By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Two of this weekend’s Division 1 hockey semifinalists will be playing in this late round for the first time. Three of four teams left in the bracket are seeking their first MHSAA Finals championship on the ice.
And then there’s Detroit Catholic Central, top-ranked and with 13 past titles, and the favorite Rochester United, Saginaw Heritage and Traverse City Bay Reps must catch to make more history this winter.
This weekend’s pairings are as follows:
Division 1 – Friday
Detroit Catholic Central (27-1-1) vs. Rochester United (26-3), 5 p.m.
Saginaw Heritage (27-2) vs. Traverse City Bay Reps (24-5), 7:30 p.m.
FINALS – Saturday
Division 1 - 6 p.m.
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.
DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 27-1-1, No. 1
Championship history: 13 MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), five runner-up finishes.
Coach: Brandon Kaleniecki, fourth season (101-18-2)
League finish: First in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North.
Best wins: 1-0 over No. 6 Salem in Quarterfinal, 6-0 over No. 13 Birmingham United in Regional Final, 6-0 and 5-1 over No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-1 over No. 4 Brighton, 1-0 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson, 1-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Trenton, 6-1 and 5-4 over Division 2 No. 4 Birmingham Brother Rice.
Players to watch: Joe Borthwick, sr. D (7 goals, 23 assists); Brendan Miles, jr. D (6 goals, 22 assists); Rylan Clemons, sr. F (25 goals, 28 assists); Kyle Gaffney, jr. F (20 goals, 22 assists).
Outlook: After three straight titles from 2014-16, DCC has finished runner-up and then as a semifinalist the last two, respectively. The Shamrocks are primed to take back the title – the lone loss and tie both were to out-of-state schools, the defeat in the team’s third game of the season. DCC has three straight shutouts and seven over its last eight games – and 13 total this winter. Senior goalie Zach Allan – a first-team all-stater last season – has three of those shutouts and a 1.44 goals-against average in 16 games, while senior Stephen Sleva has four shutouts and a 0.82 GAA over 12 contests. Borthwick was an all-state first-team defenseman working in front of Allan last season, and Miles earned an honorable mention. Five more players had scored at least 10 goals entering the week, with junior Dylan Dooley (13 goals/20 assists) also over 30 points and senior Carter Korpi (14 goals/14 assists) among a few on the verge.
Record/rank: 26-3, No. 5
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA championship game.
Coach: Bryan Kowalski, second season (37-12-5)
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red.
Best wins: 4-3 over No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 9 Macomb Dakota in Regional Final, 3-0 over No. 12 Utica Eisenhower in Regional Quarterfinal, 2-1 over No. 7 Byron Center, 4-2 over No. 8 Farmington United, 4-1 over No. 13 Birmingham United.
Players to watch: Austin Streng, sr. F (30 goals, 23 assists); Marcello Munaco, sr. F (14 goals/22 assists); Michael Zyrek, sr. F (17 goals, 25 assists); Domenico Munaco, sr. G (1.44 goals-against average, 3 shutouts).
Outlook: Rochester will be playing at the Semifinals for the first time after navigating one of the toughest postseason paths in the state – with the Dakota win avenging one of its few losses this winter. Rochester has more than doubled its win total from last season, when the team finished 12-9-5. Juniors Jack Myers (11 goals/14 assists) and Caden Ebinger (10 goals/14 assists) are two more potent scorers, while senior defensemen Niko Mantzios and Kyle Crutchfield both had 19 assists entering the week and had combined for 14 goals. The co-operative program includes athletes from Rochester High and Rochester Adams.
Record/rank: 27-2, No. 2
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2018.
Coach: J.J. Bamberger, 11th season (203-86-10)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League.
Best wins: 5-2 over No. 14 Capital City in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 6-1 over No. 11 Traverse City Bay Reps, 5-1 over No. 6 Salem, 7-1 over No. 4 Brighton, 6-2 over Division 2 No. 7 Davison.
Players to watch: Parker Severson, sr. F (28 goals, 25 assists); Brady Rappuhn, jr. F (24 goals, 38 assists); David Helpap, sr. F (15 goals, 30 assists); Jacob Best, sr. F (17 goals, 30 assists).
Outlook: The Hawks are now 49-7-3 over the last two seasons, with a number of standouts from last year’s first-time finalist team leading the way again. Helpap made the all-state first team a year ago, while Severson and Rappuhn earned honorable mentions and senior Jack Jesko (1.83 goals-against average) earned an honorable mention in goal. Senior Eddie Symons (19 goals/18 assists) is another veteran top scorer, and junior Matt Cole had 28 assists entering the week to go with eight goals. The only losses were to Division 2 semifinalists Hartland and Birmingham Brother Rice.
TRAVERSE CITY BAY REPS
Record/rank: 24-5, No. 11
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Michael Matteucci, first season (24-5)
League finish: First in Northern Michigan Hockey League.
Best wins: 4-3 (OT) over No. 7 Byron Center in Quarterfinal, 2-1 over No. 10 Rockford in Regional Final, 5-4 over Traverse City West, 5-3 over Big Rapids, 3-2 and 5-4 over Petoskey.
Players to watch: Jake Stevenson, sr. F (30 goals, 24 assists); Christopher Deneweth, sr. D (12 goals, 23 assists); Kaleb Miller, soph. F (20 goals, 22 assists); Logan Kerry, sr. F (14 goals, 27 assists).
Outlook: Bay Reps – a cooperative of Traverse City St. Francis, Elk Rapids, Bear Lake, Kalkaska and Kingsley – will play in the Semifinals for the first time, and is riding a 10-game winning streak. Stevenson earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is one of nine seniors – five others make up two of the top defense pairs plus goalie Kamerin Lannen. Matteucci previously served as an assistant – and played in the NHL and multiple minor leagues – before taking over the program this winter.
PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central’s Dylan Dooley works to clear the puck against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s this season.