It was a big weekend in West Dundee for the Chicago Cougars as they welcomed the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings to town and started to set the tone for the postseason. In two contests with the Riverkings, the Cougars came away with the series split -- an accomplishment for which assistant coach Johnny Schwarz is quick to praise his team. “It was a very big win for us as an organization because of how good [the Riverkings] are. It would have been nice to win both, but it will turn out to be a good learning experience for us and a good lesson … to take into playoffs,” Schwarz says. The action got started on Friday night with a goal from the Riverkings in the game’s opening minute. While the Cougars could have given into the momentum the Riverkings were hoping to establish with their early marker, they didn’t -- and that made all the difference. “I thought that we would not be able to battle back like we did,” confesses Schwarz. “It was very impressive and good to see the boys buckle down and not allow [one goal] to determine the rest of the game.” Eight minutes after the Riverkings opened the scoring, Cougars rookie Tim Burke got his first goal of the season off of a feed from Jozef Martancik. It wasn’t smooth sailing for the Cougars from there, but the players all battled hard to earn the win against the league’s number one team. Forward Matt Hagerstrom would net the game winner at the end of the second period, making the score 2-1. Jozef Martancik would add another and Billy Paschen would seal the deal for the Cougars with an empty net goal in the final minute. Saturday was very nearly the same story, but things started to fall apart for the Cougars towards the end of the game. While the team got off to a strong start with a goal from Billy Paschen in the first, the Riverkings were quick to respond with a tally of their own. Despite two more goals from the Cougars -- including new recruit Griffin Slobodnik’s first in the green and gold and a second goal from Paschen -- the Riverkings upped the ante in the final minutes of the third to come out on top. Nevertheless, Schwarz has high praise for Saturday’s scorers, saying, “[Paschen] is such a hardworking kid and when it comes down to it, he gets the job done. It’s an absolute pleasure having him on the team.” Of Slobodnik, Schwarz adds, “The energy he brings to the team is unreal. His hard work and determination adds depth to our front end. Griffin was definitely the missing piece we needed to make this a championship team.” The Cougars are back in action this weekend to finish off the regular season at home against the Detroit Fighting Irish.
The Chicago Cougars carried their hot streak into Valentine’s Day weekend with two match-ups against the Decatur Blaze, winning both games by the same 6-2 margin. Friday’s action was highlighted by the newest addition to the Cougars, Paul Letto, tallying a hat trick in his first appearance in the green and gold. While the Blaze opened the scoring in the first period, Letto was quick to respond with two goals of his own. Goals from Mats Lindgren, Simon Motew, and USPHL all-time leading scorer Jozef Martancik would round out the scoresheet for the evening. Saturday was a much different story, with Cougars head coach Josh Dallmann opting to start a trio of forwards that haven’t historically started many games before -- the line of Matt Hagerstrom, Austin Kauppi, and Jack Parks. Dallmann was confident in his decision then and remains confident now. “I think they brought the energy that we needed them to bring. They are a simple hard working line that just goes to work every night and doesn’t try and do anything too fancy. The guys get behind them right off the bat, and it’s great to see them bring that energy every shift.” To make matters even better, winger Mike Sliwinski opened the scoring on Saturday, followed quickly by Johnny Serbekian. That being said, it wasn’t completely smooth sailing for the Cougars during their second game of the weekend, and both teams took a handful of penalties early on. “Sometimes playing a team on night two, there might be some bad blood,” says Dallmann. “So that next night, guys bring a different game as they are either trying to close out a sweep on the weekend or trying to stop a sweep from happening...so the second game is always more emotional.” Nevertheless, the Cougars did complete the weekend -- and the season -- sweep of the Blaze and look to take on the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings next weekend at home.
