The Chicago Catholic Hockey League (CCHL) was established in 1963. The league consists of eleven Chicagoland Catholic schools offering high school hockey as a school sponsored sport. The CCHL is the oldest youth hockey league in Illinois and is administered and operated by current and former league coaches. The Kennedy Cup playoffs have been the highlight of each season making the Kennedy Cup one of the most coveted trophies in high school athletics in Illinois.
The CCHL maintains a rich history of talented student athletes that have gone on to play collegiately, internationally and professionally. Notable alumni include former NHL players Chris Chelios (Mount Carmel), Ed Olczyk (Br. Rice), Bates Battaglia (Fenwick), Joe Corvo (Fenwick) and Tim Stapleton (Fenwick). Former NCAA standouts Gary Kruzich (DeLaSalle, 1984 NCAA Champion at Bowling Green 1984 and Finals MVP) and Scott Paluch (St. Rita and Bowling Green 1988 All American ). The CCHL has produced current and former collegiate coaches: George Roll (Br. Rice and Nazareth College), Joe Augustine (St. Rita and Rhode Island University) Mark Opstipina (Mount Carmel and Milwaukee School of Engineering) and John Micheletto (Mount Carmel and U-MassAmherst).
The 2023-24 Season marks the 60th Anniversary of the Chicago Catholic Hockey League.
The CCHL is the oldest youth ice hockey league in the state of Illinois.
Check back throughout the season for information about special events to commemorate the 60th Anniversary.
The CCHL is pleased to announce that all regular season and playoff games will be scored via GameSheet. Games played in rinks with available Wi-Fi will be scored "live". This will allow games to be followed in real time. Also, in rinks that have Livebarn streams, the stream will have the real time date from GameSheet available.
Game-winning goals in overtime aren’t something the vast majority of hockey players ever experience, let alone scoring a game-winner to earn your team a league championship.
St. Ignatius’ Jack Rhyner is one of the lucky few.
“It was an incredible feeling,” Rhyner said after his goal in a second overtime gave St. Ignatius a 4-3 win over Providence Catholic, and a second consecutive Kennedy Cup title for the program.
“It made it even better that it sealed the deal for a group of guys that I think deserved it more than anyone — everyone has put in so much work this season. It was a crazy, awesome way to end it and it's hard to put into words how it felt. Having all of your brothers there to celebrate with you, that’s just an incredible feeling.”
For the past month, St. Ignatius has been a runaway freight train, barreling down a mountain and flattening everything in its path. In Game One of this year’s Kennedy Cup finals, Providence fell victim to that flattening in a 8-2 loss on Feb. 20.
Game Two was a different animal. From start to finish, Sunday’s game was played fast and gritty both ways, surpassing what fans could have hoped for.
“Game Two was far more indicative of the rivalry between us,” St. Ignatius coach Spencer Montgomery said. “It was an absolute war and more reflective of a Kennedy Cup final. It was an epic hockey game and we feel grateful to have withstood their push-back.”
A wild first period saw five goals put on the scoreboard before the game was 10 minutes old. Providence struck first when Finn Harris capitalized on a Wolfpack turnover, taking the puck from right to left across the slot between the circles. The lefty’s low shot low shot tore a path just inside the near post on the left side past St. Ignatius goaltender Ethan Laughlin.
It was clear from the outset that Providence (34-19-4) came ready to fight against a St. Ignatius team that has been on an eight-game streak of dominance, with running clocks earned in every game. The Wolfpack went into Sunday’s game on an 11-game win streak, having not lost since Providence beat them 4-0 on Jan. 22.
But the Wolfpack knew the Celtics would bring added intensity into Game Two.
“We knew they’d scratch and claw and bite and try to get everything out of us,” St. Ignatius defenseman Jack Perreault said. “We had to by ready to lay the body, pursue the puck, and getting it deep and playing the simple game. After they struck first I thought ‘all right, this is going to be good tonight’. I knew then it wasn’t going to be an easy blowout.”
Providence captain Vinny Felice knew his side would be ready for Game Two against the St. Ignatius juggernaut.
“When (Harris) scored the first goal, that got us momentum and it got us going,” Felice said. “We had our backs against the wall and we realized we had to play with some desperation. I knew we’d answer the bell because we’d been answering it all year. Everyone put their bodies on the line and sacrificed themselves to win, but it just didn’t go our way.”
