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Grosse Pointe Woods

Norsemen take aim at return to Compuware, ‘despite’ success so far

February 13, 2013

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North senior Jack Stander was one of five defensemen who returned to the lineup this winter.

Hitting the reset button has been a way of life for the Grosse Pointe North boys hockey squad the past handful of years.

It’s been the unofficial requirement for postseason success, following regular seasons featuring less-than-flashy records, thanks, in large part, to the grueling schedule brought about by the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League.

A year ago, North was 10-14-0 entering the Division 1 tournament, but hit its stride and rolled all the way to the championship game — an eventual 4-3 loss to Brighton High.

In 2008, the Norsemen finished the regular season 12-11-2, and then reached the semifinals.

The season before, they were 10-14-1, eventually ending two wins shy of a state title.

So is a 13-8-0 record at press time cause for concern for coach Scott Lock, given the mission his guys have professed all season?

“It’s certainly not been our trademark to have this good a record this late in the season,” Lock said with a laugh. “But we measure ourselves the same way every year. You’re judged by what you do in the playoffs, and we feel we’re getting to the point where we’ll be ready for that challenge.”

When last season ended, North had to replace a good amount of its players up front, but with five defensemen slated to return, few expected a serious drop off.

Injuries slowed the team a bit when the season began, but with health came success — and plenty of it.

From early December to mid-January, the Norsemen were, literally, unbeatable, riding an eight-game winning streak back into the conversation of teams to take notice of in Division 1.

The defense has been solid, the goaltending dependable and the offense has done just enough.

“It’s cliché, but that’s the formula you want, come playoff time,” Lock said. To his point, the Norsemen were 12-1-1 in games where they’ve allowed three goals or fewer. “That’s the chemistry championship teams have.”

In one of the toughest tests of the season so far, North faced an 18-0-1 Mona Shores squad Feb. 7 at the MIHL Prep Showcase.

Twice in the game, the Norsemen battled back from deficits, eventually tying things at 3-3 with 16.9 seconds remaining in regulation, and then grabbing a win moments later in a shootout.

“And we’re calling it a win, why not?” Lock said with a smile about the rule to avoid overtime. “This was great hockey, two good teams with good players battling back and forth. You want to be part of games like this at this time of year, and we were glad to play as well as we did. … It may not have been our best effort, but it was right up there.”

“It took some time, but this team has gotten better as the season’s gone on,” said senior defenseman David Chavis, who scored twice in the win against Mona Shores and picked up an assist the next day when North defeated Livonia Stevenson 4-1. “Guys get the system and have accepted the roles needed to make us the team we are.”

Playoff success in the past has come, thanks to the ability to reset, to enter late February and early March with the mindset that nothing done to this point has mattered.

More often than not, that’s required the ability to look past a record with more losses than wins.

So can the same be done this winter, where the opposite holds true?

“It has to,” Chavis boasted. “You have to have that thought process that it’s one night at a time. We’ve done it before, so we know what it takes.”

The Norsemen open the 2013 tourney at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 against a Berkley-Ferndale Unified squad that was 17-5-0 at press time.

The winner will likely face the University of Detroit Jesuit in the regional semifinal.

“We’ll have the same approach we always do, but I like the position we’re in now with more wins under our belt,” Lock explained. “But, like last year when we were (10-14), the conversation is the same. You’re 0-0 going in, and no matter how great your regular season was, you can be 0-1 in the playoffs and that’s it. We’re trying to play our best hockey at the most important time of the year, and if we do that, things will take care of themselves.”

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