In the Chicago Cougars’ last meeting with the Metro Jets Development Program (MJDP) in December, the team fell by a combined score of 10-3 -- but things were a lot different this time around, with the Cougars getting off to an incredibly strong start to the month with the weekend sweep of the top-ranked team. “It feels good,” says forward Jozef Martancik, who tallied two goals in Friday’s 3-1 win. “Finally winning two big games in a row, and it’s the first time this season we’ve beaten a top team and beating them twice feels even better.” Friday’s match-up started out quietly, with both teams struggling to get the puck past the talented netminders in MJDP’s Caden Fisher and the Cougars’ Michael Lenhart. Defender Simon Motew broke the ice first with five minutes to go in the second period, but the celebration was short-lived as MJDP netted the equalizer just thirty seconds later. Head coach of the Cougars Josh Dallmann emphasized that the team needs to work on maintaining the lead better than they did this weekend. “Weekend sweeps are always good, right, but we’ve got to learn to play better with the lead. I think that’s just our youth and inexperience, but … we’ve just gotta build on that and play with the lead better,” says Dallmann. In the final minutes of the third period on Friday, forward (and USPHL all-time leading scorer) Jozef Martancik would tally two goals, one of which was an empty netter, to give the Cougars the advantage and win the game. Saturday looked to be much better offensively, with Spencer Butler notching his seventh goal of the season to open the scoring just five minutes into the first period. When asked about Butler’s performance, Dallmann has nothing but praise for the forward. “He was out of the lineup for a couple games there and getting him back was a huge boost to the team. He puts his head down and works, and he had a couple of huge blocked shots in the third period, and his performance has been a real good shot in the arm for our team, I think.” Second period goals by Kevin Johnston and Simon Motew would give the Cougars the 3-1 lead heading into the third period -- the widest margin they’ve ever had on MJDP. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last, with two quick goals beating Asher Motew and tying the game at three apiece. Despite the third period breakdown, the Cougars would ultimately keep MJDP at bay through five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, and through three rounds of the shootout. On his decision to send defender Simon Motew out first in the shootout, Dallmann laughs and says, “Simon’s … very strong offensively and he can put pucks in the net. You watch these guys before and after practice and see them doing their moves and stuff, and he’s obviously very skilled, so we just wanted to get the team going.” Motew’s goal in the shootout would be the only one scored by either team, giving the Cougars a hard-fought victory and ultimately, the weekend sweep. The team is back in action next weekend against the Decatur Blaze in Decatur, looking for the season sweep.
The Chicago Cougars opened the past weekend strong with a 7-5 win over Fort Wayne, though the team would fall in overtime to the Spacemen the very next day. On Friday, the Cougars opened the first period and the game with a tally from Simon Motew, who’s been issued praise from the coaching staff and fans alike since joining the team before the Chicago Showcase. After two second period goals by the Spacemen, Motew would score his second of the game to knot things up at two apiece. By the end of the night, he would add two additional assists to his own personal scoresheet. Unlike many of the games prior to this weekend’s contests, the Cougars spent a lot of time tied or trailing the Spacemen -- especially after Charles-Andre Cyphiot scored a third period hat trick on Friday to bring the score to 6-5. “We know every game we have to bring it no matter who we play, but when you’re in those close games it really shows who is a hockey player and who just shows up to wear a jersey and play hockey,” says assistant coach Johnny Schwarz. Friday night would see Billy Paschen’s empty net goal seal the deal in the Cougars’ 7-5 victory. Saturday was a much different -- and lower-scoring -- story. While the Cougars opened the scoring with a goal from Johnny Serbekian in the first period, Fort Wayne would mount a formidable comeback with three goals in the second period to put the Cougars at an early disadvantage. Of Serbekian’s effort this weekend, Schwarz says that “You might not notice him on the scoresheet, but he is such important player on this team in the role he plays.” One notable change between the first and final games of the weekend was the Cougars’ difficulty converting on the powerplay on Saturday. Though they were given four opportunities, the Cougars didn’t convert at all with the player advantage. Schwarz isn’t worried. “Our PP, to me, is an absolute threat against any team we will play this season. We have so much skill and they move the puck so well. I think sometimes they move it to much instead of shooting.” A third period goal by Kevin Johnston, in combination with Jozef Martancik’s shot with seven seconds left, put the Cougars even with the Spacemen and forced overtime. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, and the Cougars dropped Saturday’s match to Fort Wayne by a score of 4-3. The team is back in action this coming weekend in Chicago against MJDP.
It was a big weekend for the Chicago Cougars as they faced off against a resilient Dells squad back home in good old West Dundee. Friday’s match-up was a quiet one, with no scoring through the first or third periods. The Cougars’ two goals came off the sticks of Kevin Johnston -- one of the team and the league’s most prolific scorers -- and Billy Paschen -- a Cougars rookie who we all know has quickly making a name for himself on a new team in a new league. The Ducks were unwilling to be outdone, though, and the game was all knotted up at 2 heading into a scoreless third period. It would take an overtime goal by Billy Paschen, assisted by who else but defender Simon Motew, to defeat the Ducks on day one of the weekend series. Day two was a completely different story, with the Cougars jumping out to an early lead in the first period off of a pair of goals from Kevin Johnston. The team’s powerplay got to work throughout the game, with one of Johnston’s goals coming on the player advantage and another powerplay tally from Paschen to open the second period. Once the goals started coming, they didn’t stop -- and that continued all the way through until the end of the third period, by which point the Cougars had totaled seven goals on 43 shots. Goaltender Michael Lenhart would skate away from the evening’s game with his fourth shutout of the season. The Cougars are back in action this coming weekend when they make the trip out to Fort Wayne to take on the Spacemen in a two-game series.
