L’Anse Creuse Unified goalie Josh Lumarque reaches to stop a shot during a game earlier this season against St. Clair Shores Unified.

L’Anse Creuse Unified goalie Josh Lumarque reaches to stop a shot during a game earlier this season against St. Clair Shores Unified.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Offense pacing L’Anse Creuse Unified hockey

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published February 1, 2019

 L’Anse Creuse Unified’s Matt Vandelinder skates with the puck during a game earlier this season against St. Clair Shores Unified. L’Anse Creuse’s next game is against Bloomfield Hills High at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 in Chelsea.

L’Anse Creuse Unified’s Matt Vandelinder skates with the puck during a game earlier this season against St. Clair Shores Unified. L’Anse Creuse’s next game is against Bloomfield Hills High at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 in Chelsea.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB COUNTY — In its first four games, the L’Anse Creuse Unified hockey team went 1-3 and was outscored 14-6, but the squad turned things around quickly and has gone on a run.

Following the slow start, Unified has gone 13-1 and sits atop the Macomb Area Conference Red Division with a 5-1 mark. On that run, Unified has outscored opponents 66-36.

“We experimented with different line combinations, and that has really helped,” coach Jon Nader said. “It’s all about the chemistry. A good defensive-minded game has led us to a strong, fast forecheck, which has helped us put the puck into the back of the net.”

Unified has outscored opponents by a wide margin over the last two months, but the squad has also been in some nail-biters and has performed well.

Since Dec. 1, Unified is 7-1 in one-score games. Nader said his players thrive under pressure.

“It takes a lot of heart and determination to win these one-goal games,” Nader said. “We’ve played some really good teams, and it’ll only make us stronger for the playoffs.

“We have had five or six comeback wins in the third period, being down as many as three goals, and we fight back to make it a game. Every player on this team has a job, and we ask that they do their job to the best of their ability. These guys have drive and determination. And it’s a privilege to be able to call myself their coach.”

A trio of senior forwards has led the offensive attack. Jack Rastigue, Vinnie Cipriano and Jeremy Hayes all had recorded at least 20 points through Jan. 30. Rastigue leads the way with 14 goals and 11 assists. Cipriano thus far has notched 13 goals and nine assists, while Hayes has tallied 11 goals and 11 assists.

Five other players have recorded at least 10 points.

Nader said Rastigue, Cipriano and Hayes all see the game really well and jump on any scoring chance.

“The whole team has the same mentality: Do what’s best for the team,” Nader said. “Josh Konczak and Devin Conrad have also added to controlling the play on the back end and being playmakers. Reid Walleman, Mason Abatte and Jonathan Vespa have added to the success on offense. Thomas Monte and Tommy Nanos have been a physical presence on the blue line.”

Senior goalkeeper Josh Lumarque has been strong in net. Lumarque is 9-3 overall and has a .917 save percentage.

Rastigue said dedication is the reason for the squad’s success. It could also be seen as the reason behind the team’s fast starts.

Unified has outscored opponents 24-10 in the first period this season. The team is even with opponents in the second period, but has a 28-17 advantage in the third period.

“The team loves to come out strong,” Rastigue said. “If we don’t, we always seem to pick it up in the third period.”

The team is in line to win the MAC Red in its first year in the division after winning the MAC White last year. At press time, Unified had two division games remaining, while second-place Utica Eisenhower had three MAC Red games left.

“Winning the MAC Red would be a great accomplishment, especially with it being our first year in the division,” Rastigue said. “It shows anyone can beat anyone.”

Rastigue and Nader hope that attitude continues into the postseason.

Unified opens the regional with a matchup against Macomb Dakota at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 25, hosted by Suburban Ice of Macomb. Unified has beaten the Cougars twice this season.

The rest of the bracket includes Eisenhower, Rochester Adams, Port Huron High and Utica-Ford United. The regional final is set for 7 p.m. March 2.

“We need to continue to grow as a team and be able to play complete games,” Nader said. “Our goals are to compete for the league championship and a regional championship. It won’t be easy.”

“To me, making a deep playoff run would mean everything,” Rastigue said. “The team wants to win that regional championship so bad, and we can do it if we keep playing the way we have been.”

L’Anse Creuse’s next game is against Bloomfield Hills High at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 in Chelsea.

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