After a slow start to the summer while nursing a sprained right ankle sustained during a game of shinny, Fort Frances native Mark Loveday is getting back into the saddle as he prepares for his Grade 12 year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.
Celebrating his 17th birthday later this month, the goalie will be starting his fifth year with the Sabres when he heads down to Faribault, Mn. at the end of August, which he already is looking forward to.
“If it wasn’t a great experience, I wouldn’t be going back,” Loveday stressed.
“This will be my fifth year there, and while I have had a lot of ups and downs, they have mostly been ups during my time there as I have developed a lot as a player and as a person,” he noted.
“By going there in my Grade 8 year, I had to mature pretty quickly and I think I have become a better person because of it.”
In the lead-up to his Grade 12 season, in which Loveday hopes to be suiting up for the Sabres’ prep team, he has been involved in a training program with Jamie Davis here and also has attended goalie camps.
“I went out to Calgary a couple of weeks ago for a camp out there, and then I went down to Shattuck last week for a camp down there,” he remarked.
“The camp in Calgary went really well as I got to play at the Team Canada Olympic facility out there, which was very nice,” he recalled.
“There were a number of really good players there, like [Calgary Hitmen forward] Jake Virtanen, who will probably go in the top 10 of the NHL draft next year.”
This past season, Loveday split starting duties with Jeremy Brodeur (son of New Jersey Devils’ star Martin Brodeur) for the Sabres’ Midget ‘AAA’ team, compiling a 13-2-7 record with 2.41 GAA.
“I felt that this was one of my better seasons at Shattuck, especially with the mental side of the game,” he noted.
“I had a lot more confidence going into my games and I was just reading the plays a lot better, and I was able to have a lot of fun with this team,” he added.
“[The previous] year, we had some problems with the team that I was on, but there was none of that this [past] year as it was a really great atmosphere.”
Two of Loveday’s strongest performances of the season came against the Thunder Bay Kings back in February, when he helped the Sabres to victory in a tournament game in Madison, Wis. and also earned a round-robin win over the Kings in the Northern Lakes Hockey League tournament in Marquette, Mich.
“We were in a bit of a slump as a team before the tournament in Madison,” Loveday recalled. “But we were able to break out of it and I had a really great game against Thunder Bay where I made 39 saves.”
“In that year-end tournament in Marquette, both us and Thunder Bay had already clinched our spots in the final, so the game didn’t mean a whole lot,” he conceded.
“But it was good to try and get one up on them.
“The game was back-and-forth and we were able to tie it up late in the game, and then we went on to win a shootout,” Loveday added.
Since the Sabres would alternate back-and-forth with their goalies throughout the season, Loveday watched from the bench in the final against the Kings as Brodeur was between the pipes in the Sabres’ 4-2 triumph.
“That was a pretty fun game to be a part of,” he said.
“We were trailing 1-0 after the second period and since our team had a lot of senior players, we were really wanting to come out and play strong in the third for them,” he stressed.
“We were able to score a couple of goals right away, and we were able to hold off their late chance to come back late in the period before we scored our empty-net goal.”
Although Loveday still has to go through the tryout process in order to make the boys’ prep team this season, Loveday already has his goals in mind for his final season with the Sabres.
“I hope to be on the prep [team] and have a great season, and hopefully we can go on to win a national championship,” he enthused.
“And from there, I would like to play in Junior ‘A’ next year.
“But I will wait to see what happens with that as to where I will end up,” Loveday said.