The Chicago Cougars had an impressive start to the work week, featuring a sweep of Motor City HC by a combined score of 19-5. The action opened Monday afternoon in Dyer, Indiana, when the Cougars found themselves on the wrong side of Motor City’s Jacob Saenger’s one-timer. The team rallied, though, around newcomer Billy Paschen, who potted the equalizer just four minutes later, and paved the way for Joe Rascia’s go-ahead goal. From there, it was smooth sailing for the green and gold, adding another five goals -- including Paschen’s second -- before the game’s conclusion with a final score of 7-2. Tuesday saw a flurry of action, with newcomer Simon Motew getting the opener just four minutes into period one. Motew would go on to tack on three more goals by the end of the third, a feat that isn’t surprising to assistant coach Johnny Schwarz. “Simon is a very skilled player,” says Schwarz. “He brings such great skill to the team and really pushes players to be their best.” Motew wasn’t the game’s only top performer, as the starting line of Jason Heard, Jozef Martancik, and Kevin Johnston combined for six goals -- including two shorthanded tallies and two goals on the powerplay. “This line really has some top end talent. Each one of them complements the others’ game, which I believe contributes to much of their success,” Schwarz says. “You have Heard, who is not afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice and usually comes out with the puck…” …and who scored twice, once on the powerplay and once at even strength… “…[Martancik], who can not only see plays most [players] can’t, but can also put pucks home…” …and who eclipsed the all-time USPHL scoring record this past week with a seven-point performance in one game… “…and Johnston, who might have the most accurate one-timer in the league.” Johnston, of course, was responsible for one of the shorthanded goals and one of the powerplay tallies on Tuesday afternoon. To say the team had a successful week would be an understatement -- the Cougars performed phenomenally, with more than a handful of players putting on a show for the fans and their teammates alike. The Cougars will be back in action on Tuesday against the Midwest Blackbirds in Dyer, Indiana.
The Chicago Cougars showed up and showed out this past weekend in Dyer, where they squared off against the Midwest Blackbirds for their second series against their divisional foes. The team got off to a quick start on Saturday, potting six goals in the first period alone. New recruits Simon Motew and Billy Paschen both got on the board, with Motew opening the period’s scoring just four minutes into regulation. “We’ve definitely been really lucky to get some really good players to join our team the last few weeks,” says head coach Josh Dallmann when asked about the talent and tenacity of Motew and Paschen, both of whom have put on outstanding performances since joining the Cougars at the beginning of December. “Billy is a hardworking player with a good skillset [who] fits in nicely with the players we already have. He makes the players around him better.” By the end of regulation on Saturday, ten different Cougars had goals to their names, with Motew adding a second and Jozef Martancik tallying a hat trick in the third period. Sunday was almost an entirely different story for both teams, with the Cougars kept off the board until late in the first -- Jason Heard’s breakthrough at the end of the period was the game’s first goal, and started to shift the momentum in the team’s favor. “I don’t think we came out with the same fire on Sunday as we did on Saturday,” Dallmann says, and adds that you have to give the Blackbirds credit for the defensive performance they put up to keep the game scoreless through the first seventeen minutes. The second period saw a handful of players get on the board too -- among them Motew and Paschen, again, and Mike Sliwinski -- but the third period was when things started to get a lot grittier. The Cougars racked up twenty-eight minutes of penalty time in the third period alone, with seven infractions and two major penalties doled out. “Anytime you play a team multiple times, especially in a short amount of time, bad blood between players will always happen. Our players need to do a better job of being mentally tough and not take bad penalties, especially at the end of the game when there is no point to take them,” says Dallmann. By the end of the weekend, though, the Cougars had performed strongly enough that they would be heading back to Chicago with two more tallies in the win column -- and an impressive goal differential of +16 on the weekend. The Cougars don’t return to the ice until next Monday and Tuesday, when they’ll face off against Motor City Hockey Club in Dyer, Indiana.
