In the semifinals of last season’s IHSHL North-Central Division playoffs, Nick Albrecht tallied the game-winning goal as co-op PREP defeated the Chicago Romans in overtime, marking his all-time favorite hockey memory in a career that started as a first-year mite playing for the Glenview Grizzlies house league.
“It’s challenging to remember my first-ever game, (but) I do remember how happy I was to play my first organized hockey game,” said Albrecht, now 17 and a junior at Prospect High School. He lives in Mount Prospect and the right-handed shooting defenseman is in his second PREP varsity season.
And he’s ready for more memories – this season.
After all, PREP ran through the Champions League with a near-perfect 25-0-3 record, leading the league in goals-for (118) and the fewest goals-against (32). Their ties were against Saint Viator, the Chicago Central Romans and Libertyville.
PREP earned the No. 1 ranking in the state tournament and will face, ironically, the same Chicago Central Romans on Sunday, February 26, at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville after the Romans stopped Fox Valley, 4-3 on February 5.
“I know PREP can go all the way this year, but it isn’t a given. The team has learned that we have to come ready to play every single shift of every game because when we take a shift off, teams will capitalize on their opportunities,” Albrecht said. “In order to win state, we must continue to do what we have been doing by staying focused and determined.”
This year’s Combined Division State Tournament has many potential skaters at the United Center, including No. 2 Maine, No. 3 BG/H/W and No. 4 Waubonsie Valley. Plus, Combined Division dark horses are No. 5 Libertyville, No. 8 Glenbard and No. 6 Chicago North.
PREP continued its winning ways in league playoffs, winning its first two games over Loyola Maroon and the Chicago Central Romans.
Albrecht had 6 goals, 16 assists in his 26 regular season league games played and his 22-points was fifth-most on the team. He is an offensive-minded defenseman, but certainly is aggressive and physical in the defensive end of the ice, as he always works to close gaps and force opponents to make quick decisions.
“I bring leadership, energy, physical and mental toughness to the team. I always try to bring an edge to games by being a physical, tough player on the ice to liven up the team while still being a positive leader and motivator,” Albrecht said. “We have grown in many ways (this season). Our team has gelled on and off the ice, which has really helped our success as a team.
Everyone individually has made improvements with their play throughout the year, which is a good sign (for the) playoffs. We have played very well together, finished first in league play and are looking to keep it going all the way to the end.
“We have played strong, consistent hockey and our coaches have been a big part of our success. Coach (Nick) Panos and Coach (Justin) Blum have played a huge role on this team by preparing us for games and helping us improve as people and players so that our team can experience success.”
One of Albrecht’s most memorable moments so far this season was PREP’s home game against league rival BG/H/W, with an overflow crowd and an in-rink atmosphere that “made a very fun and competitive game,” he said.
Panos said a player with Albrecht’s talent on the ice comes through an organization only once every few years. “Nick’s leadership and humility comes across once in a decade,” Panos added. “Nick made an impact on our team as a sophomore. He’s a very gifted player, skates well, has a great shot, is a deceptive defenseman, and his vision and reads are incredible. Nick also has a high compete level.
“When I talk about leadership and humility, this comes to mind over all his talent. Nick always puts his teammates and the team first. This is one of the most humble kids I’ve coached.”
PREP mixes players from Prospect, Elk Grove and Rolling Meadows High Schools. Albrecht treasures the friendships he’s made with teammates who attend traditionally rival schools.
“Playing on a combined team has been an enjoyable experience,” he said. “I’ve had the pleasure to play with talented players from (other schools). Without my combined team, I would have never had the opportunity to play high school hockey. Though some of my teammates and I are not physically together at the same school, it has not affected the way we bond and play together cohesively as a team. A team is a team.
“I have met a lot of great friends and people while playing for PREP. If it weren’t for having a combined team, I would have missed many of these great friendships. Our strong friendship allows us to play with great teamwork and chemistry.”
Albrecht, who sports jersey No. 13 in tribute to his dad’s birthday, played his youth hockey for the Glenview Stars and Northwest Chargers.
“The first influence who I realized I had (on my hockey career) was my first-year squirt coach for the Glenview Stars, John Harris, who taught me about working hard on and off the ice by pushing me to my maximum. Plus, Coach Harris helped improve my skating by doing drills that, at the time, were challenging and put me out of my comfort zone, but impacted me positively in the long run.
“Another person who influences my hockey career is my baseball coach, Tom Barnard, who has taught me to work for what I want to achieve by pushing me to my limits, and by being the best that I can be as a person and an athlete. He instills the idea that the amount of effort that I put in toward a goal is what influences the outcome. I transfer this mentality to hockey.”
He also praised his parents who “have had the biggest influence on me because they always want the best for me and push me to my highest potential in all that I do. They always sacrifice things for me so that I have opportunities to achieve personally, scholastically and athletically. They are always there for me to cheer me on and support me.”
Albrecht is still undecided on his college plans, but he wants to be a college athlete.
“My biggest hobby I do outside of hockey is baseball. I have learned things from baseball that have helped me on the ice. There have been a lot of life lessons that I have learned from baseball coaches that I have used and implemented into hockey,” said Albrecht, who regularly watches hockey, regardless of the level. “I am always learning about the game, which helps on the ice.”
Slapshots With … PREP defenseman Nick Albrecht
Fun Fact: “I like to play chess.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Cale Makar
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Pasta with Italian sausage
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Yadier Molina
Teammate Who You Can See As a Hockey Coach: “Matt Melachrinakis because he has good leadership and understands the game.”
Hardest Slapshot on PREP: Nick Lamberg
Most Accurate Shot: “It’s too hard to pick between Matt Melachrinakis, Will Behls and Nick Lamberg. All three are talented and have great shots.”
Fastest Skater: Kou Tsuchiya
Best High School Uniforms (other than PREP): Glenbrook South’s black or York’s grey.