Langer, Latimer take service to heart at Benet
Each wore a tuxedo with black tails and white gloves for a special Saturday night, not an oversized jersey and skates.
Evan Langer and Jack Latimer, seniors at Benet Academy and teammates for the Redwings' talented hockey team, were off ice last Nov. 16, attending the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine 63rd Annual Awards Dinner, held at the Field Museum in Chicago.
Langer and Latimer were among 25 honor guards for the two honorees of the year: Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, and Richard L. Gamelli, MD, FACS. The hockey players are members of the Stritch Junior Service League.
"I was humbled by the work of the two honorees, and no doubt the countless people who also helped them along the way. Humbling, that's the word that best describes how I felt (that) night," Langer said.
Members of the Stritch Junior Service League are high school juniors and seniors who have dedicated themselves to serving those in need. SJSL members participate in a variety of service projects in the months preceding the annual awards dinner. Latimer said they have done a variety of service projects in the Chicagoland area, including feeding the poor, preparing meals for families of sick children, and simply bringing cheer to the elderly.
"This was the most formal and elegant event I have ever attended," Langer said. "Being in the presence of such great people was incredible. Hearing and speaking with some of the people who attended this event gave me a whole new perspective on how generous and dedicated people are with their time and talents. I was among truly great people, people who have spent their entire lives serving others. Being a part, albeit small, of this community of dedicated, inspiring, and visionary professionals has awoken something special in me.
"Listening to Dr. (Linda) Brubaker, dean of Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine, introduce the honorees, and speak of their incredible contributions to humanity, made me want to strive for bigger and better things in life. I, too, want to make a difference, and it began this summer with my volunteer work."
Latimer added: "I am grateful (to) my community and happy to give back. I am rewarded internally when helping those in need. Knowing that I have made a positive difference in the lives of others is personally rewarding. As much as I was able to give, I also learned from those I served and from those I served with."
Langer, 18, who lives in Naperville, is a right-handed shooting forward, usually right wing, in his third season on the Benet varsity, and has been playing hockey since age 9. He is undecided on college for next year, though he plans to study economics, law, accounting, or possibly engineering.
Latimer, 17, who lives in Hinsdale, is a left-handed shooting defenseman in his second season on varsity, who has been playing the sport since he was 3.
Benet (26-14-2 overall), which won its first-ever Kennedy Cup title last season as champions of the Catholic League, is meeting St. Ignatius in the first-round of the 2014 Kennedy Cup. Games one and two of the best-of-three series were Saturday and Sunday. If needed, game three would be Thursday.
Benet went 15-6-1 in the Catholic League, finishing third behind St. Viator and Providence.
Langer was the team's leading scorer in league games, scoring 15 goals and a team-leading 23 assists in 19 games played, including 4 game-winning goals. Thomas Feldman has 21 goals, 11 assists.
"We have some very talented players (and) we are doing a good job, both offensively and defensively," Langer said. "My hope is to win both the Kennedy Cup and state. Our team last year played hard, (and we now are) positioned to be competitive at the end of the season."
Latimer added: "We have a strong team with great coaches. Everyone has been working hard at practice and workout sessions, and we are learning new things that should help us at the end of the season. Our goal is to keep working hard because the harder we work, the farther we can go."
Langer's skates were solidified, so to speak, by Rocky Saganiuk, a former Toronto Maple Leafs player and family friend who is now a youth hockey director in the Chicago area. Saganiuk "convinced my parents that I should be playing hockey," Langer said, "and I have loved every minute I've spent on the ice."
Such as the game this season when he scored twice against one of the top teams in the state: Providence. "We went into the game as underdogs and finished with a tie," Langer said. "I take any game against Providence to heart because they are a great team with very talented players. I enjoy gritty matchups, as they force us to play our best. While I am not a fan of ties, that game served as a warning that our team has potential to have the best season yet."
Langer last season finished with the team's highest plus/minus ranking and was second in goals scored.
"My role is to be a team leader on and off the ice," Langer said. "I am always looking for opportunities to move the puck ahead and give our centers an opportunity to set up in front of the net so they can score.
"I work hard defensively and am a goal-scorer and team player. I always look for the open man, but I can also finish when needed. In my opinion, whether I score, assist or just advance the puck so someone else can assist and score, winning is the ultimate goal. Our team has skilled and smart players, and we play as a team. Our goal, as a team, is to win, not to rack up personal points. Personal accomplishments are secondary to team accomplishments."
Latimer considers himself a "defensive-defenseman" — the who always strives for a shutout.
"(Scoring) goals is not my job, but causing turnovers and blocking shots is," he said. "We have an amazing group of forwards that will score, and my obligation is get the puck and move it to them as quickly as possible."
A la Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, who Latimer said, "has inspired my style of play. I try to incorporate some of his on-ice decisions to improve my game."
Benet forward Feldman, a junior, and senior goalie Kevin O'Hara have earned all-state recognition.
Benet earned the No. 5 seed in the top-tiered Red Division of the Illinois State Hockey Championships, and will open state tournament play against No. 28 Lyons Township. The winner will face the winner of Barrington-St. Ignatius.
The state championship game will be played Thursday, March 20, at the United Center.
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