Mark Ashmore limped to the bench, unable to put weight on his right skate after blocking a heavy slap shot.
A few minutes later, he tipped a point shot off the post and in to give New Trier the ice-breaking goal against Loyola in the 2019 Illinois high school hockey championship. He leapt into the boards in front of a massive, raucous Trevian student section at the United Center.
Pain? No, that wasn’t on his mind.
“Not in this game, no,” he said, laughing, in the aftermath of New Trier’s eventual 2-0 win. “You get hit and you keep moving on. Your adrenaline is pumping. Not much pain.”
Ashmore’s second-period goal held up as the winner — buoyed by a 5-on-3 snipe from fellow senior leader Bobby Soudan soon after — as the Trevians won their third state title in four years and ended the Ramblers’ quest for a repeat championship.
“Words cannot describe how happy I am right now,” Soudan said. “I poured my heart out into New Trier hockey, and to have it end this way is like from a dream.”
The Trevians ravaged competition throughout through their 2019 campaign, winning 61 of 69 games and demolishing York and St. Viator by 5-1 scores to advance to the final.
But they were still feeling the sting of last year’s quarterfinal loss to Glenbrook South — a rare occurrence for the proud Winnetka program, rubbed in by the fact that archrival Loyola went on to beat Stevenson for the title — until 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I grabbed all the returning guys in the summer, and we just basically said, ‘Last year was unacceptable for what our program is. Our standard is to get to the United Center,’” longtime coach Bob Melton said. “I know it’s not going to happen every year, but that’s our goal.”
Consider the goal accomplished — in style. New Trier established a physical presence early on, played tight-checking defense and peppered Loyola’s brick-wall goaltender Matthew Choate to the tune of a 33-14 shot differential.
Choate was solid throughout, spectacular at times and kept his Ramblers in the game, but the Trevians were not to be denied. Ashmore tipped in defenseman John Kane’s shot for the first goal with 9:25 left in the middle period; Soudan, after an assist from Brian Dolby, ripped one past Choate from the right circle six minutes later to provide the insurance. Goaltender Preston Watt made 14 saves for the shutout.
The Ramblers had actually taken two of the rivals’ five regular-season meeting, including a 2-0 shutout victory of their own on March 3. But coach Blake Sorensen said it seemed from the outset like it just wasn’t his team’s night.
“My heart goes out to these kids,” Sorensen said. “I’ve got 20 seniors in that locker room that are never going to be a part of a team together [again] playing competitive hockey, so to me, that’s the biggest part of the loss. One loss, now that doesn’t define our team.”
The crowd packed the United Center’s lower bowl and spilled over considerably into the second deck for the annual day of championships; Fenwick beat New Trier 3-2 for the women’s title before the men’s matchup.
But the green-and-white student section alone created more noise than the rest of the arena combined, and when Ashmore and Soudan each erupted into the glass at their classmates’ fingertips, the mood seemed almost as if the Blackhawks had won another Stanley Cup.
“Everyone was just flying,” Ashmore said. “Everyone’s wanted this since we started six months ago, so I think it was really just determination today — an all-around team effort.”