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Illinois Native Ithan DeLorenzo Scores Game-Winning Goal For National Championship

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


Forward Celebrates 21st Birthday, National Championship For Indiana University

The puck kicked out to Ithan DeLorenzo, who grabbed it on his backhand at the top of the circle in the center of the offensive zone on Friday, March 15. He quickly slid the puck to his left and blasted a slapshot off the goal post in overtime of the ACHA Men’s Division 2 National Championship game, played in St. Louis.

Noah Kinsinger, in goal for Miami of Ohio, couldn’t stop the blast, which somehow whizzed past a handful of players for both teams and missed a diving Miami player who wanted to block DeLorenzo’s shot.

The puck went upper corner on the left side.

DeLorenzo saw the net move and immediately went into celebration mode. He sprinted the other way, throwing away his stick and gloves and trying to take off his helmet before hugging goalie Brendan McCaskey and the rest of the pursuing Indiana University Hockey Club.

The Hoosiers won their first National Championship in the program’s 55-year history, and DeLorenzo was celebrating his 21st birthday hours later, on March 16.

“It was insane,” DeLorenzo said of his powerplay goal, giving IU the 5-4 win in its fifth game in five days of the annual national championship tournament. “It was chaos in front of the net and I just tried to get it on net as fast as possible … and it happened to go in.

“It was incredible; we worked so hard for this. Everyone was so happy, so many tears of joy. It was an incredible feeling.

“That was the biggest goal of my career, definitely, for sure, nothing is going to top that, ever.”

DeLorenzo, an IU junior from Naperville, graduated from Naperville North in 2021 and was a 2-year forward for the Huskies. His youth hockey career included seasons skating for the Sabres, Huskies and Team Illinois. He was an All-State forward as a junior and member of the IHSHL West Division championship team as a senior.

He has played three seasons for the Hoosiers – and was named the Tournament MVP as he and his teammates hoisted the Radakovich Cup.

He’s re-watched the game-winning goal countless times since the victory, “and I smile every time,” he said with pride.

“Last year, we lost in double overtime of the national tournament semifinal with about 1:00 left to play. That was heartbreaking,” said DeLorenzo, who admitted that, before the 2024 National Championship overtime, memories of 2023 rekindled quickly. “But everyone came out for OT with a positive attitude. We wanted to win, period,” he said. “We had so much energy coming out of the locker room (for OT); I just knew we were going to win.”

The Hoosiers had to kill an overtime penalty, which they did, and seconds later, IU went on the powerplay.

“The puck kicked out to DeLo and he just labeled it. A great shot. It was cool to see that in front of my eyes,” said IU’s Will Gerami, who centers the line of DeLorenzo and right wing Davis Jegers.

All three are Illinois natives.

“This is the highest point in my hockey career; I’ve never had anything like this,” said Gerami, 21, a Hinsdale native, who played three varsity seasons for Saint Ignatius, including a run for the Chicago Catholic Hockey League’s (CCHL) Kennedy Cup.

“This was really special.”

Jegers, a freshman, played four years for the Stevenson High School varsity.

Gerami had a goal and two assists in the national championship game. DeLorenzo had two goals.

Jake Rock, a Plainfield native who graduated from Plainfield North High School in 2021, also had a goal and an assist on DeLorenzo’s game-winner. Rock played in Illinois for the Huskies, Leafs, Team Illinois and CYA.

“What a great experience,” Gerami said, reflecting on the Hoosiers’ national championship ride. “We were confident what we could do, taking it one game at a time. We needed a little help from Weber State to reach the Final Four, which we got. Then we got past Lindenwood on their home ice (in the semifinals).

“We went to St. Louis on Sunday, March 10, and had a 45-minute practice that day. Games started the next day. It was a week-long rollercoaster.”

The Hoosiers defeated Weber State in their tournament opener, then lost to Northeastern, but recovered to beat Michigan State.

“The National Championship (tournament) was an unbelievable experience; we’ll remember it forever,” Gerami said.

Gerami skated for the Hawks, Jets and Fury before landing at Saint Ignatius. His senior season included a series against Benet Academy for the prestigious Kennedy Cup.

“The coaches and players I played with in Illinois have really supported me; they helped build me into the player I was going into IU,” Gerami said. “All of my past (Illinois) teams have impacted me.”

Especially Saint Ignatius, a three-year run that he said, “was something I’ll always remember.”

Gerami graduated from Ignatius in 2021.

“I’m still very close with a lot of my former teammates (from Illinois teams),” he said. “(Youth) tournaments were always fun; those memories stick with me.”

Now, he’s building IU memories. “This was an unbelievable experience, truly a super experience,” Gerami said. Such as, his national championship game goal: “It was a great game personally, but we did it all together, as a team. That’s what makes it super exciting. We were on a two-on-one; I ripped it and saw it go into the back of the net.”

The Hoosiers feature others from the Chicago area, such as:

  • Andrew Chambers, Stevenson High School;
  • Will Kiecker, a Naperville native who played years for the Sabres;
  • Ray Meiers, a Plainfield native who played for the Cyclones and Wheaton West; and
  • Nick Castracane, a Winnetka native who played for the Bulldogs, CYA and Team Illinois.”

“Playing for Team Illinois prepared me skills-wise and then playing for the Sabre and Naperville North, I was just on the ice all the time, which really made me love the game so much more. My teammates on the Sabres and Naperville North were incredible,” said DeLorenzo, who received countless texts, calls and DMs after the slapshot game-winner – many before he got into the joyous IU locker room.

“I give so much thanks to the Sabres and Naperville North … Illinois hockey was incredible for me.”

The Hoosiers didn’t arrive back in Bloomington until about 6:30 a.m., on Saturday, March 16. They had stopped at an Arby’s en route – and of course brought the championship trophy into the restaurant. The Radakovich Cup also made visits to popular IU bars with team members, including Kilroy’s and The Upstairs Pub, as well as at Sample Gates on the Bloomington campus.

“It was awesome being around national champions, people who have worked so hard for these the past three years,” DeLorenzo said.

DeLorenzo’s slapshot goal has gone viral, with more than 150,000 views. He got congratulatory text messages from countless former Illinois teammates, many of whom he hasn’t talked to in years, including a former teammate from learn-to-skate and mini-mites.

Many former Illinois coaches congratulated DeLorenzo: “That was amazing, made me feel so good that there are coaches who still care, watch and support me,” he said.

DeLorenzo added: “There always is a team, a next path, a next level that you can play, even if it’s not the NHL. Playing hockey for fun is something that really makes me happy – and the skill and accolades come with it.

“Hockey is a lot of fun for me today.”