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February 5, 2014

Norsemen laying a foundation under new head coach

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

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Grosse Pointe North junior forward Nick Cusmano sets himself for a shot attempt during North’s game against Wyandotte earlier this year.

There are plenty of new faces around the Grosse Pointe North hockey program this season.

A new coaching staff, led by Brad Case, and a new group of players are trying to replace the void left by the 13 seniors and former head coach Scott Lock, who departed last year.

The Norsemen have experienced some expected struggles this season while going 2-15 so far, but Case said that has not stopped the team from working to improve on the ice.

“Everyone’s getting used to the new systems, and we’re getting our feet wet as coaches. There have been a lot of growing pains. The kids keep playing hard, and I think we’re getting better, so that’s our primary objective,” Case said.

Case played for North from 1999-2000 under Lock. He earned all-state honors as a defenseman for the Norsemen during his playing career. Although he hadn’t previously considered coaching, Case said he was very excited about the opportunity to come back to North.

“I hadn’t really thought about coaching, but when I heard the opportunity come up, I jumped on it. If it was any other coaching job, I wouldn’t have taken it, but to be at my alma mater, it was an exciting opportunity and wanted to give it a shot,” Case said.

Case explained that his coaching style is slightly different from Lock’s, and that has added another adjustment that his players have had to get accustomed to.

“I don’t think they knew what to expect coming in. I think I have quite a bit different personality than the former coach. We both push hard work and accountability, but I think I might be a little more laid back,” Case said. “I’m just trying to maximize potential and motivate in a little different way.”

On the ice, North is being led by a group of six seniors. As of Jan. 30, Vince Romanelli was leading the Norsemen in points with 14. Teammate Nick Murray had 12, and junior Nick Cusmano had 10.

Romanelli is a co-captain, along with defenseman Ed Nepi, and Romanelli said that this season has been a mutual learning process for the players and coaches.

“I think we’ve grown a lot as a team. We’re learning things from him, he’s learning things from us, and we’re both just learning things off each other,” Romanelli said. “We’re trying to give our experience as players to him because it’s his first year, but it’s been good, though.”

In addition to Romanelli’s leadership by example, Case said that his relationship with the more vocal Nepi has been especially important.

“We kind of lean on him to get a good feeling for what the team thinks, so it’s a pretty good relationship,” Case said. “I just got to know all of these guys in my first day on the job, but he’s definitely been a guy who comes to us and lets us know what we could do better.”

As the hockey season approaches playoff time, Case hopes that his team can lay a solid foundation for continued growth.

“We want to preach personal accountability, team hockey and hard work. We want them to lead by example, and be mature young men on and off the ice,” Case said. “We hope to finish strong and try to make a playoff run. We want to play to our potential.”

North had a weekend contest against UD Jesuit. The result for that game was available at press time, but the Norsemen will be participating the MIHL Showcase in Trenton with a game against Utica Eisenhower on Feb. 7 and against Mona Shores on Feb. 8.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Thomas Franz at tfranz@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040.