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.
CRESTWOOD -- The Original 4 of the Chicago Catholic Hockey League officially kicked off this year’s CCHL 60th anniversary celebration on Sunday, and Brother Rice and Fenwick got to celebrate it a tad more than St. Rita and Mount Carmel.
After Fenwick’s 5-2 win over St. Rita at the Southwest Ice Arena, Brother Rice posted a 43-16 edge in shots in downing Mount Carmel with a 4-0 shutout.
It was the first CCHL game of the season for Brother Rice, and captain Jack Keaty liked one particular aspect of his side’s play.
“Our passing,” Keaty said. “We were passing a lot more. And I like the heart so far — everybody seems to want to play. We want to go out there and not take a shift off.”
Brother Rice coach Paul Manning liked what his boys gave him.
“They moved the puck really well on the power play and made it look easy out there,” Manning said. “That’s something we really emphasize.”
Crusaders sophomore James Esposito had a hat-trick to lead the way, while brother Johnathan also netted a goal in the win. Brother Rice led 2-0 after a period and scored once in each the second and third.
A Keaty pass from the left side on the power play found James Esposito for his first goal of the night, in the game’s 7th minute. Johnathan Esposito also assisted on the play.
Keaty and Nathan Wilczak assisted on Johnathan Esposito’s goal with 2:33 remaining in the fist period, and the Crusaders were off and running.
“I definitely liked how hard we were working for sure,” James Esposito said. “I think we can talk a little bit more and have a little more puck movement but you know, I think we’ve got a good team this year.”
Not to be overlooked in the first period was the play of Brother Rice goalie Deven Stillo. With the Crusaders up 1-0, Stillo stoned a shot taken from point-blank range on a rush at the net by Mount Carmel’s Daniel O’Connor. Several of Mount Carmel’s 16 shots in the game were infinitely dangerous but Stillo answered the bell on every one.
“It was 1-0, we were on a power play, we give up a breakaway and he makes a key save,” Manning said of Stillo. “Then we were able to go down and score to make it 2-0. He definitely did his job.”
James Esposito scored his second goal with 4:13, burying a rebound shot at the net, again on a Brother Rice power play. Matthew McGuffage and Joseph Noonan assisted on the goal.
Expectations are in the eye of the beholder, and where Manning’s eye is concerned, the bar on a power play sits up high. The Crusaders had two power plays and scored twice, which is roughly what their coach wants to see.
“If you have two or three power plays, you should score two or three goals,” Manning said.
James Esposito completed his hat-trick early in the third period to finish the day’s scoring, on an assist from Jacob Surma. Mount Carmel's Ryan Jakob and Thomoas O'Connor tested Stillo from close range with two quality scoring chances in the third period, but Stillo wouldn't budge.
James Esposito played football last year but gave it up to focus on hockey as his full-time sport. He and brother Johnathan accounted for all four of Brother Rice’s goals Sunday.
“James is a sophomore, his twin brother Johnathan is a defenseman, and they’re just very good players,” Manning said. “James has kind of dedicated himself to hockey, and it's really apparent on his skill level and what he can do.”
Giving up football didn’t take too much thought on Esposito’s behalf.
“I love hockey more than anything,” Esposito said.
The leader of the pack at Brother Rice this year is Keaty, who assisted twice and was a prominent force on the ice throughout.
“Jack Keaty is our senior leader,” Manning said. “He was an all-star last year and he's he's a stud. He's our leader, he’s our captain, and he did a lot of good things out there tonight.
“He leads by example and that’s what we need him to do. He's out there working a hundred and ten percent. And James scored those goals but the movement on the power play starts on the back end with Keaty at the top.”
Keaty’s approach to leadership is a tried-and-true one.
“I like to get everybody on the same page and try to help us build relationships, because then we're all on the same page as a team,” he said. “Then we play more as a team on the ice and that can be the difference for us. It's really just about connections, then knowing where (teammates) are going to be on the ice, and we're just still trying to build those connections.”
With only four seniors on the team, the Crusaders have plenty to work on with a young roster. Chief among those tasks?
“I didn't hear a lot of talking today. You know, back and forth,” Manning said. “We need to communicate better. That will get better, believe me, and we emphasize it. But we're young.”
Fenwick coach Nick Fabbrini played on two Kennedy Cup-winning teams at Fenwick in the early 2000s. So as well as anyone, during the 60th anniversary season of the formation of the Chicago Catholic Hockey League, Fabbrini understands the legacy and impact of the CCHL.
“One of the really special things about not just playing for Fenwick, but playing for the Catholic League,” Fabbrini said, “is that there are a whole lot of people outside of parents and players that that care about their programs and the outcomes. Even if you don't see (those alumni), they're following from all over the country.”
St. Rita coach Brian Coleman is another CCHL veteran.
"I played for four years at St. Rita but even prior to that, I remember always going to games with teammates from youth hockey to watch their older brothers play," Coleman said. "It's just a special league with an ingrained competitive rivalry."
Decades’ worth of hockey alumni from Fenwick, St. Rita, Brother Rice, and Mount Carmel — the only remaining original members of the CCHL — were all there in spirit Sunday night in Crestwood, to officially kick off the 60th anniversary of the CCHL.
Fenwick took on St. Rita while Brother Rice played Mount Carmel at the Southwest Ice Arena, with Fenwick and Brother Rice coming away with victories.
Fenwick won 5-2 over St. Rita in Game One, and Brother Rice shut out Mount Carmel 4-0 in the night’s second game.
Fenwick took on a short-benched St. Rita team and through 17 minutes, both sides found scoring chances in a back-and-forth first period.
