“This final weekend at SIUE will determine if the Ramblers are playoff-bound or if they will be spraying golf balls over the Chicago-land area. We hope playoffs,” said the status of the team’s Facebook page on Feb. 4.
Unfortunately, the team will be spending more time with their golf clubs than their hockey sticks. After losing badly, 5-12 and 4-19, to SIUE, one of the top teams in the Gold Division of the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA), the club hockey season ended.
Although the team finished 8-17 in the regular season, the record doesn’t exactly speak for the quality of the team’s overall play.
“We started off the season strong and then struggled to keep steam with injuries to key players as well as losing a couple players at the semester due to graduation,” said defenseman David Ziemke, 20-year-old junior chemistry major.
Nick Kemp, a 20-year-old forward and the club’s vice president, agreed.
“We had the talent, it’s just when we lost the depth [on our roster] we couldn’t play with the teams that were four lines deep,” said the junior biology major.
In hockey, teams go through line changes every two to three minutes in order to keep their players well-rested. Kemp explained that while most good teams have two quality scoring lines, a checking line and a fourth line that is used sparingly, Loyola only had enough quality players to make up one and half lines after losing teammates to injury and graduation.
As a result, the team finished the last eight games of the season with a 1-7 record, including four losses to Illinois State University and Missouri State University, who scored 410 goals combined in just 64 games and finished first and second in their division, respectively.
Prior to this, in the fall, the team showed signs of their true capability.
For Kemp, the win against the University of Missouri stood out as the high point of the season. They beat the Tigers, last year’s MACHA Gold Division winner, 6-3.
The team also watched the growth of two 19-year-old freshmen, defenseman Jordan Hawkins and goalie Tyler Kovach.
Hawkins proved to have the tools to be a force in the future on defense while still managing to total 13 overall points. Points are a statistic that add together a player’s goals and assists.
Kovach, the third-string goalie, was 2-0 in limited playing time and only allowed two and a half goals a game. To put that in perspective, the other two goalies allowed 7.69 goals a game.
“[Kovach] has got to … work on some stuff,” Kemp said. “But he will get more playing time next year for sure.”
Now that the season is over, Kemp wants the team to improve in two areas: discipline and defense.
He believes that it is the “responsibility of the individual” to “get to practice, work hard, don’t miss [team events] for stupid reasons and work out in the off-season.”
Kemp went on to say how it is easy for players on a club team to put hockey second and their other interests first, and Kemp wants to change that attitude. One specific way stands as an effective method.
“Lead by example.”
Defensively, the Ramblers allowed 189 goals during the season, which is inexcusable in Kemp’s eyes.
“We need to change the way we play,” said Kemp. “We need to play more defensive, we need to care of our own zone more than we need to score goals.”
With those improvements in mind, the team is generally optimistic going into the offseason preparations for next year.
“If everything goes well and all the underclassmen stay healthy, we should have a solid team,” said Hawkins, an exercise science major.
“Hopefully we’ll get a good group of freshmen,” Ziemke said.
Ziemke is also keeping hope alive for one additional opportunity, a trip to Philadelphia.
He and Kemp were nominated for spots in the All-Star tournament at the end of March.
“It would be an honor and a lot of fun to represent Loyola at the All-Star game,” Ziemke said. “There are going to be a lot of very talented hockey players there from all across the country and it would be fun to see how we [Kemp and Ziemke] stack up to the competition.”