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January 22, 2013

Kuza said distractions are behind his team, takes aim at league and regional

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
West Bloomfield coach Steve Kuza watches his team prior to a Jan. 12 home game against Avondale. Kuza took the reins a few weeks into the season and has the Lakers heading in the right direction.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Four games, four losses and a whirlwind of distractions.

That is how the 2012-13 hockey season began for the West Bloomfield High squad.

A team that entered the year with raised expectations, and lofty goals for the league and postseason, found itself behind the eight ball with more questions than answers.

“We knew we were much better than 0-4,” coach Steve Kuza said last week. “It was a matter of us getting out there and doing what we had to do.”

Kuza, who was an assistant coach when the season began and took over the head coaching job following the slow start, said he wasn’t worried at all about his guys or the season. He added that a team meeting to clear the air during a practice session was just what everyone needed.

“They decided to put everything behind them — the distractions, the losing, the lack of leadership, everything,” Kuza said. “They just started playing hockey the way they knew they could.”

The results speak for themselves.

Since starting 0-4, the Lakers have put together a 5-3 streak.

Their 5-7-0 overall record at press time includes a 5-2-0 mark in the Oakland Activities Association White Division, three points behind Berkley-Ferndale Unified for the division lead.

“That meeting before practice was the biggest thing that changed everything, in my opinion,” defenseman Connor Schram said. “It’s like we all got to sit down, voice our opinions and fix some of the problems that had been lingering. We had played four good teams, so we knew we would be better, but I think we needed that time to just refocus.”

In Kuza’s first game as head coach, the team picked up a 3-2 victory against Berkley in the first divisional game of the schedule.

To date, it’s the Bears’ only loss in White play, and just one of three all season.

West Bloomfield was riding a three-game winning streak at press time.

“We’ve quit playing as individuals and turned this into a team game,” Schram added. “We’ve been competing against everyone we’ve played. Things are just different.”

Kuza is no stranger to the Lakers. He played for the team from 2000-2003 and was a part of three consecutive regional titles.

He said the OAA White crown is tops on his list right now, but he added, “We’re going to need a little bit of help to get that.”

As for the regional?

“It’s there for the taking,” he said. “We’ve got some winnable games, and we’re avoiding the (Division 2) big boys for a while.”

The Lakers open the regional against Waterford Kettering and would face Waterford Mott in the semifinal with a win.

The regional final will feature Royal Oak High, Bloomfield Hills Unified or Warren Mott.

“Seeing how we’ve been lately, we feel like we could beat anyone,” Schram boasted. “We feel like we control our own destiny right now.”

Staying indoors
For fans planning on attending the Lakers’ Jan. 27 game against Berkley, originally scheduled to be played outdoors at Clark Park, it has been moved to 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Berkley Ice Arena.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.