Things have changed a lot for the Chicago Cougars between the season’s first showcase in Detroit and this past weekend’s showcase in Chicago. “We have added some good talent throughout the team,” says assistant coach Johnny Schwarz of the Cougars’ development since dropping four straight in Detroit. “The biggest thing is that our guys that have been together since the start are really building chemistry and starting to gel.” New talent and team chemistry have been recurring themes throughout the Cougars’ season thus far, with a handful of new players making their debuts in the green and gold at the showcase and at the previous week’s match-up against the Midwest Blackbirds out in Dyer. Among those new players is Kitchener Rangers defenseman Simon Motew, a Chicago native who’s trying his hand in the USPHL what with the pandemic putting the OHL season on pause indefinitely. “It’s a pleasure to coach a kid like Simon,” Schwarz says. “As the weekend went on, we really got to see his skillset and it was very impressive.” Motew did have a very impressive weekend for the Cougars, starting with Friday afternoon’s game against the Columbus Mavericks where he tallied an assist on Danny Mannarino’s opening goal. Though the Cougars got off to an early lead, a flurry of Mavericks goals in the second period meant that a strong comeback would be necessary to keep the Cougars in the running for the win. Defenseman Adam Brimie had the equalizer halfway through the third, but the Cougars would ultimately end up falling to the Mavericks just three minutes into overtime. The rest of the weekend was a different story for the Cougars, as the team took home three decisive wins, starting with a 7-1 blowout of MHC on Saturday afternoon. New recruit Matthew Kunach, who joins the Cougars after one game with the New York Aviators, got on the board twice against MHC, as did the USPHL’s league leader in goals scored, Kevin Johnston. Forward Spencer Butler also tallied his first goal in a Cougars uniform since the pair he had against his former team, the Dells Ducks, at the beginning of the season. Two games on Sunday meant the team would inevitably be more tired, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at the scoresheet. Johnston reprised his two goal performance on Sunday morning against the Rochester Vipers, helping to power the team to a 5-3 victory. Forward Johnny Serbekian sealed the deal with an empty netter. Sunday evening was a slightly different story, with Billy Paschen’s goal in the first period the game’s only tally through nearly twenty-five minutes of play -- until, of course, he added two more in the dying seconds of the second period for the hat trick. “The guys are definitely getting used to playing in tight games with all the parity in the league this season. [This] will only benefit us in the long run. It was good to see them play hard with a lead, but once we popped a couple more, it was way nicer to watch us play,” Schwarz adds with a laugh. The Cougars would skate away at the end of the showcase with three wins in hand, all decisive victories that have helped narrow the margin between first and second place in the Midwest East. While the team breaks for the holidays, they’ll be back in action in early January against the Midwest Blackbirds out in Dyer once more.
It was a battle between the top two teams in the Midwest East division this past weekend, and unfortunately, the Chicago Cougars came out on the wrong side of the rivalry, losing both Saturday and Sunday to a dominant MJDP. “We definitely did not have our best games this weekend,” confesses assistant coach Johnny Schwarz. “We tried too hard to make the fancy play and not the right, easy play.” On Saturday, things were looking good through the first period, with a stalwart Michael Lenhart allowing only one goal and the Cougars firing off fifteen shots. The game went gradually downhill, though, as Chicago had two goals disallowed and allowed MJDP to get on the board three more times before finally tacking on one of their own -- a breakaway feed from Kevin Johnston to Cougars’ leading scorer Jozef Martancik -- in the final two minutes of the third period. “We did get some bad bounces our way with two goals called off. It really does take the wind out of a team’s sails, especially when you’re trying to climb back into a game,” says Schwarz. Sunday saw both the Cougars’ offense and defense struggle to generate and block shots, totaling less than thirty shots on net and getting on the board twice to MJDP’s six goals. Schwarz had high praise for netminders Michael Lenhart and Alex Shaults, but was less than satisfied with the rest of the team. “[Our goalies] compete in every game they play, but our offense and defense did not help them.” Looking ahead to next weekend, though, the coach is optimistic. “We are wanting to keep our game simple. Get back to the basics by shooting pucks and winning battles. There is no secret recipe, [we’ve] just got to work hard and make the simple plays.” The Cougars will face off in Chicago against the Midwest Blackbirds, who currently sit in sixth place in the Midwest East.
