Weidenbach, players, not ready to assume Division 3 hockey title

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 19, 2013

 Cranbrook’s Jeff Martin is pictured during a win earlier this season. The Cranes are the favorites to win a D-3 state title.

Cranbrook’s Jeff Martin is pictured during a win earlier this season. The Cranes are the favorites to win a D-3 state title.

Photo by Donna Agusti

TRENTON — The skill set is impossible to miss, built of equal parts speed, power and finesse.

They possess the puck with ease and they swarm.

And the goaltending, well, it’s rock solid, too.

So there’s little doubt why the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood hockey team is considered one of, if not the best in the state — Division 1, 2 and 3.

Of course, the Cranes’ 18-2-1 record at press time doesn’t hurt, either.

“I feel like we’ve overachieved, to be honest,” coach Andy Weidenbach said with a shrug. “But we’ve played a lot of games, especially at the start of the season, that could’ve gone either way, so we were fortunate to win most of those and get off to a good start.”

The Cranes started the year with 10 wins in 11 games, but it’s how they finish that will matter the most.

Fairly or unfairly, Cranbrook is assumed to be a state title contender every March.

Seven championships since 2000 adds creditability to such an assertion.

But, with 2012’s regional-round loss to Marysville High — a Macomb Area Conference White Division team — still fresh on the minds of some, there’s hardly been a year where the Cranes are approaching the second season with a greater focus.

“You have to take every game as if it’s your last,” senior forward Alex Alger said during the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Prep Showcase two weeks ago. “You can’t take anyone lightly, come playoff time. We saw firsthand last year how quickly it all can end.”

“We know the expectations that are out there, but we have to take things one game at a time,” senior Jeremy Loewenstein said simply. “You hope for the finals, but you have to come to play every night.”

It’s an approach Weidenbach preaches from the first day of training camp and throughout the regular season.

Even with just a week or so remaining until the postseason, he still was somewhat anxious looking ahead, instead talking about what’s got his guys to this point with the success they’ve enjoyed.

“We returned 10 forwards, so we knew the firepower would be there,” said Weidenbach, whose team has scored 104 goals, or nearly five per game. “But we came into the season with three new goalies, unsure how they would handle things. We also had some new guys on defense. So there were some question marks.”

But the answers have been resounding.

The Cranes’ 11-0-1 record in the MIHL’s North Division — the most difficult in the state — was good for first place.

The defense and goaltending has been stellar, allowing just 40 goals-against all season, further revving expectations for the quickly approaching playoff tournament.

“Providing we stay healthy, and providing we get some good bounces, we know we have a team that we hope is good enough to get to the final four,” Weidenbach said. “But there are no guarantees. Anything can happen when you start.”

The Cranes begin the D-3 tournament at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at home.

The regional semifinal is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 27 against Auburn Hills Avondale, with the final scheduled for March 2 against St. Clair High, Macomb Lutheran North or Marysville.

The game time had not yet been determined.

“We’re looking forward to get it going,” Alger said. “This is the time of year you really play for, to have a chance at that ultimate prize.”