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Indiana University Hockey Club Has Long Been Next Skate For Former Illinois Players

By Ross Forman, 10/19/23, 12:15PM CDT


Andrew Chambers and Davis Jegers are teammates once again, as they traded their green and gold Stevenson uniforms for the cream and crimson and glory of old IU.

Chambers and Jegers are now skating for the Indiana University club hockey team, which has for years had a pipeline to the Chicagoland area. In mid-October, for instance, the Hoosiers hyped that junior Will Gerami recorded his 100th career point.

         Gerami, from Hinsdale, played three seasons at Saint Ignatius before his career took him to Bloomington, Indiana. Gerami was the “ultimate professional,” said Matt Smith, who was the Saint Ignatius head coach during the Gerami era. “(He has) a high care level that helped set the standard for the program. He has dynamic speed on the ice and could take over a game in a shift.”

Smith added, “It’s great to see him continue to excel at the next level; it’s well deserved.”

The Hoosiers play an ACHA II schedule against such foes as the University of Louisville, Michigan, Kentucky, Xavier and Ohio University, among others.

IU travels to Chicago for a pair of games against DePaul on Friday and Saturday, November 17-18 at Johnny’s Icehouse West.

“I thought high school was the end of the road; I knew nothing of club hockey,” while at Stevenson, said Chambers, 20, a junior from Vernon Hills who spent two season on the Patriots’ varsity.

He learned ACHA and IU were options from fellow former Stevenson player Adam Offenbach, who also wore the Hoosiers’ crimson uniform for four years. “ACHA is really competitive, especially in comparison to what some may view of club sports,” Chambers said. “The level of play is very high, much higher than what some people may think it is.”

Chambers played for the Ice Dogs, Falcons and Mission during his youth career – and he was a two-time state champion for the Falcons.

“Having so many rinks in Illinois really helps, and hockey in Illinois is so competitive, with so many levels (of play) – from house leagues through Central States. Whatever level you’re at keeps you in the game, with a competitive atmosphere, and makes it fun,” Chambers said. “Even though it’s not the NHL, (college club) is a lot of fun. The IU Club is a great time. Sure, there are about 35,000 (undergraduates) at IU and you may not have any classes (with your teammates), but the team is still a brotherhood that you’ll never forget.

“I’ve been playing since I was 3. I knew I couldn’t just give it up (after graduating from Stevenson.). This is like, one last ride. You only have so many competitive years, so take advantage of it.”

Jegers, a four-year varsity forward for the Patriots, is in his rookie season for the Hoosiers. The Lincolnshire resident played his youth hockey for the Falcons and CYA.

He was a state champion for the Patriots as a junior.

“Illinois has long been very competitive, anchored by what AHAI does,” for youth hockey, Jegers said. “Illinois high school hockey was competitive enough to bring me to the next level.

“Going into my senior year, I started exploring hockey options at the club level because I knew I didn’t want high school to end my career.”

He contacted Chambers for insight on Indiana.

“There’s always an option for hockey after high school,” Jegers said. “Reach out to coaches at college, at any number of levels – and you could be playing at the next level. Just because you’re going to college does not mean you should give up on hockey. It’s still so much fun, even if you’re not playing (NCAA) Division I hockey. We still get fans and it’s a great experience.”

Jegers’ fondest Illinois hockey memory came at the United Center. Yep, when Stevenson defeated Saint Viator in March 2022 to capture the Illinois High School Hockey State Championship.

Jegers had 3 assists in the final’s victory.

“That win was so much fun,” Jegers said.

Chambers’ favorite high school hockey memory was the team’s upset win several years ago over New Trier Green.

“In school that day, we knew it was such a big game, and the game went down to the wire,” he said. “I still remember blocking a shot, right to the hand. It was the worst, yet best feeling of my life. I knew that (block) saved a goal, and it was the best high school hockey moment of my career.”

After graduating, Chambers wants to start coaching. “I want to stay in hockey … I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to give it up,” he said.

Chambers said his two seasons skating for the Mission were the “most competitive hockey I ever played.” His time with the Ice Dogs included a loss to the No. 8 seed in the state championship game. “That was a lowlight, but a memory, nonetheless. I still remember the song that was playing before the game, and I can’t listen to it anymore.”

Jegers praised many area coaches – including Rob Hudson, Tom Miller, Ryan Taylor and the late Wally Kormylo – for helping develop his skill to land on the IU bench at the Frank South Ice Arena, a 10-minute drive from the heart of the IU campus with a feel of the Barrington or Rolling Meadows’ old-school rinks.

Jegers noted that Kormylo “gave me my first set of hockey cards.”

And yes, he still has the cards.

“It was really sad” to hear about Kormylo’s death. “He was a great coach and, more so, was a great guy. He always cared about players.”

The IU Hockey team has attracted former Illinois high school players for decades – and a banner hanging at Frank Southern showcases past accomplishments of the Hockey Hoosiers. This year’s team also features defenseman Will Kiecker (Sabres), Ithan DeLorenzo (Team Illinois, Sabres, Naperville North), Jack Hawkins (New Trier Green) and Sammy Bilis (Glenbrook North), among others.

IU head coach Andrew Weiss said he is aware of Illinois’ strong high school hockey play. “The SHL Network does a great job, so we’re able to watch quite a bit of high-end Illinois high school hockey,” Weiss said. “Having played with many former Illinois high school hockey players during my time (skating) for IU, we continue to tap into that pipeline now.

“The players we get from Illinois come to IU with a lot of hockey sense, which isn’t always the case among high school hockey players. Plus, the players we get from Illinois often are very serious about hockey. They often played four years of high school hockey, always wanting to skate at the United Center (for the state championship game). They come here and we talk about winning a national championship, and they’re all in on it, which isn’t always the case with players from other states and their high school players.”

Weiss added: “We’ve done really well with former Illinois players – from the high school ranks and AAA. It’s a good market for us.”

Indiana University also has an ACHL Division 3 team that is loaded with former Illinois players: Will Ahne (Park Ridge), Paul Letto (Schaumburg), Richie Mattie (Bolingbrook), Nick Miller (Naperville), Frank Nicosia (Elmhurst), Daniel McKay (Glenview), Hawthorne Silberg (Barrington), Jack Maxwell (Western Springs), Max Gwinn (Chicago), Adam Valentini (Mt. Prospect), Josh Venable (Elmhurst) and Theo Papaplas (Glenview).

The D3 team is part of the North Region in the recently formed Indiana Collegiate Hockey Conference (ICHC). The ICHC consists of IU, Purdue, Miami (Ohio), Trine, Butler, Schoolcraft, and IUNW.