Loyola’s late-season run nets runnerup finish in state tourney
Lily Bowman was not around when the pandemic cut short Loyola Academy girls hockey’s season in 2020, depriving the Ramblers a chance to play in the AHAI state tournament.
But many of her current teammates dealt with that disappointment. So having the chance to skate on the United Center ice on Sunday, March 19, in this year’s state final will be a lifetime memory for Bowman and the rest of the Ramblers.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Bowman said after Loyola’s 6-0 loss to Barrington. “Just to have the opportunity to play in a facility like this is amazing.”
Especially considering where Loyola was a few weeks ago.
“Getting here is unbelievable,” coach DJ LaVarre said. “Like I told (the players), with two weeks left in the season we were in fifth place in our league and we weren’t gonna make the playoffs.”
The Ramblers won their last three regular-season games to clinch a postseason berth with the No. 3 seed and then beat No. 6 Maine 4-3 and No. 2 Fenwick 4-2 in the first two rounds of the eight-team state tournament.
“We made it to the playoffs, we made it to the finals,” LaVarre said. “So it’s a credit to them to come this far.”
Bowman said the late-season run was for the departing players.
“I think we just realized we wanted to come together for the seniors,” she said. “It was their last year and they haven’t been to the United Center before. We wanted to give them one last run.”
Barrington beat Loyola 3-1 in the Metro League Tournament final on Feb. 12. This time, the Fillies went ahead to stay in the first minute, when Nicole Gorbatenko scored at the 14:21 mark of the first period.
Rachel Gorbatenko’s goal made it 2-0 at 9:18 of the first, and the score stayed there till late in the second when Ella Pukala scored for a 3-0 Barrington lead.
“They’re good, that’s all you can say,” LaVarre said of the Fillies. “They’ve got those five (Chicago) Mission( an area club team) girls and a goalie and they’re a difference maker.”
But during a good chunk of the first and second periods, Loyola held its own.
“Giving up that early goal, I think our sails got a little flat,” LaVarre said. “In the second period, we started to pick it up. We played better. But that third goal near the end of the second, we just knew, all right, it’s gonna be a little tough.”
“I think the nerves definitely got to us in the beginning,” Bowman said. “I mean, that was so different than playing in a normal ice rink. But then once we got settled in, we started to play our game.”
Barrington pulled away in the third, as Pucala added two more goals to finish with a hat trick and Julie Duce also scored. The Fillies outshot the Ramblers 39-20.
In the end, though, what mattered for the Ramblers was getting to play on the sport’s biggest stage.
“I’m just so proud to be with these girls and to have them skate on the United Center ice, which most girls don’t usually get an opportunity to do,” LaVarre said. “It’s like they say in the old adage, one game does not define a season. And this game does not define who the girls are. It’s just a moment. …
“I think you could hear all the hoot and holler in pregame and I think they enjoyed it. And that’s what it’s all about, the experience, right?”
The Ramblers had four AHAI All-State selections: forwards Sadie Klein and Lauren Smith and goaltenders Pearl Steinhouse and Shira Wein.
Barrington also downed New Trier in the state tournament, beating the fifth seed 6-1 on March 5. New Trier was 11-11-4 this season with five All-State selections: Kim Jung, Maeve McAdams, Addie Stewart Millie Ewing and Taylor Hannafan.