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updated: 4/15/2014 4:10 PM

Team Illinois celebrates repeat Showcase triumph

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By Ross Forman
Daily Herald Correspondent

David Kellner ended his hockey career in perfect fashion Monday morning in Pittsburgh, scoring a goal and adding an assist as Team Illinois won its second consecutive championship in the annual America's Hockey Showcase.

Kellner scored the game's first goal and assisted senior forward Nate Harris (Glenbrook North) on the last goal of the game as Team Illinois defeated Team California 4-1 for Illinois' third title ever in the 27-year history of the event, which features 20 teams and players from across the U.S.

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"It's very exciting," said Kellner, who skated for St. Viator. "It was a fast-paced game against probably the best team we played all week competition-wise. After the first period, we settled in and started playing together."

Kellner scored at 4:01 of the second period, assisted by junior defenseman Jordan Ernst (Providence Catholic). Kellner and Ernst assisted Harris on the final goal at 13:43 of the second.

Providence seniors Benjamin Brandau and Jacob Dillman also scored against California, while junior goalie John Junge (New Trier Green) stopped 22 shots.

"We were a little surprised to see Team California (in the championship game), but I think we matched up well against them; we were a faster team," Kellner said. "We were an explosive team that fueled off each other, particularly our defense and goaltending."

Team Illinois finished the five-day tournament with a 6-0 record, with 3 consecutive shutouts, and outscored its opponents 34-7.

"I think we were a lot quicker (this year), plus, all four lines were pretty equal in strength," said Kellner, a senior. "Winning back to back says something, means something. No one can say we just got lucky (in 2013). This really says a lot about Illinois high school hockey."

Team Illinois' closest game in the tournament was a 3-2 win over Team New York on April 11 as Naperville Central junior Troy Nelson scored the game-winner at 15:42 of the third period, assisted by junior defenseman Chad Yale (Glenbrook North).

Illinois then produced three consecutive shutouts, blanking Texas (5-0), Utah (10-0) and the District of Columbia (8-0).

"It was a fun tournament; we pretty much dominated the entire tournament," said Stevenson senior Michael Trapp, who had 2 goals and 2 assists, including a game-winning goal. "Our goaltending was top notch, probably the best in the tournament, and all of the (offensive) lines clicked together and were just able to generate a lot of offense."

Benet senior Kevin O'Hara also saw action in goal for Team Illinois.

"I think we dominated the competition a lot more," than last year, said Trapp, one of five Illinois players to have played in 2013 too.

Trapp and Stevenson teammate Jared Projansky, a senior, were joined on the line by senior Tommy Stobart of co-op Waubonsie Valley. Projansky and Stobart each had 7 points in the tournament.

"It was a tough game against California, but the boys came out hard and then we kind of rolled over them," said Stobart, 18, who lives in Aurora. "It was a great experience overall and a lot of fun, celebrating on the ice, in the locker room and on the bus ride home. We had a lot of talent on the team and really played together well as a team."

Harris and Kellner each had 8 points, most on Team Illinois. Harris had 4 goals, 4 assists.

Senior Nick Day (Glenbrook North) led Team Illinois with 7 goals, including 2 powerplay and 2 game-winning goals.

"This was awesome, unreal," said senior forward John Cappuccitti of Hersey, who played for the co-op BG/H/W Stampede and finished the tournament with 2 goals and 1 assist. "The championship game meant a lot to us."

Projansky said Nelson's game-winning goal against Team New York, with about two minutes to play in regulation, might have been the biggest goal of the tournament for Team Illinois.

"It was huge," Projansky said. "After that (game), we pretty much killed everybody. We went 14 periods (during a stretch of the tournament) and only gave up one goal. The team defense was unbelievable."

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