The last Monday in October is always brings big doings in the Missouri high school sports world. That's because that day marks the first official day that MSHSAA winter sports teams can begin practices and tryouts. Basketball courts, wrestling mats, and swimming pools all over the state were just buzzing as athletes and their coaches took the first official steps toward what is sure to be another exciting winter sports season in Missouri.
There is one winter sport though, that doesn't fall under MSHSAA's jurisdiction, and therefore can begin practicing whenever it wants -- which it has been for more than a month -- and that's the high school hockey league, which is run locally by the Mid-States Hockey Association.
And surprising as it may be to some, the Mid-States Hockey regular season actually begins this weekend, with games at rinks all over the city. The team from Ladue High will be one of the teams one the ice on that first night of action, Friday night at the Queeny Park Ice Rink.
The Rams will be taking on Fort Zumwalt East, with the game time set for 9:30 p.m. Last season, Ladue didn't have a great year, finishing 10-16-1. But the Rams did win the Founders' Cup trophy, which is awarded to the team that won Mid-States Hockey's third level playoff tournament.
The way it works is this: there are approximately 50 teams that compete in the St. Louis area high school hockey league, and as one might imagine, some of those teams and players are far more advanced than others.
So rather than ask new or burgeoning programs to play the top-level teams in the playoffs, Mid-States Hockey breaks the teams into three groups following the regular season. The absolute best of the best, most elite teams play in the 16-team Challenge Cup tournament, which was won by the team from CBC High last year.
The next best 16 teams play in the Level 2 tournament, which is called the Wickenheiser Cup, and was named after popular former St. Louis Blues star Doug Wickenheiser. Whitfield High won that tournament final last year, in a thrilling overtime game against Lutheran South.
The final level of teams play for the Founders' Cup, which Ladue won last year, and hopes will springboard them into a possible berth in the Wickenheiser Cup, or maybe even Challenge Cup tournaments this year.
Back to lead the Rams is speedy, senior centerman Charlie Jonas, Ladue's leading scorer last year with 14 goals and 15 assists in 27 games. The Rams actually bring back nearly everyone from last year, with juniors Matthew Gould and Colton Schalk also expected to score in big numbers this season. MICDS was 12-10-2 last year, and lost in the first round of the Challenge Cup tournament to nearby rival Chaminade.
These Rams are also expecting bigger things from themselves this year, after surprising many with a winning season last year, despite a roster made up of mostly underclassmen.
MICDS' top player this year figures to be sophomore Charles Combs, another top scorer, who lead the Rams as a freshman last year, with 29 goals and 39 total points. Junior Matthew Myer was another solid scorer for the Rams last year, with 13 goals and 10 assists, that will be back on the ice this year. Junior goalkeeper Cameron Gornet will be in his second season as MICDS' netminder, after going 9-10-1, with a 3.2 goals against average last year.
The Rams will open their season on Saturday, November 3, with a matchup against Chaminade, at Queeny Park, at 5:15 p.m. John Burroughs is one of the teams that had a pretty rough season last year, going 3-19-1, and ending the year with a 12-game losing streak. In fact, the Bombers' last win was back in December of 2011, so that means Burroughs hasn't won a game yet in 2012.
But the Bombers have a plan to fix that, and it begins with getting more chances for its top two returning scorers Alec Cornwell, who had 12 goals and 17 assists last year, and Alex Jasiek, who led JBS with 16 goals and added 11 assists, as well.
Burroughs will play its first game on Saturday, November 17, when the Bombers will take on Priory at the Brentwood Ice Arena at 7:45 p.m.