St. Ignatius (48-12-0) tied the game just 37 seconds after Harris’ goal, on an unassisted Tiernan Ryan goal. Ryan flew up the right side along the boards with the puck and cut across in front of Providence goaltender Drew Pavich before depositing his backhand shot to make it 1-1 at the 14:56 mark of the first period.
The Wolfpack went up 2-1 on the power play at the 11:06 mark. From behind the Providence goal, Corbin Klein sent a pass to the front of the net where Jack Perreault took a swipe at it. Pavich stopped it but Perreault buried the rebound. Jackson Steinlauf also assisted on the play.
Vinny Felice tied the game 2-2 at the 8:33 mark, when Nico Felice beat everyone to a puck behind the net on the right side and found his brother open at the far post.
The tie held for less than a minute. St. Ignatius made it 3-2 at 7:39 and Ryan was again the key figure, driving to the net on the right side before sending a perfect feed to Cam Kosmala at the back post for an easy goal.
“The whole state should be watching out for Tiernan Ryan,” Montgomery said. “He's a sophomore playing with a man's build and he is as competitive a player as I have ever coached.”
For nearly the next 25 minutes of play, including a scoreless second period, the 3-2 lead for St. Ignatius held. Both sides had quality looks on net but Laughlin and Pavich kept the slate clean.
Providence found another equalizing goal, 41 seconds into the third period on the power play. Nico Felice sent a pass across the slot from the right side, and Carson Burris one-timed it past Laughlin for the 3-3 tie. Travis Briar also assisted on the play.
The Celtics were neck-and-neck in a toe-to-toe battle.
“In the first game we weren’t getting those opportunities, we weren’t creating turnovers, or putting the pressure on them,” Iaciancio said. “It helped that we scored first and were in the game, and never fell too far behind. Some of our seniors stood up and started taking the body and then some of the younger guys started getting into it.”
The 3-3 tie held for over 40 minutes, through the end of regulation and the first 17-minute overtime period. The second overtime was nine minutes old when Rhyner rode up on his white horse and played the hero.
The winning play started when Perreault fired a shot that was blocked, deep on the right side. Perreault gathered the puck back up behind the net before sending it out to Rhyner out at the point on the right side.
Rhyner let it fly.
“The whole two overtimes we were putting shots on from down low and I thought maybe if we got some shots from up at the point, something a little different might trip (Pavich) up a bit,” rhyner said. “I thought I saw an opening and I just shot it.”
Rhyner’s shot tore a path through a crowd to the upper ninety near the left-side post.
“Rhyner was fresh off the bench and that was a huge goal for him,” Montgomery said. “He hit kind of a heat-seeking missile that found its way through a lot of traffic. But that play really developed because we established pressure down low, and when we do that we get their ‘D’ and forwards exchanging and it creates a little bit of chaos.”
The natural madness of an on-ice celebration from St. Ignatius ensued, with gloves, sticks, and helmets strewn around the rink, befitting the completed task of winning the 2023 Kennedy Cup.
“I am extremely proud of this group,” Montgomery said. “It's really the journey that's enjoyable and seeing them take so many strides from the beginning of the season and bonding together — there's no bickering at our bench, no finger-pointing when things are going wrong, and guys pick each other up. When you have that kind of environment as a coach, you're just happy to be a part of it.
Sixth-seeded St. Ignatius next plays third-seeded York in a state quarterfinal game, at The Edge ice arena in Bensenville on Sunday at 6:50. The Wolfpack won 9-0 over Highland Park and 10-3 over New Trier White to reach the quarterfinal round.
“We've got York on Sunday, so the celebration is short-lived,” Montgomery said. “We enjoyed the championship but now we have to set our sites on York. We really feel we’re a team that has a chance to make it to the (state title game), and we're not going to waste that opportunity.”
Providence bids farewell to nine seniors from this year’s team, including Pavich, four-year varsity player Vinny Felice and fellow captains Travis Briar and Zach Xydakis, plus Tom Dukups, Charley Muraskas, Drake Thomas, Aidan Castleton, and Nick Mastro.
Iaciancio appreciated what his boys brought to the ice in their final game of the season.
