Local hockey teams set to drop the puck on 2013 postseason
They met twice in the regular season, once more in the Catholic League final, and as if that wasn’t enough, the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Birmingham Brother Rice hockey teams will launch the 2013 Division 1 playoffs against one another.
Even if it’s not the most popular option with those involved.
“It is what it is,” said Eaglets’ coach Brian Klanow. “I guess I wouldn’t do it that way, putting all the top-ranked teams like this in the same region, but I don’t make those decisions. I don’t work (for the MHSAA).”
The game, set for 8:10 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena, pits a pair of teams that have legitimate aspirations of a state championship against one another on the very first night of the tournament.
By 10 p.m., the landscape of D-1 will be greatly altered.
“It’s, obviously, pretty tough,” Rice coach Lou Schmidt Jr. said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a great challenge. We know that. … I don’t know why they do it this way, though. I guess you have to go by the old cliché where, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. So we’ll play by the rules they’ve set up and see what happens.”
Rice, the top-ranked team all season — and the 2012 D-2 champ — was 17-2-2 at press time. The Warriors face a St. Mary’s team that was 13-9-1 and ranked No. 5.
The winner faces Birmingham Unified or Farmington Hills Unified — two of the better teams in the Oakland Activities Association — at 6:55 p.m. Feb. 27.
The regional final is set for 7:30 p.m. March 2 at the St. Mary’s Ice Arena, and barring a major upset, will likely feature the No. 3-ranked team, Novi Detroit Catholic Central (14-6-0).
“If it’s going to be this way, though, Rice is the team you want to see right off the bat,” Klanow added. “Why fool around with anyone else? You’ll have to beat them eventually if you accomplish what you want to.”
The Catholic League final was played after press time, but in the season’s first two meetings, Rice took both games, 7-4 on Jan. 5 and 5-3 on Jan. 30.
“There’s a few small things that have to do different. That’s really it,” Klanow said. “Rice is a very good team, there’s no question about it. We have to execute how we can and have one of our better games.”
In other hockey playoff action:
West Bloomfield High drops the puck in the D-1 tournament at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 against Waterford Kettering at the Lakeland Ice Arena.
Since starting the year with four straight losses and switching coaches, the Lakers have been a new squad, going 9-5-0 at press time while building aspirations of the first regional title since 2003, when coach Steve Kuza was on the squad.
“That’s our goal, and we feel like we’ve got a team capable of pulling that off,” he said.
The pre-regional winner faces Waterford Mott at 7 p.m. Feb. 28. The regional final is set for March 2 at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills.
The time had not been set.
“The two things we’ve stuck with is playing at a high tempo and being aggressive,” Kuza said. “That’s worked for us most of the season, and that’s what we’ll try to carry into the postseason.”
In the Division 2 tournament, Walled Lake Northern opens against Novi High (No. 10) at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Novi Ice Arena.
On the other side of the pre-regional is Walled Lake Central taking on Walled Lake Western at 8:15 p.m. the same night.
The winners meet at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Novi. The regional final set for March 2 at the Hartland Sports Center.
Central, which was 11-4-5 at press time and won the Kensington Lakes Athletic Association North Division, was 3-0-1 against Northern and Western this winter.