ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores United hockey team is working in 12 players with no prep-hockey experience, according to coach Russ DiCristofaro, who is in his second year leading the Lakers.
That much inexperience can cause a coach to change how he approaches a season.
“We’ve simplified things a bit for them because most of the guys are so new to this level of hockey,” DiCristofaro said. “I want to see the guys improve over the course of the season so we can add some different things to what we do as we go along.”
St. Clair Shores United, made up of players from all three local high schools, will focus on its power play and forechecking, according to DiCristofaro. He added the Lakers’ strength will be their forwards, meaning that the Shores United team has players who can put the puck in the net.
St. Clair Shores United went 14-6-4, 6-1-3 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division last season, falling to Division 1 runner-up Grosse Pointe North in the regional quarterfinal round of the 2012 Michigan High School Athletic Association state hockey playoffs.
“How the forwards go is how we’ll go,” DiCristofaro said. “That’s where our leadership is, so that’s where our strength will be.”
One of those leaders is senior captain Cody MacPhee, a forward who attends Lakeview High.
MacPhee said he and senior captain Zach Zielinski have been talking to the new players about giving their all in each game.
DiCristofaro said junior forward Mitchell Kusch, who attends Lake Shore, will be called on to lead, as well.
“We have a lot of new guys, so we’re doing our best to make sure they’re ready to play every night,” said Zielinski, a defenseman who attends Lake Shore High. “We just keep telling them to do the best they can and keep trying.”
With so much roster turnover, it’ll be tough for the Lakers to compete in the MAC Red, which Shores United last won in the 2009-2010 season. The Lakers have placed third in the division the last two seasons, behind Utica Eisenhower and Macomb Dakota.
“Those two teams just reload every year, it seems like,” DiCristofaro said. “What I want to see out of my team is continued improvement over the course of the regular season. Then, hopefully, we can make some noise in the playoffs.”
St. Clair Shores United, which had not played at press time, next hits the ice for a matchup with Woodhaven High, set for 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Ice Box Sports Center in Brownstown Township.