Blackhawks of the past opening doors for the future

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Blackhawks of the past opening doors for the future

When Cliff Koroll and the late Keith Magnuson decided to form the Blackhawks Alumni Association, it was originally to help assist fellow former players in need.

Then they decided to accept applications and award a college scholarship to a deserving local high school hockey player through the year-round fund-raising done by the BAA. That first scholarship was for 1,500 and went to Tom Dillon.

25 years later, Dillon now organizes the annual luncheon honoring that years recipients, and the Class of 2012 and the All-State team were recognized Monday at the Hyatt Lodge at McDonalds Campus in Oak Brook. Most of the current Blackhawks players were there, many alumni and coach Joel Quenneville as well as the bulk of the front office, including Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President & CEO John McDonough.

We had 71 applications this year, said Koroll, the Associations President. Ten of us went through all the applications. We had a scoring system, and these three kids were way above everybody else.

Congratulations to Laura Brennan, Jacob Wachlin and Stephanie Jackson.

We got another three great kids two females, which shows that women are slowly taking over here, Koroll smiled. I think that gives us eight or nine girls thatve been recipients.

The decision process is based on five categories, with each applicant receiving up to ten points in each category by the ten panelists. Theyre judged based on need, their grades, community involvement, character (through letters of recommendation) and essays they write on what hockey means to them and why they feel theyre deserving. Koroll says four of the top six applicants were females, a statement as to how far girls hockey has come in Illinois.

Im really excited to be part of the organization. When I got the call, I just kept saying thank you over and over again because I didnt know what else to say, said Brennan, who attends Oak Park-River Forest High School but plays defense for Fenwick and has yet to decide where to attend college. (Hockeys) definitely shaped me as a person. Socially, Ive met a lot of friends through hockey, people Ill never forget. But its also helped me become a better thinker. Just playing hockey forces me to make decisions faster and think more critically about things. Its given me opportunities to meet new people, try new things and given me the confidence to do that.

Wachlin was similarly excited upon finding out he got the scholarship.

I was just so pumped (when receiving the phone call), said Wachlin, who is home-schooled in Arlington Heights and plays left wing for PREP (a team formed from students from Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove and Prospect). It was just so exciting to get the phone call, I was so pumped after seeing so many Hawks games. Its just cool to get helped out for school by such a cool organization.

Wachlin wants to pursue mechanical engineering at either Michigan Tech or M.I.T., while Jackson, who plays center for the Naper Valley Warriors, plans on attending Illinois and playing for its club team while studying animal sciences for veterinary medicine.

When they called, I didnt get the news. They called my mom, and when she told me, I didnt believe her at first, said Jackson. The next day, I got about 20 emails from people in the (Blackhawks) organization congratulating me.

The Alumni Association has now awarded 82 scholarships, providing more than 1 million worth of education to its recipients.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

The Blackhawks may want to forget this weekend.

Their captain is struggling health-wise and the rest of the team is struggling in other aspects. That led to a point-less pair of games, something the Blackhawks haven’t dealt with often this season. Even a return home on Sunday, where the Blackhawks had collected points in 12 consecutive games, couldn’t help them.

Still, the show must go on. So before we trudge home in the slush, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

1. Jonathan Toews isn’t improving. The captain isn’t getting any worse but his injury isn’t getting better. That’s what coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the game, the sixth in a row Toews has missed with a reported back injury. Toews skated on Sunday morning but will not shut it down for a few days. That’s discouraging news, especially for Toews. You could hear the frustration in Toews’ voice when he talked following Friday’s practice. It’s likely growing.

2. Scott Darling did all he could. We could have “goaltending buoys the Blackhawks” on a save/get key this season. It was true again on Sunday as Darling was stellar in stopping 30 of 32 shots. The Blackhawks have gone through their troubles this season but goaltending hasn’t been one of them. Darling will take the bulk of the work while Corey Crawford is sidelined. If he plays the way he did on Sunday night, the Blackhawks won’t have to worry about that part of their game.

3. Little generated again. Both teams played on Saturday but the Blackhawks were the ones really looking lackluster on Sunday night. The Blackhawks once again didn’t have many great scoring opportunities; through two periods, you could count their quality shots on one hand. They woke up some in the third period but not enough.

4. Second line drawing all the attention? OK, again, right now Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane are the Blackhawks’ top line. And with that, the trio has become the prime target of attention for the opposition. Other lines have had opportunities but these are not the balanced Blackhawks teams of previous seasons. That second line is what did the bulk of the damage last season, and teams are focusing on it –  and being more successful against it – this season.

5. Power plays a problem again. The Blackhawks’ first power play was as forgettable as they come. It was so unproductive, spent so little time in the Jets’ zone that fans started to audibly groan. And when the Blackhawks got a four-minute power play late in regulation they couldn’t get the game-tying goal. Again, this isn’t the first season the power play has struggled. But when the offense overall dries up, the issues here are that much more glaring.

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

The Blackhawks’ offense has been struggling for some time now. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks, more often than not, have found a way to get just enough to get them a point or two.

But this weekend, their mediocre offense was downgraded to anemic, and the inevitable disappointing results followed.

Artemi Panarin scored his second goal in as many games but the the Winnipeg Jets scored late to take a 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday night. The Blackhawks dropped their second in a row. It was also the first time they didn’t record at least a point at the United Center since their season-opening loss to the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 12.

Jonathan Toews missed his sixth consecutive game with a reported back injury that coach Joel Quenneville said is “not getting better.” Toews will stay off the ice for a few days and be re-evaluated in the middle of the week.

Scott Darling was strong, stopping 30 of 32 shots. But it was one more game in which the Blackhawks leaned on their goaltending and provided little offensive support.

“Yeah, it’s been frustrating,” Duncan Keith said. “We’re obviously not doing what we need to do to create enough offense, putting pucks on the net or getting to the net or even just having enough offensive zone time.”

No, the Blackhawks’ zone time wasn’t so good in this one. That was especially true on their first power play, during which the Jets were more of a threat on Darling than the Blackhawks were on Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

Still, thanks to Panarin’s goal with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks once again had a chance. Andrew Copp diminished those chances some with his goal with 4:45 remaining. The Blackhawks got a four-minute power play with less than three minutes left in the third period but couldn’t get one past Hellebuyck. Their best chance, coming from Marian Hossa, was stopped with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

“That was a good chance to get the equalizer and we had a couple of decent looks but not the finish we were looking for,” Quenneville said. “We didn’t generate much tonight. It was one of those games. They came into our building, what was it a year or two ago, where they beat us back-to-back Sunday nights. They shut us down. The first two games [this season] they’ve shut us down pretty good.”

There’s no doubt the Blackhawks are missing the void left by Toews. Sure, they got points in four of the first six games he missed. But as Patrick Kane said, eventually you start feeling the void left by a top player.

“When you’re missing a guy right away for a couple of games, it may not really show up and guys are excited to get that chance. The longer you go, missing a great player, there’s going to be a hole,” he said. “Nothing we can control. It’s something guys like myself and other guys have to step up and try to [help], whether it’s taking on more ownership and leadership, playing the right way and do whatever you can to help this team win.”

The Blackhawks are going to have to find ways to win without Toews, as they did when he was first absent, because it sounds like he’ll be missing at least a few more games. Even when Toews was in the lineup, however, the scoring issues were there. Are the Blackhawks lacking confidence? Darling said no – “I’d be surprised [at that] with the great offensive players we have in here.”

Still, the Blackhawks need to find answers, no matter who’s in their lineup.

“We just have to figure out a way to get that chemistry going,” Darling said. “Because when it’s going it’s pretty lethal.”