The Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association season is under way, with perennial contenders Columbia Ice Eagles ready to continue their winning ways, and Waterloo enjoying a team for the first time since 2010.Click here for your hockey team photos.
After playing in the 2A division in the MVCHA last year, the Eagles have moved up to the 1A Varsity East division this season, where they will play alongside Edwardsville, Collinsville and the newly formed Waterloo/Freeburg team.
Columbia enters the season with a new head coach, Kevin Feager, who is taking over for Jeff Royer, who had been the varsity coach for the last eight years. Last year’s squad finished the season with a 9-6-3 record and finished second in the 2A Varsity South division.
The Eagles lost five skaters to graduation from last year’s, squad who combined accounted for 80 percent of the teams scoring, so Feager will be looking for new leaders to take the reins and lead the team this season.
“We have a really good group of seniors this year.” Feager said. “They are all team players and have really helped out our younger guys.”
Senior Cody Early is captain of the varsity squad; assistant captains are seniors Mitchell Cookson, Jacob Rein and Brendan Poole.
Junior varsity captains are sophomores Christopher Wagner and Blake Bulger; assistant captains are eighth graders Jacob Matthews and Trey Walton…>>>
On offense, the team is already getting scoring from several players. Kyle Eagan is leading the team early on with four goals and Matthews and Poole both have three each on the season.
The defense is anchored by senior goalie Josh Fleming, who is coming off a strong season and an all-star game appearance. Rein, Matthews, Poole and Wagner, along with swing man Bulger, patrol the ice in front of Fleming.
“After losing so many scorers from last year’s squad we needed some kids to step up and start chipping in and we are getting that,” Feager said. “We are in a tight division and have been competitive. We still have time to make this a good season.”
The Ice Eagles played O’Fallon Tuesday. Their next game is Dec. 10, against Waterloo/Freeburg.
High school hockey is back in Waterloo for the first time since 2010 after a merger with the Freeburg Blue Rage that gave birth to the Waterloo/Freeburg Raging Bulldogs.
Like Columbia, the team will be playing in the 1A Varsity East division of the MVCHA.
The club will also be competing in the junior varsity level in the JV South division with Triad, Collinsville, Columbia, O’Fallon, Edwardsville and Belleville.
The team is made up of seven skaters from Freeburg, eight from Waterloo and one from Mater Dei. They range from seventh grade through 12th grade.
Of the 17 players on the roster, three are seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and the remaining roster is made up of freshmen through seventh graders. Although the team is young, the players are already coming together to play some good hockey.
Varsity captain Travis Bittle, and assistant captains Adam Gauch and Nicholas Harries, all seniors, lead the way for the varsity. Captain Parker McDonald, and assistant captains Frankie Libera and Colin Kruse have been picked to lead the way for the JV team.
“The kids are really coming together well,” said head coach Nick Dryer. “It’s hard when you have kids from so many different schools that don’t really know each other to come together and put something together so fast. We are a very young team but I am pleasantly surprised. I think we are doing well.”
Offensively, the team is led by freshmen Austin Patton and Scott Nanney, both of Waterloo and freshman Parker McDonald of Freeburg. The defense is led by sophomore Colin Kruse of Waterloo and freshman Dylan Gauch of Freeburg.
Holding down the net for the Raging Bulldogs are freshman Peyton Hamilton and seventh grader Trevor Smith, both of Waterloo.
“Goaltending all around, we could not be any more blessed,” Dryer said. “Payton is one of the better goalies in the league and Trevor won’t be eligible for varsity even next year because of his age.”
The varsity squad is 0-3 on the season so far, while the JV squad is 3-1-3.
“We are very excited for the future of this team with the young talent that we have on the JV level that are not eligible for varsity yet,” Dryer said. “We are playing clubs that have almost a full roster of seniors and we are competing with them.”
The Raging Bulldogs tied Belleville Tuesday. Their next game is Dec. 10, against Columbia.