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Underclassmen Add Drive To BG/H/W

By Ross Forman, 01/17/24, 12:00PM CST


Youngsters Push BG/H/W Into Playoffs, Rely On Teammates As They Cannot Drive Yet

Reid Gerjerts, a 14-year-old freshman forward for co-op BG/H/W, is one of five underclassmen on the team – all of whom have been keys for the Stampede’s skate through the Varsity Champions League of the Illinois High School Hockey North-Central Division.

Optimism is plentiful at BG as the team looks to make a return trip to the United Center in March.

“It’s fun to have a few other kids my age on the team (so) I’m not the only one who can’t drive yet,” Gerjerts said. “The upper classmen are fun to be around and have helped in my move to high school.

“The biggest thing about being an underclassman on varsity is figuring out how you can add to the team. I’m probably not going to be on the ice in critical game situations, but it’s important that I positively contribute when I am on the ice. The pressure I feel is not letting down the seniors since this is their last season on the team.”

Gerjerts, who lives in Arlington Heights and attends Wheeling High School, has played this season primarily with sophomore center Aiden Gogerty (Hersey) and senior wing Eliott Drazin (Buffalo Grove).

Gerjerts had 3 goals, 6 assists in his first 15 league games – with his first varsity goal coming in the team’s third game of the season against Glenbard. “It was awesome having my teammates celebrate with me,” he said. “This is a good group of guys – it’s been a good locker room. The team continues to improve each game; we can play with the best … we just have to be consistent. We know we can be a contender on any given day.

“We have good chemistry and are willing to work hard. We have speed (among) our forwards and defensemen.”

Gerjerts added: “My goal this season has been to learn from the seniors, add points when I’m on the ice and when I am not (on the ice), to be a good teammate on the bench.”

Ryan Antonucci, 15, a sophomore at Hersey High School, is in his first season playing for BG/H/W. He’s a right-handed shooting defenseman who is often paired with senior Caleb Berkenkotter.

Antonucci, who lives in Arlington Heights, played 8 years for the Northwest Chargers and one year for the Chicago Flames.

“Going into this season, I feared that I wasn’t strong enough or big enough to match the style of play of 18-year-olds,” Antonucci said. “I feel like (all our) underclassmen have adapted well to the change of pace between Central States (Development Hockey League) and high school hockey, and I really look forward to when we are upperclassmen and leading this team.

“I feel pressure as an underclassman because you have to remember that it’s our seniors last year and you don’t want to ruin their senior season. This is also my first season, so I feel like I have a lot to prove to my teammates and the coaching staff.

“Caleb has a ton of experience playing high school hockey on BG/H/W. He’s been there for my mistakes and has helped me adapt to this new style of play.”

Antonucci, a defensive-minded defense, notched his career highlight last season on offense. “I was playing in a tournament and scored on a half-ice (shot),” for the game-winner.

“I don’t rush the puck or attempt to make many offensive plays. I just stay on defense and recover for my teammates. I scan the ice well and look to move the puck to my teammates.

“This team is close. We struggled during the beginning of the season, but we are starting to click. We can surprise some teams in the playoffs and make a run for state. We have all the pieces to make it happen. Most of the teams I’ve played on were selfish and (teammates) only cared about their own success. We rely on each other a lot. We also work hard. During practice, everyone gives their best effort and it reflects in the games.”

Aiden Gogerty, 15, a sophomore from Hersey High School who lives in Mount Prospect, is a right-handed shooting center in his first BG season. He formerly played for the Northwest Chargers, where he was a two-year captain at the bantam level, including a team that finished second in the 2023 Illinois State Tournament.

He has lined up with Noah Loch and Elliott Drazin most of the season,

“The young kids have to pull just as much weight as the older kids,” Gogerty said. “Sure, there’s pressure, but nothing you can’t handle if you push yourself. Always remember, you are a part of a team.”

Gogerty brings a fast, aggressive approach to the game, yet defensive-minded.

“Pete Carcione was my bantam coach for two years and he pushed me every time I touched the puck and the ice to improve. I will carry what I learned from him about discipline, responsibility and accountability well beyond my days of playing hockey,” Gogerty said.

“I enjoy the team chemistry this season. Everyone is tight and everyone gets along.”

The team, for instance, celebrated together earlier this season when they won a Michigan tournament. “Everyone was excited and the energy in the locker room after the game was amazing as it was a true team effort,” Gogerty said.

Gerjerts played for Glenview before joining BG/H/W, including his bantam minor year when his team placed second in the Central States Prospects League. “We had three players among the top 10-point scorers for the league, and I was one of them.

“I am more of a finesse player. Stickhandling is one of my strengths – I can take the outlet pass up the boards and into our zone. I’m thinking one or two passes ahead of the play and I try to find that open ice.”

Gerjerts credits his athletic success to his great grandfather, Gene Lybbert, who was a national champion wrestler and in the Athletics Hall of Fame at the University of Northern Iowa. “He was an example of how hard work makes us better athletes and he was a funny guy. I want to play sports in college, either baseball or hockey, and he inspires me.”

Gerjerts also plays for the Wheeling varsity baseball team and the Cangelosi Sparks North 15U baseball club.

“Baseball translates to hockey – swinging a bat helps with hand-to-eye coordination and lower body power work helps the legs in skating,” he said.

Slapshots With … Reid Gerjerts

Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Nathan McKinnon
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Remember The Titans
Favorite TV Show: King of Queens
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Carrots and peanut butter
Favorite app: Snapchat
Celebrity You’d Like to Meet: Nathan McKinnon
Best Hockey Tip: “Keep your head up when you shoot to control the puck.” – Paul Kokuzian, Glenview Stars coach
Hardest Slapshot on BG/H/W: Caleb Berkenkotter
Most Accurate Shot on BGHW: Adrian Wisniewski

BG/H/W Player Who You Could See as A Hockey Coach: Jack Veller
Best High School Uniform (other than BG): Glenbrook South Varsity 2, their light blue uniforms

Slapshots With … Ryan Antonucci

Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Auston Matthews – “I remember watching his first game on TV. It was inspirational watching him put up a hat trick in his first-ever NHL game.”
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Jerry Maguire

Favorite TV Show: The Office
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Eggs
Favorite app: Instagram
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Tom Hanks
Best Hockey Tip: “Saint Viator coach Jason Hogan taught me the ‘reverse.’ It’s when I make a tight turn behind the net to throw off my opponent. I’ve used it since I was a squirt and it still works.”
Hardest Slapshot on BG: Jack Veller 
Most Accurate Shot on BG: Adrian Wisniewski

BG Player Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Sam Levin
Best High School Uniform (other than BG): “I like Lake Forest’s new white-out uniforms and all of Deerfield’s jerseys.”

Slapshots With … Aiden Gogerty

Off The Ice: Enjoys shooting, lifting and conditioning.
Also Off The Ice: Plays lacrosse “to keep my conditioning and overall skills strong.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Connor Bedard
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: The Mighty Ducks
Favorite TV Show: S.W.A.T.
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Chipotle
Favorite app: Snapchat
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Ryan Reynolds
Best Hockey Tip: “Every time you touch the ice is a blessing”- Coach Peppi Laboy
Hardest Slapshot on BG: Caleb Berkenkotter
Most Accurate Shot on BG: Adrian Wisniewski
BG Player Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Elliott Drazin
Best HS Uniform (other than BG): New Trier