NORTHBROOK — After Loyola’s 3-1, series-clinching win at Glenbrook North, two rounds of applause erupted from Loyola’s locker room, just before the coaches exited the room and the Ramblers cranked up their music to decibel levels obviously dangerous to the human ear.
Loyola captain Ryan Boersma eventually emerged from that deafening locker room and explained what the applause was for.
“We name the hardest worker of the game and the player of the game,” Boersma said. “We gave hardest worker to Bobby Sharfstein because he was buzzing all night, getting up on the forecheck, he was always that first guy in.
“Keaton Lillybridge got player of the game. He got the game-winning goal so we’ve got to give him style points for that.”
Loyola’s quarterfinal win over Glenbrook North sent the Ramblers into the semifinals of the SHL playoffs, where they’ll play the winner of Game 3 between York and Saint Viator, to be played Friday at 7:20 at the Addison Ice Arena.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Boersma said. “I think we’re 3-0 versus Viator but two of those went to overtime, and York handed it to us (6-1) in January. So either way, we’ll have to put in the work and come out as fast as we can.”
The Ramblers have been ranked No. 1 in Illinois for most of the season by My Hockey Rankings and they improved to 37-7 overall with Wednesday’s win.
But after Loyola needed two late goals to win Game 1 against Glenbrook North, and needed a third-period goal to break a 1-1 tie in Game 2, Ramblers coach Scott Ciraulo knows the SHL playoff road ahead will remain steep.
“That’s the thing in this league. GBN is really tough to play against. The good news for us is that the only way we’d see them again is if we both make it to the state championship,” Ciraulo said. “Credit to them because they play a very tough game, they’re hard to play against, and they don’t quit.”
Loyola earned a 13-2 edge in first-period shots and led 1-0 when Jack Gustafson buried a puck at the 11:12 mark of the period, scoring his 26th SHL goal of the season. Garet Grady posted his 14th league assist on Gustafson’s goal.
Through one period, Loyola’s offense applied pressure while Glenbrook North struggled to find shots.
“They’ve got big defensemen and it’s hard to get to the net and sustain anything in front of the net against them,” Glenbrook North coach Paul Gauger said. “We’ve got one guy there and they’ve got two or three. They clog up the middle really well.”
Glenbrook North trailed 19-4 in shots in the second period when Sebastian Krol found the net for the Spartans with 5:21 left to play, on an assist from Joshua Pick. North went on the power play five seconds later but came up empty.
Glenbrook North outshot Loyola 8-7 in the second period.
“In the second period we forechecked them, and that caused them some problems,” Gauger said. “Once we got that going and didn’t give their defensemen clean outs, they struggled a little bit.”
Loyola took a 2-1 lead on a Keaton Lillybridge goal at the 10:56 mark of the third period, with assists credited to Will Schreiber and Ryan Cowen. It was Lillybridge’s 18th goal in SHL play, Schreiber’s 15th assist, and Cowen’s 21st assist in league play this year.
Chasing a one-goal deficit late, freshman goaltender Michael Reyderman took a seat in the game’s waning minutes and Loyola’s Max Gabal scored an empty-netter with 1:08 left in the game for the final goal of the night.
The Ramblers regained their edge in the third period, posting an 11-3 edge in shots to finish with a 31-13 edge for the game.
“We’re happy with how we played in the third period but we still have to figure out a way to put three periods together,” Ciraulo said. “We’re preaching the forecheck, but sometimes we have guys that take shifts off and we just can’t do that at this time of year.”
Ciraulo applauded the leadership that captains Boersma and Ryan Cowen have provided, for a team that has shined in the third periods of game this season.
But Boersma agreed that third periods aren’t enough.
“We’ve seen what we can do with our peaks this year, but we’ve also seen how far down we can go with our lows,” Boersma said. “So I think it’s just about finding consistency, shift-in and shift-out. I think it’s about keeping energy, first line through fourth line, all the way through.
“We came out hard and we knew if we played our game, good things would happen. But we kind of let things get away from us in the second period, which has been a theme for us lately. With us right now, it’s about putting together 51 minutes. If we can do that consistently we’ll put ourselves in a good spot. If not, it’ll be a tough road ahead.”
In addition to Sharfstein’s effort and the game-winner Lillybridge provided, Boersma also credited Loyola’s third and fourth lines for providing a spark in Wednesday’s win.
Despite the loss, Glenbrook North freshman goalie Michael Reyderman showed that the future of goaltending at North is in good hands.
“Everyone plays a little bit stronger in front of him,” Gauger said of Reyderman. “He’s consistent. He controls his rebounds, controls pucks, and there’s not a whole lot of chaos in front of the net. I also thought (Ryan) Rossi played a good game, and Aidan Siegel is always just a workhorse for us.
“But we just didn’t have that get-up-and-go, honestly. And with two shots in the first and three in the third, you’re just not going to score goals.”
Glenbrook North next plays on Feb. 25 in a state tournament matchup against the winner between Benet and Barrington.