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St. Charles East

Fox Valley Hawks surprising in playoffs

Spring registration for the Fox Valley Hawks’ April and May hockey session begins with open skates at Geneva’s Fox Valley Ice Arena on Saturday and Sunday. If the Hawks aren’t careful, Sunday’s turnout could be pretty scarce.

The team is one victory away from playing in a Blackhawk Cup Varsity Combined semifinal that morning.

The mixture of players from seven schools – including St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Batavia, Geneva and Kaneland – talked about jelling since the season started. Once the playoffs arrived, they delivered, and enter tonight’s quarterfinal against Bartlett at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville seeking a third straight victory against a higher-seeded foe.

“We’re definitely surprised,” said Billy Petersen, a junior forward from East, “but we’ve still been working hard. I guess it’s paying off now, all the hard work we’ve gone through.”

Fox Valley, the tournament’s No. 19 seed, topped No. 14 Libertyville, 4-1, in its Feb. 27 postseason opener to advance to Monday’s second round.

There, the Hawks upset third-seeded Maine Township – coming off a bye – with a 1-0 victory.

Goaltender Jon Durrbeck (Wheaton Warrenville South) posted the shutout as junior defenseman Andrew Kielion (Batavia) provided the only offense with a goal late in the second period. Kielion’s goal in part exemplified his club’s seasonlong resilience, as the score was a product of persistent net-crashing from the start of the game.

“Definitely, I like to hop up in the play and produce some offense back from the ‘D,’ ” Kielion said. “Especially since we’re now in these playoffs, you’ve got to take chances.”

If the underdog narrative wasn’t enough for the Hawks, there also is an element of sending their outgoing coach out in style.

Jim Quinn, who guided the St. Charles North club and St. Charles co-op before the Hawks amalgamation debuted this season, told players at midseason he planned to step down because “I need a little bit of a break.”

Ailing recently with a herniated disc in his back, Quinn was not in attendance for Monday’s game and said he was uncertain if he would be on the bench tonight. Assistants Chris and Dan Bednarek, both former East athletes, filled in Monday.

“Hopefully, I’ll pull together and be there for the next game,” said Quinn, who had a spinal epidural about a week ago, “but I’m not 100 percent positive.”

Nick Falzone, a former coach with Geneva and South Elgin, among other stops, will succeed Quinn and is set to be on hand at Fox Valley this weekend.

Whether he only has a group of newcomers to address come Sunday remains to be seen.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game Monday, but we’re really dead set on going through this tournament and continuing our season,” Kielion said.

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