Optimism high for the Caravan, with alum Tom Mayhan now at the helm
By Ross Forman – He was the team’s top playmaker last season and is optimistic that Mount Carmel is on the rise, driven to improve off its 6-12-1-1 Chicago Catholic Hockey League record of a year ago.
George Keeley, 16, a junior who lives in Chicago, is a returning left-handed-shooting left wing in uniform No. 19 a la Jonathan Toews, whose number he matched in hopes of modeling his skills and leadership after the Chicago Blackhawks’ captain.
“We were a young team last season with only four seniors. We played with a lot of effort, but the systems never seemed to click, nor did we put up a record that we can be proud of,” said Keeley, who played his youth hockey for the St. Jude Knights. “I grew a lot as a player last season, getting a lot of ice time against older and bigger players. I learned a lot of new ways to attack my opponent and be successful on the ice.”
Keeley had 5 goals, 12 assists in 20 league games. He also had 1 goal, 1 assist in the team’s 2 Kennedy Cup playoff games.
“I think we can go very far,” this season, Keeley said. “We are a senior-heavy team with a lot of leadership and firepower. The boys are all excited, and are looking to keep getting better every day, staying focused and motivated.”
The Caravan are now led by new head coach Tom Mayhan, 43, a 1995 Mount Carmel alum.
“I really would like to just keep progressing as a player, getting bigger and faster so I can get to the next level,” Keeley said. “I want to work on my scoring touch and putting myself in the right spots to find the back of the net more often.
“I have gotten a lot stronger and become a lot faster in the off-season. Last season, I think shooting and finishing around the net were the worst parts of my game so, during the pandemic I was really working on my shot. I am excited to put it to use.”
Mount Carmel was silenced in the opening round of the 2020 Kennedy Cup, losing back-to-back games to the No. 1-seed, Providence Catholic. In the end, No. 2 Benet Academy overcame a game 1 loss to Providence to then win back-to-back games and claim the prestigious Catholic League award.
“I only feel pressure from myself to play the best I can and execute,” Keeley said. “I feel I bring a professional attitude and set a good example for my team … along with a couple laughs, too.”
Keeley is a two-way forward with a high hockey IQ – and he can score when needed. In fact, one of his all-time favorite memories was scoring a game-winning goal at age 12 to help defeat a team they had lost to three times during the regular season. Those goals led to the NIHL Championship.
Keeley also has had success as a golfer for the school. In fact, Mount Carmel won its golf regional in early-October.
“I really just play for fun, to keep my mind off hockey, school, and everything else,” Keeley said. “I think golf improves my mind, being creative and focused for 18 holes.”
And yes, hockey helps on the links, he said. “The hockey shot and golf swing are very similar, so when I improve my shot, I also improve my driving power,” he said.
Slapshots With … Mount Carmel forward George Keeley
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Players: Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Chicken and potatoes
Celebrity You Would Like To Meet: Dave Portnoy
Best Hockey Tip: “Never stop moving your feet.” – From his dad.
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Luka Diflippo
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team: David Pardol or Aiden Boukal
Most Accurate Shot: Samnag Smith
Fastest Skater: Daniel Pardol
Best High School Uniforms (other than Mount Carmel): Loyola Academy
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.