Player profile: Fenwick's Joey Krzak
Flash forward to today. Now 17 and living in Elmwood Park, Krzak is a senior at Fenwick, in his third season on the Friars’ varsity team. He was the team’s assistant captain as a junior and now the captain for his final season – with his intense, gritty and physical approach to the game ever-present.
“I am very excited that Fenwick is part of the SHL. There is amazing talent and competition. These teams will challenge us to play faster, with more intensity, and minimize the little mistakes that keep you from getting the W,” Krzak said. “It will not be easy, but we are excited for the challenge.
“Our goals are to be competitive in the SHL, see the finals of the CCHL tournament, bring back the Paul Hruby Cup, and make a run (in) the state playoffs.
“Personally, I want to work to make my goalie as bored as possible, be the best leader that I can be, and be the best mentor that I can for the underclassmen.”
Fenwick has struggled to start the SHL run this fall, losing its first six games. The bright spot, if there is one with an 0-6 record, is that the Friars have not been blown out of any games. Their biggest goal differential has been three 3-goal setbacks. And they only lost 3-1 on Oct. 14 to defending state champion New Trier Green in Winnetka.
“I have learned so much from this sport. I learned how to be a great teammate, a great leader, a great representative of my club and community,” said Krzak, who shoots right-handed. “I have so many great memories of locker room times with the boys, shinny in hotel hallways and friendships that will last forever.”
Krzak played for the Panthers and the Chicago Blues before arriving at Fenwick. His career highlight was helping his first goalie, who happens to be a great friend, get his first shutout. And last season he scored two goals in a state playoff game.
“It was a successful first season (last year) with Coach Nick Fabbrini,” Krzak said. “We saw consistent development throughout the season. We won the Bishop Noll tournament and won the Mad City Midwinter Classic. We were competitive in both the CCHL and the Illinois state playoffs.
Krzak is undecided on his college plans, though he is leaning toward a Division III school in the Midwest where he plans to study business/finance and continue as a baseball player.
Ah yes, Krzak shines on the diamond, too, as a pitcher for the Friars. He is a three-year varsity baseball player who, in the super sectionals of the state tournament last spring, pitched a perfect game in a mercy-rule victory.
“That was truly a memorable achievement,” he said. “I went into that game telling my teammates that this is the start of a big playoff run and that we needed to set the tone right out of the gate. I went into the first inning without being touched. I pitched a complete game without a single runner reaching base. I had nine strikeouts and no walks. Of course, it would not have been possible without the support of my defense. They stopped everything that came their way. It was truly an amazing experience for all of us that set me and my team up for a good playoff run.”
The two-sport standout said sports teach how to be a good teammate and leader.
“Sports force you to work hard and push yourself outside of your comfort zone,” he said. “Hockey is very intense, physical and emotional. For hockey, baseball helps me focus, control my emotions and keep my composure. For baseball, hockey has helped me to maximize my competitive edge and turn emotion into power.”
Off the ice, Krzak also enjoys fishing and hunting, and he has been playing the drums since he was 5.
“Fishing has helped me to observe behavior patterns and adapt to those changes. Sometimes, you can have a plan when you go on the water or on the ice. That plan may or may not work, so you must adapt,” Krzak said. “Fishing also helps me keep my composure and just be happy with what I am doing at that moment.”
Krzak spent countless hours this past summer in the gym to improve his strength. Plus, he was shooting consistently and focusing on his footwork to help his speed and agility.
Krzak praised all his past hockey coaches, who have helped build him into the player he is today. He also singled out former Chicago Blackhawks star Duncan Keith, whose play he models his game after. “I have always worn the number 3 for my uncle, Brody, who was a defenseman for Michigan State,” Krzak added.
“My favorite check was last year against the former state champions of Pennsylvania. It was our home opener and right at the beginning of the game, their player came across the blue line with the puck. It took him outside. He tried to pass me and I bodied him up to knock him off the puck. His helmet flew off. Everyone went crazy and that set the tone for us to win that game.”
Yep, physical play has long been Krzak’s way on the ice.