Fenwick captures Catholic League Crown

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Fenwick captures Catholic League Crown

Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010
12:14 AM

By Mike Clark
YourSeason.com

Joe Kelly had an up-and-down night for Fenwick on Friday, or maybe it's better to call it down-and-up.

Three plays after fumbling away a punt, Kelly picked off a Brother Rice pass in the red zone to help seal a 7-3 win for Fenwick in the Catholic League title game at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

Kelly had two of the five takeaways for the Fenwick defense as the Friars (7-5) advanced to the Prep Bowl for the first time since 1991. Fenwick will play the winner of Saturday's Public League championship game between Morgan Park and Curie Friday at Soldier Field.

Kelly recovered a Brother Rice fumble in the third quarter and then picked off a pass with 5:21 left in the fourth period. That came just moments after he mishandled a punt to give the Crusaders (6-6) a first down at the Fenwick 20.

"It wasn't my night in punt returns," Kelly said. "I didn't want to let my team down. I had to make a play to make up for it and I did that."

Rice got the ball back one more time after forcing a Fenwick punt, but fumbled it away on the next play and the Friars' Joe Di Somma recovered. Fenwick then ran out the clock.

"We made a lot of mistakes on offense, but our kids performed on defense," said Fenwick coach Joe DiCanio, whose team defeated Rice in Week 9 to earn an IHSA playoff berth. "We weren't hitting on all cylinders, but it's hard to beat the same team twice."

Eric Hulihan gave Fenwick with 4:46 left in the first quarter when he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and dashed 39 yards for a touchdown.

The 7-0 lead stood till the fourth quarter, when Rice's Ryan Neilan kicked a 20-yard field goal with 9:42 remaining. Other than that, the defenses dominated to the tune of nine takeaways.

Fenwick recovered four Rice fumbles and had one interception, while the Crusaders recovered four Fenwick fumbles.

"The defense played outstanding," Rice coach Steve Nye said. "We had opportunities offensively. We just didn't do a good job of capitalizing on those opportunities."

Hulihan finished with 82 yards on 13 carries for Fenwick and sophomore quarterback Pat Hart ran 21 times for 80 yards.

Andrew Walker gained 76 yards on 14 carries for Brother Rice. Kevin Salmon recovered two Fenwick fumbles for the Crusaders.

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The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.