As high school hockey teams across Chicagoland battle for respective conference titles, the hunt for the 2007 Blackhawk Cup, the state title for hockey in Illinois, is about to begin.
The field of the 32 teams is set with perennial powerhouse New Trier Green earning the No.1 seed. Catholic teams in Fenwick and Loyola Gold are second and third seeds, respectively.
While some teams appear destined to meet others, there are still some first round games to keep an eye on:
(5) Mount Carmel vs. (28) Lincoln-Way East: With the Kennedy Cup playoffs in full swing, Mount Carmel, the Catholic League regular season champions, can't look past its Valentine's Day tilt with Lincoln-Way East. The Griffins are 28-3-8 this season, but critics contend their record is a result of a weak schedule. Nick Galich leads East with 30 goals in 39 games.
(8) Glenbrook North vs. (25) Notre Dame: Glenbrook North will be facing one of the most surprising teams this year in Notre Dame. The Dons, who won state titles in 1976 and 1992, finished third in the Metro Central. They are led by junior Joe Indurante with 35 goals. North, meanwhile, is the top seed in the Metro North's Scholastic Cup playoffs.
(14) Highland Park vs. (19) Prairie Ridge: Prairie Ridge won the Metro Central regular season title for the first time in school history, but is still the lower seed. The Wolves' Cameron Comeaux and Alex Crisci are two of the best scorers in the state. Highland Park, which finished sixth in the Metro North, is led by Jason Shape and Robbie Dinschel, the top two scorers in the conference.
TOP 10 TEAMS TO WATCH:
1. New Trier Green: The Trevians won the prestigious Chicago Blackhawk Holiday Hockey Classic in December and Blackhawk Cup titles in 2002 and 2005. Having played some of the best competition in North America, Green is deep, talented and proven.
2. Fenwick: The Friars won back-to-back state titles in 2003 and2004. This year the Friars won the Metro West regular season title and have one of the best lines in the state with Nick Powers, K.C. Madock and Mike Freitag.
3. Glenbrook North: Earlier this season, the Spartans won the Gator Cup in Crystal Lake. North has tallied victories over some the best high school teams from Canada and the United States this season.
4. Glenbrook South: As a sixth-seed last season, Glenbrook South ran the table and beat Loyola Gold in the title game. This year, they are seeded fourth.
5. Loyola Gold: Loyola Gold lost to Glenbrook South in last year's Blackhawk Cup. Gold's record, which is just a couple games above .500, is deceiving. Coach D.J. La Varre's squad is still very physical and powerful and remains one of the most dominant teams in Illinois.
6. Mount Carmel: The Caravan won the Chicago Catholic League regular season title. A hard-nosed and bruising team, the Caravan is the top seed in the Kennedy Cup playoffs.
7. Stevenson: Stevenson finished third in the heralded Metro North conference. Stevenson is an underrated team that has beaten Fenwick, Mount Carmel and Loyola Gold this season.
8. St. Rita: St. Rita won the Trevian Tourney Championship in October. Seeded second in this year's Kennedy Cup playoffs, St. Rita won the state title in 1982.
9. Sandburg: Led by John Sarsfield and Mike Smith, Sandburg finished second in the Metro West behind Fenwick.
10. Prairie Ridge: Prairie Ridge won the Metro Central regular season title for the first time in school history. First-round opponent Highland Park will be a good test to see how far Prairie Ridge has come.