Chicago Bears

Strong start leads St. Viator past Loyola Gold to Blackhawk Cup Finals


Strong start leads St. Viator past Loyola Gold to Blackhawk Cup Finals

By Patrick Kelly

Playing in the semifinals of the Blackhawk Cup state tournament on St. Patricks Day, it certainly did not hurt St. Viator to have a little luck in the opening seconds of the game Saturday against Loyola Gold.

Just 12 seconds after the puck dropped, junior defenseman Michael Deckers pass attempt took a tricky bounce behind the Loyola net and led to a goal for the Lions.

St. Viator ended up scoring three goals in the opening period, and hung on for a 4-2 victory at the Edge West in Bensenville.

I was actually trying to dump the puck deep, it hit off the boards weird and hit off the goalies skate and went in, Decker said. I would say it was lucky, you usually do not get those goals. It is nice to have off the bat and get some momentum and start moving forward, which we did. We got three early goals on them.

The next step for St. Viator will be the state championship final March 23rd at the United Center against St. Rita, 3-2 winners against top-seeded New Trier Green on Saturday afternoon.

Jackson Owens and Patrick Gregory each followed with goals in the first period as the Lions took a 3-0 lead.

Loyola Gold responded in the second period, when Tom Kennedy rebounded his own shot and found the net with a blast past the stick of St. Viator goalie Robert Schmidt with under five minutes gone in the period.

Just over a minute later, James Warrick put another Loyola goal in the net, and the Ramblers trailed 3-2.

We dug ourselves a hole in the first period, but we showed our moxie by not folding up the tent, Loyola coach D.J. Lavarre said. We still had 34 minutes left of hockey, and we came back. They showed the heart of a lion today.

Michael Haubner scored the games final goal, when he halted the Ramblers rally with a goal with 4:34 left in the second.

Schmidt was solid in goal for the Lions, turning back 14 shots in the second period alone. He blanked Loyola in the first and third periods, recording a total of 30 saves.

The Lions will face a familiar foe in the title game, as it will be the fifth time they face St. Rita. The season series is tied 2-2.

I feel great getting to be a part of this team, we have a real strong group top to bottom, Decker said. Everyone gets along well, we are playing our best hockey now, we are just rolling.

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — While John Fox said Pernell McPhee is “truly day to day” after being placed on the physically unable to perform Wednesday, he didn’t want to delve into a timetable for one of the key players in the Bears’ pass rush.

Fox said the Bears found a “little irregularity” in McPhee’s right knee — not the same one that troubled him last year — during a physical on Wednesday and decided to place the 28-year-old on the PUP list. McPhee will continue to receive treatment in Bourbonnais and can attend all team meetings, and could be removed from the PUP list at any time.

“I hate to get into that hypothetical stuff,” Fox said. “We did that a couple years ago (with Kevin White) and it kind of bit us so we'll just let the doctors evaluate it and when we're ready to give you something concrete, we'll give it to you.”

McPhee was placed on the PUP list prior to last year’s training camp and missed the first six games of the regular season. His absence was one of many for an injury-addled Bears pass rush that also was without LaMarr Houston for 14 games and Leonard Floyd for four games.

If McPhee winds up in danger of missing time early in the regular season, though, it could bolster Houston’s chances of making the Bears’ 53-man roster. A thought regarding Houston, who had eight sacks in 2015 but has missed a total of 22 games in three years in Chicago, was that the Bears would cut him and clear about $5 million worth of cap space. But the team needs depth behind Willie Young and Leonard Floyd, and Houston certainly would fit the bill to fill it (provided he’s back to 100 percent, too).

For now, though, the Bears are in wait-and-see mode with McPhee and aren’t indicating one way or the other what his future status could be.

“When you go on PUP it could be a day or it could be a week,” Fox said. “It could be, I mean, he might be fine and  then you’re back off of PUP. I don’t know.”

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp


Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

BOURBONNAIS — Saying that it’s been a tough offseason for Kyle Long would be putting it mildly.

Long has been recovering from a pair of injuries, a serious one to his ankle that required surgery and another to his shoulder. On top of that, the Bears are moving him to the other side of the offensive line, switching his position for the second time since he arrived in Chicago by moving him from right guard to left guard.

All that has made for a pretty crazy few months. So being back with the Bears for the first day of training camp allowed Long a return to normalcy that has been evasive for some time.

“First time being away from the team for that extended period. First time missing any games, like not being able to be on the sideline for games,” Long said Thursday. “Mobility was really tough. Gives you an appreciation for your health, and it makes you feel sympathetic and empathy toward people who don’t have great mobility. So I’m really trying to get back to where I was and keeping it that way.”

Long previously revealed that he lost a good deal of weight while recovering. He added Thursday that his body didn’t react well to medication he was taking. The best way he described a challenging recovery period was perhaps also the scariest.

“It just doesn’t make you feel like you,” Long said. “And I don’t like to be in that state.”

So being able to play football again is a welcome reality for the guy who’s arguably been the Bears’ best player for several seasons now.

Thing is, even that is providing a challenge for Long.

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Changing positions is nothing new for the Oregon product, as the Bears shifted him from right guard to right tackle two years ago. Now he’s getting another new position, a move to left guard.

Long’s being a good sport about it and expressed excitement over getting to play a new position. But it’s another major thing added to this offseason — and now preseason — whirlwind.

“I like it. It’s fun. It’s a different view on things,” Long said.

“Be patient, but also understand that every rep is an opportunity to learn. You’ll be humbled over and over and over again, but you keep showing up, you keep swinging. You can only play one play at a time.

“There’s certain things that bug you as a player and there are certain things that are out of your control, and then there are certain things you can capitalize on, that I can take the knowledge I have acquired over the last few years at guard and at tackle and apply it to my new position. … We have a lot of guys in the room who can help me out as well. I just need to take it one day at a time.”

So entering this new season, there seems to be nothing but question marks surrounding the two-time Pro Bowler: Will Long return to full health by the start of the regular season? Will the transition to the left side of the line go smoothly? Will Long be the type of elite offensive lineman he’s been in the past?

Those are enough uncertainties to make anyone concerned. How’s Long handling things?

“I wouldn’t say I have a lot of anxiety in regards to my health and my future. I would say that there’s a lot of pressure. Pressure’s good. I’ve got to fight pressure with pressure. I’ve got to work harder and harder in the training room, in the weight room and on the field.

“There’s no real timetable right now, I’m just happy to be out here. Coach is letting me ease back into it. I knew it was going to be a long process when I initially got injured, and I don’t think the timing could have been much worse there toward the end of the season.

“But the cards are what they are, and we’ve got to play the hell out of them.”