Cubs

Faron fuels St. Rita into Blackhawk Cup Final

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Faron fuels St. Rita into Blackhawk Cup Final

By Gary Larsen
YourSeason.com
In his first year playing hockey for St. Rita, all senior forward Rick Faron did for the Mustangs on Saturday was post a goal that gave his side a 2-1 lead, and then an assist on a Keith Burchett goal that stood as the game-winner in a 3-2 win over New Trier.

And all that did was send St. Rita to this years Blackhawk Cup state title game.

We knew we could play with them, Faron said of top-seeded New Trier. In the past we played a little timid against them but this year we knew we could stay with them. We werent cocky about tonights game but we knew we had a chance of winning.

The key was getting shots. We had to get shots and get rebounds. This has been a blast so far. Playing in front of your friends like that is a good feeling.

Fourth-seeded St. Rita beat New Trier for the third time in four games this season at The Edge in Bensenville, with a good crowd on hand for both teams. The Mustangs led 3-2 after two periods and held off the Trevians in front of a fine performance by goalie Marty Napleton.

I knew when they got the fourth seed that this would be a difficult game, New Trier coach Bob Melton said. They should have been the second seed. As far as Im concerned, theyre going to be the state champs.

New Trier took a 1-0 first-period lead on a Bob Acri goal with assists to Dan Walcott and Andrew Koch. St. Rita tied the game in the first on Stan Sojkas goal off a feed from Matt Turner and went ahead 2-1 with only 7.9 seconds left on Farons goal, with Hunter Marcinek getting the assist.

Acri struck for his second goal in the second period on a Sam Kurgan feed but the Mustangs went up for good with just less than seven minutes remaining in the period, when Faron raced up the right side and centered to Burchett on a 2-on-1.

Burchett buried the shot to end the days scoring. St. Rita outshot New Trier 28-23 for the game, but the games final 20-plus minutes didnt play out the way Mustangs coach Craig Ferguson anticipated.

I thought we would score more goals after that and I didnt think wed be able to keep them to two goals, either, Ferguson said. But well take it. New Trier is a great, great program.

Besides Napleton, Faron played well at both ends of the ice today. Cole Nichols and (Matt) Blaszkiewicz played an awful lot of time and those kids were huge for us. But so was our third unit -- (Tom) Minnick (Hunter) Marcinek and Eric Smith were great.

The Mustangs will play for a state title at the United Center on March 23, against the winner of Saturdays other state semifinal game between St. Viator and Loyola.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: