Napleton, St. Rita capture hockey championship over St. Viator


Napleton, St. Rita capture hockey championship over St. Viator

By Pat Disabato

St. Rita goalie Marty Napleton has been marvelous all season a 31-8-2 mark, including 13 shutouts, and 1.45 goals-against average is testament to that.

Napleton, however, saved arguably his finest performance of the campaign for Friday night.

The junior netminder turned aside 28 shots, many in spectacular fashion, to carry St. Rita to a dominant 5-0 victory over St. Viator in the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois state championship at the United Center. Napleton earned Most Valuable Player honors for his performance.

Stan Sojka (assist) and Ricky Faron paced the offense, scoring two goals each. Jack Warren added a solo tally for the Mustangs.

Marty has been unbelievable all year, Faron said. He stood on his head tonight.

The state title was St. Ritas second in three seasons and the third overall for the storied program. The Mustangs (40-13-4), who won their fifth straight Kennedy Cup championship earlier this season, knocked off defending champion New Trier, the No. 1 seed, Saturday in the semifinals and then No. 2 St. Viator (50-17-5) in a matter of six days.

All the kids played well, said St. Rita coach Craig Ferguson, who just completed his eighth season. We outplayed them. We were the better team tonight.

Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, St. Viator had a chance to mount a comeback with a power play just 47 seconds in. The Lions had two wonderful chances to dent the net, but Napleton denied Jackson Owens on a breakaway and Michael Decker, after being stopped on his first attempt, fired wide on a rebound chance.

The failure to convert appeared to sap life from St. Viator.

That was big to kill that penalty, Faron said. It took away all their momentum.

The Mustangs then put the game away. Warren hammered home a one-timer off a pretty pass from Sojka at 13:33 to make it 3-0. It was Warrens 23rd goal of the season. Just 1:22 later, Sojka went to his backhand to beat goalie Robert Schmidt for a 4-0 advantage. It was the St. Rita captains second goal of the game and 10th of the season.

Then Faron, camped out just right of the crease, made it 5-0 at 9:46. It was Farons second goal of the game and 63rd of the season. Chris Foley and Luke Botica picked up assists.

I think it was our composure, said Foley, who was injured most of the season and was limited to 29 games. Weve played in enough big games where we werent really nervous. Its a bigger stage, but just another game.

It was non-stop action for the first seven minutes of the opening period, void of a single whistle that would have caused play to halt.

Play was finally stopped at 10:07 and would be halted again just four seconds later, when Sojka batted home his own rebound at 10:03 for a 1-0 lead.

The early deficit seemed to wake-up St. Viator, which picked up the pace considerably the rest of the period. The Lions were awarded two power plays one at 9:35 and another at 3:38, but failed to capitalize. A lack of effort wasnt the problem; The Lions had scoring chances, but Napleton was a brick wall.

The junior absolutely stoned St. Viators David Kellner, whose rebound from just outside the crease was miraculously stopped by a sprawling Napleton. Moments later, Owens one-timer from the slot was kicked aside by Napleton.

Just 22 seconds after the Lions second power play elapsed and with 1:16 remaining in the opening period, Faron scored to extend the lead to 2-0. Faron made a nifty move around the Lions Ryan Santorsola just inside the blue line, before completing a give-and-go with Foley.

The score may as well been 10-0 with the way Napleton was playing. Slap shots, snap shots, wrist shots, breakaways, rebounds, you name it, St. Viator tried it. Nothing, however, could make its way past Napleton. The Lions Sean Thornton will have nightmares thinking about Napletons sliding blocker save that preserved the shutout late in the third.

After the New Trier game, I had a lot of confidence, Napleton said. It carried over to this game. I was just seeing the puck well. This is an unbelievable feeling. To win the Kennedy Cup and state, fortunately we had the guys and coaches to do it.

Dennis Rasmussen taking advantage of opportunity with Blackhawks

Dennis Rasmussen taking advantage of opportunity with Blackhawks

During training camp, Mike Kitchen talked of what Dennis Rasmussen had to do entering this season.

Be proactive, the Blackhawks assistant coach said at the time, be bold.

“That’s what they told me,” Rasmussen recalled. “Since I got called up I have to do things a little bit quicker, I have to create a little bit more and be more active.”

Rasmussen got the message, and in the time he’s been in the lineup he’s done what the Blackhawks have wanted him to do. He scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday, when he took advantage of a fallen Philadelphia defender, and he’ll be on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Jordin Tootoo again on Friday when the Blackhawks face the Columbus Blue Jackets.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“He showed a lot of character and determination to find a way to make an impact in the game. He bided his time here and then got in there, and he’s done a great job for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Gives up some size, gives us some depth, gives us some usefulness as far as playing a couple positions and can take face-offs, kill penalties as well. He’s turned out to be very useful and in a situation where we needed someone to come in and take advantage of it.”

The Blackhawks needed someone to step in after Ryan Hartman was injured last week in Nashville. Rasmussen, who’s played center most of his career, is currently on the wing. It’s different, but Rasmussen isn’t complaining.

“I haven’t played a lot of wing since I moved over here but it’s great. I like to play with Kruger, too, because we can take each other’s spots and cover for each other,” Rasmussen said. “I feel comfortable right now.”

Rasmussen’s in the lineup at the moment but how long will that last? Marian Hossa is out of Friday’s game with a lower-body injury but could come back on Saturday. Still, even when the Blackhawks are healthier they may have to keep Rasmussen in there. As long as he’s playing, he’ll keep trying to be the proactive forward the Blackhawks want him to be.

“I just try to work as hard as possible, win a lot of loose pucks and try to create some chances,” Rasmussen said. “At the same time be reliable, stay on the right side of the puck and be a two-way player.”

Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Week 7


Fantasy Football Fix Podcast: Week 7

The CSN Chicago fantasy crew looks ahead to Week 7 in the NFL and gives their take on which players should start in your lineup and which players should remain on your bench. Host Slavko Bekovic with Scott Krinch, Tony Andracki, Pat Joyce and Michael Piff.

Listen to the latest Fantasy Football Fix Podcast.