Playing out of Dyer, Indiana, due to COVID-19 restrictions in Illinois, the Chicago Cougars fell 5-3 on Friday afternoon to an unyielding Metro Jets roster. “We have played the Metro Jets twice now and we have had very competitive games. It is always fun when you play top teams in our league,” says assistant coach Johnny Schwarz, reminiscing on the team’s 3-1 defeat by the Jets at the Detroit Showcase in October. “[That being said,] The guys played hard. They never got down or gave up.” While the Jets got on the board first on Friday, by the middle of the second period, the Cougars had evened things up with two goals from Kevin Johnston, who’s made quite the name for himself in Chicago since joining the roster. “[My goals] were set up by my teammates,” Johnston says of his tallies on Friday. “Jason [Heard] made a great pass that sprung me on a breakaway and I just had to get it past the goalie. Then Cody [Markotay] led a great rush into the zone and made a great pass back door that I just had to tap into an open net.” Johnston, always one to give credit to his teammates, attributes much of his success to the great chemistry he’s developed with his linemates and the rest of the roster over the past months. “Seeing and playing with them everyday helps with chemistry, especially all the reps we get in practice. Building confidence and trust in your teammates, knowing they have the ability and talent to make the plays, helps in games.” Unfortunately, the Johnston’s goals weren’t enough to hold the Jets at bay, and Metro scored two two goals in the two minutes immediately following Johnston’s tally. While Danny Mannarino made it a one goal game not long after, not even pulling Michael Lenhart in the final minute and a half of play during the third period was enough to mount a comeback. “We just got too pretty with our playmaking,” confesses Schwarz. “Once we shot the puck, good things happened.” The Cougars won’t take the ice this weekend with the holiday approaching fast, but will be ready to tackle MJDP when they make the trek out east again to Detroit on December 5 and 6
Anyone who tuned in to this past weekend’s games is sure to agree that the Chicago Cougars weren’t themselves this past weekend when they suited up against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings in a non-divisional match-up. Though the games were close in scoring, the Cougars were outpaced and outshot, and returned home to West Dundee with their first two official losses of the season. “As a whole, we did not play Chicago Cougars hockey,” says assistant coach Johnny Schwarz of the team’s efforts this weekend. “We tried to make extra moves and get too fancy. Everyone was trying to be a hero.” Throughout both of the weekend’s contests, the Cougars only managed to score two goals, with the team’s leading scorers Jozef Martancik and Kevin Johnston each lighting the lamp. The credit for keeping the score low, though, must be given to goaltenders Alex Shaults and Michael Lenhart, both of whom turned away nearly 40 shots in their respective outings. Historically, the Cougars have given up anywhere from five to nine goals to the Riverkings, but it was thanks largely in part to the efforts of both netminders that the score was kept low this weekend. “Both Lenhart and Shaults stood tall for us, and without them, it would have been a much different score,” says Schwarz. What really hurt the Cougars this weekend was the difficulty they had staying out of the box and allowing their opponents to capitalize with the player advantage. While only one of the Riverkings’ four goals this weekend came on the powerplay, it was a tough one to concede and further evidence that the team needs to work on staying level-headed and disciplined. “The players need to start holding themselves accountable for their actions because they are not only hurting themselves, but the team,” says Schwarz. Next weekend, the Cougars will square off against the Detroit Fighting Irish at Southgate Ice Arena. The Fighting Irish are currently ranked fifth in the USPHL’s Midwest East division.
With one win against Decatur already in hand, the Chicago Cougars successfully extinguished the Blaze this past weekend on home ice. The team kicked off the weekend in a 3-0 hole after less than twenty-five minutes on the ice -- one of their worst starts this season, and an effort assistant coach Johnny Schwarz strongly condemned after the fact. “We keep making mental mistakes,” says Schwarz. “We’re either overthinking or we don’t think at all … It’s just unacceptable.” Lucky for the Cougars, their first powerplay of the game -- an interference call against Decatur -- would build some momentum for the team. Cody Markotay, who has already cemented his role on the Cougars’ powerplay and penalty kill units, was able to capitalize and get the Cougars on the board just before the halfway point of the second period. Less than ten minutes later, the Cougars got another opportunity with the player advantage with yet another interference call going their way. This time, it was winger Mike Sliwinski, assisted by the team’s leading scorers in Kevin Johnston and Jozef Martancik, who helped the team begin to mount a legitimate comeback. The third period would be dominated by Martancik, who would tally yet another hat trick -- his fourth of the season -- to steal the game right out from under Decatur’s skates. Saturday’s match-up was much of the same, with the Blaze determined not to hand the Cougars an easy victory. Nevertheless, a goal from Johnston gave the Cougars the early lead, and it was only compounded when Jason Heard, in his first game back since the Detroit Showcase, tallied another goal. One of the team’s newest additions, Miles Morris, got his first assist in a Cougars sweater on Heard’s goal. The Blaze’s comeback attempts meant that the Cougars spent much of the game with only a one goal cushion. While offense has undoubtedly been the team’s strong suit in the past, Schwarz was proud of the way the team defended their lead and didn’t give in to taking sloppy penalties, which they’ve struggled with in the past when under pressure. “[They] really showed resilience this weekend and they worked hard to earn these wins,” says Schwarz. This coming weekend, the Cougars will be on the road again as they head up to Wisconsin Rapids to face the Riverkings. Last season, the Riverkings took three of four match-ups against the Cougars and did so by considerable margins -- meaning the team is sure to have their work cut out for them as they head up north on Friday.
