Username Password Subscribe Now

Elmhurst YMCA players
have howling good time
on Chicago Wolves' ice

By Ed Muniz
Photos courtesy of Kim Gorey and Joe Buffo

The Chicago Wolves are a generous bunch who gladly reach out to community and youth organizations during the year. Throughout the Chicagoland area, the Wolves have developed 35 rink partnerships.

With those partnerships there is an exchange of trade deals, advertising and other hockey-related promotions that benefit both groups.

Heading the Wolves' effort is youth hockey director Rob Newburg. For Newburg, the best part is not only developing quality relationships on behalf of the hockey club, but giving those youth hockey clubs an experience to remember.

On game days, Newburg explained, the Wolves have the full use of their home ice at the Allstate Arena. The Wolves and their opponent are given the option for a morning skate which concludes between 9:30-10 a.m. That sets the window for the Wolves' rink partners.

“As soon as those teams are off, we do youth games all the time for many clubs, many organizations," said Newburg. "And we do as many as we can before Wolves game time.”

So far, the Wolves have hosted approximately 30 games and plan to continue.

Newburg added that the Wolves try to give the youth players the full experience on the big ice.

“We simulate a Wolves game as much as possible and we always get positive feedback, especially the 5-10-year-olds," he said. "Just being on the ice, seeing the big lights, the scoreboard, and the music being loud, the national anthem; to them, that’s the most exciting thing.

"The parents also enjoy themselves. They love it. They get to sit here and watch their kid in a different atmosphere. It’s not your typical 'Oh my God, we need to win.' It really is a good time for everyone. We make it as close to a Wolves game as possible, except for the fireworks.”
 
As one of the Wolves' rink partners, the Elmhurst YMCA Youth Hockey league was given the opportunity to play on Sunday, March 2. Youth hockey director Bill Gorey was only too glad to send his players out on the Wolves home ice.

“The Wolves and the Elmhurst YMCA have had a long-standing relationship,” said Gorey. “They donate tickets for most games, which we use for kids in the league. We use them as awards for sportsmanship, so we are very appreciative of this opportunity.

"And when we do get tickets, the parents and kids always come back and say what a great time they had, not only because of the great hockey, but also because of everything else they do at the game to get fans involved and to have fun at the game. It really is a great time, and the Wolves organization does a great job at it.”

Gorey said that there are approximately 415 kids in the Elmhurst YMCA house league.

“It is really a recreational league which is geared somewhat differently than several other leagues," he said. "We don’t keep standings, with the idea being learning the game of hockey and having fun doing it. If you enjoy the sport and want to have fun and play for a price that won’t break the bank, then this is the place to do it.”

The Elmhurst YMCA league has players from 26 different communities, an indication that there are players and families who don't mind driving because they like the league and the way it does things.

The 11 a.m. game turned out to be as exciting as the environment. Two teams of boys and one girl, ages 12 to 16,  competed. One team wore white-and-black jerseys made for the event, and the other team wore their house jerseys.

The first period saw both teams adjusting to the larger size of the rink. Much of the first period action remained in one end of the ice as the larger black and white (BW) team dominated the offensive play.

In goal for the color jersey (CJ) team was fill-in Luke Brush, who usually doesn’t play between the pipes. He was asked to take on the task when the originally scheduled goalie couldn’t attend the game. Brush put on the pads and displayed a unique technique.

The 16-year-old usually went belly down and dived to try to stop pucks shot at him. Several times he was seen displaying his Superman look of soaring as pucks came close.

“It’s called desperation mode," said Brush. "I just jumped.”

Brush was peppered with nine shots in that first period. He allowed just one goal in the opening 12 minutes.

The shots on goal began early and often for Brush as the BW team pressured the net early on. Shots from Matt Fox and Jake McEvoy kept the play near Brush. A scrum in front of Brush and more shots on goal from Tommy Sheehan and Mike Dogan kept him moving from post to post as the CJ defense struggled to clear the puck out of their own zone. Kyle Martyniuk also sent a wrister from just inside the blue line that Brush managed to stop.


The combo of Sheehan and Dogan finally struck gold after Dogan slid the puck in deep past the CJ defense and found Sheehan who flipped it past Brush for the opening score 6:58 in.

