Walking to the bench Saturday night in Wilmette, New Trier Green head coach Bob Melton knew what was at stake. It was Game 3 of the SHL Championship against Loyola Gold but there was a calmness about him. That calmness turned to joy after a 2-1 win for the SHL Championship title.
"I wouldn't say it was confidence," Melton said. "It was more relief. I felt good that if we got it to Game 3 that we had a good chance at winning."
Louie Lybrook sealed the win for New Trier, scoring both of their goals but it wasn't easy. Loyola Gold came out strong. Danny Stevens found the back of the net first to set the pace with 4:12 left in the first. Lybrook tied it up just minutes into the second. After a nail-biting period and a half he knocked in the game winner with five minutes left to play.
"I couldn't have done it without my linemen," Lybrook said, "Johnny Huber and Michael Graham passed me the puck, it was an easy backdoor tap. At the beginning of the game I wasn't in a groove, then I scored and I was just feeling it the rest of the night."
Heart rates rose when Loyola's Ben Odle nailed a shot but the goal was disallowed for a crease violation.
"It was unbelievable," said New Trier goaltender Will Douthit. "Loyola came to play, with two overtime games and this one came right down to the end also, it was a great series."
Melton couldn't be more proud of his team as they continue to accomplish their goals.
"We won the league, now we won the league playoffs, our league is the toughest league in the state and for these guys to win both is huge," he said. "Now we're on to state but I told them they have to enjoy this, state's one and done, so we play all year for our league, state is a different animal but to be the best team in the SHL is a great accomplishment."
New Trier Green has always been a successful hockey program. They currently sit in first place in the SHL with a 14-1-0 record. But something was off Saturday in the Holiday Hockey Classic. They managed a 4-2 win over Waubonsie but it wasn't pretty.
Waubonsie held their own and the two remained tied after the first and well into the second. Waubonsie broke the tie with two minutes left in the second and things weren't looking too good for Green.
They were just coming off a huge win over New Trier Green but were experiencing a type of 'Holiday Hangover,' as they tried to get back to normal after a few off-days.
"We just didn't bring it today," said head coach Bob Melton. "We definitely didn't play as well as we should have."
John Huber had another multi-goal game for New Trier but agreed that they just weren't themselves.
"We haven't played for five days," he said. "A lot of us are out of shape."
New Trier managed to score two goals within a minute left in the game but it was too close for comfort.
Huber went on to say that Melton explained to them that heading into this tournament on a loss is never good.
"Our goal is to get out of our bracket," Melton said. "We probably didn't deserve to win today but we'll take it."
From there, New Trier Green suffered a 6-0 loss to CBC Saturday night. They will come back and play St. Ignatius Ohio at 7p Sunday.