It seemed the stars aligned for the Chicago Cougars this past weekend as they hosted the Ft. Wayne Spacemen for the first series on home ice, and skated to two dominant victories in regulation. If the series sweep of the Spacemen wasn’t enough to tide the Cougars over, the team made the trip down south to Decatur on Sunday where they earned their final win of the weekend. Anyone who tuned in to this weekend’s games won’t be surprised when we declare Jozef Martancik the weekend’s hero -- with five goals on Friday, three on Saturday, and one on Sunday, Martancik skated away with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) through three games. His nine goals account for more than one third of the team’s total offense generated this weekend, and give him a substantial cushion as he leads the league scoring race with 34 points. That being said, there’s room in the spotlight for two, and the second spot belongs to forward Kevin Johnston, who’s been a major impact player for the team thus far and was awarded the honor of Midwest East Forward of the Week on October 14th for his production against Motor City. When the Cougars returned to their home ice this past weekend, Johnston tallied three goals against Ft. Wayne and scored four on Sunday against the Blaze. He finished the weekend with nine points (seven goals, two assists) and sits comfortably in second place in scoring league-wide. “What most people don’t realize is how hard [Martancik and Johnston] work. Both players kill penalties for us as well, and have committed to playing physical and blocking shots,” says head coach Josh Dallmann. “We just want them to keep doing what they’re doing and bringing that work ethic to the rink and good things will happen.” The team’s offense might have stolen the show in their 10-0 and 7-3 victories over the Spacemen, as well as in the 7-3 win over the Blaze, but Dallmann and assistant coach Johnny Schwarz both credit the Cougars’ defense and goaltending with playing a critical role in all three wins this weekend. “Most guys don’t like to play defense,” Dallmann admits, “but I think it is something that guys are starting to take pride in and that’s showing [on the ice].” One particular player who’s likely to catch your eye is third year defender Cody Markotay, who has had himself a solid couple of games on the scoresheet as well as in his own zone. Markotay registered five assists this weekend and came close to registering his first goal of the season on Saturday night (the shot in question was ultimately tipped in front by forward Danny Mannarino, and Markotay ended up with the assist). “I try really hard to anticipate plays in games, so I feel like that kind of gives me the upper hand and is a reason as to why I, as a defenseman, do assist so often,” says Markotay of his offensive success so far this season. “But I still couldn't do it without all the guys who are on the ice with me.” Markotay has played an important role on the team’s majorly successful powerplay unit, but he’s also filled in on the penalty kill as well, helping tighten up the back end when the Cougars are caught with a man in the box. “We have taken a lot of penalties as of late and it’s put us in some tight spots in games. I think it just comes down to discipline and keeping our emotions in check,” says Dallmann, echoing Schwarz’s sentiments from last week. “As the season moves forward, if we keep taking penalties, it’s going to hurt us.” While the coaches are tasked with keeping expectations at bay, the players — Markotay included — remain optimistic. “This year, I feel like we’re really on point with the goals we're trying to reach, the games we're trying to secure, those plays that that we're making happen, and we're just working together as a team doing we have to do [to succeed].” The Cougars will be back home this coming weekend as they host the Decatur Blaze for a two game rematch. After the team’s success against the Blaze this past Sunday, fans, friends, and family will want to be sure to tune into the next few games to watch the Cougars compete against this familiar foe.
The month of October did not start off on the highest of notes for the Chicago Cougars (see below), but the team was determined to rectify that this past weekend as they returned to Detroit to square off against a more familiar foe: the Motor City Hockey Club. Historically, the Cougars have fared remarkably well against Motor City, outscoring the Michigan-based team by a combined score of 49-7 over their four game series in 2019-20. With both teams undergoing significant offseaon roster changes and with only a handful of players returning for the 2020-21 season, there was no guarantee that this year’s match-ups would see much or any of the same action. Heading into this weekend’s games, assistant coach Johnny Schwarz was fully aware that Motor City would not go down without a fight. “When you have won the division three years in a row, you know every team is going to be coming for you. Teams always want to beat the champs,” Schwarz says. Nevertheless, Friday night’s match-up saw the Cougars on the board early, finishing off the first period with a solid 3-0 lead thanks to the combined efforts of John Serbekian, TJ Haas, and Kevin Johnston. Johnston would go on to add three more goals and a helper to finish the night with five points. “We are learning to be more of an aggressive team and win at everything we do,” Schwarz says of his team, who would go on to tally eight unanswered goals in the second and third period to finish Motor City off by a devastating 11-0. “We are learning to [play as] a unit.” Saturday’s game saw a two-goal effort by rookie Brendan Miranda, as well as returner Danny Mannarino’s first point of the season, for a 5-1 finish. The team would conclude the weekend with fourteen powerplay minutes over the two games against Motor City, capitalizing on nearly half of their opportunities (3 of 7). While penalties are never predictable and often subject to the whims of a rotating cast of officials, one constant on the powerplay for the Cougars has been rookie TJ Haas. Haas scored two powerplay goals at the start of the month at the Detroit Showcase, and tacked on two assists with the man advantage this past weekend. Playing 5-on-4 is a far cry from playing with both teams at even strength, though, so we talked to Haas a bit about what being utilized as a powerplay heavyweight means for his game. “I think my game has changed by just having more space to make plays with the puck and find open teammates,” Haas says. Next weekend, the Cougars will play their first game at home as they square off against the Fort Wayne Spacemen. While fans are still not permitted inside the rink, the Cougars are hosting a home opener watch party for fans at the Blue Line, starting at 7 PM. There will be a $3 entry fee for all attendees, which pays for a food and drinks special.
