Last season, Utica Eisenhower’s hockey team made it all the way to the state quarterfinals before being defeated by Orchard Lake St. Mary.
And while making that kind of postseason run is nothing to shrug at, coach Bob Hall has an even loftier goal in mind for his team this time around. Hall’s ambition is to take the program somewhere it has never been before — all the way to the top.
“Our goal is to win a state championship,” he said. “We want to win a state championship, not just for our team and our program, but for our school and our community. That’s our ultimate goal. That’s our motivation.”
Senior and assistant captain Frank Saputo is also aiming for the top.
“This year, we’re trying to win the state championship,” he said. “We’re trying to win our division, and then on to playoffs, and get that state championship.”
As a senior and team captain, Ryan Jaros realizes the role he can play to try to help lead his team to victory.
“I’ve been on the team since I was a sophomore,” he said. “I find it’s my position to lead and show how the team should be run, and what will lead us to success.”
Before the Eagles can take a shot at a state title, Hall understands there is work to be done. There is a Macomb Area Conference Red Division title to shoot for, and a regional tournament that would have to be won in order for Eisenhower to achieve its ultimate goal.
In order to do that, the Eagles will have to get past Macomb Dakota. Aside from being the defending MAC Red champs, Dakota is also in the same regional as Eisenhower.
“Dakota’s a really good program,” he said. “We have to get through them for both the MAC Red championship and making a playoff run. Our focus has been to pretty much prepare for them and the teams we’re going to face, come the end of the year in the playoffs. I don’t see the two of us going anywhere anytime soon.
“I would say both teams’ goals go through each other. Both teams are very good.”
The Eagles have some veterans in place to help them meet their goals, as the roster consists of 16 seniors and eight returning players.
And aside from the varsity experience, they also had the opportunity to help develop players through their JV program. In fact, Hall said at one point or another, 14 of the 23 players on the roster had played on the JV squad.
He believes having a JV team in place helps provide the program with a big advantage.
“Our JV program speaks volumes about feeding our varsity program,” he said. “I think that’s what separates some of the better programs. The kids that come from the program usually have a heads-up because they’re learning the system that we run in their practices, and they’re executing them at their games. It gives those kids an edge on some of the other kids.
“I contribute our success, and Dakota’s success, to our JV program. It does nothing but benefits us.”
Eisenhower is next scheduled to be in action at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 in a road game against Forest Hills Central at Patterson Ice Arena. The Eagles are next scheduled to play a home game at 8 p.m. Jan. 26 against St. Clair Shores at Suburban Macomb.