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Fox Valley Hawks take switch in stride

GENEVA – If the Fox Valley Hawks have to take a step back to taste some success, it’s a sacrifice the team is glad to make. 

The Hawks, a co-op high school hockey club team that includes players from Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Kaneland and Aurora Central Catholic, were downgraded by the Hayes Suburban league from varsity-level status to JV status eight games into their rocky season.

After losing their first game at the JV level, the Hawks swept a pair of games Sunday for a sorely needed morale boost.

Senior winger Mike Potvin, a Kaneland student, said the team has a much better chance to succeed playing other JV teams.

“We have a couple guys who can play up there, and a lot of guys who can’t,” Potvin said. “So we did get tiered down, and that’s going to be pretty good for us because we could hold our own a little bit in varsity, so we should be able to rip it up in JV.”

First-year Hawks coach Dan Bednarek said the Hawks have only four seniors and 17 players overall, a disappointment especially considering the number of schools from which the Hawks draw in their second year of the current arrangement.

“It is surprising because based on the past levels I’ve played at, there have been a lot more kids my age on the team,” said Hawks center and St. Charles East senior Billy Petersen, one of the team’s top scoring threats. “This year we have got a young team, but we’re just making the best out of it. We’re just doing what we can.”

The Hawks lost several players from last year to other programs such as the Fox Valley Cyclones, the Chicago Bruins and the Chicago Blues.

Junior defenseman Scott Sokniewicz, of St. Charles East, said those defections put the Hawks in a bind.

“There were a couple kids I would have liked to have on the team right now that would have helped us stay at varsity or at least have enough kids for two teams, a JV and a varsity team, but they went to club,” Sokniewicz said. “I like playing varsity a lot better because it’s more physical, not just faster. I like it better.”

Sunday’s wins against the South Elgin-based Rampage injected new optimism as the team prepared for a practice this week at Fox Valley Ice Arena.

Sugar Grove resident Mike Hill, a senior at ACC and Hawks winger, said the wins lifted a burden from the Hawks.

“Especially all in one day, 5-2 and then 6-0, it was a great feeling after losing all those games, finally winning,” Hill said.

For the program’s many underclassmen, a season of JV hockey provides opportunities to gain game experience without being overwhelmed by the opposition.

The program’s veterans don’t look at the demotion the same way, but Potvin said he plans to make the best of the season.

“It’s not much fun in your senior year playing JV hockey, but it’s high school hockey, so it’s fun anyways,” Potvin said.

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