Utica High welcomes new hockey coach, philosophy

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 19, 2011

 Utica High senior Ben Weyland skates ahead of Macomb L’Anse Creuse North’s Richard Kobylski Jan. 15 at Mount Clemens Ice Arena during the Chieftains’ 3-2 win.

Utica High senior Ben Weyland skates ahead of Macomb L’Anse Creuse North’s Richard Kobylski Jan. 15 at Mount Clemens Ice Arena during the Chieftains’ 3-2 win.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Utica High hockey coach Craig Staskowski is a man with a plan.

As he hopes to return the Chieftains to the heights they enjoyed in 2005-06, when they posted a 24-0 regular season record, Staskowski, who took over the program at the start of the 2010-11 season, knows it won’t come without hard work.

“One of the big things is having set standards and getting your kids to come out and trust you, and you build from there,” Staskowski said.

Utica was 3-7 overall and 1-3-0-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division at press time, but wins and losses aren’t Staskowski’s top priority.

“We’re a very disciplined hockey team,” Staskowski said. “We haven’t had any fights or (disqualifications), and that was something I thought was more important than winning or losing.”

Staskowski came to lead the Chieftains after being the assistant coach for the last two seasons at Grosse Pointe North, where he was part of a state semifinalist team.

“They had some success in the past, and I’m from Sterling Heights, so I know the area a little bit,” Staskowski said of what he knew about Utica hockey prior to getting the job.

“I also know there are some pretty good hockey players in the area, and it’s just a matter of getting them to come out to play high school hockey.”

Tapping into the hockey talent at Utica, those players who choose to play travel or club hockey rather than prep, is another part of Staskowski’s plan for success.

“You’ve got to get the kids out to games or practices, so they can realize what it’s like,” Staskowski said. “A lot of them say you only play 24 games instead of the 50 or so they get in club.

“But it’s more than that. There’s playing for your school, with your friends and everything else. The kids that eventually make the switch to high school hockey always love it.”

Senior captains Andre Gates and Brock Rowe have been instrumental in Staskowski’s efforts to instill his philosophies with the Chieftains.

“As a coach, you always want your captains to be an extension of the coaching staff,” Staskowski said. “And that’s them. They’ve been great captains.”

The Chieftains’ other captain, junior Jonathon Taormina, has helped spearhead Staskowski’s efforts to build his program through the continued improvement of its underclassmen.

“He’s one of those kids that’s always asking questions and doing the right things,” Staskowski said. “He’s a kid that’s always looking to get better.”

Utica has 11 seniors on its 2010-11 roster, and Staskowski hopes they can lead by example and help the underclassmen continue to buy into the program.

“With 11 seniors that have played multiple seasons under different coaches, it can be tough,” Staskowski said. “But I’m hoping that the underclassmen realize next year will be our first full offseason together, and they’ll put in the work to get us where we need to be.”