By Ross Forman – Saint Ignatius has one collective goal this season, just as it does every season, just as every team in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League carries: Win the Kennedy Cup.
If you have not skated in the Catholic League, you might not truly understand the drive for this revered title, but the Wolfpack do, as do all teams in the league.
Catholic League players often say, Winning the Kennedy Cup is more important than winning the State Championship.
“I was really disappointed with the result,” last season, said Wolfpack senior co-captain Sean Doyle, a right-handed-shooting forward. “The goal every year is to win the Kennedy Cup and when you come short, you’re disappointed. I really thought we had a good enough team to do it.
“The goal this year is to win the Kennedy Cup.”
Benet Academy needed overtime in the deciding best-of-three series game to defeat Providence Catholic to claim the 2020 Kennedy Cup as Anthony Klos was named the finals MVP.
Saint Ignatius, meanwhile, was eliminated by Benet in the semifinals, losing back-to-back games.
“I think Ignatius can win the Kennedy Cup and make a deep run in the state tournament,” Doyle said. “Right now, it feels like one of the best teams Ignatius has had. We have a lot of talented players and a lot of depth. We have a lot of experienced and talented seniors and a great goalie.
“Yes, there’s pressure, always. This is the last year for the seniors and we all want to make it a great year. We all want to win the Kennedy Cup, but haven’t yet.
“That’s the big goal for the year.”
The Kennedy Cup is the prestigious title awarded to the Catholic League playoff champion, a title that dates back to 1964 and is the oldest trophy in Illinois high school hockey.
“I’m honored to be a co-captain this year,” along with fellow senior forward Will Gerami, Doyle said. “I’m just trying to keep in mind lessons from previous captains and apply it to this unique year with this unique group of guys.
“There’s a lot of excitement. Just playing hockey is a lot of fun. Winning games is more fun, and I think we will do a lot of winning. We’re excited to get going.”
Doyle, 17, who lives in Chicago, is a three-year varsity player for the Wolfpack, in uniform No. 26. He played his youth hockey for the Chicago Jets Hockey Club and is still undecided on his college plans for next fall.
Doyle plays both left wing and center and was a CCHL All-Star last season when he tallied 12 goals and 18 assists in 19 league games, including a team-leading 5 game-winning goals. His 30 league points was seventh-most in the league.
“Sean is an intelligent player who influences the game at both ends of the ice,” said Saint Ignatius head coach Matt Smith. “He is a real playmaker who contributes to all situations and elevates the play of others. He embodies our culture and lives our values – high character, high care, high compete. He is a real privilege to coach.”
Sean is following the skates of his older brother, Patrick, who was an Ignatius and CCHL standout, having earned multiple honors. Last season, Sean played alongside Max Pasiennik, who won the CCHL scoring title. “They were a force on offense,” Smith said.
Pasiennik and Doyle were joined on the line by Will Gerami, comprising “one of the more dynamic lines in the state,” Smith added.
“I think the biggest thing I learned from Max last year was how to be urgent with the puck while being under control. When he had the puck, it was almost impossible to get it from him. That’s something I watched last year and am trying to do as well,” Doyle said. “Obviously, I learned a lot from Patrick, who taught me how to improve my face offs as well as using speed to make defenders uncomfortable.”
Sean is the youngest of four siblings – two older sisters and one older brother. His dad went to Benet Academy and was a standout basketball player. His aunt (Cara Doyle) is the girls’ basketball coach at Ignatius.
He also is very service-minded, Smith noted, as Doyle has gone to South America in past summers for service trips with his family. And his family has hosted exchange students in the past. He regularly volunteers at Our Lady of Angels in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood.
“I think my most improved areas this season are my shot and my stick-handling ability,” Doyle said. “I’ve always felt that those were the weaker aspects of my game, so I tried to improve them this off-season.
“I think I bring leadership and experience to the team. I just try to be a motivator for the team.”
Slapshots with … Saint Ignatius Co-Captain Sean Doyle
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Jonathan Toews
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Chicken Parmesan
Celebrity You’d Like to Meet: Adam Sandler
Best Hockey Quote: “Keep your stick on the ice.” – Eddie Olczyk, while broadcasting Hawks games.
Favorite Hockey Memory: “My sophomore year, we went to Washington D.C. for a tournament over Christmas break. It was the most fun I’ve had in a hockey tournament. We did really well and made it to the championship game.”
Career Highlight: “Last year I had a hat trick in a tournament in Michigan. It was my first hat trick in a long time.”
Teammate Who You Could See As a Hockey Coach: Will Gerami
Hardest Shot: Nicky Mathurin
Most Accurate Shot: Leo Smat
Fastest Skater: Will Gerami
Best High School Uniforms (besides Ignatius): Glenbrook North
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.