Fenwick (2-1-0 in CCHL play) struck first on an Alex Matysiak goal in the game’s 9th minute, off a feed from Charlie Bastedo. St. Rita’s Travis Gutkowski fired from the high slot to tie the game with 5:36 left in the first period, with Gavin Jedlicka on the assist.
The tie lasted all of 46 seconds. Fenwick took a lead it would not relinquish at the 4:50 mark when Christopher Godellas fired from the point on the right side, hammering his shot off the post and into net. Matysiak and Harry Sramek assisted on the goal that gave Fenwick its 2-1 lead.
But through 17 minutes, St. Rita (0-1-0) earned a 14-10 edge in shots over Fenwick. The Mustangs’ Josh Chinas, Aidan O’Brien, Jack Willette, Nolan O’Malley, and Jedlicka all had good looks on net in the first period.
“I like a lot of our game and I have all year,” Coleman said. “We’re making a lot of high-end plays, we move the puck well, and move to open space well. We haven’t buried yet but sometimes that takes time. But it’s a good group of kids with a high ceiling.”
Fenwick goalie Cole Alessi stood tall throughout St. Rita’s best attacking period of the game. Alessi stoned Chinas at the post, turned away a shot taken on a 2-on-1 rush, and held up during 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 Mustangs power plays.
“We were fishing for pucks too much in the first period and we were getting danced around,” Fabbrini said. “(St. Rita) has some good players and if you give them some time and space they’ll make things happen. And we were taking a few too many chances in the first period to create offense. Then we started to pick up the physicality and that sort of changed the tide.”
Fenwick outscored St. Rita 3-1 in the second period and never looked back. Bastedo, who scored twice in the game, saw conditioning and bench numbers also help turn the tide for Fenwick, which finished with a 38-26 edge in shots on net.
“Obviously, they had a short bench,” Bastedo said. “And you know, we've been working hard and we just kind of had more endurance. We had that next shift mentality the whole time — even if you had a bad shift go out there next shift and do something good.”
Matysiak centered a pass from the left side to Bastedo but Adduci turned him away from point-blank range to start the second period. The Friars went up 3-1 on a Will Pabst goal, on assists from Jake Alessi and Giovanni Sena, and took a 4-1 lead on a sweet move on the right side to deke a defenseman by Mike Curtin.
Curtin’s rip went bar-down with roughly 11 minutes remaining in the period.
Fenwick’s scoring binge ended when Bastedo scored from the slot mid-way through the period, on assists from Sramek and Jonathan Svete.
St. Rita cut Fenwick’s lead to 5-2 on a Jedlicka power-play goal with roughly five minutes remaining in the second period. It would be the final goal scored in the game, with Fenwick playing well to protect its lead the rest of the way.
“We came out in the third period knowing we didn't have to score, we just couldn’t get scored on,” Bastedo said. “We knew our job and we worked hard. I thought we played hard all the way through and really never let up.”
An under-manned St. Rita team fought the good fight throughout the third period but couldn’t muster the comeback.
“We had two players out who are on the golf team and another two out with injuries,” Coleman said. “They’re playing four lines and we weren’t, and they were able to take advantage. Hopefully we get some bodies back, our endurance goes up, and we can make it a tighter game next time.”
Still, a team heavy with freshmen and sophomores is finding its way for Coleman, who likes the level of hockey he’s glimpsing so far.
Gutkowski scored the Mustangs’ first goal and his career is just beginning. “He’s a freshman, a smart player, and has a lot of creativity and vision,” Coleman said. “And some of our other freshmen were able to drive plays in our offensive zone.
“Our seniors have been good, too. Brendan Harkins is always a strong two-way player, Nolan O’Malley is a strong defensive player along with TJ Swan, and I thought (junior defenseman) Jack Willette moved his feet well with the puck and helped us exit our zone using his skating ability. There was a lot to like tonight. And even though we gave up five goals, there were a lot of high-quality chances that (goalie) Dom Adduci shut down.”
Fabbrini sees a different game playing out when the teams square off again in CCHL play on Nov. 17.
“They were short-handed today so I expect them to be better next time,” Fabbrini said. “Brian's a good friend of mine and I know he's gonna get them going. They've got some really good players.”
Playing in its third game in three days, Fenwick showed that playing in both the CCHL and the Scholastic Hockey League this year is paying early dividends where conditioning is concerned.
“For the third game of the weekend, I thought we kept pushing and I think that was our hardest-working game of the weekend,” Fenwick captain Mike Verni said. “And I think our power play started to click today.
“Playing more games and being in two leagues, I think our conditioning is just getting better and better. I think at the start of the season it was rough, we were really only useful for about a period or two. But I think we're finding our legs and now I think we can actually play for 51 minutes.”
Fenwick won 6-0 over Mount Carmel Friday and lost 3-1 to Benet Saturday before notching Sunday’s win.
“I think we're pretty happy with how we played this weekend even though we didn't quite get the result yesterday we wanted to against Benet,” Fabbrini said. “I thought that we carried most of the play (vs. Benet) but obviously you’ve got to tip your hat to them for making the most of their opportunities. But we're pretty happy with how we're playing and today it was nice to get rewarded.”
Fenwick posted a 32-17 edge in shots in its loss Saturday to league-leader Benet.
Fabbrini applauded the line of Bastedo, Matysiak, and Sramek for its prominent play throughout the weekend’s three games, and likes the way his squad’s defensive play is taking shape.
“Jonathan Svete and Luke LaChance have both been really good, really solid defensively,” Fabbrini said. “We have four senior D - LaChance, (Joe) Krzak, Johnny Moore, and Chris Godellas - and those guys are really bought in, they block a ton of shots. Our two juniors are Jake Alessi and Jonathan Svete and they’re both playing better and better each game.”
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.”
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.