The Saint Viator Hockey program has had a long tradition as one of the premier High School Hockey programs in the State of Illinois for over 40 years. The team plays in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League which is perhaps the most competitive High School Hockey league in the State producing several State Championship teams and finalists over the years. The Saint Viator Hockey team has had many successes over the years including 3 State Championship Finalists, 2 Scholastic Cup Championships and has won the competitive Blackhawk High School Hockey Classic Tournament as well as the Loyola Thanksgiving High School Tournament.
Several of our players have also gone on to play in the junior leagues as well as at prep schools and the collegiate level (both varsity and club). Among the many goals of the program, we strive to develop all of our players on ice skills as well as teach them valuable off ice lessons and principles in an effort to assist in their development as young men and women. As a Saint Viator Hockey player, you will have the opportunity to be a part of the rich Saint Viator Hockey tradition and to represent Saint Viator and its values together with your fellow classmates.
Greg, Tim and Chris Benz
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Tim Benz was ready last March when hired as the new head coach at Saint Viator to make a strong push for the Kennedy Cup, the prestigious title awarded to the Catholic League playoff champion, a title that dates back to 1964 and is the oldest trophy in Illinois High school hockey.
Benz admitted, though, that he did not expect to win the Kennedy Cup in year one. His expectations were shattered on Sunday night, Feb. 25, when the Lions defeated St. Ignatius 5-0 at MB Ice Arena in Chicago to win the best-of-three series.
The title is “a testament to our team buying in to the systems and strategy my brothers and I are putting in place,” said Benz, who is assisted by Chris and Greg – all three of whom played at Glenbrook South.
Tim, 31, who lives in Glenview, has been coaching for eight years and four years at the high school level. “Personally, (the team this season has done) as expected. I had high hopes for this team coming in, knowing what kind of talent was on the roster. Outside of our locker room most people would say (the team has done) better than expected,” said Benz, noting that the Lions are loaded with offensive power and senior leadership. “It’s not always easy adapting to new systems, coaching and such, but the seniors were the first ones to buy in and the rest of the team followed.”
St. Ignatius captured first-place in the Catholic League regular-season, finishing with a 16-2-2 record, two points more than Saint Viator (14-2-4). St. Ignatius, with the No. 1 seed in the Kennedy Cup, defeated Brother Rice and St. Rita en route to the finals. No. 2-seed Saint Viator stopped Fenwick and Benet Academy before facing the Wolfpack in the finals.
The Kennedy Cup was first won by Fenwick in 1964, and Providence has won the last two and three of the past four. Saint Viator has never hoisted the Kennedy Cup. So winning is a “fantastic feeling,” Benz said. “We are really happy for our team, especially our seniors.” Benz said the Lions captured the Cup with “team wins.”
“We had guys playing roles unselfishly; all four lines were producing and our goaltending came up big when called upon,” he said. The Lions won Game One of the Kennedy Cup, 5-1, on Feb. 18 at MB Ice Arena in Chicago, but the Wolfpack grabbed Game Two, 4-2, played in Mount Prospect.
Saint Viator’s Jack Nimrod was named the Kennedy Cup MVP. Nimrod was among the top 10 scoring leaders this season in the Chicago Catholic League – and four of the top 10 are Lions, including Anthony Letto, Anthony Aiello and Vince Avino. Letto was the CCHL’s leading scorer with 44 points in 20 league games. “I have had many friends and teammates of mine play for (the Kennedy Cup) and they would always tell me how big of a deal it was to win. I now fully understand,” Benz said. “It was a great win for our team, our program and our school. This is the first time in the hockey team’s 45-year existence (that it has) won the Kennedy Cup.”
Benz said that winning both of their Kennedy Cup finals games on the road “made it even more challenging.” And, he added that winning in such a convincing fashion over a very strong team gives the team “a big boost in confidence going into state.” Ah yes, the Illinois High School Hockey State Tournament. No. 5-seed Saint Viator faces No. 12 York on Friday, March 2 in the Sweet 16 round of the state tournament, with the winner positioned to then face No. 4 Glenbrook North or No. 13 Fenwick.
The Lions might have to face the Wolfpack again in the state tournament and could possibly face No. 1-ranked Loyola Gold before advancing to the United Center. The Championship Game (Red Division) will be played Saturday, March 24, starting at 3 p.m. “St. Ignatius is a strong team with some exceptional players. I would not be surprised to see them contending for a state title,” Benz said. The Lions, ironically, had one of the team’s most memorable moments all season against the Wolfpack, during Game Three of the Kennedy Cup. It was a shorthanded goal that gave the Lions a three-goal lead, “and was a back breaker for St. Ignatius,” Benz said.
Another memorable moment this season was defeating New Trier Green in the semifinals of the annual Loyola Thanksgiving Tournament. “It was a huge confidence boost for our team and made (the players) realize that they truly can compete with the best in the state,” Benz said.
So how was Saint Viator revived? “First and foremost, the players did it,” Benz said. “My brothers and I put systems and strategy in place, and the players bought in and worked very hard. Without hard work at practice, off-ice conditioning, the weight room and film sessions, this would not happen. The team put the work in and the results speak for themselves.”
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Before he coached his first game at St. Viator, Tim Benz gave his players a formula for success.
