Hoscheit a two-way star for St. Charles East

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Hoscheit a two-way star for St. Charles East

Last summer, St. Charles East's Joe Hoscheit had a big decision to make. Should he opt to play baseball or football in college? It wasn't an easy decision. But it wasn't as difficult as losing to three unbeaten teams in one season.

"I like both sports equally," Hoscheit said. "But I started to get recruiting attention for baseball. Northwestern offered first. Then Valparaiso. I was talking to Air Force and Wright State. Size-wise, I felt I had a better opportunity to play baseball.

"In football, I got a lot of letters but no offers. I didn't go to any combines. I had my mind set on baseball as I began to get recruiting attention so I went with it. Baseball was a better fit. I knew I wouldn't get much bigger and I'd have to get faster to play football. I had a chance to go farther in baseball."

So Hoscheit accepted a scholarship to Northwestern. He'll play outfield and catch for the Wildcats. Last spring, he had a .430 batting average for a conference champion.

"I have more talent in baseball," he said.

He also has the academic skills to compete at Northwestern. He ranks No. 15 in a class of 550 and scored 29 on the ACT. He plans to major in business.

But Hoscheit admits there are things that he experiences on the football field on Friday nights that he doesn't feel in baseball, things he began feeling when he began to play the game in fourth grade, things he will feel on Friday night when St. Charles East plays at Wheaton North in the opening round of the Class 7A playoff.

"It's a family experience in football. There is nothing like the camaraderie, the atmosphere of playing on Friday nights, playing together as a team. You don't get it with baseball," he said.

Hoscheit, a 6-foot, 215-pound senior who starts at fullback and middle linebacker, has emerged as the leader of a 6-3 team that has rebounded from two 3-6 seasons in a row and losses to three unbeaten teams.

Coach Mike Fields is touting Hoscheit for All-State recognition and the Defensive Player of the Year in the Upstate Eight's River Division.

"There is no one like him in our conference. He is a throwback football player. He loves to mix it up," Fields said.

Hoscheit is the Saints' leading tackler. He has rushed 61 times for 300 yards, caught 12 passes and scored 10 touchdowns. In last Friday's 26-0 victory over Elgin Larkin, he rushed nine times for 102 yards and scored on runs of 32 and 12 yards. He also set up another touchdown with a 32-yard burst.

He comes off the field only for kickoffs and kick returns.

"I like defense because you hit someone on every play. But I also like to block and carry the ball as a fullback," he said.

After experiencing two 3-6 seasons, Hoscheit and his teammates are having more fun this year, despite losses to unbeaten Cary-Grove, Neuqua Valley and conference rival Batavia. After shaky starts, they felt they played Neuqua Valley and Batavia to a standstill.

"People asked me: 'Why couldn't we play some lesser opponents?' But this is a great group of kids. They proved they can play with anyone. They aren't intimidated by anyone. I'm excited by what our kids are doing. They are competing and that's all you can ask for as a coach. Everybody is dinged up and tired at this time of the year but we're still getting better," Fields said.

He wasn't so positive after going 3-6 last year.

"We had some opportunities but couldn't finish. We could have been 5-4 easily. But it didn't work out. We couldn't capitalize on opportunities. But these kids have turned close games and opportunities into victories," the coach said.

"Our juniors and seniors have meshed well together. There aren't a lot of I's but a lot of we's on this team. The kids have bought into the idea that team comes first. Even with only five returning starters, our goals were to compete for the conference title and qualify for the playoff for the first time since 2009 and we did it.

"I've been coaching for 18 years (the last four as head coach at St. Charles East) and each team is different. But this is one of the best groups I've had. They care about each other. They don't want to let anyone down. They have bought into the team concept."

The offense is led by Hoscheit, 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior tailback Erick Anderson, 6-foot, 180-pound junior quarterback Jimmy Mitchell, 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior tight end Andrew Szyman, 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior wide receiver Mitch Munroe and 6-foot, 195-pound senior guard Ian Crawford.

Anderson, who missed four games with a shoulder injury and pulled groin, is the leading rusher with 440 yards. He averages five yards per carry and also has caught seven passes for 125 yards. The Saints are 5-1 with Anderson in the lineup. Mitchell has passed for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, Hoscheit, Szyman at end, Munroe at cornerback, 6-foot, 185-pound junior linebacker Michael Candre and 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior safety Anthony Sciarrino are the mainstays.

"In each of the last two years, we started 0-5. It put a damper on our mood. We lost games we shouldn't have lost. We weren't finishing games. The teams could have come together more," Hoscheit said.

