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Warren confident things will turn around after slow start

Warren's George Dousmanis (right center) shoots scores as Deerfield's Jack Goldberger arrives too late stop him during their hockey game

Warren's George Dousmanis (right center) shoots and scores as Deerfield's Jack Goldberger arrives too late to stop him during their hockey game at Rinkside Arena in Gurnee Mills. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 16, 2012 6:11AM

So many times you’ll hear professional athletes say that it’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters.

That’s also true at lower levels, and especially true about the sport of ice hockey, in which the postseason playoffs are what everybody’s point toward.

The rest of the season? It’s getting ready to put your best skate forward in crunch time.

As a result, there’s still an aura of confidence around the Warren High School hockey program, even though the team has followed a season-opening win over Libertyville with nine straight losses — the latest a 5-3 setback against Deerfield in a game at Rink Side in Gurnee Mills.

“It’s been an interesting start (to the season). We’ve had a number of games where we’ve played well for 30 minutes, but not the whole 45. Those 15 minutes that we take off have come back to bite us,” said Blue Devils coach Adam Antell.

“I think in the grand scheme of things, with the way this new league is structured, we’re fine. We’ve only played three league games out of a total of 30. With 27 league games to go, that means you get a lot of time to make up some ground.”

The coach also feels good about Warren’s talent level, even though the program is losing some quality players to a club team that plays out of the rink.

“In terms of talent, I’ve been here for four years, and from 1-19, we probably have the most talent we’ve had,” the coach said. “We had a couple years where we had one stud, but this year this it’s a core group who are really solid hockey players. We have a couple of young goaltenders (sophomore Tyler Carpenter and freshman Jacob Makway) that support one another and who have come a long way already in 10 games.”

This year, Warren is playing in a new league — The Illinois High School Hockey League’s North Central Division. Deerfield and Warren play in the 10-team East Division. There is also a nine-team West Division.

Gone are the north shore superpowers like the Glenbrooks and New Trier. And while this league involves more travel, Warren’s losing right now by thin margins and could win all the rematches. In past year, he couldn’t compete with the Glenbrooks.

“From a varsity standpoint, the league fits a program like ours better because almost every game is going to be as close as this one,” said Antell. “There isn’t going to be anybody running away with 7-0 wins. Even if a team finishes with only five losses, if you look at the games, most of them will be by a goal or two.

“It also gives us the ability to play different schools — schools we wouldn’t play unless it was a tournament or we made a deep run in the playoffs. We’re looking forward to building some new rivalries.”

Despite wearing the Blue/Gold, Warren’s team is not sanctioned by the high school, but is run through the Warren Blue Line hockey club.

Many high school programs are in that situation.

Hockey is not an IHSA-sanctioned sport, and the state tournament in February is run through the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois.

The players pay — a lot — to play, but whether the school is involved or not, it still says “Warren” on the jersey.

And when the team starts to string wins together, you watch how many mall-goers stop by the rink on game night to root the team on to victory.

“Kids do know who we are, but it’s hard to get people as excited because we’re a club and not a school sport,” said senior captain Matt Johnson.

Assistant captain Austin Hall agreed.

“It’s not like football or basketball where everybody is going to all the games or talking about it all the time.

“They’re also all over the school with posters and announcements. It doesn’t work that way for us. We do get a nice crowd for some of our rivalry games and around playoff time, but it’s such a long season that you have stretches where things really die down.”

That long season, of course, gives teams time to turn things around.

Which Warren figures to do, starting sooner rather than later.

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