It was supposed to be a game that would propel the Fenwick hockey team in the right direction with the postseason looming.
But instead, the Friars’ 6-1 loss to St. Rita on Friday night at Ridgeland Common created even more questions for the .500 squad.
Heading into Monday’s High School Invitational Tournament game against Mount Carmel, Fenwick finished its first 35 games with a 17-17-1 record.
So that begs the question: Is the glass half full or half empty for one of the premier hockey programs in the state, which won 134 games the previous three seasons combined?
“I think it’s still half full,” said Fenwick coach Dan Wolff, whose team also dropped a 3-0 decision to Glenbrook North on Saturday. “I had five guys that were sick with the flu this week, and that made things tough.
“But I feel as if the kids took a step back in the loss to St. Rita after losing to them by one goal in the previous two meetings. It looked like at times that they lost their desire to be out there, and I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was because some kids were sick and it affected the entire team or what.”
St. Rita (14-0) moved one step closer to becoming only the third team in Catholic League history to go undefeated in conference play with the easy win.
The Mustangs blew open the game in the second period when Chris Cimoch and Patrick Gross scored a minute apart to make the score 5-1, with the latter goal coming short-handed.
Two minutes later, Fenwick was unable to take advantage of a five-on-three power play. The win was the Mustangs’ fourth consecutive victory over the Friars this season. With wins over Brother Rice and Notre Dame next week, St. Rita will join the 1986 and 1998 Mount Carmel teams that finished the Catholic League campaign with a perfect mark.
A year ago, Fenwick posted a 2-2 record against St. Rita during the regular season, before eventually sweeping the Mustangs in the best-of-three Kennedy Cup semifinals with a pair of overtime victories.
“I told the kids after the second period that I thought they totally embarrassed themselves up to that point,” Wolff said. “In my heart, I believe we can play with them and beat them. I have to shake this team up, and hopefully that will get us going before the start of the postseason.”
Wolff’s squad will face Brother Rice on Thursday, followed by a Sunday showdown with state-title contender Stevenson. Fenwick will conclude the regular season next Tuesday against Mount Carmel, which could be a possible Kennedy Cup semifinal preview.
The Friars currently hold the No. 2 seed, while the Caravan is battling with Providence for the No. 3 slot.
“We’re lacking the confidence we’ve had in the past,” Wolff said. “For example, we beat Stevenson in the Blackhawks Holiday Classic.
“Stevenson has beat New Trier Green, Loyola, Glenbrook North and St. Rita this year. So that should show the kids the talent is here. It’s more of a mental thing, and we have to get that corrected if we want to make a run at (a sixth consecutive) Kennedy Cup title.”