St. Clair Shores Unified players celebrate a goal in a Nov. 20 game against L’Anse Creuse Unified. At press time, the Lakers had outscored opponents 30-8.

St. Clair Shores Unified players celebrate a goal in a Nov. 20 game against L’Anse Creuse Unified. At press time, the Lakers had outscored opponents 30-8.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


New Shores Unified hockey coach talks rebuilding program

By: Jason Carmel Davis | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 30, 2018

 Coach Nick Radjewski, left, talks with one of his assistants. The Lakers’ next game is against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek at 8:15 p.m. Dec. 7 on the road.

Coach Nick Radjewski, left, talks with one of his assistants. The Lakers’ next game is against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek at 8:15 p.m. Dec. 7 on the road.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores Unified hockey coach Nick Radjewski understands that his new role is much more expansive than his former post as one of the team’s assistants.

“Being the head guy is different with all the off-ice stuff you’re responsible for: scheduling, budgets, etc.,” said Radjewski, who served as an assistant with the Lakers under former coach Keith Knight.

“On ice, I feel the biggest difference is that we kind of chose to embrace who we are in the sense that myself and the assistant coaches are generally more positive and relationship driven, as opposed to just strategy or Xs and Os. We believe that creating an environment where the kids want to be there and work hard together is the biggest thing. Then the rest of it will become easier, and so far it seems that approach has been right.”

At press time, the Lakers were 2-2 but had outscored opponents 30-8. The two losses have come by one and two goals, respectively.

That’s an improvement for the team, which started 0-11 last season on its way to a 4-23 finish.

“Early on, the team has looked much improved,” Radjewski said. “We work hard. The kids have bought into what we are trying to accomplish, and now it’s just a matter of being more consistent about the small details within the game so that you’re winning the close ones instead of just playing in them.”

In order for Unified to sustain its solid play over the course of the season, the coach said his players must commit to improving on a daily basis.

“Work a little harder, refine what you do a little more and don’t be afraid of adversity,” Radjewski said. “There’s so much stuff that happens within a game or even life that’s out of your control, so if you just focus on being consistent with the little things, all that big stuff takes care of itself.”

The team is off to a strong offensive start, but Radjewski said he expects defense to be the team’s strength, and admitted that the Lakers may have trouble scoring at times. Of the 19 players on the roster, 13 are natural defensemen, Radjewski said.

“So we have had to put guys in positions they aren’t as experienced in, and as a result, some of the nuances you get playing over time as a forward, we are still learning,” said Radjewski, who is in his 17th year as a coach.

Radjewski, who has goals of winning Macomb Area Conference White Division and regional titles, credited the turnaround to a group of senior leaders. That includes captains Andrew Leja and Jack Suede, who are also the team’s leading scorers. Senior forwards Brendan Genzman and Rick Schoenrock, along with senior goalkeepers Matt Sauve and Cam Denbaas, also provide strong leadership skills, Radjewski said.

The coach mentioned building blocks for the future. The team has five first-year players who are freshmen or sophomores who are excelling.

Radjewski expects big things for the program this season.

“I believe we’ve made a giant first step in rebuilding high school hockey in St. Clair Shores to where it deserves to be. We have a much-improved working relationship with the hockey association, there’s a really positive vibe around the team at the rink, and we will hopefully have success on the ice too,” Radjewski said.

Along with working hard, the coach said his team loves the game.

“We almost can’t give them enough in the sense that they’re hungry for success and things to make them better,” he said. “I think we will set a great foundation for years to come, while at the same time, have as much success on the ice as the program has had in over 10 years.”

The Lakers’ next game is against Rochester Hills Stoney Creek at 8:15 p.m. Dec. 7 on the road.