By Ross Forman – Nick La Valle is in his 15th season coaching, his first at the high school level.
The 50-year-old La Valle, who lives in Des Plaines and is a cyber security engineer for Discover, leads co-op Maine. He previously has coached at Niles, Team Illinois, Glenview and multiple tournament teams. He began coaching girls’ hockey teams in 2010.
La Valle has been quite successful over the years. His teams have won 5 NIHL Gold Championships, 4 Presidents’ Cup Championships, 7 State Championships, and 1 USA Hockey National Championship.
Now he wants to build Maine into a Metro Girls power.
“This year’s team came together at the last minute, but we were fortunate to have a group of girls that wanted to come to the rink to both work together and have fun,” he said. “Our upper- and underclasswomen have gelled together nicely. The upperclasswomen have been outstanding leaders, while the underclasswomen have consistently brought great energy and effort. Attitude from top to bottom has been a huge positive with this group.”
Maine is 6-7 in Metro Girls play.
“Work ethic and (the) ability to adjust during games has been a huge positive,” La Valle said. “Our transition game has been strong and we have some strong skaters, so that has helped us get pucks from zone to zone effectively. Our goaltending has been solid and we’ve had a strong commitment to playing on both ends of the ice.
“At times we take too long to make decisions, and that usually winds up hurting us. When we get away from our game and lose focus on playing two-way hockey, we usually wind up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.”
Senior forward Elizabeth Ahne (Maine South), the team captain, leads Maine with 16 goals, 6 assists. Sophomore forward Annika Nelson (Resurrection) has 12 goals, 7 assists. Freshman goalie Sydnie Oliva (Maine South) has faced 355 shots.
“This team has been resilient. When we’ve had rough spots, we’ve been able to put it behind us and focus on building from those moments/games,” La Valle said. “This team has remained very even keeled, which is impressive to see with a high school team.
“Some of the most memorable moments have been the way the team reacts for each other when one of their teammates scores a goal. The bench is genuinely happier when their teammates score then when they score themselves.”
Senior defenseman Phoebe Delia (Taft ) and junior defenseman Katie Miller (Maine South) have been solid this season.
Senior forward Lindsey Gulliksen (Maine South) has 4 goals, 1 assist in her 6 games.
“We finished around .500 (in the seeding) round, but played really good hockey most of the way,” La Valle said. “We’ve focused on moving away from individual play and working toward making real hockey plays. Through our wins and losses, we’ve continued to improve our overall team game, and that has made for a fun season thus far.”
Maine fields a strong core of freshmen: forwards Anna Montanile (Maine West) and Morgan Beyer (Maine South), and defenseman Natalia La Valle (Maine West).
“We (have become) more patient with the puck (during the season) and are doing a better job cycling the puck in the offensive end, and defending our own end as a unit,” Coach La Valle said. “(The) team hopefully will make some noise in the Founder’s Division of Metro Girls. We will enter the state tournament as well and look to compete.”
Can Maine make it to the United Center?
Well, La Valle admits that’s a “tall task,” especially for a young team.
But as the saying goes, anything is possible, and “I’m very superstitious and would never say anything either way,” he added.
On The Bench With … Maine Girls Head Coach Nick La Valle
The 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Will Be: Tampa Bay Lightning
All-time Favorite Chicago Blackhawks Player: Tony Esposito
Hardest Slapshot on Maine: Katie Miller
Most Accurate Shot: Elizabeth Ahne
Fastest Skater: Anna Montanile
Best Playmaker: Lindsey Gulliksen
Player Who You Could See As a Coach One Day: Natalia La Valle
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.
Categories: Hockey Headlines