||Search Results||Watch Live||Buy Photos||Sign up||School Finder|
Providence's Rich Yusa (9) and Benet's Paul Wagner (4) fight for the puck during their game at the Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, IL on Sunday December 23, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
It was the second day of the 19th annual Holiday Hockey Classic and Providence had just beaten a solid Naperville North team thanks in large part to junior forward Rich Yusa’s hat trick.
Afterward, Celtics coach Nick Iaciancio chuckled a little when asked about Yusa’s performance.
“Much better than yesterday,” the Providence coach said. “Yesterday, he couldn’t have scored on a soccer goal. In this game he played under control, and when he’s under control he’s dangerous.”
Just the opposite happens when the skilled left winger doesn’t.
“There’s other times where he just wants to let it fly from everywhere and that’s just not his game,” Iaciancio said. “(Against Naperville North) he played his game. He got knocked down a couple times and he got mad. He got physical and knocked some other people down. He’s never been afraid to go through traffic. That’s his game. He’s just got to keep his feet moving and then just get the shot on net.”
It’s actually quite a shot, arriving quickly and hitting its target with force. Lately, it’s also been catching the back of the net with regularity for the No.3 Celtics — who pulled off an impressive 5-1 upset of then No.1 New Trier Green in the semifinals of that holiday tournament.
At the time, Yusa had just been back for just a few games after a shoulder injury that kept him out for a month. Providence dealt with a handful of injuries to varsity regulars in December, so getting Yusa back has been a big help.
“When he went out, I think he was our leading scorer,” Iaciancio said. “So, to get someone like that back … I know it’s only high school, but it’s almost like making a trade mid-season. He’s got fresh legs now.”
Returning to the ice was also a load off Yusa’s mind.
“I was out about a month and it was just killing me,” Yusa said. “It was rough to just watch. There’s nothing else I’d rather do than play hockey. I love it.”
Yusa’s passion started at the age of 5, when he went to a Chicago Blackhawks game. He’s played ever since, but just recently started to really develop into a force.
“I was never really that skilled when I was younger,” said Yusa, who’s from Oak Lawn. “The last couple of years I’ve just been working really hard at it, and it’s been paying off.”
The results are not only seen in his point totals, but also in the wins column. This is Yusa’s third season on varsity at Providence, but the first that he truly feels could produce deep runs in the state playoffs and Catholic League’s Kennedy Cup tournament. Team chemistry, he said, is the biggest reason.
“I wouldn’t change anything about this team,” Yusa said. “My freshman year, we were pretty separated as a team. This year, it’s just crazy how close we are. When you’re out there playing with guys who are like your brothers, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”