Senior forward and captain Danny Stevens (pictured above) didn’t hesitate when asked if this is the best team he’s played on in his three seasons with Loyola Gold.
“For sure,” he said. “No doubt.”
The top-seeded Ramblers play fourth-seeded Glenbrook North on Monday in the semifinals of the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois state tournament at The Edge in Bensenville. The winner advances to the title game March 24 at the United Center in Chicago.
From their four offensive lines to defense to goaltending, the Ramblers are strong in all areas.
“We have a lot of depth,” Loyola Gold head coach DJ LaVarre said. “We get positive production from everybody.”
In Tuesday’s 5-1 win over St. Ignatius in the quarterfinals at The Edge, four players scored and Scholastic Hockey League Player of the Year Hugh Brady earned the win in goal. Stevens finished with two goals, while linemate and assistant captain Jack Purcell scored once. Declan Darcy and Eamon O’Brien each had one goal apiece.
“It’s been like that all year,” Stevens said. “All of our lines can score. I think our chemistry has been unbelievable. It’s one of our strengths.”
There will be no surprises when the SHL champion Ramblers and Spartans face off for the ninth time this season in the semifinals. Gold holds a 6-2 advantage, but all eight games were decided by two goals or less, including six by one goal.
Glenbrook North is headlined by senior forward and captain David Rubin, the AHAI Male High School Player of the Year.
“He’s had some success against us, so we have to shut him down,” Stevens said. “If we can get by their defense and put pressure on them, we will be successful.”
LaVarre said Xs and Os are important, but he will encourage the Ramblers to have fun, first and foremost.
“I don’t want to make the game too big,” he said. “I want them to keep their emotions in check and enjoy the moment. If we do that, we will be OK.”
Stevens, who was selected to the all-SHL’s second team, said the Ramblers won’t be thinking about capturing the program’s first state championship since 1996.
“We got caught up doing that in the past,” he said. “We know we can’t look past any game.”
Third-seeded Stevenson plays seventh-seeded Glenbrook South in the other state semifinal. The Titans beat third-seeded New Trier 8-3 in the quarterfinals.
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola