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MIHL Prep Showcase set to launch Feb. 4

By: Mike Moore | C&G Newspapers | Published January 22, 2016

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METRO DETROIT — An event that began as a 12-team get-together has grown from one year to the next and is now one of the most anticipated high school hockey events on the calendar, short of the state playoffs.

And on Feb. 4, for the 16th year in a row, the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Prep Showcase will drop the puck at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Trenton.

“This is something we look forward to every year,” said MIHL President and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood coach Andy Weidenbach. “It’s some of the best hockey you’re going to see under one roof during the course of the season. We bring in some of the best teams, teams you’ll likely see again come the final weekend of the state playoffs.”

In total, 42 teams from Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio will take part in the three-day showcase, beginning at 5:20 p.m. Feb. 4 and concluding with the final game starting at 7:10 p.m. Feb. 6. Each team will play two games.

And the caliber of teams and individuals is what sets the event apart from others like it.

According to an MIHL press release, the top six ranked teams in Division 1, the top eight ranked teams in D-2, and seven of the top 10 ranked teams in D-3 will all be at this year’s event.

Rochester United coach Craig Staskowski started taking his team to Trenton three years ago. He’s heading back for a fourth time in 2016. 

“The level of competition is great,” he said. “I think it’s the highest level of competition around.”

Rochester is 3-3 all time at the event and will face Forest Hills Central and Cranbrook this year. 

“From the team standpoint, we always want to play against the best teams, and that’s something you get to do here,” Staskowski added. “And as far as the individual kids, there’s no other event that’s scouted as heavily as this is. This gives the kids great exposure at a chance to continue their career beyond high school.”

According to Weidenbach, more than 88 scouts attended the 2015 showcase. Every USHL and NAHL team was represented at the event, along with a number of college scouts from each division. Six NHL teams were also present at the 2015 event.

In a prepared statement, Miami University coach Enrico Blasi said that the MIHL Showcase is a can’t-miss event.

“The MIHL Prep Hockey Showcase allows us to see the best teams and players in the state compete in a highly competitive environment,” he said. “The MIHL and the city of Trenton do a tremendous job putting it together. From a scouting perspective, it is very well-organized, allowing scouts to do their jobs efficiently.  It is a great venue and a must-attend event annually.”

Of the 42 schools playing this year, Berkley United and Midland Dow are rookies to the showcase.

“This is one of those events that’s been around for a long time and has such a great history,” Berkley coach Jeff Fleming said. “We feel it’s a great opportunity to play some other very good teams we wouldn’t normally see. There’s also the chance to get more exposure for our kids and our program. We’re excited.”

The MIHL requires teams to apply for admission to the showcase.

This was Berkley’s first time doing so. 

“I think in terms of our program, we felt we had a group as a whole that could come in and really compete,” Fleming added. “This is our 17th year as a program, and we’ve come a long way to put ourselves in this spot.”

Berkley is set to face Toledo St. John’s for the first time and Grand Rapids Christian for just the second time.

“You always try to schedule teams you won’t see on a normal schedule,” Weidenbach said. “We have teams from up north playing teams from down here. We really like the scheduling format. It’s exciting to see something different.”

Tickets can be purchased at the door for a single day or at a discounted rate for a three-day pass.

Active-duty military personnel and their families receive free admission.

Attendance at the 2014 event was estimated at more than 10,000 fans.

Weidenbach did not have the total for last year’s showcase, but said that based on the number of passes sold, attendance was up.

For a full schedule of the 2016 MIHL Prep Showcase, visit www.MIHL.org and click on the Showcase link.

Local teams scheduled to compete in Trenton are Cranbrook, Birmingham Brother Rice, Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Rochester United, Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day, Grosse Pointe North, Grosse Pointe South, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, Warren De La Salle, Berkley and the University of Detroit Jesuit.

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