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La Salle-Peru senior Colby Sassano (No. 38) handles the puck in a game for the Bloomington/Normal Sharks, a club team for high school players in central Illinois. The team practices in Bloomington or Pekin and plays games in Peoria and Springfield. Sassano, who started playing hockey 13 years ago while living in South Bend, Ind., had six goals and 12 assists this season as the Sharks went 27-12-3. Submitted photo
La Salle-Peru freshman Ethan Koncor stops a shot during a game with the Bloomington/Normal Sharks this season. Koncor, who was introduced to hockey by his father Jeff, went 8-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and an 83.1 save percentage this season. Submitted photo
Over the last several months, La Salle-Peru students Ethan Koncor and Colby Sassano have traveled more than 10,000 miles.
The two have traveled back and forth to Springfield, Peoria, Bloomington and Pekin.
It’s all in pursuit of their love of hockey as members of the Bloomington/Normal Sharks.
“It makes it harder (having to travel),” Sassano said. “We don’t get as much practice in, but it’s been growing around here. They put in the ice rink in Oglesby and at McKinley. It’s nice to see it’s growing here, but the travel can be a bit of a hassle.
“But it’s part of my life, so I make it work.”
Sassano, an L-P senior, began playing hockey growing up in South Bend, Ind. when his father — former L-P football coach Joe Sassano — put him on the ice.
“I’ve been skating since I could walk,” Colby Sassano said. “My dad put me in a pair of skates and sent me out there. I’ve been playing hockey for 13 years. It was the first sport I played. I picked it up pretty quickly, I really liked it and it sort of snowballed from there.”
Koncor, a freshman at L-P, also got into the sport through his father, Jeff. “My dad first introduced it to me around sixth grade,” Ethan Koncor said. “His family has always been about it, and I finally got introduced to it at Echo Bluff. … As soon as I stepped on the ice, I loved it. I love the feeling of being out on the ice.”
Both began their hockey careers playing in recreational leagues.
Once in high school, they joined the Sharks, a club team made up of players from several high schools in central Illinois.
This season, the Sharks played in the Central Illinois Prep Hockey League out of Peoria and the Lincoln Land High School Hickey League based out of Springfield.
Koncor was with the team from the beginning of the season in August, while Sassano joined the club after playing quarterback for the Cavalier football team. Fieldcrest sophomore Tyler Prosser also plays for the Sharks.
Both knew the Sharks were primed for a good season from the beginning. “I could tell as soon as I got on the ice that this team was headed in the right direction,” Sassano said. “There were a bunch of new guys, but the camaraderie, teamwork and chemistry everybody had propelled us to a successful season. “(The team was) all-around positive guys. Everybody picked each other up and we just fought through the season.”
The Sharks went 27-12-3 overall, placed second in the Peoria league and won the Springfield league this week.
In the Peoria league, the Sharks lost the first game of the tournament but fought back through the loser bracket to reach the title game, where they lost 4-0 to Decatur.
The Sharks bounced back from losing the Peoria title game to beat Glenwood 4-0 in the Springfield championship.
Sassano, a forward, scored a goal in the title game.
“This past season was probably the best season I’ve ever had,” Sassano said. “I’m really glad we ended my senior year with a championship to go out on a high note. That really added to the experience.”
Sassano finished the season with six goals and 12 assists in 36 games. He represented the Sharks in the Lincoln Land All-Star game and had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 victory.
Koncor played 12 games as a goalie. He went 8-1 with a 2.59 goals against average and an 83.1 save percentage.
“This year I could have stayed back and played JV and I could have started, but instead I decided to play for varsity because the goalie who was also on the team is a top goalie in the nation,” Koncor said. “I decided to learn from him so I can develop my skills to move on to the next level next year.”
Sassano is unsure if his hockey career will continue as he is deciding between playing hockey at Xavier University or playing football at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Koncor, meanwhile, plans to keep playing for the Sharks and hopes to someday play for the Illinois State University club hockey team.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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