Loyola's men's hockey team is off to an undefeated start to the 2018-2019 season. The team opened its season on September 14 & 15 with two convincing wins over Northern Illinois University (9-1 and 8-1). The Ramblers were led by a trio of returning players. Sophomore Luke Ignell provided the goal scoring spark netting five goals and adding three assists. Seniors Matt Barnett (4G, 2A) and Dominic Marcus (1G, 6A) combined for a total of 13 points.
Coach Leo Bigott commented, "We're really happy with our start. Our returning players provided great leadership, as expected. It was awesome to see our three freshman really contribute. What a great job by Nick, Henry and Nathan."
Loyola's freshmen trio of Nick Plegge (F), Henry Skjold (D) and Nathan Alcantara (G) were sensational. Plegge and Skjold are both products of the State of Hockey (Minnesota) and their talent and contribution was quite obvious. Alcantara played his high school hockey in Michigan for University Liggett Prep School. Plegge finished his opening weekend of college hockey with three goals and two assists while Skjold added one goal and four assists from the backend. Alcantara only allowed one goal per game over the course of the weekend.
Junior forward Michael Beam also had a great weekend chipping in three goals and adding an assist while Junior defensemen Stefan Vlad and Michael Demarin each tallied an assist in the effort. Newcomer David Goodman also made his college hockey debut playing on the wing with Marcus and Barnett.
[Game 1 Highlights: https://youtu.be/EqfU1P1R5aA ]
On the following weekend, the Ramblers hosted Xavier University on September 21. This seesaw battle was a fast-paced barn burner right from the opening puck drop. Loyola opened the scoring at the 3:06 mark of the first period when senior forward Dante Todara swatted home a net mouth rebound. The play was set up by Marcus and Barnett. The teams traded a multitude of chances throughout the opening 20 minutes and goaltender Nathan Alcantara turned away all shots.
Xavier, with a full compliment of 23 dressed players to Loyola's 13, came out with a heavy attack in the second period. Midway through the period, Xavier netted two quick goals only 28 seconds apart to take a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Coach Bigott commented at the start of the third, "There's no doubt our boys are tired going up against 4 full lines over there. They're just gonna have to gut this one out and see what they're made of."
It took some time into the third but Coach started to see some real intensity pick up on his bench. Alcantara was fantastic once again kicking out saves during a number of sustained pressure opportunities by Xavier. Then on a seemingly harmless play, Marcus found a loose puck low in the defensive zone and made a quick outlet to senior defenseman Will Gaudet. Gaudet feathered a pass to Barnett at middle ice. Barnett, at the end of a shift and fairly well defended, took a slap shot from inside the offensive blue line and beat the Xavier goaltender through the 5-hole. The Rambler bench exploded in enthusiasm.
Shortly thereafter, the Ramblers found themselves on a rare powerplay. The unit of Ignell, Todaro, Barnett, Marcus and sophomore defenseman Steve Lockwood moved the puck with precision throughout the powerplay. As time wore down, Todaro took a pass along the left side boards from Lockwood. Todaro found Marcus at the point who wristed a shot-pass at the goalie's left pad. Seeing the rebound, Ignell pounced on the puck and netted his third powerplayer marker of the season. With the goal, the Ramblers took a 3-2 lead with six and half minutes left to play.
Xavier's bench strength really became the difference maker for the balance of the game as they threw every they could at the tiring Ramblers. Once again it was Alcantara shining for Loyola. The rookie netminder stopped 21 shots in the final frame to earn MVP honors. Coach Bigott commented after the game, "Really happy with the way the boys dug down and won this game. By rights, Xavier had the advantage but Al (Alcantara) was awesome. He really shut the door and I'm happy for him and the boys."
The Ramblers travel to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee on September 28 and 29 for a two-game stand against the Panthers.