By Gary Larsen
Another brutally tough season in the Scholastic Hockey League is ending and it’s exactly that brutality that readies every SHL team for the looming postseason.
While New Trier Green, Loyola Gold, and Glenbrook North have taken turns beating each other at the top of the league standings, seven SHL teams are ranked among Ross Forman’s current Top 20 — and six league teams are ranked in the top 10.
While New Trier Green, Loyola Gold, and Glenbrook North claimed the top three SHL spots during the regular season, all bets are off once the postseason begins.
“York is a big-time sleeper, I think, and Barrington has taken us and Green to overtime,” Loyola coach DJ Lavarre said. “And we lost to Stevenson in overtime this year.
“It’s a competitive league. When you play New Trier Green and Glenbrook North, those are big rivalry games. But if you don’t bring that kind of effort against teams like York, Stevenson, and Barrington, you’re going to lose.”
But not only has Stevenson beaten Loyola; York has also beaten Glenbrook North, and both Barrington and Stevenson have played all three of the top teams in the SHL to multiple one-goal losses.
“It’s good to know that the best competition is in our league and we’re playing some of the best competition that we’ll see through state,” New Trier senior JT Travis said. “And it gives us confidence to know that we’re at the head of the (SHL) this year.”
“Now we need to stay the same course we’ve been going at. Play our game.”
After starting the season 0-4 against New Trier, Glenbrook North has beaten the Trevians in their two most recent meetings.
“GBN has a very defensive play so we need to get past that, and play more offensive whether it’s our ‘D’ stepping up and getting into the action offensively,” Travis said.
“For Loyola it’s just a different style of game. It’s so intense and dramatic so we just need to play our own game and not think too much about who we’re playing.”
As the defending state champion, Loyola is aiming to defend its title with 12 returning and 12 new players to its Gold lineup this year. Lavarre likes the way his side has come together, spearheaded by the evolution of last year’s juniors becoming this year’s senior leaders.
Loyola’s seniors also know that ownership for this year’s team lies squarely on their shoulders. His message to his seniors should provide all the motivational fuel that’s needed.
“The twelve kids that graduated from last year’s team — that’s their year,” Lavarre said.
“The Class of 2018 won a state championship their senior year. You’re the Class of 2019. So now it’s your year and it’s your time. So what do you want to be remembered as?”
For all SHL players, another season spent playing in the state’s toughest league has them well-prepared to chase the dream of a state title. And the time is nearing for players to be consumed by that chase.
“It hasn’t kicked in for me yet but I know when that first game comes, it will kick in for me and everyone on the team,” Travis said, “and then we’ll be thinking more about hockey than about anything else.”