Hockey fans in attendance at the United Center on Saturday will finally be able to see some exciting championship hockey.
And if Fenwick puts on half the display it did Monday night in semifinal action of the Blackhawk Cup at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, odds are it will be the best hockey played on West Madison since the United Center was built.
Just four days after capturing their fifth consecutive Kennedy Cup, the Friars earned their fifth state-title berth in six years with a 3-1 victory over Loyola Gold. Kevin Sutton’s goal with 11:52 remaining in the third period broke a 1-1 tie, and Mike Freitag sealed the deal with an empty-netter with 28 seconds to play.
“I told the kids before the start of the third period that we had to step it up,” Fenwick coach Dan Wolff said. “Our two main goals all season were to win the Kennedy Cup and a state title. We’re one step away from accomplishing both.”
Up next for Wolff’s squad is upstart Glenbrook North, which rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit to stun defending state champion Glenbrook South 4-3 in overtime. The Spartans last appeared in the state title game back in 1985, when they captured their second consecutive state crown.
“To be in the state title game five out of the past six years shows that we’re developing our players, and that our system works,” Wolff said. “People were worried about us during the regular season, but we were experimenting with things all year. We’re a different team right now.”
Matt Dory gave Fenwick a 1-0 lead when he hammered home a Mike Mazur assist with 8:35 left in the second period. Loyola Gold, which was in search of its fifth state-finals appearance since 2001, tied the game a mere four minutes later on John Morrow’s tally. That set up Sutton’s third-period heroics.
The high fives also were flying around the Fenwick locker room last Thursday at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood.
The Friars clinched their fifth consecutive Kennedy Cup title with a 6-1 win over Mt. Carmel in Game 2 of the best-of-three series. The five-goal victory was the largest in Kennedy Cup finals history.
Thanks to a hat trick from Freitag and goals from KC Madock, Anthony Tedesco and Ryan McLean, Fenwick swept the final series.
“I really thought this was going to be a 3-2 or 4-3 game,” said Freitag, who’s unsure if he’ll return to high school hockey next season. “We actually came out flat, and they took it to us. But we were able to turn the game around in the second period.”
After Tedesco’s first-period goal gave the Friars a 1-0 lead, Fenwick took control with two power-play goals in a 32-second span in the second period.
Freitag had the first goal during the game-changing stretch with 9:33 to play in the period. Moments later, Madock took a Freitag pass and beat Mt. Carmel goalie Larry Knight.
Fenwick extended its lead to 4-0 with 3:28 left in the second period when Freitag and Madock connected once again.
This time, Freitag took a Madock pass and hammered it home to give the Friars a four-goal cushion.
Saturday’s state championship at the United Center will begin at 2 p.m.