Following a successful performance at the USHL’s combine for 1996 and 1997 birth year players in Chicago, local goalie Mark Loveday is hoping to continue that form as he prepares for his upcoming season with the prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey program.
“I was playing against some of the best guys in my age group, and the fact that I was able to play really good out there is something that I’m going to keep in the back of my head when I head into tryouts at Shattuck,” noted Loveday, who turns 15 next Tuesday (Aug. 23).
“Hopefully, I’m able to make the team that I’m trying to make [the U16 squad], and keep on using that for motivation during the rest of the year to help myself out,” he added.
The Fort Frances native made the trek down to the Windy City on Aug. 4. He was there at the camp until Aug. 7, where he took part in five on-ice sessions.
“It was cool to be able to go down there and see a lot of the country along the way,” Loveday said.
“It was also fun to go and play hockey against a lot of those guys, and to also make some new friends along the way.”
Besides the five games, Loveday also took part in a dryland training sessions and attended presentations hosted by many of the top brass in the USHL.
“After hearing and seeing what they have to offer, I think the USHL is a really good league and probably one of the best, if not the best, junior league to go down and play in,” he remarked.
“You get a chance to play against some of the best competition out there, and you also get to keep your eligibility for college hockey, which is what my plan is at the moment.
“I think that the USHL is the best route you can go to get into college hockey, and to also help you prepare for it,” he reasoned.
On the ice, Loveday’s team—one of 16 that took part in the combine—ended up bouncing back from a slow start in their two games on the Friday to win the whole tournament.
“It was actually kind of weird how it all happened, really,” admitted Loveday, who was joined on his team by players from all over the U.S.
“As a team, we all sat down after losing our first two games and said, ‘We are going to come back and win our next three,’ and we ended up playing our best hockey in those games, so that was kind of cool.”
As for his own play, Loveday felt he got better as the combine wore on, especially during the final three winning performances.
“On the first day I did all right, but I’m not sure if I was just dealing with the nerves or something because I wasn’t playing up to my best,” he recalled.
“Following that, though, I was just able to relax and stay calm, and I was able to read the plays well and I was waiting for the other players to make their move first.
“I was doing everything right in that sense, and that just came from being patient,” he added.
At the moment, Loveday is preparing to make the trek back down to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s campus in Faribault, Mn., where he will be entering Grade 10 this fall.
“I’ll be heading down there on the morning of [Aug.] 26th,” Loveday said. “School starts, I believe, on the first of September, and that week is basically an orientation week for the new kids to get into their dorms and to get used to what it is like to be living without your parents.
“Once school gets underway, we are going to have a couple of on-ice skates to get used to our new equipment and anything else, and from there tryouts will get underway,” Loveday added.
“As soon as that starts, it’s a clear sign that hockey is on its way,” he smiled.