Preview: Something Old, Plenty New
Preview: Something Old, Plenty New
Ice Hockey
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's easy to look at the 12 teams playing at this weekend's MHSAA Hockey Finals at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth and immediately recognize the regulars. 

But look again, and only five are making return trips from a year ago. The Division 2 championship game is guaranteed to include a first-time finalist. 

The pairings are as follows:

Division 2 – Thursday
Hartland vs. Livonia Stevenson, 5 p.m. 
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern vs. Romeo, 7:30 p.m.

Division 3 - Friday
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood vs. Hancock, 11 a.m.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. Chelsea, 1:30 p.m.

Division 1 – Friday
Detroit U-D Jesuit vs. Detroit Catholic Central, 5 p.m. 
Brighton vs. Grandville, 7:30 p.m.

FINALS – Saturday
Division 2 - 10 a.m.
Division 3 - 2 p.m.
Division 1 - 6 p.m.

All Semifinals and Finals will be streamed live per subscription basis on MHSAA.tv, with live audio available on MHSAANetwork.com

Click for a full schedule of this weekend's games plus full results as they come in. Player statistics below are through the Regional round unless noted and were submitted by participating schools.

Division 1

BRIGHTON
Record/rank: 
22-8, No. 2
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), one runner-up finish.  
Coach: Paul Moggach, 21st season (389-137-42)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central.
Best wins: 4-1 over No.11 East Kentwood in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Regional Final, 7-3 and 3-1 (Pre-Regional) over No. 8 Howell, 5-2 over No. 13 Jackson in Pre-Regional, 6-4 over No. 9 Utica Eisenhower, 4-0 over No. 7 Rochester United, 5-0 over No. 3 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 6-3 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: Lee Pietila, sr. F (19 goals, 26 assists); Jay Keranen, sr. D (8 goals, 13 assists); Jake Crespi, jr. F (16 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: Brighton is back in the Semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons and after winning Division 1 in 2012 and 2013 and finishing runner-up in 2014. The Bulldogs have 15 wins – including their last seven – over ranked opponents. Pietila and Keranen were all-state first-team selections in 2015. Junior goalie Logan Neaton gives up only 1.95 goals per game and has four shutouts, and five players have at least 10 goals – with nine notching at least 10 assists. 

DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 
23-7, No. 1
Championship history: 12 MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), four runner-up finishes.
Coach: Brandon Kaleniecki, first season (23-7)
League finish: First in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North. 
Best wins: 4-1 over No. 5 Northville in Pre-Regional, 3-0 over No. 2 Brighton, 4-1 and 4-1 over No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 5-0 over No. 7 Rochester, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson
Players to watch: Joseph Mancinelli, sr. F (19 goals, 14 assists); Kyle Mulka, sr. F (8 goals, 19 assists); Alec Calvaruso, sr. G (1.60 GAA, 6 shutouts)
Outlook: The Shamrocks are back on a run with two straight Division 1 titles and three straight appearances in the championship game. This season’s slate of wins also includes a pair over Division 2 No. 6 Trenton, another over Division 2 No. 7 Grosse Pointe South and a combined four over Division 3 top-10 teams Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Warren DeLaSalle. There are 15 seniors and lots of balance; senior J.P. Lafferty was second on the team with 11 goals (and tied for second with 18 assists), but only he and Mancinelli had scored more than 10 goals after 27 games.

DETROIT U-D JESUIT
Record/rank: 
16-7-5, No. 3
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Rick Bennetts, 21st season (271-237-38).
League finish: First in the MIHL South. 
Best wins: 
6-2 over No. 9 Utica Eisenhower in Quarterfinal, 5-1 over No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-2 over No. 5 Northville, 2-1 over No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 6 Trenton.
Players to watch: Sam Knoblauch, sr. F (30 goals, 25 assists); Tommy Apap, sr. F (14 goals, 29 assists); Nick Gadowski, sr. F (15 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: Jesuit will play in its fourth straight Quarterfinal and drew Detroit Catholic Central, which it beat earlier this winter. Knoblauch is back as an offensive force, and eight players had at least 13 assists through last week led by junior defenseman Lorenzo D’Agostini’s 36. The Cubs also have three wins over Division 3 No. 7 Warren DeLaSalle and another over No. 15 Detroit Country Day.

GRANDVILLE
Record/rank: 
23-5-1, No. 6
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2015. 
Coach: Joel Breazeale, sixth season (109-51-6).
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier II.  
Best wins: 5-2 (Quarterfinal) and 5-4 over No. 10 Rockford, 4-2 over No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 4-1 over No. 15 Lake Orion, 5-0, 9-1 and 5-1 (Regional Final) over No. 14 Holland West Ottawa; 3-1 over No. 7 Rochester.
Players to watch: Thomas Breazeale, sr. D (6 goals, 21 assists); Noah Weigle, sr. F (26 goals, 23 assists); Jacob Baum, sr. F (15 goals, 24 assists).
Outlook: Make that five Regional titles in coach Joel Breazeale’s six seasons, and one more win will give the team its most during his tenure. Grandville is 9-0-1 over its last 10 games and also owns wins over Division 2 top-15 teams Plymouth, Salem and Grand Rapids Northern/Eastern and a pair of wins over Division 3 No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian. Thomas Breazeale has earned all-state recognition the last two seasons. Weigle and Baum are joined on the top line by another potent scorer in wing Eric Neitzel (10 goals and 12 assists).  

