When he returned for his senior season, Mackenzie MacEachern vowed that anything less than a state title would be deemed a failure for himself and for his Birmingham Brother Rice hockey team.
Moments after capturing the Division 2 championship March 10, MacEachern summed up Rice’s journey and subsequent trophy celebration as a “huge relief.”
Little did he know it wasn’t the last trophy he would grasp before winter ended.
On March 18 at the annual Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association awards banquet, MacEachern was one of six players named to the 2011-12 Dream Team, and shortly after, capped his high school career as Mr. Hockey.
“I was hopeful, but I really wasn’t expecting it,” MacEachern said, adding that he thought Trenton High goalie Blake Wojtala would earn the award. “It was nerve-racking standing there waiting for the announcement, but once I found out, it was a great way to end my senior year.”
MacEachern may have been the only person surprised at his selection.
Since passing up on juniors to return to Rice, he entered the season as one of the most talented players in the state, and his play this year only amplified that claim.
In 29 games, he notched 42 goals, totaled 90 points and ended the year a plus-50 while guiding Rice to its first state title since 2005.
“He’s such a special player,” Rice coach Lou Schmidt Jr. said, adding that the announcement of Mr. Hockey came as little surprise. “He’s so talented offensively, but the secret about him is how good he is defensively, too. He’s a great penalty killer, a great all-around player.”
Following a 23-6-1 record last year and runner-up finish in the D-2 playoffs, Schmidt said he really didn’t know what to expect this season.
He had graduated the majority of his roster, and in some ways, expected MacEachern to pursue a career at the junior level.
Instead, MacEachern returned to Rice, and along with life-long friend Thomas Ebbing, who was named All-State this year, and defenseman Chris Wilberding, also a Dream Team recipient, led Rice to a 25-4-1 record that included a 4-1 victory against Grosse Pointe South in the state final.
For good measure, MacEachern scored four goals in the semifinal and added one more against South.
“My teammates and the way the coaches pushed me all year,” MacEachern said when asked why he had the season he did. “I know I put up good numbers, but it wasn’t just me out there. I’m thankful for all the guys that helped make this possible.”
Schmidt, who has coached a handful of NHL players during his time, said MacEachern is right in the mix with the talent and potential of those types of players.
“He’s in my top five,” Schmidt said. “No doubt about it.”
MacEachern, a Troy resident, will find out in the coming months where he will play at the junior level next year.
The following winter, he’s verbally committed to play at Michigan State University.
“Right now, my focus is on juniors,” he said. “After that, I’ve got a great opportunity to play at State, and if I can take my career to the professional level at some point, it would be a dream come true.”