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North hockey team begins fresh campaign

By: Mark Vest | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 23, 2015

 Grosse Pointe North’s Andrew Tomasi, pictured during a game against Birmingham Brother Rice, is a senior co-captain along with Brendan Nelson.

Grosse Pointe North’s Andrew Tomasi, pictured during a game against Birmingham Brother Rice, is a senior co-captain along with Brendan Nelson.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The high school hockey season is underway, and Grosse Pointe North will be amongst the teams vying to make the 2015-16 campaign a successful one. 

Last season, North lost to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in a regional playoff game.

North made it as far as a state final as recently as 2012, and won back-to-back state championships in 2001 and 2002.

Coach Mike Maltese, who is in his second season at the helm, would like to be a part of helping the program reach those kinds of heights again.

“Getting more kids involved in the community,” he said. “Trying to hold some summer camps. Just to get out, learn the game and try to promote the school, and bring it back to where it was. It was such a prestigious program.”

Before the Norsemen will have an opportunity to make an impact in the postseason, they’ll have to try to make their way through the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League, which Maltese referred to as ultra competitive.

“It is the best league in Michigan,” he said of the MIHL, where last season North went 1-10-0-0 in league play and 7-16-1-1 overall. “I think seven of the nine teams in the league are ranked in the top 10 in the state of Michigan right now. It’s a pretty good league.”

Despite the challenges that North’s schedule presents, it could also serve as a positive when the time comes to suit up for the postseason.

“All three state champions came from that league last year,” Maltese said. “It prepares you for the end of the season when you’re in playoff format. Probably 17 of our 25 games are against ranked opponents in the state. … Playing those games will help prepare you for the end result in the state tournament.”

Senior co-captains Brendan Nelson and Andrew Tomasi, whom Maltese said are “doing the right things on and off the ice” will be key factors.

Tomasi was asked about his goals for the team.

“Continue the good ending we had to our season last year from the three or four wins out of our last five games,” he said. “We’re trying to keep moving forward and buy into the system that our coach is trying to implement with us.”

Like his coach, Nelson would like to be a part of the kind of success that North’s program has previously enjoyed.

“We have a great coach — great coaching staff,” he said. “I think we have a good team this year. Everyone just needs to buy into a system, and we’ll take it from there.”

Maltese was asked to describe the state of North’s program.

“I think it’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “I think we have more interest in the program. Trying to get the word out there that we’re here to try to turn the program back to its excellence.”

Maltese said he thinks the team is going to have a good year and surprise some people. He discussed the excitement level for the season.

“It’s a different vibe,” he said. “It seems like they’re more focused on the fundamentals and the different aspects that go into winning and being successful on an everyday basis; concentrating more on practices and drills and focusing on different skill sets.”

North (0-2) is scheduled to play at 6:20 p.m. Dec. 4 against Detroit U-D Jesuit at Fraser Hockeyland.