Loyola Gold is on a roll: 7 wins in their last 8 games, including 3 shutouts during that stretch. And, the Ramblers have only allowed 2 goals in 1 of those 8 games. Plus, those 8 wins have included victories over state powers, such as Saint Ignatius, Saint Viator, Glenbrook South and York, among others.
The Ramblers’ run to start the season has vaulted them to the No. 1 ranking in the Illinois High School Hockey Top 20 Rankings (as of Nov. 4).
Stevenson is No. 2, followed by New Trier Green, Glenbrook North, and York. Co-op PREP is No. 6, followed by Benet Academy, Glenbrook South, Saint Ignatius, and Saint Viator to round out the Top 10.
“We have a good team. How good? It’s still too early to tell. But we’re doing a lot of growing and learning, in games and practices. After Thanksgiving, we’ll have a better idea of where we’re at,” said Loyola Gold head coach D.J. LaVarre. “To say where we’re at right now, that’s very difficult after not having a season last year.”
The Ramblers return 7 forwards and 3 defensemen, but lost both goalies to graduation. Gold also graduated 4 defensemen from last season’s team.
Of the 7 returning forwards, none played on the same line last season.
“Our biggest strength is, we’re well-rounded, said LaVarre, whose key returners include junior defenseman Ryan Cowen, truly a key cog in the Ramblers’ run.
Forwards Ryan Boersma and Jack Gustafson also are high-profile players, leading a Loyola offense that is dominant, arguably, the best in the state.
Forward Max Gabal also is skilled player who opponent must match.
Two key newcomers to the club are forwards Garet Grady and Jake Orzechowski. “They could be impact players,” LaVarre said.
Loyola plays host to the annual, multi-day, 16-team O'Grady Thanksgiving Hockey Tournament, one of the biggest measuring sticks of the season - for every team participating.
“From what I see in the state, there is a lot of parity, which is a good thing,” LaVarre said. “On any given day, anyone can beat anyone – and that’s good.
“When we get to the Sweet 16 (round of the state tournament), I really think 16 could beat No. 1 – and that’s due to the amount of parity in the state.
“Every game is going to be a dogfight, and if you’re not prepared, you will lose.”
Here are the Top 20 Rankings (as of Nov, 4), as compiled by Ross Forman:
Others To Watch: Warren, New Trier Blue, Brother Rice, Neuqua Valley, Maine Township, Naperville North, Hinsdale Central & Cobras.