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 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Doug Wood tries to score against Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day in a D-3 quarterfinal game. The Knights ended the year at 16-13 overall.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Doug Wood tries to score against Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day in a D-3 quarterfinal game. The Knights ended the year at 16-13 overall.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Liggett hockey coach talks about season that was

By: Zachary Manning | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 23, 2020

 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Alec Leonard tries to escape a Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day defender in a D-3 quarterfinal game. The Knights fell 7-2.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Alec Leonard tries to escape a Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day defender in a D-3 quarterfinal game. The Knights fell 7-2.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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When a team finds momentum and gets hot at the right time, the postseason can be a magical experience.

The Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett hockey team won seven of its last 10 games to end the regular season and carried that strong play into the playoffs.

It was a welcomed sign for a team that struggled out of the gate, sitting with a 6-9 overall record at about the midway point of the season.

With a pair of highly-ranked teams in Grosse Pointe South and University of Detroit Jesuit waiting for them in regionals, the Knights would have to prove they turned the corner .

After a 9-1 win in the opening round, Jesuit awaited. The Knights battled to a 5-3 victory, leaving South as the last opponent between them and a regional title.

There’s a familiarity between the two squads. Outside of being from the same city, they had played once before, with the Blue Devils edging out a 3-2 victory.

But Liggett was just playing its best hockey this time around. The Knights defeated South 4-3 and claimed their second regional title in three years.

“I’m extremely proud of them. They worked extremely hard. They proved a lot of doubters wrong,” Liggett coach Mike Maltese said. “Nobody even gave us a chance. In high school hockey, it’s pretty much anyone’s game, in all honesty. As long as you have a hot goalie and have a couple good forwards and a team-first mentality, you can definitely go far in high school hockey.”

The second half surge continued into the quarterfinals, where they would see Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day. The Yellowjackets had won back-to-back state titles in D-3 and were eying a third.

Some teams prove to be a buzzsaw and Country Day was just too much to handle for the Knights, as they fell 7-2. They finished the year with a 16-13 overall mark.

Despite the loss, there was much to be excited about. Maltese sees things changing around Liggett and has the program trending upward.

“It was unforgettable that’s for sure,” Maltese said of the playoff run. “That’s why you play high school hockey. You play for the fan base. Instead of just playing in front of your parents, you play in front of a few hundred people. Our last game was sold out at Cranbrook — the quarterfinal game.”

Maltese and the Knights will have a chance to carry that momentum into next season. Despite losing some seniors, Liggett returns some key pieces.

Players like Doug Wood, Alec Leonard and Grant Lindsay will play pivotal roles in the success of next year’s group. Wood earned second-team All-State honors, while Maltese praised Leonard and Lindsay for their development as players.

Another year of experience could pay dividends for a team looking to win its first state title since 2012.

“There’s already a lot of coaches reaching out to get games with us for next year. You can see that the level of interest is high,” Maltese said. “You can’t beat the facilities at Liggett either. You got your own rink on campus, you got your own workout facilities, you got a great athletics program there. It is a great environment for kids, and hopefully the word is getting out that we don’t have that bad of a hockey team as well.”

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