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Senior Forward Evan Ziegler Leads Waubonsie Valley To State Championship

By Ross Forman, 03/21/24, 2:00PM CDT


Waubonsie Valley faced Lyons Township in its home opener last September and the game was tied 4-4 with one minute left in regulation time. Evan Ziegler, the flashy forward for Waubonsie, went in on a breakaway, but was tripped. The referee signaled for a penalty shot.

The stands that night in Naperville were filled with boisterous fans. All eyes were on Ziegler, who made his way on net from the right side. He ultimately shot and scored into the top left corner – and he quickly veered toward the faithful Waubonsie fans to celebrate.

“I have had several memorable moments (this season), but that was a goal I (remember months later) because it was a big goal to put our team ahead.”

Waubonsie won that game, 5-4.

Ziegler continued his offensive stardom all season – to the last game of the season.

In the 15-game tiering round of the IHSHL West Division, Ziegler ran away with the scoring title, finishing with 18 goals and 23 assists. His 41-points were eight more than the second-place finisher.

In 10 seeding round games, Ziegler had 4 goals, 11 assists. And in six playoff games, he had 6 goals and 2 assists.

Ziegler, the Waubonsie captain, this season:

  • Is the Illinois West scoring champion for the third consecutive year (63 points in league play, 27 goals and 36 assists), with more than 100 points over the season.
  • Named to the AHAI All-State Team for the third consecutive season.
  • Named to the All-Conference Team.
  • Received the Academic Honor Award for the third consecutive year.
  • Was named the AHAI High School Player of the Year, an award he received on Wednesday, March 13, at the United Center. Also that day, he led the Warriors to the Combined Division State Championship, with a win over No. 1-ranked Chicago North.

“He’s easily a top three player in my tenure with the Warriors and could have a case for the No. 1 player,” said Waubonsie head coach Jeremy Dombro, in his 13th and final season with the Warriors. (Dombro is retiring to spend more time with his family.)

Ziegler, 17, who lives in Aurora, is a senior at Metea Valley High School. He skated for the Fox Valley Cyclones and Team Illinois before landing on the Warriors. As a sophomore in his first year with the team, Waubonsie won state – and Ziegler finished with 90 points and was one of only two sophomores on the AHAI All-State Team.

As a junior and the team assistant captain, he finished with 94 points and was the lone junior on the Illinois National Showcase Team.

The left-handed shooting left wing has been scoring since he was 4 years old.

“I am team-oriented,” player, Ziegler said. “Strengths of my game are my quickness, stickhandling, and my unpredictability. I incorporate several elements into my game to keep my opponents guessing. I like to have the puck on my stick; however, I am more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. I make those around me better hockey players, and that is something that comes with my skills and my leadership role for the Warriors.”

Ziegler has been pushed to stardom by such NHL players as Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid, who have “fueled my love for the game,” he said. Ziegler studied their moves and incorporated their style into his game.

He also praised his childhood friend, Garrett Clamage.

“We grew up together sharing a love for the sport,” Ziegler said. “After two years of trying to convince me to play high school hockey with him, I finally decided to play for the Warriors in hopes of winning a state championship with my best friend, so we could share that core memory for the rest of our lives. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to play with him and to win the state championship that year.”

He also praised his dad, “who has been my biggest fan since the day I first stepped on the ice. He is the reason I began to play hockey and has never missed a game.”

Ziegler played most of the season alongside Michael McClain and Matthew Shield, and he said, “They have come up huge in key moments for us and they have done an amazing job this year, both playing key roles in the success of the program.”

Ziegler was a dominant offensive threat this season, with two 5-point league games and a 6-point game against the Spartans.

Still, he is a team player, first and foremost.

“The Warriors hockey program has always been an amazing organization and my job is to continue to represent the program, displaying qualities beyond just offensive stats,” he said. “I am grateful for all my achievements; however, my impact is not just the goals that I score, but the leadership I display, which cannot be tracked on a score sheet.

“My ability to keep opponents guessing is my greatest asset. I don’t want my opponents to know exactly what I am doing. I always try new things and switch up my moves to keep everyone guessing. I have had an amazing coach, Jeremy Dombro, who has also helped me get to where I am today.”

Ziegler is uncertain on his college plans, though he is leaning toward the University of Iowa or Indiana University, to major in accounting and finance.

“The best game of my high school hockey career was last year, game two of the league championship against Maine,” Ziegler said days before the 2024 state championship. “We were down 1-0 in the series and had to win to stay alive. At the end of regulation, it was 3-3, and one goal would decide whether we played a (deciding) game 3. During the intermission, my teammates were extremely nervous and doubtful. As a veteran leader, I knew my role was to regain confidence in our team. After providing words of encouragement and acknowledging my gratefulness for this team, we were determined to come out victorious. (During) the first shift in overtime, I scored the game-winning goal, to send it to game 3. This wasn’t my best game because of just the overtime winner; it was because this was the moment that my teammates knew they could count on me in the most stressful moment. From that game on, my leadership role has become more than just the success I have had on the ice.”

Dombro recalls the Ziegler magic against Maine: “He ripped a one-timer from the high slot,” for the game-winning goal.

Off the ice, Ziegler has worked at Jersey Mike’s and volunteered at Loaves & Fishes, helping stock shelves, organize the warehouse and more. He also has been a supervisor/coordinator for three years for the annual pancreatic cancer walk, run by the Lustgarten Foundation.

“I do what I can to help out in the community,” he said.

Ziegler boasts a 4.1 GPA. “I have always taken pride in my grades,” he said. “I am a student who does not procrastinate. I like to get things done right away, so I don’t have to worry. I am a student who challenges myself, taking rigorous classes that will benefit me.”

Slapshots With … Waubonsie Forward Evan Ziegler

This Season: “I have improved a lot of aspects of my game and added new elements to my game. Due to my dedication to working out intensely in the off-season, I have gotten much stronger, helping me stay on my feet and absorb body checks. It is no secret I am a target on the ice, and this year I have done a great job keeping opponents guessing.”

Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Favorite NHL Players: Patrick Kane & Connor McDavid

Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Miracle

Favorite TV show: Suits

Favorite Pre-game Meal: Noodles & Company, Japanese pan noodles with grilled chicken

Favorite app: Snapchat

Celebrity You Would Like To Meet: The Rock

Best Hockey Tip: “Keep the opponents guessing. Switch up when you are going to shoot, pass, or make a move.” – My dad

Hardest Slapshot Waubonsie: Jacob Morgan

Most Accurate Shot: Ethan Newburg

Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach:  Matt Allman

Best High School Uniform (other than Waubonsie): Glenbrook South black jerseys

From Coach Dombro: “I don’t really have a specific favorite memory (from Ziegler’s career), but him coming in as a sophomore and helping us win state was special. It’s not really one specific memory; it’s just been a pleasure to watch a very talented sophomore grow to be the leader of this team.”

Coach Dombro Added: “You can’t really replace a player like Evan. He’s helped the culture of our program and drawn players in to play here.”