The Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association announced it has canceled its regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to the restriction not being lifted by the governor, we were forced to cancel the 2020-21 season,” MVCHA President John Criswell told the Republic-Times last week. “There are plans in the works, that if restrictions are lifted, to hold a tournament.”
Two local teams in the league, the Freeburg-Waterloo Raging Bulldogs and Columbia Ice Eagles, were hopeful of some success on the ice this season.
The Raging Bulldogs lost in the MVCHA Class 2A Varsity finals to Granite City last season.
Returning players for the Raging Bulldogs in 2020-21 include junior forward Logan Ganz, “who is arguably the best player in the league,” according to Roberts.
Senior Jacob Dinkelman and junior Donovan Knuckles are being looked at to provide offense should an MVCHA tourney be played, the coach said, and the Raging Bulldogs will be led on defense by senior captain Ryan Kruse.
“Low on players this year, we entered the MVCHA draft and were able to get goaltender Matthew Bushee of Mascoutah, who will be the starter between the pipes,” Roberts said. “We have seen nothing but great things from him in practice.”
A special showcase of area hockey teams in November was canceled due to the pandemic, but the Raging Bulldogs were able to defeat O’Fallon, 11-4, in one game.
Freeburg-Waterloo played a practice game against Belleville on Jan. 10, winning 5-4. Ganz recorded a hat trick and the other goals were scored by Dinkelman and Mikey Gildehaus.
The Raging Bulldogs played another practice game against Belleville on Thursday, winning 5-2. Ganz, Dinkelman, Shea Sudemeyer, Connor Blair and eighth grader Caiden Anderson all scored for Freeburg-Waterloo.
“We are looking to get some more (practice) games with other schools,” Raging Bulldogs head coach Scott Roberts said.
The Ice Eagles, who won the MVCHA title in 2018, went 15-8-1 last season to make the playoffs.
Ice Eagles head coach Kevin Feager said there is a different look due to 11 players graduating from last year’s squad.
“We have four returning seniors this season along with six juniors, so we still have a fair amount of upperclassmen to step in,” he said.
Of Columbia’s 97 goals scored last season, 37 were from the graduated seniors.
“So we’ll need everyone to step up and contribute this season,” Feager said.
Columbia is led by seniors Dylan Lalk, Jack Augustin, Landon Renner and Kyle Budde.
“We also have a solid core of juniors and sophomores in Joe Soetaert, Jordan Smugala, Collin Schmidt, Jackson Judy, Liam Ellner, Ryan Foster, and Tim Barbee,” Feager added.
MVCHA players will keep their sticks crossed for a tournament to at least salvage some semblance of a 2020-21 season. Only time will tell.