For Fox Valley Hawks coach Phil Gabrielsen, it is all about the pace.
The pace of a shift as to how hard he wants his players to skate in both practice time and during games. It is also all about the pace of season. A season which started back in September will hopefully for the Hawks not finish until sometime in March.
For the Hawks (11-9-4, 8-7-3), in their first season in the Illinois High School Hockey League North Central Division, there have been good games and not so good games. There have been injuries and penalties. But for a team in its first year in a new league, having a winning record is not something Gabrielsen would have thought possible.
“I am absolutely thrilled with how things have gone so far for us as a club,” he said. “I know we have not played a game since Dec. 17, but we needed to give the kids some time off. Give them a chance to enjoy their holiday break and just get away from the rink for a while.”
The Hawks will return to league play Jan. 11 when they take on Lake Forest at 7:15 p.m. at Carol Stream Ice Arena. That is followed by Lane Tech two days later at Mc Fetridge Ice Arena in Chicago and Highland Park the day after at Centennial Ice Arena in Wilmette.
“I think we will be all right,” Gabrielsen said. “I have gotten a lot of compliments from both parents and players saying how much they really appreciate the time off we gave them these past two weeks. So, I think we are doing things the right way here.”
Gabrielsen said one of the main reasons for doing the scheduling he did was the number of players who would have been out of town on vacations and the idea of struggling to fill a roster if the team were to go play in a holiday tournament.
“Our kids just loved the idea of being able to go on vacation over a two-week holiday period and their parents did as well,” Gabrielsen said. “I think we could be a little out of shape our first game back. But the core of our group who have carried us to a 7-1-2 record in our last 10 games I think will have us ready to go.”
As a club the Hawks have had no regrets in being in the IHSHL North Central Division. The jump from the Illinois Suburban Hockey League was a refreshing change because of the level of competition the Hawks needed to face to get better.
“This is just simply a better league because we are getting seen by more teams both out west but up north as well,” Gabrielsen said.
For senior forward Tyler Nance, from Kaneland High School, his goals coming into this season were simple ones.
“I knew that I wanted to be named a captain on this team,” said Nance, who will attend Texas A&M. “I also wanted to work on my confidence level with the puck. I think in the past I would just dump the puck into the offensive zone and not try to skate with the puck. Now, people look to me to make a play with the puck when I have it. I think the competition we have faced this year in this new league has helped us to get better."