Team Illinois Pee Wee 85 Takes Prestigious Tournament Crown
Reis, Paul, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Paul Reis Daily Herald Correspondent
Two for 36 might not the best ratio in the world. That is, unless you're one of the two.
The Team Illinois "AAA" Hockey Club's Pee Wee 85 Major travel team became just the second United States hockey team in 36 years to win the prestigious Don Mills Tournament in Ontario, Canada, and the first ever from Illinois, when they captured the title on December 30.
There's more than enough local flavor to this Pee Wee 85 unit. Defensemen Steven Cindric is from Crystal Lake, forward Topher Scott and goalie Kevin Zweir are Buffalo Grove natives, and forward Robbie Peters hails from Arlington Heights. Other team members are Ryan Black and Robert Tanakatsubo (Skokie), Jeremy Fisher (Oak Park), Andrew Goberstein (Northbrook), Ricky Hertz (Addison), Joseph Lorenzetti (Downers Grove), Steven Luft and Kevin Roeder (Glenview), Matt McIlvane and Scott Prudden (Naperville), Brian Paha (Lockport), Chris Palmer (Palos Heights) and Adam Ruprecht (Worth).
Then there's head coach Stan Stiopkin, who not from around here. Really not from around here. Like Russia not around here. Stiopkin threw back the Iron Curtain to coach the Chicago Young Americans before landing with Team Illinois. He makes no bones about his heritage.
"I learned a lot from American hockey and would like for American kids to learn a lot from a Russian coach," said Stiopkin, who is assisted by Mike Zombo (brother of former St. Louis Blues Rick Zombo) and aided by manager Irene Roeder. "If you put the two styles together, that would be great."
The Pee Wee 85 Majors squad showed great style from the start of the Don Mills tournament. Their first game was against the heavily-favored Toronto Redwings - the second-ranked team in the tournament, behind only the host Don Mills Flyers.
Though the Redwings were bigger and closer to home, Team Illinois rode the hot goaltending of Zweir (who stopped 16 of 17 shots) to a 5-1 victory.
Scott scored a pair of goals and Roberts added an assist.
Buoyed by their game one success, the Illinois squad captured a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Vaughan Kings the next afternoon.
Vaughan took a 1-0 third period lead, but Team Illinois rebounded with goals by Roader and Ruprecht (assisted by Scott) to seal the victory.
Fourteen penalties marred the next day's contest with the Markham Waxers. And despite scoring the game's first three goals and outshooting their opponents by a whopping 21-14 margin, Team Illinois eked out a 3-2 win. …