Attention Readers
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, C & G Newspapers has temporarily suspended its print publications. We look forward to resuming our print operation in the coming weeks. In the meantime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter. We hope you stay healthy and safe.

Youth and potential fuel high expectations for Liggett hockey's future

By: Mike Moore | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 18, 2011

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The first drill focused on transition — the need for speed when shifting from a defensive situation into an offensive advantage.

Players received a pass near center ice, drove backwards until reaching the blue line, and then propelled themselves forward into the offensive zone in a flurry.

The next drill was all about breakouts.

A quick pass from the defensive zone, followed by another on the opposite end of the ice and capped off with a one-on-one breakaway.

Forward against goalie.

May the best man win.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett hockey coach Robb McIntyre understands the type of team he has this year. His guys may not “out-physical” anyone, but they’d be happy to play a game of catch me if you can.

His guys may not muck things up in the corners on a regular basis, but tic-tac-toe passing resulting in a highlight-reel goal is pretty common.

“We don’t have a ton of size and we’re not a bunch of bruisers, but we are a very fast and very skilled team,” McIntyre said before a Jan. 13 practice at McCann Arena. “We’re also very young.”

The third trait he mentioned is obvious by a quick glance down the roster. Of the 17 guys on the team, not one is a senior.

“It’s different, it really is,” sophomore forward Jacob Soyka said of not having any seniors on the team. “It’s kind of forced everyone else to step up.”

And for the most part, the Knights have.

At press time, they were a very respectable 8-4, and in those four losses — twice to Grosse Pointe South and once each to Grosse Pointe North and Rochester Hills Stoney Creek — the Knights were outscored by a total of just six goals.

“We’re playing better already than I thought we would be,” McIntyre said. “We’ve played some good teams and hung right in there. Even the games we lost, we had opportunities to win.”

“Our speed and overall skill level is pretty strong,” junior defenseman Jake Hodges said. “We’re not the biggest guys ever, but we find ways to get things done.”

While tempting, comparing this year’s team with last year’s wouldn’t be fair on a number of levels.

To start, the 2009-10 team was loaded with seniors, and secondly, its 23-1-1 record was aided heavily by a schedule that, as McIntyre put it, “wasn’t as strong as the one we’re playing now.”

That, of course, is by design.

When the 2010 playoffs got rolling, an unbeaten Liggett squad traveled to Bloomfield Hills to face Cranbrook in a Division 3 regional final and was ousted 6-2.

“That’s where the more difficult schedule during the regular season comes into play,” Hodges said. “I feel like if we were to play them again this year, we’ll be more prepared.”

“If we can win a few playoff games and play a team like Cranbrook, we’d have a shot,” McIntyre said. “Whether or not we’d have the horses to win, who knows?”

Yet, the main focus doesn’t lie on Cranbrook or a long playoff run for that matter.

“There’s no question we’re building for the future,” McIntyre explained. “We’re not going to lose anyone from this team, and we have some good players coming into the program next year. The future is a very bright one with this team.”

“It’ll be nice having some seniors next year, too,” Soyka joked.