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CCHL Game Articles

Providence wins 5-0 at Brother Rice

By Gary Larsen 11/04/2022, 12:00pm CDT

Providence defenseman Zach Xydakis reduced his Celtics’ 3-goal outburst in Thursday’s second period against Brother Rice down to a simple explanation, something hockey coaches everywhere constantly preach.

“I feel like the whole game we were kind of plugging away,” Xydakis said, “but really, that second period is when we just started to do the little things.”

Providence’s eventual 5-0 CCHL win at Brother Rice saw the Celtics lead 1-0 after a period of play on a Joe Ramos goal. But it was a suffocating attack in the second period that saw them effectively put the game out of reach, as Fin Harris, Nico Felice, and Carson Burris each lit the lamp to make it 4-0.

Burris added his second goal of the game and his seventh in league play in the third period, as Providence goaltender Drew Pavich recorded his fourth shutout of the season.

And it was all traceable back to ‘the little things’ Providence did on a larger scale in the second period.

“I thought our forecheck was really on today, then we started to put passes on the tape, picking our heads up before making plays and dumping the puck, and having more patience with the puck and realizing our options,” Xydakis said.

The little things Xydakis cited led to some opportunistic scoring that allowed Providence to build its big lead, as Providence coach Nick Iaciancio saw his side improve to 7-3-1 in CCHL play with the win.

“We were able to cause some turnovers and capitalize on those,” Iaciancio said. “But we kind of go as we’re able to pressure people. Sometimes we just don’t have it but in the second period, we seemed to kick it into gear and our defensemen weren’t giving the zone so we were getting some turnovers. Then we were able to use some bigger ice to get to the net.”

Brother Rice (4-3-0 in CCHL play) went into Thursday’s game as Illinois’ 24th-ranked team but 18th-ranked Providence used a 15-5 edge in first-period shots in finding a goal at the 3:49 mark of the period.

Ramos scored on the power play off a Ben Schwarz assist, and that first-period goal ultimately stood up as the game-winner.

The first period saw both teams finding their footing, and Brother Rice wasn’t without a few dangerous scoring chances. John Keaty swooped in on the right side and shot from the low hash mark near the 13-minute mark, but Pavich turned it away. Pavich snared a shot from the point a few minutes later.

A flurry of penalties started near the 12-minute mark of the first period. Six of the game’s 11 penalties were whistled in the first but it wasn’t until Ramos capitalized late in the period that either team paid a price.

Pavich turned away a shot from the point taken by Brother Rice’s James Esposito early in the second period, before Providence began pinning the Crusaders on their own end.

Three goals in a six-minute span ensued, starting with Harris’ goal from the point on the left side at 12:10, on a Travis Briar assist. Nico Felice went in alone on net and buried his shot to make it 3-0 at 9:58. Noah Oliver and Burris assisted on the goal.

Burris made it 4-0 at 5:24 with Nico Felice and Lucas Dukups assisting, and Providence effectively had the game in hand and had Brother Rice reeling.

“We got away from our game plan and I think that helped them in the second period,” Brother Rice coach Ralph Lawrence said. “They’re a good team and you have to play them a certain way. They scored one in the first and maybe some momentum went on their side. And then they took advantage of us getting away from our game plan.”

Oliver and Dukups assisted again at the 11:58 mark of the third period, setting Burris up for a backhanded goal to end the day’s scoring.

Early in the game, Iaciancio sat down one of his leading point scorers in Vinny Felice after he was whistled for three penalties. Iaciancio shifted some personnel around and got quality performances around the ice, while the team’s other leading scorers stepped it up.

“Nico Felice and Carson Burris — it’s their speed and hockey IQ, and their ability to control it,” Iaciancio said. “I thought Zach Xydakis did a good job of kind of not giving up the zone and setting our tempo for a defenseman to kind of stay up. And then (Pavich) was solid when we needed him in the net, as he’s been all year.”

Pavich faced 7 shots in the second period and 3 in the third to earn the clean sheet.

“The defense has made it easy for me,” Pavich said. “They’re letting me see the puck well and they’ve kept deflections out of the way. They kept it out of our zone, which is most important. We did a great job keeping it in their zone, and our guys controlled the puck well.

“I just thought we had the fight in us tonight. We played three periods of hockey and that was great to see. It’s something we’ve been working on all year. The biggest thing for us is consistency and once we get that I think we’ll be a really good team.”

Was a 5-0 win on the home ice of a quality league opponent in Brother Rice surprising?

“No, not really. We've had a few ups and downs this season but when we play our game we’re right there,” Xydakis said. “And we have arguably the best goalie in the league so we play confident with him back there. We play great defense and the offense is producing more this year.”