“It started fast with a bunch of goals and then it kind of settled in to a little bit of a slugfest,” Iaciancio said. “I told our kids ‘welcome to old-fashioned, Kennedy Cup final hockey’. It was a great atmosphere and I thought our kids battled. We would have liked to force Game Three but I really have no complaints about the way we played.
“We played pretty much as well as we could and we played their style of hockey. It was physical and fast-paced. I told our guys in the locker room I was proud of them for making a stand.”
The Wolfpack have been lighting up the scoreboard for a month, a fact summed up in an age-old adage in every sport:
“Guys have stepped up,” Rhyner said. “Sophomore Tiernan Ryan is having a great season, Corbin Klein obviously, Jack Perreault, Charlie Reif getting moved back to defense and he’s just been a stud back there — it’s been great. Everyone had found their position and is playing their part.”
And great offense always starts with great defense.
“We have to play a 200-foot game because our offense begins with sound defense and positioning,” Montgomery said. “Our game is predicated on a heavy forecheck getting the puck down low. None of that is possible unless we’re defensively strong. Outside of (Providence’s) power-play I thought we were really good five-on-five in limiting their chances.”
And when the defense is shining, the St. Ignatius offense can be a sight to behold.
“I've got some absolute weapons offensively,” Montgomery said. “Corbin Klein, to me, is the best player in the state. If you were to look at him in a try out or put him through some drills, he might not stand out, but he has subtle nuances to his game, little puck touches, add to just an absolute nose for the net that makes him dynamic.
“Jack Perreault is a one-man break out. He's heavy, hard to play against and you're just not winning one-on-one battles against him. He's also the heartbeat of the team. He wears the ‘C’ and really leads these guys. This is the time of year when you turn over the keys to your leader ship group and I think ours is second to none.”
With the departure of four key defensemen to graduation, Iaciancio and his coaching staff will go back into the lab and try to come out with another winning formula for the 2023-24 season.
“We’ll be a forward-heavy team going into the season,” Iaciancio said. “Nico (Felice), Fin (Harris), and Bruno Handzel were all defensemen when they came into the program, so whether that’s moving guys around or not, we’ll tackle that over the summer and start piecing that puzzle together.”
Nico Felice was one of the Celtics’ top defensemen as a sophomore, before Iaciancio moved him up to a forward’s role. All Felice did from there was lead the team in scoring this season.
He also got to play for three years with his older brother, and Nico assisted on the final goal of Vinny’s career on Sunday.
“It’s been really cool playing with him,” Vinny Felice said. “We never played on the same team until he came to Providence. He was originally going to go to Lincoln-Way and I convinced him to come and play for Providence. He got used to it fast and it’s been really fun playing with him. We had a lot of chemistry out there.”
Pavich cut a varsity path common to many high school players, which culminated in the senior being named an all-state player and MVP of the CCHL for this season. Pavich played on Providence’s lower levels as a freshman and sophomore, then played behind all-CCHL goalie Luke Brzezinski last season.
But this year, Pavich was the lone goaltender on the Providence varsity roster and he made his senior year count.
“I think he played fifty-five games and when you’re playing in tournaments, he was playing five games in three days,” Iaciancio said. “We were lucky he was never seriously hurt. I told him early we were going with one (goalie on the roster) and he took it to heart. I couldn’t be prouder of the way he handled it. He’s one of those great stories about perseverance and working your way through the program, that I’ll tell for years to come.”
The path St. Ignatius is burning through the Kennedy Cup playoffs thus far could set the world on fire.
The Wolfpack has now earned a running clock in all five of its Cup playoff games. After winning by scores of 8-0 and 7-2 over Notre Dame, then 7-1 and 6-1 over Brother Rice, St. Ignatius opened the Kennedy Cup finals on Monday with an 8-2 win over Providence Catholic.
St. Ignatius scored three goals in roughly the first 10 minutes of the game at Fifth Third Bank Arena in Chicago. The running clock began with five minutes remaining in the second period.
“We knew coming in today that we've had a running clock every every game thus far,” St. Ignatius forward Corbin Klein said. “Once we got three in the first (period) that was the standard once again — to get out of here a little earlier. We’ve got school tomorrow.
“First shift, first shot — that definitely set the tone. You net that first one and it's contagious. Then the next thing you know, eight are in the net.”
