Glenbrook South needed a jump-start. The Titans had lost four straight SHL games leading into Tuesday’s home game against Saint Viator, and only scored five total goals in those four losses.
So with an offense that had become a bit stagnant, Glenbrook South coach Jim Philbin inserted forward Nick Ventura on a Titans first line that features Zach Freimuth and Jason Ban — two of the top point scorers in the SHL.
Ventura made that move count on Tuesday, scoring twice in Glenbrook South’s 5-0 win over Saint Viator to help his side get back in the win column.
“He’s been a key guy for us all year,” Freimuth said of Ventura. “He’s played on all four lines, on the penalty kill, and the power play. Throw him in any situation and he gives a hundred and ten percent for the team. He’s a kid that plays with a ton of passion.
“He was buzzing all night against Viator and it was awesome to see.”
Ventura was happy to contribute and he quickly tipped his hat to his linemates.
“Ban and Freimuth are two of the best players in the state and they both played great games today,” Ventura said. “(Defenseman Owen) Almburg kept guys wide all day, and (goalie Luke) Winger always plays great.”
Ventura also sees a team on the rebound after a rocky January for GBS.
“I see a lot more hard work and pace,” Ventura said. “After the break we were missing guys because of injuries so guys had to double-shift, but I think guys are starting to pick up and we’re flying right now.”
A couple key players in Jack Mulvey and Pierce Davidson remain sidelined due to injury but both are expected back for the post-season for the Titans.
Tuesday’s win marked the third time Glenbrook South (31-12-2 overall, 18-9 in SHL play) has beaten Saint Viator (26-15-2, 14-13) this season. The Titans won 5-0 over the Lions in October, and won 5-3 in November.
“We’ve done a pretty good job against them and they’re a good team,” Philbin said. “They’re scrappy, they throw pucks, bodies, a dump-and-chase team. You’ve just got to take care of the five guys coming back, in front, block shots, and we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
Saint Viator took the first four shots of the day but a GBS power-play saw the Titans put seven of the next nine shots on net. Saint Viator’s Angelo Massaro and Patrick Heneghan were both busy in the offensive zone early on.
The game’s first and Ventura’s first goal stood up as the game-winner. Ventura took a feed in front from Ban and buried it with 5:23 left in the first period. Freimuth also assisted on the play.
Massaro rushed the net on the right side early in the second period but Winger turned him away. South’s second goal came when Freimuth ripped a shot from mid-circle on the left side that found pay-dirt on the power play, at the 14:43 mark of the second period. Grant Loughran and Adrian Sokol assisted on the goal.
Freimuth sent a pass from the left side to the far post soon thereafter but Saint Viator goalie Dom Grimaldi was there to stone Ventura on the shot at the 14:25 mark.
Adam Sokol, Dylan Monagan, and Benji Pajerski make up a GBS line dubbed ‘the coneheads’, and that line paid off with a goal on Tuesday when Monagan found Sokol on the right side, with 11:15 remaining in the second period.
“I just got the puck, didn’t stick-handle much, and shot it,” Sokol said. “I love my linemates and just I think in the last few weeks we’ve had better effort from our team, at practice and in games.”
Saint Viator had a pair of quality chances taken from the slot that Winger turned away late in the second period.
Early in the third period, South got its fourth goal when Ryan Mulvey sent a puck to Ban, who picked his way up the left side along the boards before firing a shot that caromed in off the far post, at 16:44 of the third period. Ventura finished the day’s scoring with an assist from Owen Almburg.
“The second one was a two-on-one and the defenseman was playing Ban the entire time,” Ventura said. “I saw the open shot and didn’t miss it.”
Tuesday’s 5-goal output was a sight for Philbin’s sore eyes.
“I liked our two-on-one decisions and we’ve been struggling with that,” Philbin said. “They picked their heads up and it was nice to see us break out a little bit. We switched lines up a little bit and it was good to see us score more than one goal in a game. It was a good turnaround from what we’ve been doing the past few weeks.
“We started thinking too much instead of just playing the game. You can’t let the game play you; you play the game. The last three games we’ve played well but we just haven’t won.”
Saint Viator kept pushing but Winger and company kept the lid on net to the final buzzer.
“I thought Nicky Ventura played well with those two goals, Jason Ban snapped out of his stuff, Zach (Freimuth) — that whole first line played well, and Winger made some phenomenal saves. His legs are so fast and he’s so smart.”