Thomas Labno, a senior goalie for Hinsdale Central, brings an aggressive style of play to the ice. He may come out 10-feet from the net to challenge the shooter on a breakaway. He also isn’t afraid to go for a risky puck off the net to help his teammates counter and get a possible scoring chance themselves.
He is the team’s quarterback on defense.
“I call out coverages on the forecheck, breakouts, and defensive positioning when our team is facing offensive pressure from the other team,” he said. “I feel like finding that balance between being confident in your own play, as well as being comfortable playing with the group of guys in front of you is important and unique for all hockey players.”
Labno, 17, who lives in Willowbrook, is a first-year varsity player, wearing uniform No. 31. He formerly played for the Chicago Hawks and before that, the Sabres.
In 10 IHSHL West Division games this season (tiering and seeding play), he has a 3.00 goals-against average.
“I try to create a supportive environment for my teammates,” Labno said. “Going into my senior year of high school and throughout my hockey career, I’ve faced a lot of adversity and I’ve had a lot of experiences that some guys may not have had on or off the ice. So, I try to keep pushing my boys, and help lead by example as well as being someone who my teammates can rely on as more than just the goalie.
“We have a decent amount of younger guys on our roster this year as well as a decent amount of veteran or senior presence on our team. (So), I feel it is my responsibility to set the right example for our future seniors and leaders.
“I bring a competitive mindset to the ice. My intent is to win and do everything I can to help my team. I think the group we have this year has a lot of potential and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to help us maximize our potential.”
Hinsdale Central went 12-3 in the season-opening tiering round of IHSHL West Division play. They are 2-3 in the top-tiered gold seeding round, good for fourth place of six teams.
“We have an amazing group of guys this season. The boys get along very well, and we have strong depth and a winning record, so things are going well for us,” he said. “We have gone through some adversity, like every team goes through at some point. I feel like (adversity) is an essential part of a team’s growth and it definitely has shown with the progress we’ve made as we get deeper into the second half of the season.
“Over the holidays we had a tournament at Fifth Third Arena where we played some of the state’s best (teams). We didn’t win all our games, but we definitely showed that we can skate with some of the best. I am really happy with how the season has been going from (the) team’s perspective and I’d imagine that a lot of my teammates would agree with that.”
Interestingly, Labno admitted he wasn’t certain he’d be skating this season as he “faced some adversity” after last year with the Chicago Hawks.
But, over the summer, he got a few text messages from Red Devil players, encouraging him to tryout.
He ultimately thought it was too soon to retire.
“Joining Hinsdale Central for the 2022-23 season has been one of the best decisions in my hockey career,” Labno said. “The guys are awesome; we have a good hockey team, and it’s a much smaller organization than I’ve been used to playing for. We’re really a family at Hinsdale Central with great coaches, thanks to hockey director Jim Swoyer.”
Spencer Anderson is the head coach and Kyle Nielson is the club’s goalie coach. “They have helped me so much in my transition back on the ice after months of not skating, getting back to in-season shape,” Labno said. “As for my performance, I feel good about it. I had to tune up some little details at the beginning of the season, but once I caught my groove, I’ve been going. I feel like I’ve grown a lot mentally this season. We’ve had some moments where we played a tight game and I was able to turn a switch to make some big stops to help us get a win, or I would have a rough patch and would come back and be locked in for our next game.
“There’s always room to improve, but overall I’m really happy with my play and the season, so far.”
Labno’s highlight this season was in a mid-November game against Lyons Township, bitter rival for the Red Devils, played at a standing-room-only Willowbrook Ice Arena.
“It was an indescribable experience; there was a buzz throughout the rink, throughout yourself, and throughout your teammates. It was awesome,” he said.
Hinsdale Central won, 8-5.
Labno was a state champion this past March, when he won his second state championship as a member of the Chicago Hawks U16 Central States Team. That team then skated in the USA Hockey Tier II Nationals, which he tagged as, “an awesome experience.”
“I was very glad we were able to take our season as far as we did last year, though we finished second at the National Championship,” he said.
Stopping Slapshots By … Hinsdale Central Goalie Thomas Labno
College Plans: Still undecided, though he wants to pursue a finance major and, hopefully, continue playing hockey.
Hockey Influences: “My mom has been a huge influence on my career; none of what I have accomplished through hockey would be possible without her. She is a single mom and works hard to support me. I am extremely grateful for her support. Then I would say my coaches and teammates; I have been fortunate to work with a lot of experienced and accomplished coaches throughout my hockey career. Though my coaches have helped develop me as a goalie, they have helped me grow as a person just the same. Special shoutout to my goalie coach, Anthony Petrak, and Hinsdale Central head coach Spencer Anderson. Then of course my teammates at every club I’ve played. Every level I have made endless amounts of new relationships, on and off the ice. Even after parting ways with many teammates from past teams on the ice, our off-ice friendships are ones that will last a lifetime.”
Off The Ice: “I like to work out, spend time with family and friends. I worked a job at Chick-fil-A earlier last year as a team leader, which was a big commitment with hockey, but I managed. I ended up quitting my job when the school year (started) so I could focus on schoolwork and college applications.”
Teammates: “Team chemistry separates good teams from great teams, and in the process I’m making friendships that may last a lifetime.”
First-Ever Hockey Game: “I remember being extremely nervous. I started playing hockey later than most kids; I played my first hockey game at 12 years old. I was playing for an in-house team at the Darien Sportsplex at the time. I was going through a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions before the game, but once that puck dropped, I was instantly hooked.”
Little-Known Fact: “During the original COVID-19 outbreak, I had too much time on my hands and earned how to fly a plane. I got this simulator on my computer and would mess around with it for hours. During that time I learned to fly a lot of planes, from small single-engine planes to big jet planes.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Juuse Saros
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Pasta and grilled chicken
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Cristiano Ronaldo
Best Hockey Tip: “Most importantly, have fun.” – Hinsdale Central head coach Spencer Anderson
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Zach Devine
Hardest Slapshot on Hinsdale Central: Will Romberger
Most Accurate Shot: Zach Devine
Fastest Skater: Sebastian Dufort
Best High School Uniforms (other than Hinsdale Central): Loyola Academy