The play changed the remainder of the game, and Brush settled with watching and waiting rather than defending. But when the time came, Brush went back to “desperation mode” and it worked most of the time.

“I thought our defense really kept it in their zone most of the time so they kept just firing from the point," he said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me so this was great.”

The only offensive opportunities for the CJ was a solo rush down the right side by Chris Spina, who flew down the ice and tested BW goalie Teddy Morrissette, and two other shots from Zach Georgopoulos and defenseman Joey Dorion that Morrissette handled.

Starting with the second period, the CJ team became offensive. They now forced the action, and kept Morrissette busy. The smaller CJ team controlled play and seemed to find every loose puck and rushed out from their zone.

Dorion was the catalyst. He showed his ability to stickhandle and at times would circle around his own net and move the puck to where he could put a shot on goal.

The 12-year-old wasn’t the fastest player on the ice, but he showed a skill at evading and maintaining puck control as he navigated through the BW defense.

“I’ve been playing at the YMCA since I was three or four so I just kept improving,” Dorion said. “That goalie was great all day, I was trying to pick different sides of the net. He just kept stopping everything you know. Glove side, boom, you know.”

The CJ team nearly tied it up when Dorion's shot hit the side of the net. He wasn’t alone as Ethan Rohn and Andrew Roudebush kept Morrissette busy. Rohn tried via a slap shot, and Roudebush’s backhand couldn’t elude the BW goalie. Matt Montroy also helped ratchet up the pressure with his displays of speed and stickhandling.

Midway through the second period, the BW team countered and nearly upped their lead when Luke Vitale snatched a loose puck and broke away solo. He wristed a shot right at Brush, who clamped down on the puck for a save.

The CJ's best chance came shortly thereafter when Dorion clanked the pipe on a blast. A minute-and-a-half later, BW player Dogan pushed a loose puck past Brush after receiving it from Fox for the 2-0 lead at 10:23 of period two.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Matt (Fox) because he passed me the puck," said Dogan. "I just put it where it needed to go, in the net.”

The 15-year-old isn’t a big guy, but said it didn't affect him playing among the bigger players.

“I don’t really think about it much. I get low and move around them," he said. "I think this is awesome. I will remember playing in a great rink with some great friends the most.”

The third period continued with the CJ team still controlling the play despite its 2-0 deficit. Again, shots on goal kept Morrissette busy.
 
One of the prettier plays in the game came from Georgopoulos, of CJ. An attempted clearing from the BW zone came right by him and with a showing of impressive hand-eye coordination, he snagged the puck right out of mid-air and stickhandled past the same defenseman to the net. Unfortunately he lost the puck to the BW goalie.


Morrissette was impressive in goal and remained stingy all game.

BW almost extended its lead by being in the right place at the right time. Ryan Gorey broke free after finding the puck and was alone in front of Brush, he juked left and went right to his forehand. The move made Brush seem to slide uncontrollably out of the net after Gorey's great fake.

Luckily for the CJ team, Gorey’s try went just wide.

Fox added an empty net goal just before the final horn for the 3-0 win.

“I looked up and saw that there was no one around and saw that there was no goalie so I took a shot,” said Fox, who enjoyed the experience of playing on a professional rink.

“I got to play at the Wolves rink and playing indoors you could see the lines and markings much better," he said. "But I do like the outside better because of the cool air, and I don’t get as warm. But this is still great.”

The CJ team featured a former figure skater turned hockey player in Dawn Morrissette. The 15-year-old is in her second year of playing hockey and is happy she made the transition. Her skill level is still developing, but she said it’s only the beginning of something she wants to get much better at.

“I was an ice skater for seven years. The first big change was the skating difference, was the skates," she said. "Ice skating just wasn’t my thing, I didn’t get a good enough work out.

“The minute I started playing hockey, it was like so fun, and I worked up a sweat and all the girls on my team were really nice. It was really fun. I am still getting used to the game. I could be feeling bad or sick or whatever, and I go out and play hockey, sweat it out and I feel awesome after.”

Other players who displayed their skills were Charlie Sutton and Angelo Buscaglia for the BW team and Kyle Kubycheck and Sam Buffo for the CJ.

For more information on the Chicago Wolves rink partnerships program, contact the youth hockey director at rnewburg@Chicagowolves.com.
 

Today's Schedule: Season Schedule