It just doesn’t happen very often that a player is swarmed by fans after a game while they jump up and down chanting his name.
After he posted a shutout against Glenbrook North on Saturday night, you can list Saint Viator goalie Brian Biehl among those players who — at least once in their lives — got to experience what that feels like.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Biehl said. “It’s amazing and when it happens you just have to cherish that moment.”
Two goalies at the top of their game, a packed house, and a dogfight on the ice in a Scholastic Hockey League that figures to feature dogfights all season long — Saint Viator’s 1-0 win over Glenbrook North checked every box on Saturday.
“That was good game,” GBN coach Evan Poulakidas said. “The league is tough. It’s real tough, every night, and you just have to keep your heads up because you’re certainly not going to go through the SHL undefeated.”
For starters, neither Biehl nor Glenbrook North goalie Drew Karchmar likely deserved to have a loss hung on their records. The Lions and Spartans finished with 21 shots on goal apiece and both goalies stood tall all night.
Biehl just stood a hair’s width taller.
The game’s lone goal came with 3:40 left to play in the first period, off the stick of Saint Viator’s Dylan Harer. Glenbrook North (6-2-0, 1-1-0 in SHL) finished with a 5-2 advantage in power plays, but Saint Viator (4-3-0 1-2-0) made one count.
“We didn’t get too many power plays in this game so it was good to capitalize on that one,” Harer said. “And that was all we needed with Biehl in net. He played great. When he’s going like that, he’s the best goalie in the state.”
Glenbrook North captain Kyle Burke was quick to tip his hat to Biehl for a fine night in net. But he also bemoaned GBN chances that went awry.
“We’ve got to capitalize on power plays and for the scoring chances we had, we have to finish,” Burke said. “It was real competitive. We competed hard and their goalie played really well, but both goalies played well. But I thought we had looks and opportunities where we could have scored and we didn’t.”
Saint Viator started fast on its home ice, in front of a crowd packed about equally with student bodies and parents from both teams. The Lions survived an early 5-on-3 GBN power play and Karchmar made a quality save on a breakaway by Saint Viator’s Charlie Hoffman with 10 minutes left.
Harer scored the game’s only goal when teammate Angelo Massaro put a puck on his stick, and Harer did the rest.
“Angelo got it down low to me, I was able to cut to the middle, and I was able to put it above the goalie’s shoulder,” Harer said. “We had a lot of energy and we started a little bit quicker tonight than we have in most games.”
Biehl stopped a prime GBN scoring chance on a power play, mid-way through the second period. Biehl watched a GBN rush up the ice to his right side develop to a puck slotted across to the left side.
The senior goalie watched, and he waited.
“I’ve always been taught by all my goalie coaches to just wait, if you can, to see where they’re going to shoot first,” Biehl said. “I thought I could get across in time on that play, looked for where he was shooting it, and just put myself where I needed to. You just have to be patient.”
Glenbrook North found a higher gear as the second period progressed, getting into an offensive flow that eluded them through most of the first period. The Spartans held a 14-12 edge in shots on goal through two periods and a 4-1 edge in power plays.
“Our fourth line got us going,” Poulakidas said. “They did a real nice job. We weren’t forechecking and honestly, I think the atmosphere got to us a little. We were super tight and we didn’t handle the puck very well in the first period.”
Saint Viator’s Sean Nutley and Sean Wilson found shots early in the third period that went for naught, and Karchmar denied Massaro near the goalmouth at 13:00.
Biehl stopped a shot a minute later and made another fine save on a GBN rush up the ice a minute after that. Karchmar added another quality save soon thereafter.
The game’s final five minutes saw GBN ratchet up the attacking heat but Saint Viator was up to the challenge to the final buzzer.
Afterwards, GBN’s Burke saw the good and the not-so-good in his boys’ day.
“I’m confident in our team. We have a lot of depth so whenever there’s an off-night for any line the rest of the team picks them up,” Burke said. “Our goaltending has been very, very good. Drew Karchmar has played incredible and our defense has played pretty well.
“Faster starts is one thing we can work on because we didn’t really get into this game right away. That allows teams take over in the beginning and we know once we get going, we can compete with anyone. We’ve been pretty good with that but tonight we didn’t have the best start.”
No team had posted a shutout over GBN prior to Saturday’s game, a feather that Biehl and his defensemen can stick in their caps moving forward. The Lions killed off every GBN power play with big Will Minarik in the thick of things for Saint Viator.
“Will Minarik was great,” Benz said. “He’s six-foot-two or six-foot-three so his stick is very long and that’s a great asset to have on penalty kills. He had his stick in some great shooting and passing lanes that GBN was trying to force pucks to. I know that may not seem like a big play to your average fan but when he deflects a pass that’s going backdoor, that’s a huge play.
“Our effort level was definitely up today. I know playing GBN, they’re very stingy in terms of allowing goals, so I was pleased. In the end it was a special teams battle and in the end we were able to score on one of our power plays and we were able to shut them out.”
Poulakidas was disappointed in his side’s inability to finish on a goal but he also tipped his hat in defeat.
“It’s one shot and one shot shouldn’t beat us,” Poulakidas said. “With our firepower it’s a little strange because we score a lot of goals normally. But I thought (Biehl) made five or six ten-bell saves tonight.
“I thought Owen Just was great offensively for us. He was a catalyst on a number of plays, and he set up a number of players. He set up (Michael) Dimoff a couple of times and Dimoff usually scores, but it was just one of those nights.”
Benz applauded the night’s work Biehl put forth and appreciated the effort from another consistent source for Saint Viator.
“Gavin Wright didn’t find the scoresheet tonight but he does so much for our team in terms of a defensive and an offensive role,” Benz said. “He does it all. He never stops moving and that’s the energy we feed off of and that’s a kid who would go through a wall for his teammates. We try to emulate that amongst the other twenty guys.”