Lawrence applauded the play that Brother Rice has gotten this season from players like Sean Moran, Matt Spell, Jack Keaty, and Charlie McClorey, and believes that freshman forward James Esposito might be destined for an exceptional varsity career. Defensively, the Crusaders have relied on Connor Haggerty and the solid goaltending of Deven Stillo.

“Moran has been a good all-around player, forecheck, backcheck, and he’s all over the ice making good decisions for us,” Lawrence said. “Keaty and McClorey have also stood out for us.”

Brother Rice will need a short memory after Thursday’s loss, since the Crusaders travel to Indiana to play St. Xavier of Cincinnati on Friday night.

"We have to use the mistakes we made and we also can’t get outworked (Friday),” Lawrence said. “Providence had the puck more than we did and the team that has the puck more is going to win.”

Brother Rice returns to CCHL play on Nov. 10 when the Crusaders host Saint Ignatius, and Providence gets back to league play on Nov. 7, when they’ll also play host to Saint Ignatius.

Saint Ignatius tops Benet 5-1

By Gary Larsen 10/24/2022, 1:00pm CDT

Heading into Sunday’s home game against Benet, Saint Ignatius knew what to expect in the teams’ first meeting since the Wolfpack topped the Redwings for last year’s CCHL crown.

“I told these guys we have to stay the hunters,” Saint Ignatius coach Spencer Montgomery said. “We beat them in the Kennedy Cup last season so we knew they had this game circled as a first chance to get us back.”

Saint Ignatius captain Jack Perrault wanted his young Wolfpack team to understand the gravity of the situation and the heated rivalry that has blossomed between the programs in recent years.

“It’s a very new team so it’s just kind of educating people on all the history between us and Benet,” Perrault said. “So it was about dialing it in, practicing, and going to work.”

Preparation and hard work paid off in a big way for Saint Ignatius, as the Wolfpack posted a 23-8 edge in shots through two periods in building a 4-1 lead, en route to a 5-1 CCHL victory.

The first period saw Saint Ignatius post 15-2 edge in shots in building its 1-0 lead.

“I felt like we were out-played and out-hustled,” Benet coach Jon Grzbek said of the first period. “It was lopsided. They came out really quick and my goalie had to play really well. They were a step faster. And you expect to see momentum swings but momentum was just not swinging.”

Montgomery concurred:

“We were swarming the puck, our forecheck was established, and we were physical,” Montgomery said. “I really don't think that their defensemen were comfortable retrieving pucks after the first period, when we were able to trap them in their zone.”

Benet withstood Saint Ignatius’ steady pressure until the final 30 seconds of the first period when the Wolfpack's Austin Haynes netted his first CCHL goal of the season, on an assist by Tiernan Ryan.

Benet goalie William Janus did everything he could to keep Saint Ignatius to a single goal on 15 shots through the game’s first 17 minutes.

Eight penalties called in the first period were also a sign of things to come. Nine more penalties were whistled in the second period and ultimately both teams reached 12 penalties apiece, resulting in bench penalties tagged on both coaches in the third period.

Victor Ventura gave Saint Ignatius a 2-0 lead at the 13:28 mark of the second period on a feed from James Gracey. A power play shot from the right-side point by Benet’s Cole Rosenthal cut the Wolfpack's lead in half at 7:21, but a Saint Ignatius power play goal a minute later from Gracey rebuilt the Wolfpack's two-goal cushion.

Gracey scored when Luke Vega swept in deep on the right side and laid off a sweet pass that Gracey buried at 6:12. Corbin Klein made it 4-1 on a breakaway with 2:17 remaining in the second period.

“Corbin Klein is the best athlete on the ice every game we play, in front of the net creating chances, and our goaltender (Ethan Laughlin) was strong and composed the entire game,” Montgomery said. “And Victor Ventura was incredible tonight, he was all over the puck.”

The game’s final goal came with 8:32 remaining in the third period, when Charlie Reif scored on a Klein assist.

Perrault liked what he saw from his side offensively.

“We played simple — getting pucks deep, firing at their defense, physicality,” Perrault said. “We played simple and played as a team.

“We've been growing over the past couple weeks you know, really dialed in and everyone's buying in. We knew what was coming tonight and knew we had to prepare very heavily for it. I'm happy with the result but I did not expect (a 5-1 result).”

With the win, Illinois’ 12th-ranked Saint Ignatius improved to 8-6-0 overall and 4-0-0 in CCHL play after weekend wins over St. Rita, Providence, and Benet. No. 10 Benet fell to 9-3-2 overall with Sunday’s loss and 4-1-0 in CCHL play.

“We had a bad week of practice and a bad game,” Grzbek said. “Our effort has been inconsistent this season and that’s not at all characteristic of our team. But usually two or three losses will keep you near the top of the league standings, so we have to take care of business the rest of the way.”

Grzbek liked the day’s work he got from forwards Danny Quinlan and Luca Dicosola, and credited Saint Ignatius for the job it did in slowing a top Benet line that features Anthony Pacheco and Rosenthal.