Providence coach Nick Iaciancio saw warning clouds forming before the puck even dropped to start the game, and things got worse from there.
“We broke three sticks in warmups and on the first shift, Travis Briar lost the steel on his skate,” Iaciancio said. “As he was crawling to the bench, they moved the puck to Klein, and he came down and scored the first goal.”
The game was 33 seconds old when Klein scored the first of his two goals on the day, with an assist to Charlie Reif. Michael Hollub made it 2-0 at the 11:15 mark with Tiernan Ryan and Jack Perreault on the helpers, and the Wolfpack led 3-0 with 6:20 left in the period on a Jack Rhyner goal, off a Simon Moynihan assist.
That’s seven different players who had a hand in the first-period scoring binge.
“Up and down the lineup, everyone's contributing and it was really great to see a bunch of goals and assists for everybody,” Perreault said. “We knew to expect a good game from them but we were ready to play and we took care of business.”
Iaciancio saw a change in his boys’ demeanor after the Wolfpack's quick scoring strike.
“Our body language changed a minute into the game, like ‘what are we in for?’,” Iaciancio said. “But we talked before the game about how there’s going to be adversity in this series, so how are we going to respond to it? They’re going to push the play and we have to have a response.”
St. Ignatius posted an 11-3 edge in shots through 17 minutes of play.
“Our forecheck dictates our offense, and when they’re going in and making an opponent’s (defense) uncomfortable, it's hard to play three periods against us,” St. Ignatius coach Spencer Montgomery said.
“It’s being prepared to compete and you saw it from us tonight. On our first shift, the puck’s in the back of the net and then it's 3-0 five minutes in. The one thing we talked about is just focusing on the next shift and not the results of the game. And that took care of itself tonight.”
Providence cut its deficit to 3-1 when Noah Oliver scored from the mid-slot on an assist from Nick Mastro, at the 13:06 mark of the second period.
“At 3-1 I was starting to feel a little better about it, and then the penalties started to mount,” Iaciancio said. “It didn’t seem like we could get anything going, and those were mental mistakes — retaliatory penalties, frustration penalties —and you can’t do that in the playoffs, especially against a team that’s faster and heavier than you.”
It was indeed a St. Ignatius power play that put the Wolfpack up 4-1 less than three minutes after Oliver’s goal. Klein scored on a wraparound goal at the 10:33 mark of the second period, with Jackson Steinlauf and Luke Vega assisting on his goal.
At that point, St. Ignatius held a 22-5 edge in shots. Puck possession played a large role for that stat, but the boys in back also did well in protecting goaltender Ethan Laughlin.
“Charlie Reif, Cam Kosmala, and Jack Perreault in the backside really dictate what we do,” Montgomery said. “Jack is the Defenseman of the Year in the Catholic League.
“We've been working on our hinge, where one (defenseman) is a little bit lower than the other, which allows us to reverse and get out of there, and switch sides. So if they want to be aggressive on their forecheck it’s going to allow us to move the puck, possess, and then get out the other side.”
St. Ignatius made it 5-1 on an unassisted, short-handed wraparound goal by Tiernan Ryan, with 7:57 remaining in the second period. The running clock began at the 5:10 mark, when Steinlauf scored on assists from Klein and Laughlin.
“Up top, everything flows through Corbin Klein,” Montgomery said. “He's a big body that uses deception to create space. And a rising player to watch is Jackson Steinlauf. He’s the smallest guy on the ice but he’s so shifty.”
Third-period goals for St. Ignatius came from Victor Ventura, on assists by Vega and Perreault, who scored the game’s final goal on an assist from Ventura. Providence got its second goal from Nico Felice, unassisted.
St. Ignatius finished with a 38-19 edge in shots for the game.
“I mean, we're sticking to our game, sticking to our recipe,” Klein said. “We’re getting pucks deep, causing chaos in front the net, throwing pucks on, and seeing what happens. We’ve got a good (coaching) staff and when we do what they tell us, good things happen.”
And never underestimate the devious nature of high school hockey players; the precursor activity to St. Ignatius’ win over Providence Catholic actually came when Providence and Benet were slugging it out in their 3-game Kennedy Cup semifinal series.
“We went to Game Three of that series in togas and messed with Providence’s student section a little bit,” Klein said. “We pretended to be from Lincoln-Way East. We infiltrated them. It was great. When Providence won, they celebrated wth us.”
