After going 1-3 in its first four games, Lincoln-Way was looking for some significant victories to help it begin the process of turning in a successful season in the Illinois West High School Hockey League.
The members of the team that features players from Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way West are hopeful that a pair of games the past two Sundays at the Arctic Ice Arena show what their squad is capable of achieving during the 2022-23 campaign.
After winning 4-1 over Hinsdale Central last Sunday to hand the Red Devils their only loss in their first five games, Lincoln-Way improved to 3-3 after capturing a convincing 5-0 victory over rival Sandburg in Orland Park on Sunday. A day earlier, the Eagles fell 4-1 to Oak Park and River Forest and are also 3-3 on the season.
Marty McCauley scored the victor's first two goals within a span of 3:43 during the initial 7:11 of the contest, with Leo Schaffer assisting on the first tally while Darren Rys and Ryan Nayder had assists on the second goal to put Lincoln-Way in control in the early going.
"We got the early lead and that got the boys buzzing," McCauley said. "It was good to finally shut out a team and to also score a couple of goals. This was pretty big and I hope that we can keep getting goals early."
Connor LeBeau made it 3-0 with 1:07 left in the opening period, following an assist from Tommy Murray III. There would be no more scoring until the final 4:39 when Lincoln-Way scored two goals, exactly one minute apart, with Michael Tucker assisting on both. Ty Jackson scored the fourth goal while Murray tallied the fifth goal.
Collecting the shutout in goal was Evan Fisk, who faced 21 shots, exactly seven in each period. Meanwhile, Lincoln-Way had 32 shots on goal with 13 coming in the productive opening period and 12 more in the second period.
The shutout and three goals allowed in the last two games is a very encouraging sign for a team that had yielded 20 goals in three contests that it played from September 25 to October 7 against Neuqua Valley, Lyons Township and Glenbard.
LeBeau scored his team-high sixth goal and is tied for second in points with 10. Murray got his fourth goal and added his team-high eighth assist to give him the team lead in points with 12. And Jackson also scored his fourth goal and has six assists for 10 points, ranking him second in assists and tied for second in goals and points.
McCauley scored his second and third goals while Nayder recorded his fifth assist.
Lincoln-Way only committed two penalties, one in the opening minute and the other early in the third period. Sandburg was assessed five penalties and Lincoln-Way capitalized on a slashing penalty in the third period to get its fourth goal when Jackson scored on a power play.
After being shut out for the first time and scoring just one goal in its last two outings, Sandburg looks to get back to the totals that it had in its three wins, during which it collected a combined14 goals against DuPage, Lyons Township and Wheaton West.
The tone was set quickly for Lincoln-Way as McCauley connected from close range following an assist from Schaffer with 13:31 left in the opening period. McCauley, a sophomore at Lincoln-Way West, connected again on a short attempt with 9:49 left in the first period with Rys and Nayder assisting to quickly make it a 2-0 game.
"We definitely have a deep roster this year and we should be pretty good," McCauley said. "With the different schools, it's kind of tough sometimes, so you have to get to know the boys. It's a pretty fun group. And we have a lot of older kids so there's a lot of leadership on this team."
LeBeau fired in an attempt from the side with 1:07 left in the first period, following an assist from Murray, to increase the lead to 3-0.
There would be no more scoring over the next 30 minutes as the defenses took over and Fisk stopped everything that came his way while Sandburg goalie Matthew Ogean halted all shots he faced throughout the second period and for much of the third period.
"It really was a team effort today," said Fisk, a senior at Lincoln-Way Central. "Everyone played their game and we had a shutout. We had a good warmup and we started out strong and that's what we need in every single game. We played as a team instead of as individuals and we made a lot of good passes and kept them out of the zone a lot and we had so many blocked shots in this game, I couldn't believe it. After last year when we had some tough games against them, it was nice to come out in our first game against them and shut them out.
"This really sets a good tone for the team and helps us to bond even more and give us more chemistry. I think with this team that we can go pretty far later this year. I really like how we always keep trying. We never let up on effort, even if we're down a lot. We always keep trying and keep pushing."
Some of Lincoln-Way's best chances in the second period were sent in by Max Angsten, Nicholas Lange, Carson Low, Cameron Malecha, Christopher Wilson, Jackson, LeBeau and Schaffer. Players who had some of Sandburg's top second-period shots were Avery Bochenek, Michael Egan and Mark Mueller.
Both squads came up empty on their first two power play opportunities but the third time that Lincoln-Way had the one-man advantage, it capitalized to score its fourth goal when Jackson fired in a shot from the side following a pass from Tucker with 4:39 remaining. And then with 3:39 to go, Murray capped the scoring with a tip in following a deflection of an attempt by Tucker.
"We started the year off 1-3, so it was a little bit of a slower start," said Murray, who's a senior at Lincoln-Way Central. "But we came up with a big win last week against Hinsdale and then we came out flying tonight and got the first few early goals and that helped us to set the tone. It was nice to be able to play with the lead and we could ease up on the forecheck a little bit. It really helps the team when we get everybody else blocking shots and getting in front of pucks so Evan doesn't have to see as many. and get them going the other way.
"We got contributions from all three lines tonight, which was really good. It's great to pick up a few wins under our belts against some really good teams like Sandburg and Hinsdale. We were able to play a little bit in the offseason and get in some tournaments. We have a great group of guys who came in on day one and I said that this team wants to build and go far this year, so we all need to work together to get to that goal. I like that we never quit."
Besides the two scores in the late going for Lincoln-Way, McCauley had a couple of good opportunities to get a hat trick in the third period. During that same period, Sandburg also received good shots on goal from Alexander Karnavas, Maxwell Montalvo and Jason Sullivan.
Lincoln-Way hopes to continue its recent success when it hosts 8:30 p.m. games this weekend at the Arctic Ice Arena. It hosts Maine on Friday and Naperville North on Saturday. Sandburg looks to get back to its winning ways when it plays Neuqua Valley on September 28 at 7 p.m. at Canlan Sports Romeoville.