Valerie Caldwell cornered Greta Skarzynski. So did Tess Dettling.
All three seniors attend Loyola Academy.
All three play AAA hockey for the Chicago Mission.
But only Caldwell, a center, and Dettling, a wing, played for Loyola Academy’s state championship team last winter. Caldwell and Dettling wanted Skarzynski, a defenseman, to suit up for LA this winter.
“They convinced me,” Skarzynski, a Lake Forest resident and eighth-year member of the Mission, says. “I like it; it’s been fun. I love the range of talent on the team, some playing for the first time, others for several seasons. It’s cool. Valerie and Tess and I are still competing and learning together.”
All three hit the ice at American Heartland Arena in Lincolnwood on a snowy night last weekend, skating for LA in a game against visiting Fenwick on Dec. 11. University of Vermont-bound Caldwell was dominant, as usual, making hockey look like the easiest sport in the world in a 4-0 LA victory; Dettling, Yale-bound, might have been the fastest, scrappiest athlete on blades; and the 5-foot-6 Skarzynski, another Yale recruit, stood out at both ends of the rink. Her style of play screamed, “Effortless!” Her impact was sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious.
“Greta,” Loyola Academy assistant coach Mike Fates says, “is so solid, a fantastic skater. She has the ability to lead a rush, and she’s fast enough to get back on defense and do well there, too. Impressive. She takes big, long strides. It looks like she’s gliding, but she’s going faster than you think.
“Greta,” the coach adds, “is humble, and she’s been a great addition, especially as a leader.”
Skarzynski is the youngest of six siblings, all having a hockey background. Sister Sophie is a University of Minnesota sophomore defenseman for the nationally ranked Gophers (15-3-2, through Dec. 13). Sophie wore a No. 4 jersey for Chicago Mission team; Greta wears it today.
Greta dons No. 8 for LA (8-2-1).
“People think I was born wearing a hockey helmet and skates,” a smiling Skarzynski says, her dimples in full-indentation mode. “I love the intensity of the hockey, its fast pace. The emotions … it’s such an emotional sport; you can feel the emotions, even from the bench.”
For some 10 winters, the back yard at the Skarzynski home (the parents are Peter and Caren) doubled as an ice rink. Mom Skarzynski, Greta notes, grew tired of the rink tearing up the yard. It then became a full-time back yard again. Greta’s game did not suffer.
“I’ve always liked hanging with my family, doing things with them,” she says. “We live near [Lake Michigan]. I like to paddleboard and kayak.”
The ace on frozen water doesn’t mind traversing atop water. See Skarzynski deke inside. See Skarzynski dock watercraft outside.
Check out her hockey stick, too. She wrapped a piece of tape around it and inked four Biblical numbers on it. Two of them: “12:11”.
“It’s about discipline,” she says of the verse in Hebrews.
The full verse: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by that.”
Notable: The night of the Fenwick-Loyola Academy girls hockey game on Dec. 11 was also LA’s Teacher Appreciation Night. Senior defenseman Greta Skarzynski picked Spanish teacher Gillie Adler. Adler, on Skarzynski: “Very humble, great personality.” … Jayna Park, Kaela Finegan, Tess Dettling and Valerie Caldwell scored the goals in LA’s 4-0 defeat of Fenwick, and Gabriella Ciesla — in goal for only the second time this winter — made several spectacular saves throughout the shutout. Starting goaltender Tianna Lavalle suffered a serious knee injury in early December. “[Gabriella] had an amazing game, didn’t she?” Skarzynski said. … Dettling made a superb pass on Park’s goal, notched with 10:48 left in the first period. … Caldwell is serving as LA’s captain in 2016-17, with Charlotte Langill and Abigail O’Brien each fulfilling assistant captain duties. … LA’s top seven in points, through Dec. 11: Caldwell (11 goals, four assists); Dettling (nine, four); Finegan (three, eight); Park (six, two); Langill (two, six); Elle Joubert (six, one); and Isabella Talano (one, five). … Loyola Academy’s new head girls hockey coach is Mike Glass. He succeeded Conor Sedam, the reigning state champion coach.