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Varsity Cats Look to Build on Solid Season March 9, 2010

Posted by claugh217 in General, Varsity.

Sure, the varsity Icecats season ended on a down note with its loss last week to rival Conant. But looking back on the full season, it’s hard to call it anything but a success. And more to the point, the team has an opportunity to become one of the elites of the Metro league next season.

The numbers by and large tell the story. A 12-7-4 regular season record. A trip to the semi-finals at the Big Bear tournament in January. A berth in the upper tier Scholastic Cup playoffs, and a commanding 9-1 first round victory in the Blackhawk Cup state playoff tournament. The Cats were well represented in All Star competition, sending Justin Antolec, Brad Feinman, Connor Krukowski, and Tommy Tambourine (with strong skating defenseman Joey VanderMey as an alternate) to the All Star preliminary round, with Justin and Tommy advancing to the finals.

The season was not without its travails. After a strong 5-2-1 start, the team suffered a series of injuries and suspensions that contributed to a short but very deflating losing streak, dropping games to Mundelein, CCM and BGHW by a combined score of 22-4. The team then had a so-so outing at the Stevenson Thanksgiving tournament, dropping two of three games.

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Things started to pick up after Thanksgiving, with the team going 0-1-3 before a turning point game against Fremd on December 13. The Cats beat Fremd 2-1 on top of a huge game by goalie Erich Held, who turned back 33 shots for the win. That win set off a seven game winning streak that ended on the final game of the season, a close 4-3 loss to Crystal Lake South, a league powerhouse. The Cats ended the regular season with 28 points and a second place finish in the Metro Central National division.

The playoffs were a disappointment, going 1-3 in the Scholastic Cup and losing in the second round of the Blackhawk Cup 3-0 to Conant, a team the Cats had competed well against in the regular season.

Still, looking ahead, there is plenty of cause for optimism.

With most players eligible to return, the Cats can look forward to a strong season next year. Overall scoring leader and captain Tambourine (28 points) and leading goal scorer Antolec (17 goals) are juniors, and assist leader Jeff Martin (19 assists, 27 points) is a sophomore, as is tough guy Tyler Shanholtzer (11 points). Forward Peter Henderson, who had 16 regular season points as a freshman, looks like a future league scoring leader.

The strong defensive corps of Feinman, VanderMey, Matt Majewski and Stephen Stanis are all all eligible to return as well. Feinman, an assistant captain and an All Star as a sophomore, was a shutdown defenseman all season. Matt was a consistent physical force, while Stephen made what may have been the defensive play of the season against Carmel, sweeping away a puck late the in the game to preserve a tie.

Forwards Ian Donnahoo, Jack Reike (16 points), Tony Rossetti and Nick Young (7 goals) should all be back for their senior seasons. Tony is  a consistent source of speed, energy and toughness on the  forecheck. Ian has proven himself a versatile player, even filling in at defense when needed. He is also arguably the team’s best penalty killer. Nick, an assistant captain, is also a top penalty killer, a presence in front of the net, and an accomplished pest, drawing penalties from irritated opponents. Jack is a consistent and hardworking forward, with a knack for scoring clutch goals.

And finally, talented netminders  Erich Held and Max Laughlin, both juniors, are expected to return, offering depth at that important position next season. Both had winning records this year.

The Cats are losing three key players to graduation. Hard nosed defenseman Mike Lauber, smooth skating forward Krukowski (25 points) and energy forward Greg Majewski will all be missed. Their depatures will open up opportunities for current JV players or newcomers to move up and make a difference at the varsity level.

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