Hockey becomes a refuge for Stevenson's Cohen

 
By Ross Forman
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/22/2018 5:33 PM
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  • Stevenson hockey player Seth Cohen has kept focus during the Patriots' run to the state championship game, despite his family's Long Grove home being destroyed recently in a fire.

    Stevenson hockey player Seth Cohen has kept focus during the Patriots' run to the state championship game, despite his family's Long Grove home being destroyed recently in a fire. Submitted photo

Seth Cohen was going to school at Stevenson a little late on Thursday morning, March 1. He and his hockey teammates were up late the night before watching two-time defending state champion New Trier Green play a Sweet 16 game against Notre Dame that the Trevians needed triple overtime to win.

About five minutes before he was to leave his family's Long Grove home, while talking with his mom, Nicole, about the New Trier victory, his dad, Steve, came screaming upstairs, telling them to get out of the house.

Cohen grabbed the family dog and everyone exited safely.

But the home was destroyed by fire after a basket on an electric stove in the basement caught fire. Not much was salvageable, Cohen said.

His hockey gear, stored in the garage, was retrieved later that day and, for the most part, was not damaged.

That night, Cohen and the Patriots defeated St. Rita. On March 7, the No. 3-seeded Patriots rolled over No. 6 Providence Catholic 5-1 in the quarterfinals of the top-tiered Red Division of the state tournament. Stevenson then stopped No. 7 Glenbrook South 4-2 on March 12.

The Patriots (55-17-2) face No. 1-ranked Loyola Gold for the state championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at the United Center.

"It's going to be amazing. The whole team is so pumped up," said Cohen, a junior in his third varsity season. "The only reason I chose to play high school (hockey) is I wanted to play one day at the United Center (for the state championship)."

Stevenson is skating in foreign territory, though, as the Patriots had never even advanced to the state semifinals.

The Ramblers, meanwhile, are a perennial power that won state in 1995 and 1996. They, however, have not finished first since and have an 0-7 record in state championship games since their last title.

"Our goalie (Elias Sandholm) keeps us in so many games and our forwards, we don't have a hard time scoring, as in years past," Cohen said. "Plus, our defense is among the best in the state. We have nothing to lose (because) no one expected us to be here, but we did. Loyola, on the other hand, was expected to be (playing for state) all season. We're the darkhorse in this situation."

The role is fine, said Cohen, who has 28 goals and 27 assists in 74 games. He's the right wing alongside junior center Adam Offenbach (28 goals, 59 assists) and senior left wing Trevor Hilt (64 goals, 47 assists).

"Being in the state championship has helped me so much," Cohen said. "Every time I think about (the fire), (hockey) puts a smile on my face. (Hockey) is a good outlet when I'm going through such personal (issues)."

His hockey bag and hockey pants were damaged from the fire, but still usable.

Then there's his mouth guard which, when he went to use it in the game hours after the fire, "immediately hit me with a smell of smoke," he said.

Cohen asked his coaches if they had an extra mouth guard, but they didn't.

"I didn't really want to put it in my mouth," Cohen said. "It (smelled) disgusting."

So most of the game it was in his glove, or barely in his mouth.

He has since gotten a new mouth guard.

"It's amazing that my equipment was basically OK," said Cohen, who has been living with his parents and younger brother, Ashtyn, 14, in a hotel in Lincolnshire.

The close family-time at the hotel has been priceless, he said. But it also has been a problem in the last few days. His brother has the flu and his parents have a cough.

"I'm trying to stay clear because we're all (living) in such close quarters and I don't want to get sick," Cohen said. "Winning state will be the best thing for my whole team, myself for sure and my family. It's such a hard event (to endure). Winning state would be amazing."

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