Landers said the difficult season against multiple private schools helped them reach the semifinals. The top four teams in the state were all from the Municipal Conference, including Kirkwood, and their opponent, SLUH. In the semifinals, the Pioneers lost the first game against the Jr. Billikens 3-0, setting up a must-win second game.
Herweck stepped out on the ice for the second game against SLUH in front of the biggest crowd he had ever seen. They wore hoodies, some of which were the infamous blue SLUH hockey hoodies. On the other side of the rink though, he saw a pack of white Kirkwood hockey hoodies as the Pioneers’ fans packed the stands.
“Everywhere you looked it seemed like it was all white everywhere,” Herweck said. “It was so loud, and [the fans] didn’t lose their pride the entire game.”
The Jr. Billikens scored two consecutive goals in the second period, but the Pioneers struck back with a goal by Trevor Buchanan, senior. With the clock running out, the Pioneers gave up another goal, losing to SLUH 3-1, ending their historic season.
“It was an awesome season,” Cleveland said. “These are friends I’ll have for the rest of my life. You play for your high school, and these are guys you’ll see in college, you’ll see them in your future, you’ll bring your kids back to play for Kirkwood Hockey. We just have a special culture.”
Cleveland, Landers and seven other seniors left the program this year. When they return as alumni, they can say they were members of the team that got over the hump.