Soldier Field prepares to host Hockey City Classic

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Soldier Field prepares to host Hockey City Classic

The Bears may have packed up and gone home for the season, but that doesn't mean Soldier Field will be sitting empty this winter.

In just a few weeks, its stands will once again be filled with screaming fans. They just wont be watching football. They'll be watching the first hockey games ever played under the lights at Soldier Field, as a part of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic WinterFest.

Everything will kick off on Friday, Feb. 1 with a Blackhawks alumni event to benefit the Ronald McDonald House charities of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, said Drew Russell, the VP of Sports Properties for Intersport. It will feature appearances by Blackhawks greats Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito, who will be available for autographs, along with a number of other former Blackhawks players.

The rink will feature a series of high school matchups the weekend of Feb. 8-9, as well as a contest between the North and South Sides of the Chicago Fire Department. On Feb. 17, it will also be the site of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, where Notre Dame will face off against Miami (Ohio) and Wisconsin will take on Minnesota in back-to-back games.

"Kevin Gift and his team at Ice Rink Events have spent the last two weeks installing the stadiums first rink installed and getting the ice in skating shape. Its a lot of hard work to get this in," Gift said. "We've got 10 guys here; we've been working 10, 14 hours a day. The facility's been great to us, helped us out with whatever we needed."

The weather, on the other hand, hasn't been as kind. As temperatures in Chicago rise, the rinks chillers are working overtime to keep Gifts ice intact.

"There's about 46 miles of tubing underneath this rink and its all chilled at 6 degrees evenly right now," Gift said. "As the temperatures change, well turn the chillers up."

By constantly monitoring the ice, Gift's team should be able to keep the surface temperature of the rink around 22 to 23 degrees and have skateable ice for the rinks opening match between Latin vs. St. Ignatius. The full schedule of high-school games, as well as the game schedule for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic is as follows:

Friday, Feb. 8

Latin vs. St. Ignatius, 3 p.m.
Evanston vs. Lincoln-Way, 5 p.m.
St. Viator vs. Benet Academy, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 9

Oak Park River Forest vs. Libertyville Vernon Hills, Noon
Mt. Carmel vs. Glenbrook South, 2 p.m.
St. Rita vs. Fenwick, 5 p.m.
New Trier Green vs. Loyola Academy Gold, 7 p.m.
Chicago Fire Hockey - North Side vs. South Side, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 17

Notre Dame vs. Miami, Noon
Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, 3:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased for the Blackhawks Alumni event on Feb. 1 through the Ronald McDonald House. General admission tickets for the High School Hockey Faceoff can be purchased at the respective schools as well as online, with tickets for the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic, at Ticketmaster.com.

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

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USA TODAY

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

Northern Illinois University added it's fourth known verbal commitment today in its growing Class of 2018.

Maine South junior running back Fotis Kokosioulis (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) added an offer from the Huskies on Tuesday after making a spring practice visit, and today he gave head coach Rod Carey his verbal commitment.

"I chose NIU because it's been a school that I've liked for awhile now," Kokosioulis said moments ago. "I like the facilities at NIU, the stadium and everything else they have to offer. I also really like all the coaches at NIU. I felt that even if I got more offers I would've still chose NIU over other schools. I know that there are bigger school and programs but I feel that I just fit in well at NIU, so I committed."

Kokosioulis, who was an All-State performer for the Class 8A state champion Maine South Hawks in 2016, is now the fourth known in-state verbal commitment for Rod Carey and the Huskies and the fifth known commitment overall. Kokosioulis joins Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Plainfield East defensive end Jack Sullivan and Danville tight end Julian Pearl in the NIU Huskies in-state Class of 2018.

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.