps more than any other of the season.

Speaking of Stevenson, the Patriots also play host to their own Thanksgiving weekend tournament in Buffalo Grove. The 16-team Stevenson tourney features BG/H/W, Lyons Township, Glenbard, Highland Park and Waubonsie, among others.

The Stevenson championship game also is played Sunday afternoon, Dec. 1.

Stevenson Thanksgiving Tournament Prediction: Waubonsie will slip past Illinois West rival Glenbard 4-3 in a penalty-filled semifinal, while the host Patriots will topple New Trier Blue 6-2 in the other semifinal. Then, with the championship banner on the line, senior forward Zach Pearce will shine more than he has all season. Pearce will have a hat trick, including the overtime game-winner, leading Waubonsie to a 5-4 victory.

That’s not all of the Thanksgiving tournament action you can gobble up. Co-op PREP once again plays host to a tourney in Rolling Meadows. In addition to the host team, the field includes Crystal Lake South, Lane Tech, PREP and the AWFM Renegades, among others.

The PREP Tournament championship game is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 1, starting at 6:50 p.m. at West Meadows Ice Rink.

PREP 2019 Showcase Tournament Prediction: AWFM goalie Aidan O’Connor will surrender a goal less than 5 minutes into the first period, then be a wall from there on out, leading the Renegades to a 4-1 win over Lane Tech, with Dino DiGrazia netting the game-winning goal.

Before tourney action kicks off, there are some of the most-anticipated games of the season on Wednesday night, Nov. 27, long declared Rivalry Night. It includes:

Glenbrook North vs. Glenbrook South in Wilmette
Game time: 6 p.m. at Centennial Ice Rink
Admission: $5, with proceeds going to the Northfield Food Pantry

The Spartans have dominated this feud and been dominant this season overall. They are 10-1 in last 11 games, including a 3-1 home win on Wednesday, Nov. 13 over powerhouse Saint Viator. GBN is 16-1-2 in its last 19 games and clearly deserving of the state’s No. 2 ranking (behind New Trier Green).

The Titans skate into the bitter battle with high emotions after a 3-2 road win over Loyola Gold on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Prediction: GBN wins 4-2, with a 2-goal game from Matt Dahlke, including an empty-net tally to ice the victory.

Deerfield vs. Highland Park in Vernon Hills
Game time: 7:45 p.m.

The North Shore neighbors have built one of the best, most-competitive rivalries in Illinois, and a standing-room-only crowd is expected once again at the Glacier Ice Arena.

The Warriors are on a roll with 4 straight wins and W’s in 6 of their last 7 games.

The Giants, meanwhile, have been sputtering with 3 losses in their last 4 games.

Prediction: Despite 2 goals from HP’s Bill Rosenberg, the Warriors will win this one convincingly, 5-2, with Jack Gerber adding to his team-leading game-winning-goal total, to go with 2 assists.

Stevenson vs. Saint Viator in Buffalo Grove
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 26
Game time: 7:30 p.m.
At stake: Part of the best-of-three STV Cup, for Scholastic Hockey League games between the two powers. Viator leads, 1-0.

This could be a state championship preview – both teams are that good this season.

The Patriots must figure out how to stop, or at least slow Viator’s Sean Wagner, who has 9 goals, 7 assists in 11 Scholastic Hockey League games. James Gorman (2 goals, 7 assists) and Benny Wozniak (4,5) also are a force for coach Tim Benz’ explosive Lions.

“Tim and I scheduled some practice games a few years ago (and) discussed the fact that we didn’t have any true stated rivalry,” said Stevenson coach Tom Wood. “Our teams were always evenly matched and are geographically close to each other. We both decided it made a lot of sense (for the STV Cup).

“It’s the Benz brothers vs the Wood brothers. It’s Catholic vs. public school. We had a history of playing each other back in Metro North and the High School Invitational Tournament (HIT), and when the SHL first formed. Since they joined our league this year it made a lot of sense to make these 3 games more meaningful. We picked up a trophy that could be engraved every year and decided to play for it annually. Since we both have had the STV acronym in the past we decided to name it the STV Cup.”

Prediction: Dylan Jette will have an unorthodox hat trick – he’ll contribute 3 assists as the Patriots will triumph 5-4, with Rafael Biedron tallying the game-winner with less than 2 minutes to play in regulation-time.

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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