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Hockey teams set to embark on quick playoff tournament

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published February 19, 2018


BROOMFIELD HILLS/BIRMINGHAM — With the regular season all but concluded, the playoff push for boys hockey teams officially begins Feb. 26.

The state finals are set for March 10, concluding a high-paced sprint to three eventual champions.

And for local teams, there’s no shortage of drama or compelling matchups.

In Division 2, for example, the defending state champs from Birmingham Brother Rice are sure to be tested right off the bat against Bloomfield Hills High with a 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 tilt at the Detroit Skating Club.

“We’re going to prepare the way we have all year and throw our best shot at them,” Bloomfield Hills coach Bruce McAlister said. “That’s a deep team, likely with four lines, where we’re two or three. But I can tell you our kids are looking forward to playing them.”

McAlister and his group have a chance to do what no team could last year: knock off the Warriors.

“But this team is so different,” second-year Rice coach Kenny Chaput said of his squad. “We turned this roster over so much, we’ve kind of been up and down all year. The main thing for us is finding some consistency in the way we play.”

Bloomfield Hills was 9-9-2 at press time, and McAlister knows his guys will enter the playoffs as significant underdogs.

He also likes the fact that his team will get the first crack at Rice.

“Absolutely,” McAlister said. “I think that first game is one of the hardest you’re going to play. These playoffs are so compressed, there’s not time to recover. I like giving them our best shot on day one. We’re looking forward to it.”

Rice was 10-10-1 with just one regular-season game remaining.

“We’re good enough to go on a run here, and the guys know that,” Chaput said. “We’ve played an insanely tough schedule. We’ve beaten top-ranked teams. We understand what we can do when we play consistently at the level we are capable of.”

Chaput stressed that his players understand the respect required for any opponent in a do-or-die tournament, “especially as a defending state champ,” he added. “The target is on our back, even if we’re a different team.”

“Hockey is a game of bounces, but I think it starts in net,” McAlister said when asked what it will take to pull an upset. “We have to be big in net and have a great game there. Then it’s about executing, playing to our game plan and doing what makes us best.”

The pre-regional winner faces Rochester Hills Stoney Creek at 6 p.m. March 1 in a regional semifinal. The regional final — against Utica High or Grosse Pointe South — is set for 5 p.m. March 3 at Oak Park Ice Arena.

In other regional action
There’s plenty of local flavor in the D-1 regional hosted by Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.

The Cranes (10-11-1) host Troy Unified (14-7-0) at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Wallace Ice Arena. The winner earns a semifinal meeting with Birmingham Unified (17-1-2) at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at Wallace.

“Since we moved to Division 1 last year, our perspective on the (state) tournament has changed,” Cranbrook coach Andy Weidenbach said. “Our games have been more competitive in the early rounds. All you need to do is look (at) who we could face. Troy has a very respectable record, and Birmingham has had an outstanding season. Hopefully, playing our competitive regular-season schedule has prepared us for the challenge ahead.”

The other side of the regional includes St. Clair Shores Unified and the University of Detroit Jesuit, with a final set for 7:15 p.m. March 3 at Wallace Ice Arena.

In D-3 action, Walled Lake Western (8-10-1) faces Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day (18-2-1) at 5 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Southfield Ice Arena. The winner faces Milford High or Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 in Southfield.

The regional final is set for 1 p.m. March 3 at Crystal Field House in Burton against Flint Powers Catholic or Freeland High.