Loveday cracks Tier I team at Shattuck

Dan Falloon

Local goalie Mark Loveday received some fine news in Faribault, Mn. on Sunday.
The 14-year-old netminder, who is just entering Grade 9, found out he had cracked the Shattuck St. Mary’s Bantam Tier I hockey team—a promotion after playing with its Bantam ‘A’ squad last season.
He is setting forth on his second year with the Sabres, which has seen NHL stars such as Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Zach Parise in the past.
Loveday recorded a 21-6-3 record last season, along with a 1.74 goals against average and .906 save percentage.
To make the Tier I squad, Loveday had to beat out one other goalie. And to his surprise, the one he displaced was a goalie who had played Tier I last season.
“I felt really good and surprised,” he enthused. “The returning Tier I goalie didn’t make it, so I was surprised by that.”
Loveday noted his competitor had met with the coaching staff to receive the bad news before Loveday’s scheduled meeting.
However, word the incumbent wasn’t named to the roster spread quickly, and it wasn’t too hard for Loveday to do the math before he was called in.
“My friends were saying, ‘Oh, he didn’t make it, he didn’t make it,’” Loveday recalled.
“It just got my hopes up and I got really, really excited.
“I went in there and I got a weird, joyful feeling in a way,” he added. “I was just so proud and excited all at the same time.”
Loveday said he worked hard on stoking the competitive fires over the summer while also honing his foot speed.
“[I worked on] battling and competing—getting my work ethic up,” he remarked.
“The coaches said that I got my work ethic up, and I got a little faster.”
Shattuck director of goaltending Des Christopher, who coached Loveday at the Bantam ‘A’ level last season, saw that his protégé had improved in a number of areas over the summer.
“I really think that Mark has dedicated himself a little more and understood what it takes to be an elite-level goalie in our program,” Christopher noted.
“His intensity, focus, and concentration, I would rank those things right up there,” he added. “He’s taking his game more seriously and it showed in the off-season.
“He’s come in in great shape and put himself in an opportunity where he was able to beat out a returning goalie,” Christopher added.
Christopher said the biggest aspects of Loveday’s game that still need to develop are trouble spots for most young goalies. But if Loveday keeps trending towards improvement in the way that he has been, those areas should come along soon.
“Rebound control and handling the puck, and making good decisions—those are things that’ll come with time and age and experience,” he remarked.
“He’s on his way,” Christopher enthused. “He covers a lot of the net, has got good size and uses it well.”
Christopher also stressed the coaching staff takes care to maintain a patient approach to goalies, trying to set reasonable expectations and goals while striving to improve.
“They’re 14-year-old kids,” he underlined. “They’re still developing their game and have to go through some highs and some lows, and that’s just part of goaltending.
“You need to be able to work through those things to improve.”
Loveday said he hasn’t been told officially by head coach John LaFontaine how much ice time to expect this season. But Christopher noted goalies split games for much of the season until a clear starter emerges.
“We generally split and go 50/50 the whole season,” he said.
“When it comes to tournaments, that’s obviously the coach’s call, and then at the national tournament, that will be the coach’s decision as to who has stepped up and taken the starting role.”
Loveday, meanwhile, is enthusiastic about the season ahead given the rest of the Sabres’ roster he has seen.
He’ll have a couple of behemoth blueliners to help clear the front of his net while some slick, speedy forwards should provide offence up front.
“We’re a pretty big team, size-wise,” Loveday noted.
“We have a couple six-foot-tall defencemen and we’ve got another six-foot-tall forward.
“Our team is really, really skilled, and we’ve got a pretty good chance at winning nationals this year,” Loveday added.
“It’s a really good feeling.”
Loveday said the Tier I team is slated to do more travelling this season than the Bantam ‘A’ squad he played on last season.
The biggest undertakings will be trips to Sarnia for the Silver Stick International Tournament in January, and then to the USA Hockey Tier I national tournament in Hackensack, N.J.
However, even though the team is focused heavily on hockey doesn’t mean the academic aspect takes a backseat. Loveday said he and his teammates are given ample time to study.
“They give you a lot of homework, except you get a lot of time in the day, after school, and after hockey to be able to do your homework,” he noted.
“We practice from 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. [Then] about 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., we have time to do homework.”
That even goes for being at a prestigious tournament given the school maintains an academic policy that players must follow.
“Sometimes we get homework on the road,” Loveday sighed. “But our coaches will have a study hall where we can sit and do homework in our rooms.
“If you have bad grades, you can’t play for the team for a certain amount of time,” he stressed. “So the coaches and everyone pushes you to have good grades so you can keep playing.”