Hitting New Highs

A recap on the Stevenson Boys Hockey team’s most successful season, winning state and running up nationally


On Sunday, March 13, 2022, the Stevenson Boys Varsity Hockey team raised its first ever state championship trophy. During Spring Break, representing Illinois at the national tournament in Dallas, Texas, Stevenson finished second overall, the highest-ranked public high school in the tournament.   

The team’s rise to glory was not easy. They went into the state tournament ranked third in the state, but the team had a bigger goal. They ended their season with a 45-15-0 record. Jake Topel ’23 and the rest of the team had set their expectations from the start: state champs. 

“We were talking about [winning state] since before we even started playing games,” Topel said. “All our coaches thought that this was the year we could do it.” 

After winning in Illinois, the team departed to Dallas with hopes of lifting a national championship trophy as well. They lost their first game but then went on a four game win streak, progressing to a knockout stage as they won their way to the final. They played teams from various states like Arizona, Utah, Texas and Massachusetts. 

The team fell in the final to Shattuck-St Mary’s, claiming second overall in the tournament. Despite the loss, the team still had their most successful season ever, winning state for the first time.

Captains Raffi Biedron ’22 and Will Harlow ’23 and coaches Tom Wood, Dan Wood and Marc Shellist led the team to unprecedented success. Although this triumph was anticipated from the start, the team experienced setbacks. At the end of first semester, around winter break, the team fell into a rut. Tough results to teams like New Trier and Loyola Academy left the Patriots nervous for the playoffs. However, the team pulled together and overcame that rough patch. 

For some games, we would play incredibly well, and others would be pretty awful,” Biedron said. “It was hard for us to find a rhythm that we could stick with until the state tournament.”

Players reflected on how the team formed deep bonds, which allowed them to reach such high achievements. Goalie Jonathan Adler ’22, who managed to keep a critical clean sheet in the 5-0 state final game, was an integral piece of the team’s defensive setup this year. 

“We focused on staying positive on the bench,” Adler said. “If we let up a goal… we’re still staying positive. Off the ice, we love each other like we’re all brothers.”

Topel explained that the Patriots always retained confidence in the strength of their team, even when they were going into games that, on paper, they were not expected to win. Topel added that winning against their toughest opponents, such as Loyola, came down to team togetherness. 

“This might be one of the closest teams, the most tight-knit team, that I’ve ever been a part of,” Topel said. “That’s part of why we were able to win… We were playing like we’re brothers out there.” 

Every player shared similar sentiments about the team’s connection to each other. According to Biedron, this sense of unity and camaraderie is a definitive part of Stevenson’s boys’ hockey team.

“My biggest personal takeaway from this year is the power of closeness on a team,” Biedron said. “Many of my teammates have said this before, but I want to reiterate and say that this team has been the closest one I have ever been on.”

Having been a part of the program for four years, Topel and the rest of the team felt the value of the experience of winning the state tournament. As the win was declared official, the team huddled up in an embrace. They ended the tournament how they had started it: united. The state win, according to Topel, was “surreal. No one believed it was actually happening.” 

The team’s legacy will stand even as graduating athletes move on from Stevenson. As for the future, the team has earned more than just a state championship trophy. 

“Now we know what it takes to get to the finals and win,” Topel said.  

The future of the program is bright, with a solid group of underclassmen being prepared on Varsity and JV. For this year’s athletes, the team’s success only came out on the rink because of a team dynamic that embodies brotherhood and family.

“For the future players, I just want them to recognize that if you play for Stevenson high school’s hockey team, you’re going to be taken as family,” Adler said.