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Fenwick goaltender Zachary Danna (30) attempts a save from a shot on goal during the game against Benet Academy at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge on Saturday, December 15, 2012. Fenwick tied Benet 2-2. | Michael Jarecki ~ For Sun-Times Media

Most hockey players get tagged with a nickname at some point.

Fenwick senior goalie Zach Danna earned his (“Cherry Danish”) a couple of years ago in his first start as a sophomore.

“There were less than 30 seconds left in a period of a big game when our coach called a timeout,” Danna said. “He was drawing up defensive-zone faceoff plays and told the defensemen to make sure they cleared any rebounds that I gave up.”

Former Fenwick defenseman Austin Zima then looked at Danna and a nickname was born.

“(Zima) just said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. You won’t give up any rebounds because you’re real soft in the middle … like a cherry danish,’” Danna recalled. “That made me chuckle for a little bit.”

The Friars wound up winning that game and Danna has gladly kept the moniker ever since. It’s even his Twitter handle (@cherrydanish30). In his third season of starting, however, he’s been anything but soft for Fenwick.

“He might have a little off night here or there, but even his off nights are still pretty good,” said Friars coach Kurt Kubat, who’s in his first year at Fenwick. “He’s a goalie, so he might have some different techniques and quirks about him, but
I’ve never met a goalie in all my years of coaching who wasn’t a little different in their approach to the game. Whatever he does, it works for him on a consistent basis.”

It’s actually what Danna doesn’t do — at least on game days — that’s working best.

“I have this routine on every game day where I won’t talk to anybody the entire day,” he said. “I won’t talk to anybody … not my parents, not my friends, not my teachers, nobody. I’m kind of a quiet kid anyway, so it’s not that hard.”

Danna’s parents and most of his friends know the routine, so they don’t even bother trying to carry on a conversation.

“They usually just ask ‘yes or no,’ questions,” Danna said. “When I started doing it as a sophomore, I just figured it might help me get focused better — and it does. Throughout the whole day, I’m thinking a lot about the game and just staying square to the puck.”

Just to be on the safe side, Danna does notify teachers who might not remember or know about his game day silence.

“I try to be a pretty good student, so I let them know ahead of time,” Danna said. “So far, most have been OK with it.”

On the ice, the Friars are more than okay with Danna. Kubat likes to play strong in the defensive zone and Fenwick has adopted his style. Having a goalie like Danna in back of that effort just makes it that much harder to score on the Friars — who opened the season 17-1-2 in Chicago Catholic Hockey League games. Fenwick has its sights fixed on the Catholic League’s prized Kennedy Cup and a deep state playoff run, with Danna helping to lead the way. Turns out that work done this season with area goalie coach Dean Opper has also paid off.

They’ve worked to improve Danna’s movement around the net and it’s helped — especially quickness going post to post.

“(Coach Kubat) wanted to make sure I was on top of my game, so he got me a goalie coach,” Danna said. “I’m playing the best I’ve ever played. The last two years I was slower moving side to side, but we’re doing a lot of stuff now that’s helping in all aspects of my game.”

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