Hockey player hijinks aside, St. Ignatius is clear-eyed and serious about the Kennedy Cup finals and beyond.
“The standard just gets raised every year,” Perreault said. “We want to get this Kennedy Cup and then move on to the state tournament.
“The care level and bond came a long way this year. The bond got a lot stronger and we came to the rink every day with a goal in mind. It’s just fun to play hockey with each other. We’re showing up to the rink every day for practice at 6 AM and we're happy to be there.”
Game Two of the Kennedy Cup finals will be played Sunday at Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park at 5 PM, on Providence’s home ice.
“We were probably due for a stinker and you just hope it wouldn’t happen during the finals,” Iaciancio said. “We’ve got another shot at them Sunday. Guys were on the bench reminding everyone that we have two more games if we want it. We have a couple days off so hopefully we can regroup.”
OAK LAWN -- Two of the the 2023 Kennedy Cup quarterfinal series have given fans a wild ride to say the least, replete with unlikely comebacks, one-goal differentials, and game-winning goals in overtime.
Brother Rice’s Billy Gaskin did that script one better: he scored a game-winning and series-clinching overtime goal on Wednesday.
Can the game of hockey possibly offer a player any better feeling than that?
“It’s crazy. I’ve never felt like that before,” Gaskin said. “There were a lot of emotions going on.”
On the heels of a Benet-St. Rita series that featured two 4-3 overtime games before Benet staged a two-goal comeback to win 4-3 on Monday, fourth-seeded Brother Rice and fifth-seeded Fenwick kept the high drama alive.
After taking a 2-0 lead in the first period, Brother Rice withstood a fiery comeback by Fenwick that tied the game 2-2 in the third. That’s how regulation ended, sending the game to a 17-minute overtime period.
With 2:14 left to play in overtime, a Brother Rice odd-man break saw Gaskin put his stamp on the series with the game-winning goal. Gaskin quickly sent credit in teammate Jake Potoczny’s direction.
“Potsy made a great play on the ice, made a pass to me two-on-one towards the net, and I just shot it top-right,” Gaskin said. “I just cut to the middle. We were shooting high all game and getting rebounds so I thought I’d try that again and it worked out.”
Then it was time to cue the hysteria. Hockey celebrations after big games usually offer some variation of players screaming, fans screaming, parents screaming, a lot of on-ice hugging, and ear-to-ear grins across the board as players race to the glass where their student fans are losing their minds on the other side.
Brother Rice had all of that after surviving to play another day in the Kennedy Cup playoffs. “I love my guys,” Brother Rice coach Paul Manning said. “This is why I do this.”
The flip side to all of that is, of course, the rank disappointment Fenwick’s players, coaches, and fans had to endure when Gaskin’s goal ended the Friars’ Kennedy Cup hopes.
But as Fenwick’s dejected players straggled out of their locker room inside Oak Lawn Ice Arena, they walked away with a coach’s post-game message in their heads.
“I’m real proud of them,” Fabbrini said. “Obviously we would have preferred to win this series, but I told them I thought we played our best game here in game three, with our backs up against the wall. We played the way we know we’re capable of.”
Per the official box score, Fenwick ultimately posted a 41-28 edge in shots for the game.
“You can’t take anything away from (Fenwick). They bring it at all times and they kind of contained us, too,” Manning said. “The whole series was a slugfest. They had our number early in the year. and they took it to us a couple times. But when we beat them in game two in the Catholic League by a goal, that was a big game for us.”
Fenwick (29-22-2) and Brother Rice (21-25-2) met eight times this season. Fenwick overwhelmed Brother Rice in two early-season meetings, outscoring the Crusaders 15-3 in two wins. But over their next six meetings, the Crusaders went 4-2 against Fenwick, capped by Wednesday’s thriller.
Fenwick won 4-3 in overtime to open the Kennedy Cup play on Saturday but Brother Rice bounced back Sunday with a 6-2 win before clinching the series and moving on to play top-seeded St. Ignatius on Saturday.
“That was just fun,” Brother Rice goaltender Deven Stillo said. “We’ve had our ups and downs with (Fenwick) and we got killed by them a couple times. So then to come back and win like that, in OT — we owed them that.”
