Illinois State High School Hockey Championship

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Illinois State High School Hockey Championship

My how time flies. This will be my third consecutive season doing the Illinois State High School Hockey Championship with Judd Sirott, and I couldn't be more proud. A lot of these kids will never play organized hockey again after this game, and I always marvel at the enthusiasm and exuberance they lay out there for their high school teams. The Wirtz family has been involved now for the last 25 years with the Illinois State High School Hockey Championship games taking place at the United CenterChicago Stadium. This year we'll see a team that won it just two years ago in St. Rita match up against a newcomer in finals hockey, St. Viator.

We had a chance to talk to both coaches last night, Chris Higgins of St. Viator and Craig Ferguson of St. Rita. What I love about these coaches is how they make sure it's not about them, it's all about the kids. And we're talking great coaches here. Ferguson was teammates of Chris Chelios at Mount Carmel and Higgins played college hockey at BU and St. Lawrence University and was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques.

So if you get a chance and want to see unscripted drama with kids putting every ounce of themselves on the line, give the Illinois State High School Hockey Championships a watch. Puck drop at 6:30 p.m. tonight on Comcast SportsNet.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.