October is off to a rocky start for the Chicago Cougars as they go 0-for-4 at the annual USPHL Premier Detroit Showcase. “The team definitely struggled putting a full 60 minutes together,” says assistant coach Johnny Schwarz of the team’s efforts this past weekend. “When you play good teams, they capitalize off your mistakes. You can’t take a shift off.” The Cougars opened the showcase with a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Lake Erie Bighorns, with the team’s only two goals coming from new recruit Kevin Johnston. Johnston, who spent the majority of last season in the USPHL’s 18U division but is currently one of the roster’s oldest forwards, brings what Schwarz considers some much-needed “veteran support” to a younger squad like the Cougars. The floodgates opened on Friday morning against the Toledo Cherokee, where the team spent more than 30 minutes in the penalty box. “Hockey is an emotional game,” Schwarz admits. “We need to do a better job controlling our egos and staying out of the box.” While TJ Haas got the Cougars on the board first with his first of two weekend powerplay tallies, the Cougars couldn’t find their footing fast enough to stem the flood of goals from their fired-up opponents, who responded with three goals of their own before the first half of the second period drew to a close. The Cougars would ultimately fall 7-4 in their first of Friday’s two contests. Friday evening’s game found the Cougars spending less time in the box, but it was all hands on deck as they sought to keep the Metro Jets, arguably their fiercest opponent at the showcase, at bay. While the Cougars’ only goal of the game came in the second half of the third period off another powerplay tally from Haas, the story of the night for fans back home in Chicago was definitely rookie goaltender Ian Young, who allowed just three goals on 40 shots. “Facing 40 shots...is easier than lower shot games. It’s easier to stay in the game mentally when you see action constantly [as opposed to] a game where shots are few and far between,” Young reasons and adds that, though he kept the Jets scoreless in the first frame, a “brief adjustment” was necessary to account for the change in pace since his first start of the season last weekend against the Dells Ducks. The team closed out the Detroit Showcase Saturday morning with another tough loss, this time to the Pittsburgh Vengeance. While Michael Lenhart and the rest of the Cougars worked together to keep the Vengeance off the board until the third period, their efforts weren’t enough -- and pulling the Lenhart with just under a minute left in regulation ultimately proved unsuccessful as the Cougars dropped the final game of the weekend 2-1. Heading into this upcoming weekend’s series against Motor City, both Young and assistant coach Schwarz emphasize the importance of players focusing on improving their mental game. “We tend to ride a rollercoaster of emotions,” says Young, “but [coaches Dallmann and Schwarz] have really been emphasizing that we need to have a mindset where we can be levelheaded through the ups and downs of the game.” The Cougars will head to Detroit next weekend to take on Motor City Hockey Club October 9th at 6 PM CDT and October 10th at 3 PM CDT.
After securing two huge wins on the road against the Dells Ducks to close out the month of September, the Chicago Cougars will be heading out east to Michigan for the annual Detroit Showcase, where they’ll square off against four non-divisional opponents in just three short days. It’s important for both players and fans alike to temper expectations heading into the showcase after opening the season in a dramatic fashion over the Ducks. Each of the four teams the Cougars will face in the showcase have established a winning record so far this season, and it’s unlikely the Cougars will dominate any of them in the same fashion as the Ducks. “[The players] can’t just rest on having one good weekend,” says head coach Josh Dallmann when asked how he intends to carry the momentum of the season’s start into the showcase. “They need to find it in themselves -- you know, get up for big games and show up when the team needs them.” There’s no doubt that the Cougars showed up last weekend, both on the scoresheet and off of it -- but a showcase like this weekend’s presents a unique set of opportunities and obstacles, as players are getting to compete against teams outside the Midwest East. “This is probably the first time that the guys are going to get a chance to really make a name for themselves this year,” Dallmann says. “This will be a good chance for everybody to get on some radars as players to watch for the rest of the season.” Fans likely already know which Cougars to keep their eye on, but what should you be on the lookout for from this weekend’s opponents? The Cougars’ first match-up of the weekend comes on Thursday night against the Lake Erie Bighorns, who have already earned a 4-1 win in their only game of the season last Sunday. The team finished in the middle of the standings in the Great Lakes division last season, but have a handful of new players to look out for -- including winger Zack Kent, a rookie who tallied a goal and two assists in his first ever junior outing. Friday sees two opponents: a matinee match-up against the Toledo Cherokee and an evening showing against the Metro Jets. While the Cherokee had a better 2019-20 record than the Bighorns, there’s no guarantee that their past successes will translate on the ice this weekend. That being said, they’ve already secured two wins over their own divisional rivals in the Columbus Mavericks, led by a monumental effort (5 G and 2 A) from returning forward Ondrej Dupal. Friday evening’s opponent will arguably be one of the best tests for the Cougars, as they square off against last season’s Great Lakes division champions in the Metro Jets. While their appearance at this weekend’s showcase will mark the first outing of the season for the Jets, the team will have the home ice advantage as the tournament’s hosts. The showcase will wrap up for the Cougars on Saturday morning when they square off against the Pittsburgh Vengeance, a middle-finishing team boasting significant offensive firepower. Though their offensive corps is heavy with talent, returning forward Luke Kirk will be the one to keep your eye on as the Cougars finish out the showcase.