Wednesday’s first goal came from a freshman, just over five minutes into the game. Brother Rice forward James Esposito took a puck up the boards on the left side, cut in towards the net, and beat a final defenseman to find an open door to Fenwick goaltender Spencer Lisek.
Lisek covered the near post so the lefty Esposito put it to his backhand to finish the job, calmly burying his second goal of the three-game series.
“I don’t really remember it too well,” Esposito said. “But it felt crazy good. Most of my goals have been on tap-ins, in front of the net — on that one I actually did something to get it.”
The box score showed that Esposito’s goal was Brother Rice’s lone shot of the first period, while Fenwick put 13 shots on but came away empty-handed.
“I thought we carried the play and had way better chances,” Fabbrini said. “But it’s a funny game. It doesn’t always go your way.
“We also had three or four opportunities that should have been odd-man breaks, but we made bad passes. We just didn’t quite execute the way we needed to — passing behind guys, or putting pucks at guys’ feet.”
Brother Rice struck again with 6:02 remaining in the second period when Sean Moran was taken down from behind on a breakaway to earn a penalty shot. He buried it, and Brother Rice had a 2-0 lead.
“Sean Moran had that goal tonight, and we were short-handed in game two when he stole a puck and went all the way down on a breakaway and scored to make it 4-2,” Manning said. “That was the difference in that game. He’s definitely been a difference-maker in the series.”
Fenwick wasn’t about to fold under pressure and the Brother Rice lead held up for less than three minutes. Fenwick stormed back, applying pressure and cutting its deficit in half when Giovanni Sena roofed a shot from tight quarters on the right side, with an assist to Owen Fask.
Brother Rice’s lead held to the 9:43 mark of the third period. Fenwick’s Tommy Fleming scored his second goal of the series, punching in a rebound to tie the game, with assists credited to Fask and Luke LaChance.
The first five minutes of overtime belonged largely to Brother Rice. The Crusaders pressured Lisek and found a handful of truly dangerous scoring chances that the Friars’ goalie turned away to the 12-minute mark.
Momentum had clearly swung in the home team’s direction.
“Dig deep, get pucks deep, pressure, back-check, and play until the end,” Manning said of his message to his players before the overtime period began. “Momentum shifted our way and you never know why that happens.”
Gaskin was glad to see his side elevate its play.
“We were winning battles and our forecheck was huge,” he said. “Their defense fumbled the puck so our forecheck was really important tonight.”
Manning cited a team-wide effort and applauded the play of Charlie McClorey Cooper Wainwright, Conor Haggerty, and Matt Spell, who all shined Wednesday.
Stillo’s 39 saves also had his coach sending plaudits his way.
“The difference in the game is our goalie and we would not win the series without him,” Manning said. “In that overtime they were at the doorstep with a couple opportunities where he came up really big.”
With its CCHL season now over, Fenwick awaits the start of the state playoffs, and can find encouragement in the guts the Friars showed in battling back to tie Wednesday’s game.
“I think for whatever reason, we’ve been battling some confidence issues, especially in this series, in terms of trusting in the way we need to play,” Fabbrini said. “But there was no panic on the bench today. It was all positive and we just kind of dug deep, trusted the process, and got back in the game.
“I thought (Giovanni) Sena was really good tonight and that whole line with Mike Verni, Cam Corvo, and Sean Pondelicek were in the offensive zone all night. They just couldn’t get one.”
By Gary Larsen
OAK PARK -- Teams around the Chicago Catholic Hockey League would be wise to beware of Fenwick’s penalty kill.
Twice in Friday’s 3-2 win over visiting Marmion, the shorthanded Friars came up big, thanks first to Cam Corvo and then to Anthony Balesteri.
All Corvo did was get Fenwick out from behind the 8-ball early in the second period. After Marmion’s Trey Howicz gave his side a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal to start the period, the Cadets quickly went on another power play and a 2-0 lead would have put momentum squarely on Marmion’s side.
Instead, Corvo intercepted a pass and swept in alone on net to score a shorthanded goal, tying the score at 1-1 little more than a minute after Howicz’s goal.
“Between Corvo and (Will) Steadman, they absolutely skate their behinds off on the PK,” Fenwick coach Nick Chiappetta said. “It’s almost like they prefer that for scoring opportunities.”
