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updated: 10/7/2011 4:13 PM

Schmidt a keeper for St. Viator

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  • Barrington resident and St. Viator standout Rob Schmidt is developing an impressive goaltending resume.

    Barrington resident and St. Viator standout Rob Schmidt is developing an impressive goaltending resume.
    Courtesy of Rob Schmidt

  • Barrington resident and St. Viator standout Rob Schmidt is developing an impressive goaltending resume.

    Barrington resident and St. Viator standout Rob Schmidt is developing an impressive goaltending resume.
    Courtesy of Rob Schmidt

By Ross Forman
Daily Herald Correspondent

He was about 10 years old, at a hockey camp, wearing little round glasses.

Rob Schmidt now admits that he was really quiet back then and looked, "like a nerd," so he was given the nickname, "The Professa."

Well, Schmidt is now taking many area skaters to school.

Schmidt, 17, a senior goalie who lives in Barrington, is in his third season on the St. Viator varsity -- with quite a resume so far. Just consider:

• Metro North All-Star; Catholic League All-Star.

• High School Showcase tryout invitee.

• AHAI Player Development tryout invitee.

• 1.92 goals-against average in Metro North.

• 2.33 GAA in the Catholic League.

• Lion Award winner, given to the St. Viator player who shows the most character, leadership and sportsmanship.

"Rob is a great goalie and is always on his game. He is also a good person off the ice," said St. Viator senior Jeremy Linzing, who plays center and is the team's go-to forward.

Schmidt and Linzing are two of the main reasons the Lions are looking to march into the United Center next March for a shot at the state championship. St. Viator is among the elite Illinois hockey teams, along with defending state champion New Trier Green, and such perennial powers as Loyola Gold, Glenbrook North, Stevenson and Barrington.

"We generate a lot of speed offensively and our defensemen are fundamentally sound," Schmidt said. "This team has a lot to live up to, however; being ranked fourth for the state tournament two years ago and winning the Scholastic Cup last year.

"What I feel gives us an advantage this year compared to other years is our experience. The returning players on the team know what it feels like to play in an Elite Eight game with a huge crowd, and we know what the pressure feels like during an overtime game with the Scholastic Cup on the line. This will only benefit the team, and we will know how to react to shifts in the game, both good and bad."

The Lions skate this season under the watchful eye of new coach Chris Lappin, who actually coached the team in the late-1990s. He replaced Evan Poulakidas, who accepted the head coaching position for state runner-up Glenbrook North, replacing Mark Brunner.

"Coach Lappin brings a wealth of knowledge to the team and he is very well-versed on defense, which will help us down the road. Plus, he's all about winning, which you have to like," Schmidt said. "He knows what it takes to get to the next level and I believe he will be a helpful influence on where I go to college.

"When coach Evan left for GBN, it was hard because Evan and I were, and still are, extremely close and I respect him not only as a coach, but, more importantly, as a person.

"He has had an amazing influence on my high school career and I cannot thank him enough for the faith he put in me last year even after I had a rough first year at (the) varsity (level). I ultimately understand why Evan made his decision and we remain good friends."

Schmidt spent the summer focused on improving his strength, speed, mental toughness and leadership abilities -- and said he's better in all areas. Schmidt worked this past summer with Nic Reibel, a former Division I player who also spent time at St. Viator. Reibel helped strengthen Schmidt's lateral quickness, among other skills.

Schmidt also worked with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Matt Saey, and Schmidt added 7 pounds of muscle, "which has made a huge difference in my game," he said.

"My primary goal (this season) is to be selected to the All-State Team," Schmidt said. "Since the end of last year, it is definitely the one thing I have aimed and worked for. There are a lot of solid goaltenders in Illinois, but it's something I feel, with consistency, that I can accomplish."

Schmidt said the team has three main goals: win the Scholastic Cup, win the Kennedy Cup and win the state championship.

"I have never won a state championship; (it) is something I want to accomplish before I go to college," Schmidt said.

Schmidt is an admitted New York Rangers fan, who has idolized and mimicked the playing styles of Mike Richter and Henrik Lundqvist. His dad, Bob, also was a lacrosse goalie.

Schmidt has been a goalie since he played floor hockey with his brother, Peter, and, "I found enjoyment in the position and stuck with it."

And he's had great success. Last season, for instance, in a game that was tied 2-2 late in the third period against state powerhouse Fenwick, Schmidt showed why, er, how he is one of the best around.

Fenwick's Aidan Verbeke walked in on a breakaway, cut across the crease and tried to go upper-corner. Schmidt stopped him, dramatically.

"I don't know how I stopped it, but somehow I made the save," he said. "We went on to win (that game, scoring the game-winner) with just over a minute left in regulation. To that point we were the only high school team to beat (Fenwick) other than New Trier Green."

Said Poulakidas: "Robert is smart, tough and has a competitive will that matches anybody who plays. He takes on the responsibility to be a leader and when he speaks, they all listen.

"St. Viator is very talented, but how far they go will fall greatly on Robert's shoulders -- and he is strong enough to carry them a long way."

Ranking time: Here are the season-opening Top 25 rankings, compiled by Ross Forman:

1. New Trier Green, 2. Stevenson, 3. Loyola Gold, 4. St. Rita, 5. Rockford, 6. Glenbrook North, 7. St. Viator, 8. Barrington, 9. Prairie Ridge, 10. Waubonsie Valley, 11. Fenwick, 12. York, 13. Glenbrook South, 14. Providence Catholic, 15. Notre Dame, 16. Hinsdale Central, 17. Neuqua Valley, 18. Crystal Lake South, 19. Naperville Central, 20. Mt. Carmel, 21. New Trier Blue, 22. Sandburg, 23. Lake Forest, 24. Highland Park, 25. Marist.

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