By Ross Forman – They have been close friends and teammates since they were in 6th grade and now, as senior captains in their fourth season on the Marmion Academy varsity, they are just as driven, supportive … and certainly also competitive against one another.
Sammy Greco and Andrew Galle, both 17 and both residents of St. Charles, are talented forwards who won a state championship together and now are looking for more memories before they head off to college next fall.
“We (have) spent years driving together to practices and most of our games, and we still continue to do so,” Greco said. “Our friendship has definitely led to better performance on the ice. We like to have little competitions in practice, to see who can score the most in all the drills. We push each other to be the best.
“We feed off each other’s energy. The two of us play the best when we’re just having fun and moving the puck around.”
Galle added: “We really just feed off each other. I teach him some things and he teaches me some. We have great respect for each other’s game and playing with him for seven years really helps our chemistry. We always know where the other is on the ice and our styles flow so well that it is hard for other teams to stop us.
“Being friends off the ice is super beneficial too, and really fun. The game of hockey gives people a certain bond and when you bring that bond outside of hockey it is something special. Seeing him on the weekends at a friend’s house is always more fun because hockey has made us so close.”
Added Marmion Academy head coach Christian Esposito: “Andrew and Sammy are great kids and phenomenal hockey players. It is great that these two close friends have played together for so many years and now get to step into their senior years together as the captains of our team.
“Sammy and Andrew both grew up playing a mixture of AA/CSDHL and AAA hockey. I sat down and had a good conversation with both boys and their families. Both made the decision to play high school hockey and represent their school over playing club.
“I really believe there is a huge benefit of pridefully playing for your school.”
Galle and Greco, or Greco and Galle, are often side by side, on the ice in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League (CCHL) games and working out at the gym. “He’s always fun to workout with because we push each other to the limit,” Galle said. “We meet up at a lot of social events because the chemistry in the house is always electric when we are together.”
Galle, in uniform No. 3, is a left-handed shooting left wing who also has skated for the Cyclones and Team Illinois. Greco, in uniform No. 9, is a right-handed shooting center and he too has played for the Geneva Cyclones and Team Illinois.
Galle is a pass-first forward who is not afraid to go into the corner – and his style certainly assists Greco’s approach. Greco is a quick offensive player who is strong on the puck and always finds a way to put the puck in the net; he is relentless in both the offensive and defensive zone. Some might say both are relentless.
“I make others around me better,” said Galle, who also scores in the student-athlete role. “My dad tells me all the time that the student in student-athlete comes first. To be successful on the ice you must be successful off the ice and in school. It was hard to balance two hockey teams and a college prep high school, but me and Greco persevered together. We’ve even done homework at practice.”
Greco added: “Above all, I feel I bring good leadership to the team. I like to be a guy who other players can look up to, both on and off the ice. School and hockey have always been my two biggest priorities in life. My competitive nature is equally present in both hockey and school, as I’ve worked to become a top student at our school.”
“The boys on those Cyclones teams have been grinding for that championship for 4 years and that’s the closest we have ever gotten,” said Galle, who was first in points in the CCHL as a freshman.
“Sam is without question the hardest working player, on and off the ice. He’s a great leader and sets that example,” Esposito said. “His shot has to be his most impressive skill asset. You never know when he’s going to fire that puck and his release is phenomenal. Combine that with how quick, agile, and just fearless he is, and he becomes extremely dangerous. He’s that player who will do whatever it takes to score. It’s rare to have a player who just has a knack for the net like Greco does.
“Galle is that player who makes everyone on the ice around him better. He’s a true playmaker. If you’re on the ice with Galle, expect the puck to find you when it’s least expected. He is one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen and his acceleration out of a small area is unmatched. For as great as Andrew is with the puck on his stick, he is even better without it. Galle brings an element to his game that makes him effective at both ends of the ice. He is a true 200-foot player.”
Esposito added: “In our sport, the teammates you grow up playing with become your best friends. Hockey is a sport that requires so much time and dedication that the team truly becomes your second family. For these two players to be together for so many years and now have the opportunity as seniors to lead the team they so pridefully represent together, I believe is something special.
“As a coach, I am a big believer that chemistry off the ice translates to chemistry on it. When these two are on the ice together, be on the edge of your seats. These two young men have been a true pleasure to coach and watch grow as players and teammates over the past couple years. I know they, like all senior athletes, want the opportunity to showcase what their team is capable of one last time before graduation. I am excited and hopeful to see what we can do as they lead our Cadets once we are given the green light for a season.”
Greco said Marmion surpassed many expectations last season – from the team overall and other teams in the league. Marmion made the CCHL playoffs for the first time in school history and nearly advanced to the sweet 16 in state.
“I have a lot of confidence in the team this year,” Greco said. “Our goal is to be the hardest team to play against and be one of the top teams in the league.”
“My parents have been my biggest supporters throughout my career,” Greco said. “My dad has been my greatest influence on my career as he notices the little things about how I play and offers solid advice that has shaped the player I’ve become.”
Greco’s skill with the puck on his stick can be lethal – as Carmel Catholic can attest, as Greco once scored 4 goals against the Corsairs in a 4-3 victory.
“Winning state with Marmion was special because I got to do so with my older brother, Nick,” Greco said. “The team that year just had that something that you need to win. I had a good feeling going into that game. We were all confident and knew that we just needed to play our typical game. It’s a night I’ll never forget. (It was) an enjoyable game and an even more enjoyable celebration after.”
**Photo Credits: Tom Short (shortpics.com) and Laura Donoghue**
Slapshots With … Sammy Greco
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Patrick Kane
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Southpaw
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Oatmeal and eggs
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Megan Fox
Best Hockey Tip: “Be hard to play against.”- Jonathan Cannizzo
Away From Hockey: “I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, lifting, and listening to music.”
Lifting Weights: “This allows me to become stronger every day and allows me to be a strong player on the ice.”
College Plans: “I plan on double majoring in finance and economics & strategy.”
My Senior Season: “The team definitely has a lot of emotion and a lot of potential. I look forward to being able to have success and win with these guys.”
Teammate Who You Could See As a Hockey Coach: Gino Viscomi
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team: “Matt Sitar or myself.”
Most Accurate Shot: “Myself.”
Fastest Skater: Andrew Galle
Best High School Uniforms (other than Marmion): Providence Catholic
Slapshots With … Andrew Galle
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Marty McSorley
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Air Bud 2
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Chicken Pesto Sandwich
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: David Attenborough
Giving Thanks: “To my coaches for sure, like Coach Cannizzo (Cyclones) and Coach Rutili (Cyclones). They have taught me the game and the right way to play it. They have also instilled a sense of creativity when I am on the ice which helps a lot. My dad also helps me strive to be the -best I can be.”
Winning State As a Freshman: “The state game was super fun because all of our school friends came out to watch. Being able to win state for your school is special because you have an extreme sense of pride in that school. Winning state with my brother was also a great experience from that.”
More Sports: He also plays lacrosse, which “helps me on the ice because it helps with my vision and slowing the play down.”
College Plans: Is considering the University of Dayton and the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Hockey Tip: “Don’t dump the puck in,” – Coach Cannizzo
Teammate Who You Could See As a Hockey Coach: Nick Anderson (Cyclones)
Hardest Slapshot on Marmion: Mark Picchietti
Most Accurate Shot: Sammy Greco
Fastest Skater On Your Team: “Myself”
Best High Uniforms: (other than Marmion): New Trier
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.