By Ross Forman
This might be the best Loyola Gold team in years – and there certainly have been some great ones in the past.
Will Gold finally be golden at the end of the season?
Will Gold finally erase the heartache of decades without a state championship?
Will Gold finally shine at the United Center next March, not their arch-rival, New Trier Green?
Things certainly are looking good, so far, for the Ramblers.
Really good, in fact.
The Ramblers moved to 11-0 in Scholastic League play on Sunday, Nov. 5, with an 8-3 win over Glenbrook South at American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood. The win was Gold’s third league win already this season over the upstart Titans, and Gold’s second win of the weekend. They also on Friday, Nov. 3, stopped Fenwick, 5-0, at Ridgeland Commons in Oak Park.
Gold has, so far, shined on offense and defense in Scholastic League action. They have scored at least three goals in every game, and have twice tallied eight in a game, and also had a 9-0 win over New Trier Blue. Defensively, the Ramblers have not allowed more than three goals in any game, and already have four shutouts.
Gold has outshot its league opponents 62-15.
And most important for the Ramblers, they have already defeated New Trier Green, winning 4-2 in Winnetka.
In late-September, the Ramblers went 3-1 in games played at Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ont.
The Ramblers are led offensively by Eamon O’Brien, Aiden Finegan and Cooper Prawdzik – all of whom already have 10 or more points in 8 league games.
Thomas Moran (8 goals allowed in 4 games) and Hugh Brady (5 goals allowed in 4 games) have been splitting the goaltending duties in league play so far.
Drew Buck is one of the Ramblers’ top playmakers, who opponents will have to contain if they want to stop, or even slow, the Gold machine.
Glenbrook North is in second-place in the league, with a 9-1 record (4 points behind Gold), followed by Carmel (Ind.), Fenwick and New Trier Green.
“They have four lines and just keep coming and coming and coming. They outwork you and they win the races,” said York head coach Bruce Turpin, who has already watched his Dukes fall twice, 5-3 and 5-2, to Gold. “Depth is the key for them. Their defense is solid and their forwards just keep working. They really have a nice balance.
“This is one of the best (Gold teams) in last years. Their balance is on-point and they have four lines and each can do some serious damage.”
But what about a weakness? There has to be one, right?
Wrong, Turpin said. “They have no weakness, per se,” he said. “They are balanced.”
Turpin said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ramblers skate for state next March.
“They have a very good team,” he said.
And great coaches, too.
Head coach D.J. LaVarre is one of the most successful high school coaches in Illinois history, and he’s joined on the bench this season by Blake Sorensen, who is co-head coach.
Sorensen has recently coached Loyola Maroon and before that at Latin School of Chicago. Sorensen’s coaching resume also includes the Glen Ellyn Flames AA, Robert Morris University D1 ACHA Club, Chicago Mission AAA, University of Illinois D1 ACHA Club, Aurora University NCAA DIII and the Chicago Jets (skills/skating instructor).
“Adding Blake (to their coaching staff) gives Gold an edge; he’s a solid coach,” Turpin said.
Sorensen also brings a strong playing past: St. Norbert College and five years professionally in Europe (UK, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austria).
Gold sure looks like its prepping for a return to the United Center next March – and to win the state championship game, finally.
AROUND THE RINK
BG/H/W brings a 1-2 scoring punch that could punch the teams’ ticket back to the United Center next March for another run at the Combined Division state championship.
Senior Connor Kelly leads all North-Central scorers with 14 goals, 3 assists in 8 games played. Junior teammate Eric Kurpiewski is second in the league with 5 goals, 8 assists in 8 games.
BG/H/W cruised past the Fox Valley Hawks on Sunday, Nov. 5, winning 5-0, thanks to a Kelly hat trick.
The Champions League of the North-Central Division is one of the best around. After BG/H/W, Highland Park, Loyola Maroon and Latin School of Chicago are forces. New Trier White also has a skilled team that can score on anyone.
Evanston is a darkhorse that already has a home win this season over New Trier White. The Wildkits are led by senior Isaiah Ricketts (4 goals, 6 assists in 8 games played).
Lane Tech has shined in the Gold League of the North-Central Division, while Lake Forest Gold, D155 Prairie Ridge and D211 Chiefs are each looking for their first league win.
New Trier is leading Metro Girls with a 5-0 league record, but watch out for the offensive power of Glenbrook South, which sits in second-place (3-2-1). Warren also has been able to score goals, but hasn’t scored as many wins yet as it would like.
Senior defenseman Madison Itagaki is one of Glenbrook South’s top players.
Ya gotta feel for Plainfield and Lake Park – both teams are still looking for their first West Division win this season, with an 0-10 record.
Meanwhile, Wheaton West has skated to a lead in the league, with an 8-2-0-1 record, led by a four-pack of offensive power: junior Tyler Kuta (11 goals, 5 assists), senior Conor Tully (7, 12), senior Samuel McEnery (5, 13), and junior Tim Sloan (6, 10). Wheaton West defeated Naperville Central, 4-2, on Nov. 5. Ryan Lilly and Tyler Kuta each had 1 goal, 1 assist in the victory.
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.