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New league affiliation could help Liggett hockey prepare for postseason play

By: Mark Vest | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 12, 2016

 Liggett’s Alexander Minanov controls the puck alongside Anchor Bay’s Cameron Milavec

Liggett’s Alexander Minanov controls the puck alongside Anchor Bay’s Cameron Milavec

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — After having previously competed independent of a league affiliation, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s hockey program is in the midst of its first season in the Metro League.

Aside from the opportunity it provides to compete for league championships, head coach Mike Hamilton discussed other ways in which the move could benefit the Knights’ program.

“We felt the timing was right for us to make that move,” he said. “Now we think we’re set up for a long stretch here of having a successful program. The last few years we’ve been independent and created our own schedule. We made the move, and we’re really, really happy with the quality that we’ve added, joining the Metro League. It puts us against Wyandotte twice. It puts us against Grosse Pointe South twice — Divine Child, Country Day. To get those games on our schedule really beefs it up. It’s making our guys learn how to play playoff hockey every night of the week.”

The move to the Metro League has also met with the approval of senior Brett Abdelnour.

“It’s a lot more fun because the games mean more,” he said. “You’re playing for two points every game instead of just playing for nothing. Since we joined the Metro League, we play Grosse Pointe South more times, which is more fun. We play better quality teams, so it’s better for when it comes to playoff time.”

How Liggett fares in postseason play may be the best way to measure the effectiveness of the program’s move to the Metro. In the past two seasons, Liggett, which won a state championship as recently as 2012, has advanced to a regional final, losing in both instances.

While Hamilton pointed out that Liggett has been very successful the last two years from a wins and losses standpoint, one of his goals is to make it past regionals. 

“There’s always something to be learned when you lose games,” Hamilton said. “However, even those games we felt we went in prepared. For us, it was one of those things that keeps forcing us back to the drawing table, and how do we make our team and program better. 

“That was one of the main reasons when we made the decision to join the league, is how do we make our program better, and it’s by playing better teams and drawing better hockey players. Lot of those things keep pushing us in that direction of improvement.”

Hamilton cited being strong in net as the strength of his team. Alexander Grimm is Liggett’s goalkeeper, and Hamilton described his play as “the key to our success.” 

Nicholas Gawel, Alexander Minanov and Abdelnour are the captains.

“They’ve been the leaders of our team on and off the ice,” Hamilton said of his captains. “They’ve set great examples for our young guys. They’ve been our three best players, not only on the ice, but more importantly, they’ve taught the guys how to prepare themselves. Great players, both on and off the ice.”

Although Hamilton said Liggett is fairly young and going through growing pains, he expressed enthusiasm about the direction of the program.

“Overall, this is the first year that I’ve been with the program that we’ve had a full squad of 20,” Hamilton said. “We’re excited to have numbers. We looked at our current ninth-graders that are playing travel hockey and our incoming eighth-graders. We’ve got some really nice numbers coming in. The long-term, Liggett hockey’s really looking strong, and we’re excited for the direction.”

Liggett is scheduled to play at 7:45 p.m. Jan. 16 against Grosse Pointe North at the Grosse Pointe Community Ice Arena.

At press time, Liggett was 8-5-1.