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Lake Forest 2023-24 season preview

By Gary Larsen, 09/18/23, 8:30AM CDT


Numbers continue to rise for coach Steve Sarauer’s program at Lake Forest, and players across four levels will take the ice in Scouts’ blue and gold this season.

“We have around 70 players in the program, and around 25 seniors,” Sarauer said. “We’re growing.

“We’re more skilled overall this year. Last year we were more of a hard-nosed, grinding team and our goal is to make the (SHL) playoffs this year. That’s harder to do with two more teams added, but we’ll see.”

More and more top-flight youth hockey players are returning to the high school game each year, a trend that continued across the SHL this season.

“I think that wave is going to continue. You’re seeing a lot of U-18 teams and U-16 teams (combine) just to have one team at the club level,” Sarauer said. “Being in the SHL helps because of the competition level but I think it’s happening across the board. People are realizing how good the high school level is.”

The Scouts have a pair of quality goalies in varsity veteran Teddy Huddlestun and Andrew Sommers. Huddlestun was voted a team captain this year and beyond his vocal leadership skills, he’s among the top goalies in Illinois.

“He’s quick, he can read the play really well, he communicates and he works,” Sarauer said. “He’s willing to put the effort in and I think that’s a big contributor to how good he is. But both Teddy and Andrew are really, really good so we’re pretty sound in net.”

Huddlestun’s protection will fall largely on a trio of defensemen in Michael Dhamer, Ky Camardo, and Gavin Nelson.

“(Dhamer) will be our top defenseman and one of our captains,” Sarauer said. “He brings offense, skill, toughness in the D zone, speed, a great shot. He’s a phenomenal defenseman who has really developed over the past three seasons.”

Another quality defenseman in Camardo joins the program after playing club hockey last year, and sophomore defenseman Nelson “is probably the toughest, hardest-hitting kid on the team,” Sarauer said. “He’s absolutely fearless.”

The Scouts started the season with a 4-2 record, opening year at the Wheaton West tournament with wins over Wheaton West, Providence, and Naperville before losing in overtime in a quarterfinal game against Waubonsee.

“Zach Shoemaker is on a line with Demitri and Jackson Drum and I think they had ninety percent of the our points over that weekend,” Sarauer said. “They did really well. Zach wasn’t shooting a lot last year but he’s got an unbelievable shot, quick hands, and he’s great with the puck. Zach, Demetri, Thomas Santaniello, Andrew Marsch — they’ll all be big contributors this year.”

In its inaugural season in the SHL last year, Lake Forest was competitive in games all season against teams from Illinois’ toughest league. Sarauer wants to see this year’s Scouts learn from last year’s experience.

“We had a chance last year to beat anybody. We weren’t out of the game with any team. And we were up in games last year but lost leads so we were there and it was just our execution. So we need to be more focused on learning how to play with a lead. You don’t need to be dangling at the red line when you’re up by two goals.”

Lake Forest opened with a loss to defending state champion New Trier Green in its SHL season-opener, and next play at Stevenson on Sept. 21. The Scouts will host Saint Ignatius and Loyola before playing at Glenbrook North to round out its SHL schedule in September.

And with Saint Ignatius and Fenwick added to the SHL this season, it’s never been more true that …

“If anybody decides not to play in a given game, they’re going to lose,” Sarauer said. “A lot of times it’s not based on skill, it’s based on who wants it more. And sometimes the puck doesn’t bounce your way and the calls don’t go your way. But I really think there’s enough talent in the league that if you don’t bring it you’re going to lose.”