Glenbrook Girls Hockey team wins state title

Robbie Fraser and Maggie Li, Sports Editor and Features Editor

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Sophomore Viola Chobak (wearing goalie pads) and her teammates celebrate their win at the United Center on March 17 with the state championship trophy and banner. The team claimed the program’s first state championship since 2008 and finished the season with a record of 23-1-2. Photo by Hailey Koretz

Junior Nicole Knudson hoists the championship trophy over her head in the visitor’s locker room at the United Center with her teammates surrounding her. Knudson tallied 13 goals and nine assists during the season. Photo by Sydney Stumme-Berg

Junior Koby Wilcox receives a pass during the second period. Later in the period, GBS senior Caitlin Schneider deflected a shot by Wilcox past the Loyola goalie, giving Wilcox her seventh assist of the season. Photo by Sydney Stumme-Berg

As the clock ticked down to zero, hockey gloves flew in the air, and sticks clattered to the ice. The United Center horn blasted throughout the arena and was met by the cheers of Glenbrook fans and players, who celebrated a feat which had not been achieved by any Glenbrook Girls High School Hockey team for nine years. The players on the bench threw themselves onto the ice to pile on top of their teammates in front of the goal that sophomore Viola Chobak had defended with 29 saves.

Junior Nicole Knudson said experiencing the moment after the team’s victory was incredible.

“It was … one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and to see all of our fans cheering and knowing that we just won a state championship was awesome,” Knudson said.

The Glenbrook Girls High School Hockey team, comprised of six players from Glenbrook North, along with players from Glenbrook South and Regina Dominican, won the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois state championship game 7-3 over Loyola Academy on March 17. The team finished the season with 23 wins, one loss and two ties.

Glenbrook jumped out to an early lead during the state championship game with a goal from Regina junior Hannah Jensen with 7:24 remaining in the first period. GBS senior Caitlin Schneider added a second and third goal for Glenbrook with 2:06 left in the first period and 12:48 left in the second period, while Jensen tallied her second goal to build a 4-0 lead midway through the second period. GBN junior Koby Wilcox got an assist on Schneider’s second goal.

After conceding a goal with 2:25 left in the second period, GBN freshman Sophie Sperber said the team did not feel like the game was already won despite holding a 4-1 advantage heading into the final period.

“We felt like we could lose the lead any second because Loyola brought their A-game,” Sperber said.

Steve Hamelin, Glenbrook Girls Hockey head coach, emphasized at the intermission  that the team must not lose their focus regardless of the score, according to Sperber.

“[When you have a big lead], you can get complacent,” said Hamelin. “You can get comfortable. … I was not comfortable in that game until the last few minutes. I stressed to the girls to stay disciplined, to play our own game rather than only try to protect the lead.”

Glenbrook kept at least a three-goal lead throughout the rest of the game as GBN junior Chloe Carroll scored with 9:22 left in the game, and both Schneider and Jensen scored, completing their hat-tricks. Jensen’s empty net goal capped the scoring with 2:04 remaining, sealing a state championship.

“Throughout the whole season, we kind of knew that we were going to be the state champions, but in the game, when it was definitely certain [we would win] was [in] the last five minutes of the third period, and there was no way they could come back from the empty net goal,” Sperber said.

According to GBN junior Eleni Tasiopoulos, Chobak was a large part of the team’s victory, finishing with a save percentage of .906 in the championship game.

Sperber said Chobak’s performance was phenomenal.

“I don’t know how she does it,” said Sperber. “She’s probably the best goalie I’ve ever seen.”

Going into the game, Glenbrook had defeated, tied and lost to Loyola once. The 2-3 loss on Jan. 29 turned out to be Glenbrook’s only defeat of the season.

According to Alex Botvinnik, Glenbrook Girls Hockey assistant coach, the loss to Loyola helped the team succeed at the end of the season.

“A lot of people might say that the loss to Loyola was a low [point in the season], but it was actually just a turning point for us to really keep our focus.

“That wasn’t the game we needed to win,” said Botvinnik. “We wanted to win them all, but we had to keep our expectations realistic and realize that we have to work hard to win, not just rely on talent alone.”

Hamelin said the team handled the stress of the championship game well.

“As successful as our season was, I knew the overall success of the team would be measured by this one game because of the expectations upon the team,” said Hamelin. “I could definitely see [that] the girls felt under pressure during the game. They were awestruck to start the game, walking into a stadium with 20,000 seats, while Loyola had been there before in the past few years. So, it just took a few shifts for the girls to settle in, get rid of the nerves and jitters, and they started to play their game.”

The team’s talent and depth are what set the group apart from past Glenbrook teams, Hamelin said.

“These girls are going to remember that Friday for the rest of their [lives],” said Hamelin. “It was really something special.”

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Glenbrook Girls Hockey team wins state title