Macomb Area Conference hockey preview
November 26, 2013
The Fraser High hockey team won a Michigan High School Athletic Association Class A state title in 1983. That Ramblers team is the last Macomb County squad to hoist a state championship trophy.
No team from Macomb County, specifically the Macomb Area Conference, has advanced as far as the state finals since then. Last season, a number of MAC teams won games in the postseason, but Utica Eisenhower, which has won division titles in three of the last four seasons, advanced furthest, winning a Division 1 regional title before falling to the University of Detroit Jesuit Academy in the state quarterfinals.
Coaches from around the MAC, which dropped the puck on the 2013-14 season Nov. 18, want to see more MAC squads make deep postseason runs, as the league continues to make a name for itself.
The 2014 MHSAA state semifinals and finals take place Nov. 6-8 at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. Prior to that, teams from the MAC will once again square off with Oakland Activities Association teams in the annual MAC/OAA Showcase, set for Feb. 1 at the Rochester Onyx Ice Arena.
“It would provide a huge amount of respect for the league if the MAC can get a team to Compuware,” said Macomb Dakota coach Mike Jakubik, who has guided the Cougars to the last two MAC Red Division titles. Dakota last year fell to Eisenhower in a preregional playoff game.
“It would show we have teams in our league that can hang with anybody in the state,” Jakubik said.
The St. Clair High team battled its way to a D-3 regional final last season but will not field a team this season. Warren Mott coach Rob Pomaville, vice president of the MAC High School Coaches Association, said teams have folded in recent years due to a drop in participation in youth hockey, particularly among players younger than 16. Pomaville, whose team plays in the MAC White Division, said the current economy and the costs associated with playing hockey are major factors.
Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and Utica Ford II, which played in the MAC Blue last season, also will not field teams this season.
Pomaville said the number of players in senior hockey leagues (18 years and older) has increased drastically in recent years, but that competition between house, travel and high school leagues has diluted the numbers for each level.
“But we have some really good teams in our league,” St. Clair Shores United coach Russ DiCristofaro said. “Eisenhower and Dakota are stacked. Anchor Bay is pretty good. We’ve got some teams that have the potential to make deep runs in the playoffs.”
DiCristofaro, whose United squad went 2-6 in the MAC Red last season, said he believes Dakota and Eisenhower, which both went 7-1 in league play to share the MAC Red title last season, are once again the class of the league.
He said his United team, made up of players who attend St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, Lakeview and South Lake, and Marysville will look to battle inside the division, along with improving on their overall records. St. Clair Shores and Marysville (3-5 MAC Red in 2012-13) finished 4-21-0 and 8-15-2, respectively.
Eisenhower and Dakota notched 53 and 46 goals, respectively, in league play. The Eagles and Cougars tallied 115 and 124 goals, respectively, on the season in 2012-13.
“I feel the (MAC Red) will shape up similarly to last season, as I’m sure (Eisenhower) has reloaded and will be a hard-skating and talented team, which always makes for a great rivalry with Dakota,” Jakubik said. “From what I’ve heard, both (St. Clair Shores) and Marysville have added some key players, and look to build upon last year and make a run at the league championship.”
Each team in the MAC Red, along with the White and Blue, will square off twice this season. Jakubik and DiCristofaro said they believe the team that avoids injury will have the best shot at winning the division.
DiCristofaro, in his third year with the Lakers, said navigating the schedule will play a role in which team comes out on top in the MAC Red, as well.
“You need that day-to-day consistency — keeping the players motivated through the midseason and making sure their attitudes are focused on goals for the year,” Jakubik said.
Romeo High went 8-0 in league play to win the MAC White last season. Utica High finished second at 6-1, followed by Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse (4-3), L’Anse Creuse North (1-6) and Sterling Heights Stevenson (1-7).
Romeo was dominant in league play last season, beating MAC White teams by an average score of almost 4-1.
L’Anse Creuse North coach Jon Nader said he thinks Romeo will be strong again. Nader also said he thinks each team will have a chance to win the MAC White.
“It’s all about who shows up to play (each night),” Nader said.
The MAC White features several players who can light the lamp. Even though Stevenson finished last in divisional play, the Titans, who will play under first-year coach Dave Koons Jr., scored 112 goals last season. That number was highest in the MAC White and fifth in the conference. Romeo tallied 46 goals in league play and 111 overall.
“We’re trying to go show we’re a team that’s getting better,” Koons said Nov. 14, adding that he sees Romeo as the class of the division.
Pomaville, whose team went 1-6-0 in league play last season, said he thinks Anchor Bay is the favorite in the MAC Blue. Anchor Bay went 8-0-0 to win the division in 2012-13 and was the only team inside the division to record a shutout in league matchups, with two.
“(Warren Mott), Fraser and Port Huron will fight it out to see who can give Anchor Bay the best competition,” Pomaville said. Fraser finished second in the MAC Blue last season with a 6-2 record. Port Huron went 1-6 inside the division.
“I feel like (Warren Mott) can compete if, and only if, we improve our team defense and cut down on shots on net and goals against,” said Pomaville of his team, which allowed 53 goals in MAC Blue play and 155 overall. “I know we’ll score a lot of goals again this season.”
Mott outscored Anchor Bay 121 goals to 114 last season. Romeo, though, allowed 95 fewer scores than Mott, which finished fifth in the MAC Blue in 2012-13. Romeo allowed 47 fewer scores than second-place Fraser.
“To win the MAC Blue, your divisional record will have to be near perfect,” Pomaville said. “It will come down to the divisional games against Anchor Bay to decide which team wins the division.”
For complete coverage of MAC hockey, including schedule and roster information for each team, check www.machockey.com.