Division 2

GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN/EASTERN
Record/rank: 
18-11-1, No. 15
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Tom Bissett, fifth season (70-60-9)
League finish: Third in O-K Tier II.
Best wins: 2-1 (3 OT) over No. 5 Marquette in Quarterfinal, 6-2 over Division 1 No. 11 East Kentwood, 6-2 over Division 1 No. 9 Utica Eisenhower, 1-0 over Division 1 No. 6 Grandville.
Players to watch: Chase Lebster, sr. F (28 goals, 18 assists); Nathan Nickelson, soph. F (20 goals, 9 assists); Wyatt Radakovitz, jr. F (19 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: After a 4-7 start, Northern/Eastern has stormed back to claim its first Regional title since 2012 – and after the team also finished only 9-18 a year ago. Northern/Eastern won its three Pre-Regional/Regional games by a combined 15-3 but has won its last two games by a goal apiece as Lebster potted the game-winner against Marquette in triple overtime Tuesday. Radakovitz earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is second on the team in assists to sophomore center Ian Famulak, who had 28 entering the week.

HARTLAND
Record/rank: 
26-2-1, No. 2
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2013 and 2014. 
Coach: Rick Gadwa, fifth season (98-40-8)
League finish: First in KLAA West, Lakes and overall.
Best wins: 5-4 (OT in Quarterfinal) and 3-1 over No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 4-2 over No. 10 Plymouth, 4-0 over No. 3 Livonia Stevenson, 5-2 over No. 6 Trenton, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 2 Brighton, 10-4 over Division 1 No. 8 Howell, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Northville, 5-3 over Division 3 No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Players to watch: Luke Cowan, sr. F (35 goals, 43 assists); Josh Albring, soph. F (31 goals, 44 assists); Zach Sexton, jr. D (1 goal, 7 assists).
Outlook: Hartland has taken on and beaten most of the best. The Eagles fell to Howell but came back with a 10-4 win in a rematch, and the only other loss was to Division 3 No. 2 Hancock during a run that included wins over Division 3 No. 6 Houghton and No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie (the tie came against No. 4 Romeo). Hartland has given up one or fewer goals 12 times this winter and has a returning all-state defenseman in Sexton – plus two more players who have added at least 10 goals to the offense.

ROMEO
Record/rank: 
26-2-1, No. 4
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Nick Badder, second season (49-6-2)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Best wins: 7-3 over No. 10 Plymouth, 5-3 over No. 11 Escanaba, 6-2 over No. 15 Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 7 Rochester United, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 9 Utica Eisenhower.
Players to watch: Logan Jenuwine, sr. F (41 goals, 42 assists); Nick Blankenburg, sr. F (33 goals, 29 assists); Brett Lanski, jr. F (17 goals, 28 assists).
Outlook: Romeo is making its first trip to the Semifinals after winning its second straight Regional title while led offensively by a first-team all-stater in Jenuwine and a second-teamer in Blankenburg. The Bulldogs also own wins over Division 3 No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie and No. 15 Detroit Country Day, and lost only to Division 2 No. 14 Midland Dow and Division 1 No. 9 Utica Eisenhower. Romeo has scored seven or more goals in 11 games; six players have at least 12 goals and eight have at least 10 assists this season.

LIVONIA STEVENSON
Record/rank: 
22-6-1, No. 3
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2013.
Coach: David Mitchell, eighth season (152-52-15). 
League finish: First in KLAA Central and Kensington.
Best wins:  2-1 over No. 6 Trenton in Quarterfinal, 4-1 and 2-1 (Regional Final) over No. 8 Salem, 9-2, 3-2 and 6-1 (Pre-Regional) over No. 9 Livonia Churchill, 5-3 and 9-1 over No. 13 Livonia Franklin, 4-1 over No. 10 Plymouth, 3-0 and 3-1 over Division 1 No. 7 Rochester, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Howell, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Northville.
Players to watch: Ben Kowalske, sr. F (11 goals, 20 assists); Alec Allen, sr. D (3 goals, 17 assists); Cullen Barber, sr. G (1.76 GAA, 3 shutouts).
Outlook: Stevenson is back at the Semifinals for the third time in four seasons and after navigating another loaded schedule. The losses were nearly as impressive as the wins – defeats to Brother Rice, Cranbrook Kingswood, Brighton, Detroit Catholic Central, Hartland and Indiana power Culver Academy should have the Spartans ready for anything this weekend. Allen and Barber are returning all-state first-team selections and Kowalske earned honorable mention last season. He’s surrounded on the top line by seniors Joe Alcantara (19 goals, 17 assists) and Shane Leonard (15 goals, 19 assists), two of five players with at least 10 goals and seven with at least 10 assists.

