In the weeks leading up to the glory of the Blackhawk Cup, the players practice alone. Some even take a moment to reflect. Like Waubonsie Valley. The Warriors broke the school record for wins in a season with 24, but when the Illinois West Cup came along, the team dropped its first two games.
“We did get satisfied with just breaking the school record for it,” Warriors winger Jake Stobart said. “Once we got in the playoffs, we didn’t really work hard enough. It took until the York game for us to figure out what was on the line here.”
Right now, the team seems back on track. Practice is intense, as Jimmy Frasco prepares his team.
“What we’re working on is the powerplay and penalty kill and man coverage in our offensive zone and defensive zone,” Waubonsie head coach Jimmy Frasco said. “We’re just trying to fine-tune some spots we were hurting on.”
Benet Academy is great again, too. Albeit for entirely different reasons. Last year’s trip to the State Final was driven by the skill of the top two lines. This year’s team is different, but just as successful.
“Well, last year, they relied on two main lines,” Redwings winger Matt Ernsting said. “This year, we’ve got more depth and four strong lines that can contribute to wins.”
“This year, our captains are stepping up big time for us,” Redwings defenseman Will O’Grady said.
The coaches say this year’s team is not as skilled as last year’s, but rely on more sophisticated synergy. A togetherness that has led to a better record than even last year. Amazingly, Neuqua Valley might feel similar when comparing itself last year versus this year.
“We had finishers, high profile type players. That was great. This year, it’s a little different,” Wildcats head coach Dan Granato said. “We don’t have those players, but offensively, we’re not that far off the mark compared to last year.”
The biggest reason the Wildcats have kept pace offensively is Reid Martin. He spent his freshman and sophomore year playing travel, but decided to play for Neuqua this year. And now, he’s the leading scorer.
“I knew about him because my nephew on our team had played with him. He’s always been on our list,” Granato said.
Finally, Naperville Central opens against Highland Park. John Hatton has inched close to 70 points scored this season, and its taken him far less games played than anyone else. There is almost no argument, he is the league’s most dynamic scorer. With sophomore Andrew Maynard’s slick passing skill at his side, the Redhawks went 5-1 during round robin play in the Illinois West. Maynard may spark the play as a defenseman or as a forward, so this versatile team is formidable moving forward.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Charlie Edward.
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