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IceCats head into state playoffs undefeated in conference

The+Varsity+IceCats+team+had+an+outstanding+regular+season%2C+remaining+undefeated+throughout.
The Varsity IceCats team had an outstanding regular season, remaining undefeated throughout.

The Varsity IceCats team had an outstanding regular season, remaining undefeated throughout.

Photo courtesy of Shannon Schweiger; caption by Dylan Heimert

Photo courtesy of Shannon Schweiger; caption by Dylan Heimert

The Varsity IceCats team had an outstanding regular season, remaining undefeated throughout.

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The IceCats had an undefeated season in their conference this year, with the varsity team’s record at 15-0-2, leaving them in first place in their conference.

This undefeated record gave the team confidence going into the playoffs.

In the conference playoffs, the IceCats suffered a defeat against Kings High School, losing in the semifinals; Kings went on to recently win the championship.

While they may be out of the conference playoffs, the IceCats are still going strong in the state playoffs, a separate competition. They have been led by their leading scorers, captain Kyle Junkunc (junior), Ayden Szymanski (sophomore) and Hunter Schweiger (senior).

In our first and only game so far, we beat 14-seeded Latin as the 19 seed. Coming out of that game, we had the confidence that we could beat anyone,” shared freshman Chris Mulligan over email. Their next game is this Sunday, March 4, against third-seeded Addison/Willowbrook/Fenton (AWF) at Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville.

“We lost a lot of seniors last year, so we lost a lot of talent…but we’ve got a good group of guys,” said Junkunc. While last season’s 12 seniors made up half of last year’s roster, the team still came out of the regular season on top, finishing four points above the second-place team in the conference, Kings.

Carmel is typically the IceCats’ toughest opponent because they are “fast, big, and they had a deep bench,” Mulligan explained.  Because of these things, “[The IceCats] couldn’t really put up a good fight against them this year,” Junkunc said. The IceCats lost both of their games against Carmel, who is not in their conference, this season.

Mulligan is the only freshman on the team, but he’s adapted well and felt welcome among his teammates, he shared. Mulligan said he had an advantage that someone might not think about: “Being the youngest guy, no one had any expectations for me on the ice. I was able to play freely without the pressure of being expected to be a superstar, and because of this, [I] worked myself up to the first line.”

This helped him have a successful first year until he got a concussion halfway through the season. It took him a while to recover, but Mulligan eventually got back into his game after being out for a month with this injury.

The IceCats seemed to be an injury prone team this season. They suffered one knee injury early in the season and then various other injuries throughout, including a few concussions and a wrist fracture. Playing with only 12 or 13 skaters for most of the season, compared to a typical 18-player bench, the IceCats held tough.

Although there is a lot of emphasis on the team in hockey, a couple of players stood out this season as leaders to their coaches and teammates. “Chuck Newberg is our [senior] goalie and has been a rock for this program for all four years. We asked him to be a captain this year, and he has done an outstanding job,” shared Varsity Head Coach Bobby Scott over email.

The coaching staff likes to say that whether or not you have a letter on your jersey, it does not affect your opportunities to be a leader. An example of this is Sam Bryant (junior), who is “one of those players who gives 110 percent every time he is on the ice,” Coach Scott explained. “This is a great example of a talented, skilled player who makes all his teammates better by sheer will and example.”

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IceCats head into state playoffs undefeated in conference