“Cole got us the goal on the power play but we didn’t have any kind of a transition game going,” Grzbek said. “And (Saint Ignatius) can transition as well as anyone.”

Benet outshot Saint Ignatius 12-7 in another penalty-plagued final period but Laughlin met the challenge with a few quality saves down the stretch.

“(Laughlin) was huge,” Ventura said. “We just came out ready tonight. We won the Catholic League last year so we know this is our league, and we just had to prove it.

“We’ve been finishing more and more this year and just practice working on seeing the puck go into the net so it translates into the game. This feels good and it’s a good way to end the weekend.”

A Saint Ignatius defensive effort that held Benet to a mere six shots through the game’s first two periods also keyed the win.

“We've been working a lot of closing guys out, getting everything towards the corners and we did a really good job at breaking things out and just limiting our time and our zone,” Perrault said. “We had a lot of blocks and a lot of guys stepping up.

“I like the heart and the pushback of this team. Every time we've been down, we come back and we find a way. That’s what I like most about this team so far this year.”

Saint Ignatius tops Providence, takes DiCristina Cup

By Curt Herron 03/15/2022, 11:45am CDT

CHICAGO -- After seeing a 3-1 lead slip away in the middle game of the best-of-three Chicago Catholic Hockey League DiCristina Cup junior varsity championship series, Saint Ignatius College Prep was determined that a similar scenario wouldn't happen again when it hosted Providence Catholic in Saturday's finale at Fifth Third Arena.

Despite having only seven shots on goal in the first and third periods combined, the Wolfpack made the most of their 10 shots on goal during the middle period by scoring three times, which included the game-winner and an insurance goal during a stretch of 6:45, to capture a 3-1 victory over the Celtics and repeat as DiCristina Cup champions.

Cheered on by the Wolfpack varsity squad, which captured the Kennedy Cup championship with a 4-0 victory over Benet Academy one week earlier. Both teams celebrated the victory on their home ice as they followed the junior varsity's title celebration with the raising of the two cups and posing for a picture of the combined program on a special weekend for Saint Ignatius, which also capped its most successful IHSA season in boys basketball on Friday by beating Simeon to finish third in Class 3A for its initial trophy.

"It's been a great year," Wolfpack coach Mike Rigitano said. "From day one, our motto has always been hard work and dedication. Credit to Providence, they're a phenomenal organization and a great club. They're on that trophy eight years in a row so it's been a nice rivalry over the last couple of years that we've built with them. They're always close games and they have a great coaching staff. 

"We're trying to change things here at Ignatius and obviously you can see that with the back-to-back DiCristina Cup Championships. It was a phenomenal experience for varsity to win their first Kennedy Cup and us winning this and to have both trophies of the CCHL at Ignatius is a phenomenal feeling. It was a special moment to have the varsity team out there with us and their cup. I'm so proud of these kids. They dedicated their time and effort. It's a real special moment.”

In a classic case of making the most out of the least, the Wolfpack overcame a 9:00-opening stretch in which they were outshot by an 8-1 margin. The Celtics were unable to capitalize on their early dominance in shots on goal, and after the hosts gained some momentum by getting four of the last five shots before the first break, the two sides each had 10 shots during the middle period, with three of those going in for Saint Ignatius while Providence buried its lone goal for the evening.

Saint Ignatius took its first lead just 18 seconds into the second period when Drew Lannon got open in front and connected for his 17th goal, which was set up by Mick Gilbert’s tenth assist, and the fifth assist from Finn Gilner. But Providence countered just 2:04 later when Ethan Ganz put in an unassisted goal from close range to even things up. It was the 11th goal for Ganz, who assisted Finbar Harris's game-winner to cap the Celtics' 4-3 comeback win in three overtimes in the series' second contest.

"This is my first year with the club since I moved here from Boston," Lannon said. "Coming in, I was a little tentative since I really didn't know how it would be and how it would work out. But I was really impressed with the CCHL, it's really high-level competition. I think we had a really good season and all of the boys were working hard.

"I think we were a little slow coming out at the start, mainly because of the triple-overtime loss, since that took a lot out of us. I have to give a lot of thanks to our goalie, Ethan Laughlin, it was a really impressive showing by him. The first period didn't go our way, but we regrouped as a team at the end of the first period. Our coach told us what to do and what to work on and right off the bat it was the first shift in the second period and I slid a pass over to Mick Gilbert and he dropped one off right in the slot and I just fired one right in. The second goal was a big momentum shifter, it really fired the boys up. And capitalizing on power plays is something that we've been working for all year.

"This is a really good program that I walked into. Starting up with the leadership of Owen Ray and Eghan Ryan, our assistant captains, and Jack Druckman, I think they do a really good job of keeping everyone in check, whether it's in practices or games, and they make sure that things go as they need to go. It's a great day. We're a family and we even say it in the locker room that these are all my brothers and I'm going to have this memory for the rest of my life."