No hockey team approaches their season opener expecting to win the series by a combined score of 20-1, regardless of their opponent’s finish in the previous season’s standings. In a league like the USPHL, where many teams undergo major roster overhauls between seasons due to players aging out, those expectations are tempered even further. Nevertheless, a 20-1 series win was exactly what was in the cards for the 2020-21 Cougars when they left West Dundee this past Friday to square off against the non-divisional Dells Ducks. “It’s not going to be a normal thing that happens,” warns Cougars head coach Josh Dallmann. “For some reason, things just started to go in the net for us.” That being said, there’s nothing that isn’t impressive about 13 different players finding the back of the net in the span of two games. The scoresheet was filled with the usual suspects on both Friday and Saturday: the Cougars’ leading scorer from 2019-20, Jozef Martancik, registered his first hat trick of the season on Friday night and finished off the weekend with seven points. Right behind him was former Duck Jason Heard, who contributed a goal both Friday and Saturday and added a pair of an assists for a four-point series. Even defenseman Adam Brimie had an offense-heavy outing, with a powerplay goal to open the second period on Friday and a handful of apples to finish the weekend off. For a handful of the Cougars, though, donning the green, white, and gold on Friday and Saturday was even more special. Forward Brendan Miranda suited up for his first ever junior hockey game on Friday after spending the last two seasons of his career with the Joliet Jaguars 16U program. He wasn’t expecting to make it on the board this weekend, and would have been happy just to get back out on the ice with a new team. If there’s one persistent theme of the Cougars’ opening weekend, though, it’s exceeding expectations -- and Miranda went above and beyond even his own wildest dreams, scoring two goals on Saturday to help the Cougars close out the game 9-1 over the Ducks. We asked Miranda what it felt like to get that first career tally in a brand new league with brand new teammates, and his reply was succinct, but nonetheless accurate: “It felt great.” Of course, Miranda wasn’t the only rookie to get on the scoresheet this weekend -- teammates Mike Sliwinski, Braden Luehring, Kevin Uhlir, and Mason Perri all scored big goals this weekend that helped buoy the Cougars to such high-scoring heights over their opponents. While the offense-heavy caliber of play we witnessed from the Cougars this weekend may not be the norm moving forward, there’s one strength that both coach Dallmann, assistant coach Johnny Schwarz, and Miranda all credit with contributing to the team’s success this past weekend. “We have great chemistry already,” emphasizes Miranda. “We really started to form a team this weekend,” Dallmann adds. “Guys are cheering each other on. And it’s not just about scoring goals, it’s about trying to play good hockey.”
The start of the hockey season is always highly anticipated for hockey players, coaches, and fans alike, and this year, even with the added obstacle of the COVID-19 pandemic, is no different. After finishing the abbreviated 2019-20 season at the top of their division with a dominant 35 wins, the Chicago Cougars are ready to get back onto the ice and carry their momentum and their winning mentality into this year. The installment of head coach Josh Dallman and the return of the team’s leading scorer in Jozef Martancik means that the Cougars are already off to a promising start for the 2020-21 season even before the first puck drop -- and when you combine those factors with the addition of goaltender Ian Young from Colorado and former Dells Ducks’ leading scorer Jason Heard, the team is shaping up to be a formidable opponent both in the Midwest East and throughout all of the USPHL. “I just want us to be the hardest working team in our division,” Dallmann says of the crew he’s spent the offseason working to recruit with assistant coach Johnny Schwarz. “I think if we do that, then the wins will follow.” The uncertainty of the offseason means that the return of regular season games is more eagerly awaited than ever. “We had a six month pause where the whole world stopped,” says Jozef Martancik, who led the team with 86 points over 36 games last season and was stunned by the league’s abrupt cancellation of the playoffs. “We’re excited to be here. Everyone’s excited to be back on the ice.” The Cougars are poised to open their season on September 25th and 26th, when the team heads north to Wisconsin to square off against the Dells Ducks. While the Ducks did finish next to last in their division this past season, both coaches and players intend to tackle the team as they would any opponent -- hungry for a win, and determined to do whatever it takes to defend their division title.