A year after record-setting season, DCD hockey hasn’t skipped a beat

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 23, 2013

 Country Day coach Frank Novack guided his squad to a program-record 20 wins last year. The Yellowjackets were 10-1-1 at press time this winter.

Country Day coach Frank Novack guided his squad to a program-record 20 wins last year. The Yellowjackets were 10-1-1 at press time this winter.

Photo by Andrew Potter

SOUTHFIELD — The end was rough. Ugly, to be exact.

Breaks that needed to materialize didn’t happen.

And just like that, the 2011-12 hockey season came to a close in a 9-2 regional semifinal loss to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett.

“I still believe (Liggett) was the best team in all of high school hockey last year,” Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day coach Frank Novack said last week with a laugh. “That game wasn’t indicative of how good we were or the type of season we had. I really don’t know if anybody could have beaten Liggett.”

In the end, nobody did.

The Knights steamrolled to a Division 3 title, while Country Day was left looking to the future.

Some 10 months later, the future is as bright as ever.

“That loss really opened our eyes,” senior Zach Bensinger said before a Jan. 7 practice in Southfield. “It was a sort of wake-up call for what we had to do to take the next step.”

The guys wasted little time.

“When last year’s game ended, I guess I hoped it would stay with and motivate them, and it did,” Novack said. “The seniors took charge in the offseason and got this team going right away. When we started up in November, they hit the ground running.”

“We organized a lot of workouts, a lot of conditioning to get ready,” senior Sebastian Stankiewicz said. “This was probably the most intense offseason any of us have had.”

Which is why players and coach alike show little surprise in the results so far, as the Yellowjackets were 10-1-1 at press time. The lone loss was a 4-3 overtime setback to an 11-1-1 Utica Eisenhower team in 11th game of the season.

Talent and experience dominate the roster.

Thirteen players return from a squad that went 20-5-0 last year and set a program record for wins in a season.

“We don’t have a superstar, so to speak, but guys have really stepped up and done their job,” Novack said. “I really can’t say any of us are surprised. But we’ve gotten solid goaltending, good defense and timely scoring.”

Through their 12 games, Country Day had allowed a total of 14 goals.

“We’re working and playing as a team. That’s why I don’t think any of us are shocked by what’s gone on,” Stankiewicz said. “We saw how good we could be last year, and then we put the time in to get ready for this year. It’s, more or less, what we expected so far.”

So far, so good.

As an independent team with no conference title to focus on, Novack said he and his guys are already looking forward to the state playoffs, doing everything they can for what is sure to be a tough regional round.

The Yellowjackets have Farmington High — new to D-3 this season — and Royal Oak Shrine on their side of the regional bracket. Liggett looms as the favorite on the other side.

The team to emerge from the regional will likely face Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood — the top-ranked team in D-3 — in the quarterfinals.

“We measure our season by how we finish at the end of the year,” Novack said. “Getting out of that regional would be something special, and having the chance to face a team like Cranbrook would be a great challenge. But the way we’re playing now, and the way these guys believe in themselves, we like to think we could beat just about anyone.”