After neither side committed a penalty during the opening period, the Celtics were whistled for the first of the game with 10:07 left in the second. The Wolfpack capitalized on the interference call just over a minute later to score what would turn out to be the eventual game-winner. With 9:01 left in the second, Lucas Joa sent in a pass to Owen Ray, who put in a short shot for his 25th goal while Joa was credited with his fifth assist. That was Saint Ignatius' 13th shot of the game, the lone time it would lead in that category.

Providence looked for the equalizer and fired off a series of good attempts toward goalie Laughlin, who once again was at the top of his game after coming up big time and time again while facing 67 shots during the triple-overtime contest. 

"They were definitely getting pucks to the net but not necessarily in quality chances," Laughlin said. "And we got one from Tiernan (Ryan) getting a great goal and (Drew) Lannon and (Owen) Ray burying ones in front, those were quality chances. Even though we had less shots, I still feel that we produced more as an offense than they did. We had a lead in game two at 3-1 and we weren't going to let that lead slip away today. Credit to the team in front of me, they played outstanding in the third period. Sitting back and letting them carry a puck into the zone, but still keeping them to the outside and getting the puck out, it was phenomenal. They limited the chances for sure in the third period.”

The Wolfpack made the most of their 15th shot of the evening when Tiernan Ryan scored his 24th goal after Jackson Bossert handed out his seventh assist with 2:16 left in the second period. That's how it remained heading into the final 15 minutes with Providence owning a 19-15 edge in shots but facing a two-goal deficit. Ryan led all players in shots on goal while most of the other Wolkpack players who scored goals or added assists also had multiple shots during the game.

Focusing more on defending and keeping possession throughout the final period, the Wolfpack only sent two more shots toward Providence goalie Justin Laakson. Meanwhile, the Celtics fired off nine more attempts to finish with a 28-17 advantage in shots on goal but weren't able to capitalize on a pair of power plays, which were the result of the only two penalties that the hosts made, with 12:00 left and the other with 5:55 remaining.

"We were very committed," Saint Ignatius senior Tripp Condon said. "We've been working since June with summer programs and then three days a week. We went through a lot of adversity early on in the season. This is a different team from last year, we weren't the flashiest players but worked hard and skated hard and we just wanted it more than them. The thing I liked most about this group is that we're so loose, that we just had so much fun with each other. Everyone is so excited since everyone is just friends with each other. It's just a great group of guys. It was a great group to go out with.”

Laughlin again halted everything that came his way during the two power plays and the subsequent stretches where the teams were at full strength. The Celtics tried to put something together to create late drama but the Wolfpack limited their chances and the two-goal advantage proved to be decisive as Saint Ignatius put the finishing touches on its well-played victory to deny Providence of recapturing the DiCristina Cup, which it had won eight-straight times before the Wolfpack snapped that streak a year ago.

Providence had several players who got off multiple shots during the contest. They included Nick Pavlis, Finbar Harris, Mike Kazmierczak, Nick Mastro, Aidan Kilcoyne, Aodhan McGee, Quinn Holmes, Benjamin Schwarz and Ganz.

"We were really all over them in the first 10-15 minutes of the game," Celtics coach Rick Clement said. "But when you don't come out of that on the scoreboard, sometimes it comes back to haunt you, and tonight it did. Credit to them and their goaltending, he did a great job tonight. But you can't be up 10-1 in shots 10 minutes into the game and not be up on the scoreboard. And they jumped on their opportunities and put them behind us and we just didn't do that tonight. 

"And that kind of speaks to the whole series, really over the last two years that we've played these guys. We're pretty even up and down the lineup last year and this year, as is evidenced by the series with two one-goal games coming into today and it was a 3-1 final here, but it was a lot tighter than it looked like and credit to them. They've done a great job of developing players and their coaching staff is a bunch of great guys. We just didn't capitalize on our opportunities today. We felt that if we got in on the forechecking and created some turnovers that we'd have those chances. We made those chances, but we just didn't make them pay for it.

"We have a goalie that had 10 shutouts, which led the Catholic League in shutouts. We were one point out of first place in the final standings coming into the playoffs. And outside of this, we won a tournament in Toledo that we've been trying to win for five years and we were able to come home with the victory there. So there were a lot of positives that came out of this. We're a young team with a few upperclassmen, but the majority of these players are young, freshmen and sophomores, and they have a big future ahead of them at Providence. This is about giving them the opportunity to go three games deep in a series and get the experience of playoff hockey and learn what it is to win, and unfortunately sometimes, learn what it is to lose, and not feeling good about losing and working a little bit harder in the summer and getting ready for next season."

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Fenwick's PK keys 3-2 win over Marmion

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.