1994-95 Hockey Team (2005)
There are few athletic programs at Loyola Academy that look upon their sport and their team with a passion equal to that borne by the hockey club, and with good reason. The record of sustained excellence over the course of its history testifies to the dedication and skill of its players and coaches over many years. The 1994-95 Hockey Team stakes its claim as the greatest in Loyola history, and does so with ample evidence to support the assertion. Owner of an overall record of 50-3-4, winner of five major tournament competitions, and champion of the state of Illinois, this team bears the undeniable stamp of greatness. After state runner-up finishes in 1983, 1990, and 1993, Loyola hockey was primed and ready in 1994-95 for a run at a state championship. Guided by Head Coach D.J. LaVarre and his assistant coaches, Jack MacIntosh and Mark LaVarre, Loyola's season began in earnest in late summer workouts leading up to their first preseason games in October. With co-captains Bill Lussow, Rock Dudek, Brian Dwyer and Andy Leutwiler leading the way, the Ramblers conditioned themselves and their games for what they knew would be a grueling campaign. Like the 1980 Olympic team, LoyolaÕs Ramblers were a diverse group, with different backgrounds and personalities. Like the 1980 Olympic team, a common goal served to fuse them into a cohesive, united entity greater that the sum of its parts. Big, fast, and physically intimidating, the Ramblers rolled through their schedule with seemingly little or no resistance. The truth was that they skated more quickly, passed more precisely, and defended more intensely than any team they faced. When they were on their game, they were an unstoppable force. They were victorious in four major tournamentsÑLoyola, Blackhawks Charities, Lake Forest Academy, and Scholastic CupÑgoing undefeated, with their tourney record marred only by a tie with arch-rival New Trier Green. Having beaten nearly every team in Chicago, the Ramblers headed to Switzerland, which allowed them to see and play against some of the finest semi-professional teams in Europe. The experience taught them valuable lessons about their game and about themselves. After tying the first game, Loyola lost its first game in three months before regrouping for three straight to close out the trip. Skating with confidence into the final phase of the season, Loyola twice tied New Trier before cleanly beating them 4-1 in the final of the Scholastic Cup, the championship of the Metro North. Only the state playoffs remained, and to a man, all new that the road to the state championship would have to go through New Trier Green. Carrying its hard-earned number-one ranking on its back like a badge of defiance, Loyola Gold crushed their first opponents --Waubonsie Valley, Glenbrook North, and Lake Forest--in three straight shutouts, outscoring them 19-0. All that remained to secure the long-awaited state title was a final head-to-head with New Trier Green. They had faced New Trier five times during the season without a loss, posting a 3-0-2 record, with the three wins coming in tourney finals. On March 25, in front of a record crowd of 7,103 spectators at the United Center, Loyola and New Trier skated to a scoreless tie with just under three minutes to play. Then it happened: Senior Bill Lussow, assisted by junior Matt Skoglund, spotted senior Paul Thomas, who put away the game-winner. The Illinois state title was finally Loyola's for the first time. Leading Rambler scorer Bill Lussow concluded a storybook season with his selection to the All-State team, where he was joined on the team by goalie Kevin Keady, who garnered a remarkable twenty-three shutouts. Eight Ramblers were also named to the All-Metro North team, including Lussow, Keady, fellow goalie Dan Wirtz, Paul Thomas, Brian Dwyer, Andy Leutwiler, Eric Schnatola, and Conor Heaton. Loyola Gold had established itself as the premiere hockey program in the state. In the following season, the club would repeat as state champs, affirming the legacy bequeathed to them by arguably the greatest hockey team in Loyola history.