Loyola’s men’s club hockey team is off to a strong start this season, gathering a goal margin of 34-8. After the Ramblers lost the first game of their season in double overtime to Notre Dame, the team quickly regathered to beat the Fighting Irish 8-3 the next night. Loyola went on to dominate Robert Morris University in its matchup.
After narrowly missing the playoffs last year, the Ramblers took to a new perspective: focusing on the little things. Loyola added more practices to help with its development as a two-dimensional team. Being on the ice for two days is something the team has done in the past, but recently, the Ramblers discovered practice off of the ice was necessary, too. Adding two game days a week into the mix allows for only one off day.
Senior Tyler Kovach said the added conditioning helps the team perform better on the ice.
“In the past, we’ve really had struggles with the small things,” said Kovach. “I think this year we’ve conditioned ourselves enough to be able to fight back and get the go-ahead goal in a tight game.”
With almost every player contributing to the scoreboard, the team’s play has noticeably changed. President Ryan Khalil said that instead of having the same forwards lead the pack with the most goals, it has been a tighter race this year for leading scorer title, which is beneficial for the team.
“This year’s team is the most balanced we’ve had in a long time,” said Khalil. “We’ve been scoring from all [of] our lines, which is something we’re really proud of. That’s something we hope can take us a long way in the season.”
The positive thoughts about this year’s team have escalated throughout the entire program, from the club’s president to its players. Many of the players — who have been playing hockey since their childhoods — said they believe this is one of the best years to play for the Ramblers.
Captain Jordan Hawkins said the team chemistry this year is impeccable.
“We’re more of a team than I’ve ever seen,” said Hawkins. “We have a better dynamic than we’ve ever had. It used to be more individual play and now everyone is scoring and it’s amazing.”
After coming off major wins in the last three games the mentality of practice has changed as the players enter the tougher stretch of their season. The team’s competitiveness has made the Ramblers look forward to competing against tougher opponents such as Northwestern University, University of Illinois—Chicago and Marquette University.
Khalil said the team believes if Loyola can pull off those three victories, it will secure the Ramblers’ first playoff spot in the program’s history.
“Our confidence is through the roof. We know we have a special team,” said Khalil. “Going into practices, we try to practice how we play. We’re trying to get better every day.”
With only four seniors on the team, the next several years are looking positive for the Ramblers, especially next year when 11 juniors are expected to return along with seven first-years.
Hawkins said everyone is continuing to work together to reach the team’s bigger goal.
“Everyone is filling their roles,” said Hawkins.” The [juniors] need to be the ones to step up for next year and the future because we only have four seniors, and it’s good to see how [well] they have improved over the years.”
Loyola’s club hockey team currently holds a 3-0-1 overall record. The Ramblers will host the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse on Oct. 9 and 10.