MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — If there is one thing that looks odd about University of St. Thomas senior forward Grant Loven as he skates for the Tommies, it might be the jersey color. While still looking for that first NCAA Division I win, St. Thomas looks sharp as they get used to life at college hockey’s top level, in that combo of purple, white and black.
But if you know Loven, who hails from East Grand Forks, he was seemingly meant to wear green.
He skated for the Green Wave as a prep winning back-to-back Class A state titles. For a higher level of hockey-watching, the Loven clan would cross the Red River of the North to cheer for North Dakota, where his father, Troy, had played defense for four years in the 1980s.
Grant first played junior hockey for Cedar Rapids in the USHL, wearing green. Loven’s first college choice was Northern Michigan, where he played parts of three seasons in green for the Wildcats. But in the middle of last season, after six games for NMU as a junior, he felt the time was right for a change.
“I started out in Marquette (Mich.) and around Christmastime I decided to make a transfer. It was best for me,” Loven said, of his path to the new kids on the college hockey block. “When the opportunity came, being from Minnesota and the reputation St. Thomas has, that was something I wanted to be a part of the second I got that opportunity.”
Getting back into D-I mindset
It was a leap of faith, moving at the time from D-I down to D-III, and not knowing who would coach the Tommies into the next chapter. But after a two-goal weekend at Lake Superior State in his most recent outing, the bold bet Loven made on himself is looking like it will pay off. And the guy who was eventually picked to run the Tommies is liking what he has seen so far.
“Grant is just one of those guys who every day brings 100 percent effort. He’s quiet and just goes about his business and works hard,” said Tommies coach Rico Blasi. “For him, all his chances and his goals will come from hard work and just being tenacious on the puck. That’s what he does best. He’s like a dog on a bone, and you’ve got to let him do that.”
Loven played in nine games for the Tommies at the D-III level last winter, averaging a point-per-game. He has three points in six games for St. Thomas heading into their first true home series of the season, versus Ferris State this weekend at St. Thomas Ice Arena. A soft-spoken player who would prefer to let his on-ice work speak for him, Loven credits linemates Aaron Swanson and Andrew Kangas for the point production last weekend at Lake State.
“Sometimes it just bounces your way. You try to grid out the best you can,” Loven said of the two-goal series versus the Lakers. “I have good teammates around me that help me out and we move the puck and feed off each other. We’re building some chemistry that way.”
In addition to good bounces, Blasi sees a player quickly getting used to the D-I level again, and learning what he needs to do in both ends of the rink to be successful.
“He’s starting to think the game a little bit, where in the past, he’s relied on his strength and his tenacity,” Blasi said. “Now he’s got to actually make some plays and think about it defensively, so he’s growing in that aspect, for sure.”
If they warm up for the series with the Bulldogs as some disco plays in their rink this weekend, it will be a nod to the last time the Tommies met Ferris State on the ice. That was 44 years ago, in the 1977-78 season, when St. Thomas traveled to Big Rapids, Mich., where the home team got a sweep.
For Blasi, he’s fully ready to enjoy the comforts of home and get in a more “normal” week of work with his team after having to leave a day early for long trips to the Upper Peninsula the last two weekends.
Loven has joked that coming from the northern Red River Valley, then playing junior hockey in Minot, N.D., and Marquette, Mich., going to school in St. Paul almost feels like the South.
“It’s a little warmer here than in those places. I’m happy to be here,” he said.
Even if the color seems a little off.