Division 3

BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD
Record/rank: 
20-9-1, No. 3
Championship history: 17 MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), two runner-up finishes.  
Coach: Andy Weidenbach, 23rd season (459-158-39).
League finish: Third in MIHL North.  
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 4 Calumet, 3-0 and 8-3 (Regional Final) over No. 7 Warren DeLaSalle, 2-1 over No. 15 Detroit County Day in Quarterfinal, 4-3 and 5-4 over Division 1 No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-3 and 5-3 over Division 1 No. 3 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 7 Rochester United, 5-4 over Division 2 No. 8 Salem, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 10 Plymouth, 6-1 over Division 2 No. 7 Grosse Pointe South.
Players to watch: C.J. Regula, sr. F (21 goals, 22 assists); Alex Lycett, jr. F (14 goals, 22 assists). Joe Dumas, jr. F (12 goals, 18 assists).
Outlook: Cranbrook Kingswood is seeking its third championship in four seasons and again has prepped by facing many of the best from all three divisions. The Cranes have gotten a significant boost from a seven-member sophomore class that includes starting right win Case Kantgias and starting defenseman Alec Regula. Seven players have at least 10 goals and nine had 11 or more assists through 28 games.

CHELSEA
Record/rank: 
24-3-2, No. 9
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Don Wright, 16th season (267-130-32)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Best wins: 2-1 over Gibraltar Carlson in Quarterfinal, 4-0 over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard in Regional Final, 5-0 over No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Derek Schaedig, sr. G (1.36 GAA, 8 shutouts); Sean Cox, sr. F (18 goals, 30 assists); Alec Daman, sr. F (35 goals, 26 assists).
Outlook: Chelsea won its fourth Regional title in seven seasons but first since 2013, and ninth straight league championship. The 6-foot-4 Schaedig made the all-state second team last season and remains tough to beat in net. The Bulldogs also have their share of scorers – Cox and Daman are joined on the top line by senior Jack Miller (15 goals, 24 assists) and total five players have at least 12 goals and seven have at least 14 assists.

GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 
26-3-1, No. 5. 
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2011, two runner-up finishes. 
Coach: Mike Slobodnik, sixth season (118-47-9)
League finish: First in O-K Tier I. 
Best wins: 6-1 over No. 1 Saginaw Heritage in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie, 3-1 over No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 6 Grandville, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 15 Lake Orion, 7-2 and 6-1 over Division 1 No. 11 East Kentwood, 4-3 and 8-1 over Division 1 No. 10 Rockford, 5-4 over Division 2 No. 14 Midland Dow, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 15 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern.
Players to watch: Campbell Balk, sr. F (35 goals, 29 assists); Brian Pattison, sr. F (13 goals, 30 assists); Riley Richards, sr. D (6 goals, 27 assists).
Outlook: GRCC showed it more than belonged in beating top-ranked Heritage on Tuesday, but also has dominated Grand Rapids-area competition all season – its only losses were to East Grand Rapids, Division 1 top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central and Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson. The top two lines are loaded with scorers. Balk and Pattison are joined on the top line by senior wing Chase Madden (11 goals, 14 assists), while senior Josh Stella (19 goals, 18 assists) centers junior Will Kortz (14/16) and sophomore Jack Pendery (11/16) on the second line. Junior goalie Jacob McClelland is giving up only 1.66 goals per game.

HANCOCK
Record/rank: 
23-6, No. 2 
Championship history: Class B-C-D champion 1999, two runner-up finishes. 
Coach: Dan Rouleau, 12th season (205-106-9)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Conference. 
Best wins: 5-2 over No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie in Quarterfinal, 4-1 (Regional Final), 1-0, and 6-2 over No. 4 Houghton, 3-2 and 6-3 over No. 4 Calumet, 3-1 over Division 1 No. 2 Brighton, 5-3 over Division 2 No. 2 Hartland, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 10 Plymouth, 5-2 and 3-2 over Division 2 No. 11 Escanaba.
Players to watch: Teddy Randell, soph. F (24 goals, 33 assists); Alex Nordstrom, fr. F (29 goals, 25 assists); Dawson Kero, soph. G (1.19 GAA, 4 shutouts).
Outlook: Hancock has played and beaten some of the best in all three divisions on the way to its first Semifinals since 2006 and first 20-win season since 2009. Kero earned all-state honorable mention in goal last season and senior defensemen Dylan Paavola and Jack Fenton earned all-state recognition in front of him. The Bulldogs have won 18 over their last 20 games and can fill up the net – senior Cory Tourtillott added 19 goals and 18 assists through 27 games, and eight players had at least 12 assists.

PHOTO: Livonia Stevenson faced Escanaba in last season's Semifinal and will return to USA Hockey Arena this weekend. 


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