A wild and fairly evenly-played game played out in Oak Park on Friday. A penalty-plagued first two periods saw the score tied 2-2 before a cleaner third period saw Corvo score his second goal of the night for the game-winner, mid-way through the third on a feed from Steadman.
Even with the 18 combined penalties whistled in the game, Friday’s Friars-Cadets game was a doozy.
“I thought it was a really good game, overall,” Marmion coach Christian Esposito said. “It was a back-and-forth battle, a lot of intensity and good energy on both sides, and both goalies were standing on their heads, especially in the first period.”
A scoreless first period saw Fenwick senior goalie Santino Ori and Marmion sophomore goalie Charlie Donoghue weather three power plays apiece to keep their slates clean.
Howicz broke the drought at the 15:30 mark of the second period on a power-play goal, on assists from Sonny Lombardo and Michael Greco. Corvo’s unassisted goal came at 14:22 in the face of Marmion’s second power play of young period.
Junior Corvo and senior Steadman both decided to play for Fenwick this year and the Friars are enjoying clear dividends on the scoresheet thus far.
Steadman put Fenwick up 2-1 on a Demitri Karabatsos assist mid-way through the second period, but Marmion’s Nolan School tied the game with roughly four minutes remaining on a feed from Graham Robertson.
The spotlight hit Balesteri at the outset of the third period. With Marmion on the power play, he was headed in alone on net before being taken down from behind.
Marmion’s one-man advantage was thus erased to 4-on-4 play, courtesy of Balesteri’s heads-up play.
“Anthony Balesteri comes out, blocks a shot, goes in on a breakaway and a kid drops him and we’re back to even strength,” Chiappetta said. “That was a big moment from him.”
The junior Balesteri is part of a young varsity core that Fenwick senior captain Sam Chioda appreciates.
“I love it. Young guys going out there, working hard, getting a win and getting used to varsity,” Chioda said. “We have a good core of seniors and the young guys are following behind them. It’s just positive energy on the bench, getting the puck and getting their heads up and making plays. But I think they’re doing well.”
Marmion has a similarly young team.
“We’re really young, with only a few seniors,” Marmion captain Blake Powers said. “We have a lot of juniors and sophomores, and we even have five freshmen on the roster. I’m just excited to see how the team progresses as the year goes on.”
“Tonight we just struggled to play as a team. It was too much individual play. We played together in our game against Providence (a 2-0 win on Sept. 26) and that’s how we have to play to win. So I think today was just a fluke."
Both Ori and Donoghue were solid throughout and each had moments of brilliance. Ori stood particularly tall during a second period in which Fenwick committed seven penalties.
“We were outshot just about every game last year, yet we earned a spot in the playoffs and that starts with the success we've found in net,” Chiappetta said. “(Ori) is one of the elite goaltenders in the Catholic League. He put in a ton of work this off-season, his game has elevated tremendously, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish this year.”
Esposito is also pleased with what he’s seeing from Donoghue.
“Charlie Donoghue is having a heck of a year for us so far and he’s only a sophomore,” Esposito said. “I’m excited to see him continue to grow and take this opportunity by the horns the way he has so far this season.”
Esposito has gotten solid leadership from Powers and Graham Robertson, "and Chase Breslin has brought a really good element to our team,” he said.
The Marmion skipper also had praise for an unsung Cadet.
“One of our wingers, Joey Nowicki,” Esposito said. “He gives it a hundred and ten percent, every single night. Both of the goals we scored tonight were because of plays that he started based on a forecheck and takeaway, and an opportunity for another guy. He doesn’t end up on the scoresheet every single night but he’s a difference maker for us right now.”
Chiappetta took note of a key shot-block late in the game by Fenwick’s Eddie McFadden, one of two McFadden plays that helped preserve the win late in the game.
Chiappetta liked the presence his boys brought to the ice as well.
“Physicality,” Chiappetta said. “We weren’t afraid to take hits. Now we’ve just got to do it a little bit cleaner. And peppering the net — we got outshot almost every game last year so it was nice to see that finally tilting our way.”
After last year’s COVID-plagued season, the return of fans in the stands at Fenwick’s home ice of Ridgeland Commons in Oak Park was also a welcome return to normalcy.
“The kids were all jacked up tonight. It’s been two years since we’ve had people here so it was nice to see fans for the first time in a while,” Chiappetta said.