Senior Hugh Brady has come a long way since being cut from Loyola’s JV team as a freshman.

In his first season with Loyola Gold, Brady will be the team’s starting goalie when the Ramblers open the Scholastic Hockey League finals Friday against New Trier Green at Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood.

The conference’s player of the year, Brady is a big reason why the Ramblers are 30-2 against SHL opponents and the favorite to the win their first state championship since 1996.

Looking back, Brady said not making JV was the best thing for him. He ended up playing club hockey for the Highland Park Falcons.

“I was disappointed, but it motivated me to become a better player,” he said. “I don’t think I am where I am now if that didn’t happen.”

Loyola Gold is the top seed at the AHAI Blackhawk Cup Red Division state tournament and plays St. Ignatius on Tuesday in the quarterfinals at The Edge in Bensenville. Brady started in the Ramblers’ 6-0 win over Sandburg in the first round and their 4-0 victory over Carmel in the second round.

“Hugh is an integral part of our team,” Loyola Gold head coach DJ LaVarre said. “He makes us a stronger and gives us opportunities to win games maybe we shouldn’t win.”

Although Brady was cut freshman year, Loyola Gold goalie coach Stu Gould said he saw Brady’s potential.

“We had so many goalies that year, so it was good for him to go somewhere and play at a high level,” Gould said. “He’s turned out to be one of the best we’ve had, and he’s been one of my favorites to coach. He’s a great kid who’s always smiling. He’s been a pleasure.”

From Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood and graduate of Queen of All Saints, Brady started playing hockey at a young age. He said he was drawn to the goalie position after seeing the gear at a sporting goods store.

“It looked cool,” he said. “I’ve been a goalie ever since.”

Brady played goalie on Loyola Maroon as a sophomore and junior. He helped the Ramblers win the state title in the AHAI Blackhawk Cup White Division last season.

Gould, who coached NHL goalie Al Montoya as a freshman at Loyola, said Brady’s best qualities are his confidence and focus. It doesn’t hurt that Brady is 6-foot-2 and a good skater.

“Hugh’s always ready to take on a challenge,” Gould said. “He’s always ready to play and never gives up on the puck.”

According to LaVarre, another strength of Brady’s is how he controls his emotions in big games. Brady is 3-1 against two-time defending state champion New Trier Green, the lone loss a 2-1 defeat in overtime.

“To this point, he hasn’t faltered,” LaVarre said. “I don’t see that changing.”

One of Brady’s highlights so far was when he started in the Ramblers’ 4-2 win over New Trier Green on Oct. 25 at the Winnetka Ice Arena.

“Stepping onto the ice for that game in the Loyola Gold jersey was awesome,” he said. “It was at capacity and seeing all of those fans there was special. I loved it.”

The second game between the Ramblers and Trevians in the best-of-three series will be Saturday at Winnetka Ice Arena.

“If we play well this weekend, it will give us momentum for the rest of the state tournament,” Brady said. “One of our goals is winning the conference tournament. Our No. 1 goal is to win the state title.”

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola