Fenwick's Fiona Gallagher (94) handles the puck under pressure in a game from earlier this season. Gallagher, who will continue her career at William Smith College, was part of the Friars' 2019 state championship girls hockey team. (Photo by David Kindler)

After seeing the past two seasons getting cut short or altogether canceled, the Fenwick High School girls hockey club entered this year hoping to duplicate the success of 2019, which ended with an American Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI) state championship.

However, the Friars’ dreams came to an end with a 3-0 AHAI state quarterfinal loss at the hands of Loyola Academy on March 4 at Ridgeland Common in Oak Park. A shot from the blue line by the Ramblers’ Tierney Purcell 70 seconds into the game managed to trickle past Fenwick goalie Chrysoula Dafnis, putting the Friars in an early hole from which they couldn’t escape.

“That early goal was a really tough bounce,” said Fenwick coach Mason Strom. “It took the wind out of our sails, and you could feel it on the bench.”

Loyola’s defense then clamped down and made it difficult for Fenwick to establish possession in the attacking zone. The Friars managed to generate a few scoring opportunities, but were denied by the Ramblers’ goalie.

Loyola added two more goals, with Lauren Smith scoring at the 11:12 mark of the second period and an empty-netter by Karlynne Kolssak with 72 seconds left in the game.

“I commend the effort we had,” Strom said. “I’ve really got to hand it to Loyola. The goal as a hockey team is to play your best at the end of the season, and [Loyola’s] roller-coaster is still going up to play their best. I think we may have peaked a couple of weeks ago, and the last couple of games weren’t a good measuring stick of the best we could play.”

Still, Strom said Fenwick (11-7-1) had a successful season, given the vast amount of newcomers to the team this year.

“I define success a little differently,” he said. “Our core values are growing the game of girls’ hockey and providing a place for players to play. Learning life lessons and being good human beings are also important. We didn’t get as far in the state tournament like we wanted to, but Loyola was the better team. However, I wouldn’t define our season by this outcome.”

Juniors Alessia DiSilvestro (forward) and Brynne West (defense) along with seniors Elizabeth Mack and Cuora Sullivan (both defense) were named to the AHAI All-State Team.

Mack, a Fenwick student, along with Hamilton College commit Sullivan, an Oak Park and River Forest High School student, were part of the 2019 state title team along OPRF’s Fiona Gallagher (defense, William Smith College recruit). Strom said he’ll miss the leadership and presence they provided.

“The position they were put in the last couple of years was unfair,” he said of the club’s pandemic-affected seasons. “They were forced to become the glue that held the team together. They’re invaluable. They’re the only ones that had a full season until this year. They bridged our core values as a hockey community, and it’s going to be tough with them not skating with us next year.”

Strom said he is encouraged that the Friars will return several key contributors, including Dafnis, DiSilvestro, West and junior forward Mae Hamilton.

“Three seasons ago, we learned how difficult it is to make a state title game, let alone win one,” he said. “I’m hoping that they take to heart the lessons of learning how to sacrifice and making the effort that it takes to be successful and experience victory. That’s going to be key for us moving forward.”

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