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updated: 10/16/2012 7:13 PM

Forward-thinking Bigos making a big difference at CL South

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  • Crystal Lake South forward Jake Bigos is enjoying his senior season on the ice with the Gators in the North Central Division of the Illinois High School Hockey League.

    Crystal Lake South forward Jake Bigos is enjoying his senior season on the ice with the Gators in the North Central Division of the Illinois High School Hockey League.
    Photo courtesy Jake Bigos

By Ross Forman
Daily Herald Correspondent

He's smart, shy and quite a successful goal-scorer.

Jake Bigos, a senior in his third season on the Crystal Lake South varsity hockey team, is the Gators' go-to forward, without question one of the top forwards in the newly formed North Central Division of the Illinois High School Hockey League.

Just don't expect much from him when asked to talk about himself.

"I'm not the loudest guy on the team, but I think the other kids look up to me as a leader, (particularly) how I play the game," said Bigos, a Crystal Lake resident who shoots left-landed and plays left wing on the team's top line with sophomore center Matt Kinker and junior right wing Shane Gustafson.

"I'm just a quiet person. That's how I am as person off the ice, too; I lead by example. That's my personality; I just don't talk a lot."

But he certainly speaks volumes -- on the ice, on the baseball diamond and in the classroom.

Last season he was second on the team in scoring with 50 goals, 35 assists, including 22 goals and 11 assists in 22 Metro Central games. He had the fifth-most points in the league last season, helping the Gators finish second in Central behind archrival Barrington.

Bigos already has 15 goals and 8 assists in the Gators' first seven games (5-1-1), including hat tricks in games against New Trier White (twice) and Lake Zurich.

"Bigos is a difference-maker," said Bob Melton, coach of both New Trier White and the state's top-ranked, New Trier Green. "Our New Trier White team planned for him, and he still put 3 goals in on us."

Added Barrington coach Rob Hutson: "Jake is a solid leader who works hard every night. He has the skill set to continue playing after high school."

And he will -- but not on the ice.

Bigos will attend St. Joseph's College of Indiana next year to play baseball. He will be a center fielder for the Gators in his third season on the varsity baseball team next spring, likely set to bat third in the lineup.

"Baseball definitely helps me for hockey," Bigos said. "Baseball is a very mental game, filled with a lot of failures. So, I know to keep my head up during hockey when things aren't going my way; I know to always be positive.

"If I strike out, I know I have two or three more times (in that game) to redeem yourself. You just always have to be positive; you can't give up. So, I know, if I have a bad shift on the ice, I'll get another shift real quickly to have a better one."

Bigos had his best high school game as a sophomore, leading the Gators past the co-op Libertyville Icecats with 4 goals and 2 assists. His most memorable game ever was a 5-3 home win last October over Barrington, the first time the Gators had ever beaten the Broncos.

"That was a lot of fun," Bigos said. "Seeing how excited the seniors in their fourth year with the program were, that meant a lot to me. They were very emotional, which was cool to see; it was great to be a part of that game."

The two teams skated to a 1-1 tie in Barrington in late September. "We definitely should have won that game, but we didn't play our best," Bigos said.

The rematch is Dec. 16 in Crystal Lake.

"I hope we can win this new league; that would mean a lot," Bigos said of the North Central Division, which also features Carmel, Deerfield, Warren and others. "We also want to advance farther in the state tournament than we did last year. We won our play-in (game last season) against Evanston, and then lost to Glenbrook South.

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people. I don't think a lot of people are expecting us to be as strong as we are because people know that we lost a lot, especially (forward) Joey Bower and both of our goalies (from last season)."

The Gators lost seven from last season and return only six others beside Bigos with varsity experience. The returnees with experience are Kinker, Gustafson, junior center Max Rudolph, senior defenseman Jimmy McSweeney, senior center Austin Wiggerman and junior defenseman Connor Hudak.

However, McSweeney has been injured and Wiggerman is just now joining the team after his golf season.

"We're off to a good start," Bigos said. "We're not very big, but I think we're pretty fast and can use that to our advantage.

"I know I personally have to go out and play my hardest every game, every shift -- and when the other guys see that, they too want to give it their all."

Feeling pressure?

Yes, definitely, he said.

"I know, on every shift, the guys are always looking to me to do something, so that's what I try to do. My teammates and my opponents," Bigos said. "I just go out there and do my thing. I always give 110 percent. I never take a shift off."

He's the fastest player on the team and, quite possibly, the smartest. Bigos carries a 4.0 GPA out of 4.0, and has been a straight-A student for the past two years. His last "B" came in biology as a freshman.

His most challenging course this semester is AP calculus, he said.

"I do a lot of homework on car rides (to games)," he said, laughing. "I'm very proud of my grades."

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