Nighthawks Fall to Libertyville 4-2 in First Playoff Game

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Nighthawks Fall to Libertyville 4-2 in First Playoff Game

By Mara Shapiro

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Holding a 17-5-1 record, hopes were high Saturday night when the Niles Nighthawks were set to take on the Libertyville Wildcats. Unfortunately, the Nighthawks did not play up to their potential and lost 4-2.

First Period

To start off the game, Niles North sophomore Stefan Vlad took the puck up by himself in an attempt to score early, but fell while trying to get past the Cats’ defense. Senior Eli Sherman kept the puck in the zone, but the Cats were soon on the move toward Nighthawks’ goalie, Taft freshman Jason Dorsch. Dorsch blocked the shot against him, allowing for senior Nick Clark to battle against oncoming Cats while trying to get the puck out of the Nighthawks’ zone. Ida Crown sophomore Seth Greenberg took a shot against the Cats’ wall of a goalie, but couldn’t score. The Wildcats were advancing quickly towards Dorsch when Lincoln Park junior Tony Ercoli took the puck away from a Cat forward. Ercoli passed to Niles North junior Joey Bleadon, but Bleadon was hit by two Cats, preventing him from getting close to the Cats’ goal. An issue the Nighthawks began having early on, which subsequently occurred throughout the game, was the pressure to get the puck out of the zone. Many times the Nighthawks would hit the puck out but wouldn’t pass to another player to try to make a run for the goal, allowing the Cats to put the puck right back into the zone.

Ercoli and Vlad both tried to score, but failed passes allowed for unwanted turnovers. A Cat got the puck dangerously close to Dorsch, but Clark guarded the net and got the puck away. Niles North sophomore John Kinne tried to take the puck up the left boards, but was poke checked. Ida Crown junior Elazar Kolom took a penalty, giving the Cats the power play advantage. The Cats tried to score, but junior Nick Brummitt got the puck out, passing to Vlad, whose shot was blocked by the Cats’ goalie. Shortly after, Vlad intercepted a pass and shot, but was again denied. A penalty was called against the Cats, giving the the Nighthawks the five on four power play. Niles North senior Benji Berg-Einhorn shot, but a Cat’s stick deflected the puck. Once five on five was restored, the Cats took the puck up the Nighthawks’ zone, but Chicagoland Jewish High School sophomore Ethan Herman blocked the scoring attempt. Ercoli tried to score but there were too many Cats blocking his way. Unfortunately, a rough hit from  Greenberg caused a Cat to leave the game with a knee injury. Another penalty was called for Libertyville against Clark, once again giving the Nighthawks the power play. Ercoli and Vlad both worked hard to score, but couldn’t come up with goals. At the end of the period, both teams remained scoreless.

Second Period 

To start off the second period, Berg-Einhorn took the puck up the Cats’ zone, but was stopped by their defensemen. The puck was taken back into the Nighthawks’ zone, allowing for the Cats to score their first goal of the night. Sherman passed to Greenberg in hopes of retaliating quickly, but Greenberg’s shot was blocked. Brummitt had a few scoring opportunities himself, but they were either blocked by the Cats’ goalie or went wide. Ida Crown freshman Ari Daniels stopped a Cat from coming up the right boards, allowing for Ercoli to try to score, but he was stopped by Cats’ defense. Penalties were taken by a Cat and Ercoli, making the play four on four. Greenberg tried to score by going behind the net and getting close to the Cats’ goalie but couldn’t score.

Clark, Berg-Einhorn and Greenberg continually passed to each other, hoping to score, but Libertyville soon scored their second goal of the night. Shortly afterwards, Dorsch was pulled and Whitney Young  junior Eric Ziegler was put in to goal tend. Herman intercepted a Cat pass, protecting Ziegler from a possible save. Ercoli, Clark, Vlad and Brummitt all tried passing to each other in hopes of scoring the first goal of the night, but it would be Daniels who scored the first Nighthawks goal, assisted by Clark. Shortly after the goal, both Clark and Niles North senior Jack Burke (his first game since separating his clavicle) were put into the box, giving the Cats a five on three advantage. The Cats were vicious with their attacks on Ziegler, but he made save after save, keeping the Cats from putting more scoring distance. Burke, assisted by Ercoli, would be the one to tie up the score, finding a hole in the Cat’s goalie’s left side, making the score 2-2 at the end of the period.

Third Period

The Wildcats were determined to be the team to break the tie and did so successfully early in the third period. Brummitt tried scoring, but his shot was blocked. Clark and Kinne were both put into the penalty box, giving the Cats the five on three power play. Vlad took the puck up, but was blocked. The Cats later took a penalty themselves, allowing for Kolom and Vlad to try to get past the Cats’ defense. Senior Alex Petroulakis also tried to bring the puck up, but instead took a penalty. Clark shot and Kolom tried to score on the rebound, but he wasn’t successful. Kolom, Brummitt, and Ercoli all tried to score, but none could get the puck into the net. Back at the Nighthawks’ zone, Ziegler made many tremendous saves, keeping the Cats’ from increasing their score. Ercoli took a penalty, giving the Cats another power play. Luckily, they did not score. Ercoli, Kolom, Clark, and Berg-Einhorn all tried to tie up the score again, but they were all denied. The decision was made to pull Ziegler and add another player on the ice, but this proved to be futile as the Cats’ scored on the open net. Daniels and Petroulakis tried to score in the remaining seconds, but the final outcome remained 4-2 Libertyville.

Clark feels that there was a lack of Nighthawk effort.

“There were few bright spots in tonight’s game. The goals by Ari and Jack were timely and really put the ball in our court, but we were unable to build upon them. It was disappointing to see a lack of effort by some, and we had countless offensive opportunities that we should have capitalized on (we had 25 shots to their nine.) I hope that we as a team play to our potential and show enough effort to lead to a win in our next game,” Clark said.

The Nighthawks will need to win both their games against Crystal Lake at Crystal Lake Wednesday, Feb. 6 and their game against the combination of Buffalo Grove, Wheeling, and Hersey Saturday, Feb. 9  at 9:15 p.m. at the Skokie Skatium to stay alive in the playoffs.