"This year the juniors and seniors are a tight knit group. Losing to those three unbeaten teams was tough but we won games we should have won. Every person has each other's back, no matter if you're playing or not. Everybody is upbeat about the team and the program.

"We're not doing anything different, the coaches tell us, but the difference (between this team and the last two years) is the players are capitalizing on opportunities this year and finishing games. It's a terrible feeling to have two losing seasons in a row."

Hoscheit wears No. 34 because his grandfather and older brother once wore the same number. The fact that Walter Payton also wore No. 34 is a bonus, he said. He leads by example, not vocally. And he insists he didn't have any personal goals going into the season.

"Sure, I dreamed about playing pro baseball and pro football. But realistically I realize I'm not at that level yet. I have to keep working to have a chance to be there," he said. "But it's awesome for the coach to think I'm good enough to be defensive player of the year in the conference."

It isn't by accident. Hoscheit credits his past two years of varsity experience and his hard work for reaching such stature...getting used to the speed of the game, watching miles of film, studying each opponent, reading keys, preparing to make plays.

So how has he been preparing for Wheaton North?

"We need to have our best week of practice, mentally and physically. We haven't been perfect yet. But this needs to be perfect. We have to play a team game and play four quarters," he said.

Rangers win riveting goaltending duel over Blackhawks in overtime

Rangers win riveting goaltending duel over Blackhawks in overtime

When Scott Darling and Antti Raanta vied for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending job two seasons ago, there was definitely a strong competition. But it was still one built on respect.

“We had no bad blood in that situation,” Darling said on Friday. “We’ve remained friends. He’s having a great season and I’m happy for him.”

On this night, Raanta may have been just a bit happier.

Raanta stopped all 26 shots he saw against his former team, notching his first shutout of this season, and Nick Holden gave the New York Rangers a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night. The Blackhawks are 1-2-1 in their last four games but remain atop the Western Conference with 38 points.

The Blackhawks were missing Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford in this one. Nevertheless, it was a tight game, one in which both goaltenders were stellar. Darling stopped 36 of 37 shots – Holden’s overtime winner was the first goaltender allowed to New York in two games against them.

Considering the players missing, the Blackhawks will take the point.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“With or without Toews, you’re always thinking when it’s in the third period and it’s close and getting inside 10 minutes, let’s get it to overtime,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve seen a ton of overtimes in the league. You gotta get the one point. We’ve had some success trying to get the extra one. Tonight, not, but that’s got to be the mindset.”

The Blackhawks were close to taking the 1-0 lead six minutes into the third period, when Marian Hossa thought he scored his 15th goal of the season. But the Rangers challenged for offside. Upon further review, the goal was nullified.

“Well, obviously that’s a tough one,” Hossa said. “I mean, I didn’t notice it was close to offside but obviously with today’s technology, with this new rule, it’s a game of inches. It’s slowing the game down, I think. You’re getting confused, what exactly the coaches are looking for. They created this new rule and we just have to deal with it. But sometimes it’s more frustrating because the league wants to increase the scoring and right now, I think more goals are disallowed because of this.”

Hartman, who had the pass to Hossa, was also disappointed but agreed with the review’s ruling.

“You get your excitement up a little bit and you try not to get too ahead of yourself when you know they are reviewing it. You just try to see it as both ways, if they do call it a goal, if they call it back,” Hartman said. “Obviously it was the right call. It was just a tough one.”

The Blackhawks will take the point out of this one. Despite the players they were without they played a solid game. They had good, quality scoring chances. Their current backup was just slightly bested by their previous one.

“Both [goalies] were great, both [teams] had excellent looks at the net,” Quenneville said. “We missed some good opportunities on 2-on-1s and they had some good looks around Darling as well. Both guys got their teams to overtime, got a point. It’s a good point if you want to look at it like that. I didn’t mind the way we played but Darls was excellent.”

Blackhawks preparing for EPIX all-access look leading up to Winter Classic

Blackhawks preparing for EPIX all-access look leading up to Winter Classic

The 2017 Winter Classic featuring the Blackhawks and Blues is right around the corner.

Players from both sides already squared off in a game of NHL 17 to generate some hype into the game, but nothing compares to behind-the-scenes footage of the two teams leading up to it.

Beginning Dec. 16 at 9 p.m., EPIX will air a one-hour episode each week that provides an all-access look inside the lives of the Blackhawks and Blues, on and off the ice.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The game will be on Jan. 2 at 12 p.m. on NBC, with the final episode airing Friday, Jan. 6.

Here's a two-minute preview involving the Blackhawks, who are labeled "A Good Bunch of Guys."