“All things considered, I am really pleased with how we’ve done,” Columbia Ice Eagles hockey coach Jeff Royer said about his team’s season so far.
The team has gone through a lot of changes this season, with the Fairview Heights rink shutting down, the team moving up a class from 1A to 2A and losing seven seniors from the year before. But Royer says he is pleased with his team, in what he calls a rebuilding season.
The Eagles are currently 8-5-2 and second in the 2A Southern Division behind undefeated O’Fallon. The Ice Eagles have defeated much larger schools like Belleville West and East all four times they have faced off this season, says Royer.
“One of the things I am most proud of is to beat them our first time in the division.”
The coach credits second year goalie Josh Fleming for some of the team’s success. Fleming is the only goalie on the roster and, therefore, has to play both JV and varsity the entire game.
“He’s been in goal four or five nights in a row throughout the season and hasn’t missed a game,” Royer said. “He is one of the big reasons why we are where we are.”
Fleming has 278 saves through 13 games played with an average of .877.
Royer’s son and senior captian, Matt Royer, currently leads the team with 20 goals and eight assists on the season. Fellow senior Tyler Overmann has also stepped up to fill in for the seven seniors lost last year. The assistant captain has eight goals and eight assists through 13 games played this season.
The team faced Edwardsville Monday night after losing to them, 7-0, a week earlier and falling to them, 7-0, once again. But Royer says Edwardsville is the best team in the league and facing them is good for player and team development.
“(The tough remaining schedule) will be good going into the playoffs,” Royer said, explaining the team will then face Marquette, Alton and Granite City to round out the regular season.
He says the team hopes to finish second in the division. Not bad for a rebuilding year.
Despite the team having a better season than expected, the team is still down about losing part of its fan base due to the move from playing in Fairview Heights to now further locations like Granite City and East Alton.
“We don’t get the students to come out any more,” said Royer. “Its harder for some parents to make it as well.”
To view Ice Eagles player stats and the team’s schedule, visit eteamz.com/ColumbiaIceEagles.