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Saint Ignatius takes Game 3 vs. GBS

By Gary Larsen, 02/09/24, 10:15AM CST


Saint Ignatius may be in uncharted waters.

With a Game 3 quarterfinal win over Glenbrook South Wednesday, the Wolfpack moved into the semifinals of this year’s SHL tournament, in its first year in the league.

Coach Spence Montgomery’s boys are also simultaneously chasing a third-consecutive Kennedy Cup title in this year’s Chicago Catholic Hockey League playoffs.

Add the beginning of state tournament play, and all of that might seem like a whole lot of emotionally-draining, adrenaline-fueled playoff hockey to ask from a group of teenagers.

Saint Ignatius defenseman Charlie Reif begs to differ.

“It’s awesome,” Reif said. “We play for the Kennedy Cup because that’s what we’re used to but now if we get an opportunity play for a Scholastic League cup, too … to have a chance to win all three this year, (state, CCHL, and SHL)  — it’s an awesome opportunity.”

Reif’s coach sees things the same way.

“These guys are hockey players,” Montgomery said. “They feed on more games and more opportunity. They’re hungry for it. We’ve played a lot of games (62) this year and we’ve had to manage that, but this is where they want to be.”

Next up for sixth-seeded Saint Ignatius is an SHL semifinal series against top-seeded New Trier, while No. 2 Loyola takes on No. 4 Glenbrook North in the other SHL semifinal series.

Saint Ignatius’ 6-1 win over GBS capped a three-game series that saw 29 goals put on the board. Ignatius won 7-3 in Saturday’s quarterfinal opener, then lost 7-4 to GBS on Sunday to force Game 3.

The Wolfpack played hard, physical hockey in the series-deciding game.

“We had a recipe on Saturday that paid off with a 7-3 win but we kind of moved off of that on Sunday and slipped off the gas (pedal),” Reif said. “But we re-grouped this week at practice and focused on what we needed to do.”

The box score showed two goals apiece for Saint Ignatius’ Max Meyer and Jackson Bosser and one each for Reif and Austin Haynes. GBS’ lone goal came off the stick of Will Stevens.

But Glenbrook South was only held to less than two goals four times in 30-plus SHL games this year, and two of those games were against Saint Ignatius.

“Give (Saint Ignatius) credit. They did their job and we didn’t tonight,” GBS coach Jim Philbin said.

“We shot into blocked lanes and had our head down — mental mistakes. But they won and hats off to them. Now we move on and we need to rethink where we’re at right now. When you get kicked in the teeth, you replace your teeth and get ready for the next game, right?”

GBS was an offensive juggernaut this year and on Wednesday, the Titans had six power plays. But Saint Ignatius didn’t budge.

“I’m really proud of our PK,” Montgomery said. “I thought they were incredible and that really was the difference in the game. Jack Eber had seven blocks today - a big player, a senior, he cares about the program — and that’s what you need this time of year, is guys who are willing to put (themselves) on the line.”

Saint Ignatius also had to slow down the leading scorer in the SHL this year in South’s Zack Freimuth, who had 30 goals and 33 assists during the regular season.

Enter Meyer, who was the X factor for Saint Ignatius.

“Max Meyer had two goals in this game and the rest of the series he was hard on (Freimuth),” Montgomery said. “He did a great job.”

Meyer scored the game’s first goal before two minutes had ticked off the first-period clock. A draw in South’s zone saw a puck wrap around the back of the net to the far side, where the puck got past a South player.

Meyer was there to put it on net from the boards near the top of the right circle, and his shot ticked off a defenseman and nestled inside the far post to give the Wolfpack a 1-0 lead at the 15:41 mark.

GBS answered with solid pressure and ultimately posted a 16-10 edge in shots for the period, but the Titans went scoreless in the first.

Saint Ignatius went up 2-0 early in the second period when Reif intercepted a clearing pass and fired from the high-slot at the 16:23 mark. Reif’s goal ultimately held-up as the game-winner.

The Wolfpack went up 3-0 at the 14:35 mark on a second-period power play. A centering pass from Jackson Steinlauf from the left side of the net found Haynes, and the lefty one-timed it from point-blank range. Reif also assisted on the play.

Roughly three minutes later, GBS answered with its lone goal of the contest. Alex Tsoutsias fired from the point on the left side and Stevens buried the rebound with 11:05 remaining in the second period.

South ultimately posted a 36-33 edge in shots, but Philbin would have liked to see a bit more offensive grit on display in solving Saint Ignatius goaltender Ethan Laughlin.

“I just thought we’d play a little better than we did tonight,” Philbin said. “We had shots and (Laughlin) played well, but we didn’t really challenge him that much with more traffic. Our net presence wasn’t there.”

Saint Ignatius planted its flag on Wednesday’s game in the third period, getting another goal from Meyer and two from Bossert to ice the game. All three goals came in a minute-and-a-half span, midway through the period.

Meyer took a Tiernan Ryan pass that sprang him on the right side for an open look on net, making it 4-1 with 7:37 left to play.

Eber set up Bossert’s first goal, winning a battle in the neutral zone along the boards and skating ahead up the left side. Eber’s centering pass found Bossert in front and he buried it with 6:21 remaining.

Bossert stole a puck after the ensuing draw at center ice and walked in to score his second goal a mere nine seconds later. The 6-1 lead held to the final buzzer.

“Energy on the bench tonight was great,” Reif said. “Our energy was up there the whole game, from the start - boys banging on the boards. It’s contagious when everyone is up and ready, and cheering for their teammates.”

Reif tipped his hat to several teammates after the win.

“Definitely Max Meyer and Michael Hollub,” Reif said. “And Colin Chinlund has been up and down the ice everywhere. Then my ‘D’ partner, Eghan (Ryan), and Jackson Bosser closed the game out for us.”

And while GBS’ offense has shined this year, a Saint Ignatius team that outscored GBS 17-11 in the series has plenty of its own scoring punch. Six players scored double-digit goals in SHL play this year, led by one of the state's best in Ryan (20 goals, 24 assists) during the regular season.

Ryan had two goals and five assists in the quarterfinal series against GBS, and Hollub had three goals and two assists.

“I really believe that we are a dangerous team,” Montgomery said. “When we play focused and hard like we did tonight, it’s very hard to stop us.”

With its SHL season over, GBS will focus on its state tournament opener against Saint Viator’s Varsity 2 team. The Titans are seeded third in the state for this year’s Varsity Red division state tournament bracket.

Saint Ignatius moves on to an SHL semifinal series against top-seeded New Trier, which could see similar offensive fireworks.

The Trevians won 3-1, 4-2, and then 4-3 in their most recent meeting on Jan. 25.

According to SHL website statistics, New Trier posted a 48-46 edge in shots in the teams’ most recent game.