Benz, who was hired last March, had some talent returning to the roster. Anthony Letto, Anthony Aiello and Vince Avino were proven scorers, but they hadn't won much. The Lions were 4-17-1 in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League last season. Benz said he needed to give his players tangible goals. If reached, he said they'd win more games. "I give them a recipe of ingredients (before each game)," Benz said. "How many face-offs will we win? How many shots per period? How many hits? Offensive zone penalties?"
If the Lions succeed in reaching five of the eight predetermined statistical goals each game, they likely would win, Benz told his players. So far, the Lions have done a lot of winning. They are 27-10-6 through 43 games, including an 11-2-4 mark in CCHL play. Benz said the formula for success has held up almost every game. The players are on board with Benz's coaching style. They also gained confidence from their fifth-place ranking in the state, according to the MyHockeyRankings.com rating system. The Lions now believe they are a program capable of competing for championships. "There's been a tremendous change in our organization," said Letto, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior forward. "Our practices, the drills we do, our system, it's made us a stronger team."
"We are trying to develop an identity," Benz added. "Be physical, be fast and be relentless." Another one of Benz's decisions has paid off: putting Letto, Aiello and Avino on the same line. Through 17 conference games, Letto (second, 36 points), Avino (third, 30 points) and Aiello (fourth, 29 points) are among the CCHL's top five in scoring.
Avino and Letto have played together for almost a decade, beginning as squirts with the Northwest Chargers out of Rolling Meadows. They have developed chemistry on the ice together. "Letto is just a great playmaker with a great shot and can pass the puck," said Avino, who leads the CCHL with 22 goals in conference play. "We'll do two-on-one drop passes and find the back of the net." Senior defenseman Kevin Joyce and Avino are the Lions' captains, and Aiello and Letto are alternate captains.
Benz, who was an assistant at Loyola before taking the St. Viator job, said he knew his task was to provide structure for the talent the Lions already had. He instituted mandatory weightlifting sessions on Mondays after school. He also gave each player a 30-page playbook. Benz works full-time as a sales analyst for CDW, so he's not around St. Viator as much as some other coaches are. He has leaned on his captains to make sure the players are sticking to the program's plan of action. "We have to be the communicators, making sure the guys are in the weight room. The (lifting) has translated to our skating movements," Avino said. "Classmates are asking about how hockey is doing this year. There's more of a buzz."
After an offseason conditioning program last summer, the Lions gathered in their locker room at Mount Prospect Ice Arena. Benz asked each of them to verbalize their team goals for 2017-18. A few players — including Letto — said they thought the team could win the Kennedy Cup, the trophy given to the CCHL playoff champion. Another goal was an Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois state championship.
Now, the Lions firmly believe those goals are still in reach. "We can make it possible," Letto said.
Dear Viator Hockey Families:
I am pleased to announce that Tim Benz has been named the Hockey Director and Head Varsity Coach for Saint Viator High School’s Hockey Program.
Tim played youth hockey for the Glenview Stars and Glenbrook South. After graduating in 2005, Tim played collegiately for DePaul University and professionally for teams in the AAHA and FHL.
Tim began his coaching career in 2010 with the Glenview Stars and is currently the Head PW AA coach as well as the Director of Player Development and Skills for the Stars. Tim joined the Loyola Gold coaching staff in 2014 where he is currently the Co-Head Coach. Tim is President and coach for Ultimate Athlete, athletic training and skills development, and a Delaney hockey skills instructor.
Tim currently works for CDW as an International Sales Analyst.
Joining Tim on his staff will be his brothers Chris and Greg.
Chris Benz grew up in Glenview, playing hockey for the Glenview Stars, Chicago Mission and Glenbrook South. Post high school, Chris played for Indiana University and where he was selected to play in the World University Games. After college, Chris played professionally for teams in the ECHL and FHL.
Chris started his coaching career in 2012 with the Glenview Stars and is currently an assistant coach on Loyola Gold. Chris is also a skills coach with Delaney Hockey and Ultimate Athlete and is currently an employee at Zotos International where he is a Sales Manager/Analyst.
Greg Benz, like his brothers, grew up playing hockey for the Glenview Stars and Glenbrook South High School. Greg went on to play at Indiana University with their ACHA Division I team and professionally in the FHL.
Greg began coaching in 2013 with the Glenview Stars. From 2014 to 2016, he was General Manager and Head Coach at Indiana University. He is currently coaching with the Glenview Stars and Chicago Young Americans and is an instructor with Delany Hockey and Ultimate Athlete. Greg also works in epigenetic research at Loyola University Chicago.
Tim Benz and his staff’s term with the Saint Viator Hockey Club will begin with the 2017 Spring and Summer programs. Tim and his brothers are relinquishing all other team coaching positions to focus their attention exclusively on our program.
Thank you for your continued support of our Hockey Club,
Saint Viator JV Hockey played a spectacular game against Providence JV, however, did not bring home the win, with a heart-breaking score of 2-1 for Providence.
Congratulations to the hard-working young men who gave their heart, soul and Lion Spirit. They gave us a lot to be proud of this season! Special thanks to the coaches, Vince, Joe and Mike for inspiring the team to always do their best and push their limits to greater heights.
A special thanks for the support of the board and especially to the glue that pulls this all together... the parents!