1995-96 Men's Hockey Team (2011)
On the heels of a state title team that was without question the greatest in Rambler history, the 1995-96 Loyola Gold Hockey Team faced a daunting task. It is no small thing to stake oneÕs claim to a state crown. It took the Rambler icemen four attempts at the big trophy before they could declare it their own. To win a second titleÑand in successive yearsÑwould prove a mighty challenge to Head Coach D.J. LaVarre and his returning players. Several of the lead actors in the previous yearÕs drama were gone. However, a solid nucleus of veterans returned, and now it was their turn to test their destiny. It was a promising group that began training that late summer. Returning veterans included co-captains Rock Dudek and Todd Vender, along with Erik Schnotala, Conor Heaton, Kyle Shellberg, Hagen OÕBrien, and Kevin Carroll. They were joined by new faces Matt OÕConnor, Michael Samis, Mark Baby, Michael McHugh, Finley Brown, Sean Cullinan, Tim OÕRourke, John Paul Lacorcia, and Tim Leahy. In the nets was Robert Deppisch, ably backed up by Miles Baltrusaitis and Brian Schilling. It was not always smooth skating. Coach LaVarre and his assistantsÑJack MacIntosh, Tom Laxgang, and Jon LaVarreÑput together a versatile team that dominated much of its schedule, a team fashioned in the character of the other Loyola juggernauts of the Ô90s. Through early March, the Ramblers had racked up a sterling 40-6-4 record. However, they had finished second in all four of their major tournaments. They were a very solid team, at times the equal of their predecessors. But they could not quite close the deal: four straight title games, and four straight losses. After losing the championship game of the Scholastic Cup, a 0-5 blow-out at the hands of New Trier Green, the only means of rescuing their season lay directly ahead. They would have to put it all together when it counted mostÑthe state tournament. After three straight shut outs, Loyola once again faced its nemesis, New Trier Green. The teams had played each other four times, and the Rambler had only a single 0-0 tie to show for their efforts. With the humiliation of the 6-0 loss in the Scholastic Cup stuck in their craws, the Ramblers sought redemption. In a hard-hitting, extremely physical game, Loyola Gold took it to New Trier Green. They outshot them in each period, totaling 23 shots on goal to New TrierÕs 12. The Ramblers held on for a 3-2 victory, and the state crown was theirs. Loyola Gold had delivered on its promise. In doing so, the 1995-96 Ramblers confirmed their status as the premiere hockey program in the state, and staked its claim as one of the finest Loyola teams ever to take the ice.