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  Friday, March 27, 2015
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Battle Behind the Benches
By Paul Noonan

     They grew up in the same house, playing for and against each other for most of their young hockey careers.  The rivalry was civil, yet neither one, especially the elder, wanted by any means to let the other have bragging rights.  Both had hockey careers to be proud of, and it most likely was in large part because of the influence of the other.  Yet a next generation later the two brothers will again find themselves in the same rink with the same mission they had back in their own high school days. "Beat my brother’s team."

     For Brian Noonan, the coaching experience is a new one.  His first stint behind a bench has been pretty good so far.  His team, Naperville Valley North, has enjoyed a pretty successful season to date.  For older brother Paul, coaching is not as new.  For just shy of twenty years Paul has been behind many a bench.  Savio Prep, North Quincy, Milton Academy and now Milton High have all been stops along the way, plus a couple stints behind some youth hockey benches.  Paul’s Milton High team hasn’t played nearly as many games as Brian’s (Illinois’ high school hockey has longer seasons), but they are better than their 1-3 record would indicate.

     I may be the only person on the planet lucky enough to have gotten a sneak peak at both teams before their showdown Martin Luther King weekend.  From what I’ve seen it should be a good game.  Both teams love to hit.  While both sometimes get too aggressive they’re willing to throw their respective weight around.  Milton is a little bigger overall, but that won’t cause Naperville to shy away.  The Naperville team is a quicker team than their soon- to- be foes.  Their top two lines, especially their first one, can move which may cause some problems for Milton’s defense.  Another area in which Naperville has the upper hand is in the face- off circle.  The Huskies are a strong presence in the face- off circle and have won a majority of the face- offs.  Even Milton’s coach, Paul, has acknowledged his team’s lack of success on the draws, joking, “The one face- off we’ve won, the other team scored.”  However, Milton has its strong areas as well.  Milton loves to pepper the net with shots.  While they’re still in search of a consistent finisher, you can never go wrong by putting the puck on the net, especially when one of the opposition’s weaknesses is between the pipes.  Naperville’s coach, Brian, has said that one of his biggest decisions every game is just to decide which goalie to play.  Another area that Milton has excelled at is working the puck around and sustaining pressure.  Both forwards and defensemen work the puck well in every zone, usually leading to smoother breakouts and the ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

     While the focus may be on the Milton/Naperville match- up, there are two other teams the Huskies will skate against in the weekend.  Archbishop Williams, Brian’s alma mater, agreed to a match- up with their Hall of Famer.  As well North Quincy, Paul’s former team back in the mid to late nineties, will participate.  So the Naperville team will have a busy weekend.  Yet as stated much of the greater interest will be surrounding the match- up between the Wildats and Huskies.  While I’m sure both coaches will downplay their roles and the significance of the battle it should still be fun to watch.  Obviously they won’t be on the ice themselves, so the intensity of their playing days may not be there.  However, both coaches have always hated to lose be it on the ice or behind the bench, and this game will be no different.  But to lose to your brother, well, that always throws a little salt on the wound.   The schedule for the above mentioned games are as follows.  On Saturday, January 14, at 8:30p.m.North Quincy will host Naperville at Ulin Rink in Milton. . On Sunday, January 15, at 5p.m. Milton High will host Naperville at The Murphy Rink in South Boston and, on  Monday January 16, at 10:30 a.m. Arch Bishop Williams will host Naperville at The Quincy Youth Arena in Quincy.  So for all you hockey fans looking for some excitement, come on down and catch the Noonan brothers' showdown.  It promises to be a great matchup.

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Noonan Brothers, Brian and Paul battle it out behind the benches at the Murphy Rink on Sunday, January 15.
Noonan brothers Brian and Paul will battle it out behind the benches at the Murphy Rink on Sunday, January 15.