Predictions for all championship games
By Ross Forman – The brackets for the 2020 Illinois State Hockey Championships have been announced, so every team is optimistic, at least to a degree, that it will skate for the championship.
This is a time for hope, hysteria, dreams, destiny and more.
But only one team leaves our version of March Madness with a smile. In reality, it’s six teams that are happy, as Illinois plays host to six high school state tournaments.
In conjunction with AHAI, the Chicago Blackhawks will host the 2020 Illinois State High School Hockey Championships, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Chevy Dealers, at the United Center on Saturday, March 21.
Let’s start in the top-tiered Red Division, which some may say is the Green Division yet again. The No. 1 seed went to New Trier Green, which has been the No. 1-ranked team in Illinois all season. The Trevians are 51-4-1 with their lone loss to an Illinois high school team coming last Nov. 13, when Stevenson downed Green 4-3 in Buffalo Grove.
Green’s first foe comes from a group of seven, including No. 16 Deerfield, No. 17 Warren and No. 19 New Trier Blue.
Glenbrook North skates into state with the No. 2 seed and the Spartans will open against, potentially, Scholastic Hockey League foe York, which is the No. 15-seeded team.
The rest of the top five teams are, in order: Saint Viator, Barrington and Providence Catholic.
As always, there are some good early round games and some potentially great games as the Red Division rolls along. Case in point, No. 21 OPRF vs. No. 22 Evanston should be exciting.
Four matches in the Sweet 16 round have already been set, and each is a gem:
No. 8 Saint Ignatius vs. No. 9 Benet Academy
No. 5 Providence Catholic vs. No. 12 Carmel Catholic
No. 7 Stevenson vs. No. 10 Loyola Gold
No. 6 Glenbrook South vs. No. 11 Hinsdale Central
Red Division Prediction:
New Trier Green needs overtime to defeat Glenbrook North, 3-2, with Charlie Acri scoring upper-corner for the game-winner.
Championship Game: March 21 at the United Center, starting at 6 p.m.
There are nine teams positioned to start their road to glory on the state ice at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, led by No. 1 Maine Township, looking for its first-ever state championship. Maine opens play against the winner over No. 16 Lane Tech vs. No. 17 DHS. PREP earned the No. 2 seed, followed by Waubonsie/Metea, Glenbard and Wheaton West. Maine has been on a roll, with wins in 11 of its past 12 games. Their lone setback in that stretch was a 3-2 win by Hinsdale Central on Jan. 17 in Willowbrook.
Combined Division Prediction:
No. 4 Glenbard rides the timely offense of Sam Ruffolo, as he’ll have 1 goal, 2 assists, leading Glenbard past. No. 2 PREP, 5-3.
Championship Game: March 21 at the United Center, starting at 8 p.m.
There are 10 teams fighting for the right to be called, state champion, led by No. 1-seed New Trier. The Trevians open play against the winner of No. 8 Maine/No. 9 Glenbrook. No. 2 Loyola opens against the winner of No. 7 Lake Forest/No. 10 Latin JV. The Trevians, who won state in 2018, had a sub-par January, going 2-3-1 in Metro Girls, showing that this might be the most wide open girl’s tournament in years.
Girls Division Prediction:
Loyola seems to have New Trier’s number with a 2-0-1 record against the Trevians during the regular-season, including a convincing 6-2 win in Northbrook on Feb. 2. That streak will continue at the United Center, when the Ramblers defeat the Trevians 4-2, as junior defenseman Caroline Smith has a 4-point night.
Championship Game: March 21 at the United Center, starting at 3 p.m.
CENTRAL ILLINOIS DIVISION
Decatur skates into the 10-team tournament with the No. 1 seed, and opens against the winner of No. 8 Springfield/No. 9 Glenwood. Decatur is led by Brendan Taylor (10 goals, 4 assists), Drake Niles-Cox (5, 5), and the goaltending of Jackson Habrock. McLean is the No. 2 seed, followed by Champaign, Pekin and Kankakee. The semifinals games will be played Saturday, Feb. 22 and the championship game is slated for 1 p.m., on Feb. 23.
Central Illinois Prediction:
Johnny Blanchard will have a 2-goal championship game, following a hat trick in the semifinals, leading Pekin to a 6-4 win over McLean.
Despite a sensational season, York has slipped some in the final month of the season. The Dukes lost to both Saint Viator and Stevenson, and twice to the Afton Americans from Missouri. So everyone in the JV tournament is optimistic that it can hoist the championship banner – and there are numerous true title contenders. York has the No. 1 seed, followed by Glenbrook North, Stevenson, Saint Viator and Loyola. But no one better look past No. 7 Barrington or No. 8 Glenbrook South, among others. The Dukes captured the Scholastic Hockey League regular-season title with a dominant 22-1-0-0-4 record. They had 48 points, ahead of Stevenson (41) and GBN (40). York forward Bob Plummer had 19 goals, 9 assists in 27 league games.
The championship game is scheduled for Monday, March 16, starting in Bensenville at 8:25 p.m., on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day – and the match-up will feature plenty of green (jerseys). Glenbrook North will slip past York 5-4 in overtime with Aidan Siegel scoring the first and the last goals of the game for GBN.
Darkhorse: Saint Viator
JUNIOR VARSITY COMBINED
There are 35 entrants, all vying to be No. 1, with PREP Black opening in the top spot. The Kings Black are No. 2, followed by Glenbard, BG/H/W and Maine Black. The finals will be Monday, March 16 in Bensenville, starting at 6:30 p.m. PREP Black is 4-2 in its last six games, which includes a 5-0 setback to Glenbrook South. Senior forward Patrick McDonaugh leads PREP Black, as he scored 12 goals, 10 assists in 19 North-Central Division games. Senior forward Nathan Papciak (5 goals, 7 assists) also has been key, as have junior Tyler Filippelli (9,4) and sophomore Nicholas Pianetto.
JV Combined Prediction
PREP Black will ride the playoff goaltending of David Schmitt, but a third period breakaway goal by Marco Selvaggi will be the game-winner as Glenbard stops PREP Black 4-3.
Tickets for all three games at the United Center are on sale now at Blackhawks.com or in person at the United Center Box Office. General admission tickets are available for $5, and parking for the event will be free in all official United Center parking lots. For more information, including group offers, please contact the Chicago Blackhawks Ticket Office by calling (312) 455-7000.
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.