Rochester United forward Michael Zyrek cuts to the inside during a recent win over Rochester Hills Stoney Creek. At press time, Zyrek was second on the team in scoring with 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists).

Rochester United forward Michael Zyrek cuts to the inside during a recent win over Rochester Hills Stoney Creek. At press time, Zyrek was second on the team in scoring with 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists).

Photo by Donna Agusti


Rochester United enjoying successful season

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published February 6, 2019

 Rochester United senior forward Nikesh Solanki attempts to settle the puck Feb. 2 in a win over Rochester Hills Stoney Creek. At press time, coach Bryan Kowalski’s team was 16-3-0 overall.

Rochester United senior forward Nikesh Solanki attempts to settle the puck Feb. 2 in a win over Rochester Hills Stoney Creek. At press time, coach Bryan Kowalski’s team was 16-3-0 overall.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Through 19 games in this year’s high school hockey season, coach Bryan Kowalski had his team humming along. At press time, Rochester United was 16-3-0 overall and ranked No. 5 in the state in Division 1.

Kowalski pointed to a lot of different reasons as to why his team — a combination of Rochester High and Rochester Adams students — is having the year that it is, with the most prominent being its depth.

 “The amount of depth we have on our team is what I think really separates us from some of the other teams not only in the state, but even in our league (the Oakland Activities Association),” he said. “Because of the fact that we are an older team, it makes that much of a difference.”

United has 21 kids on its roster, and Kowalski said he is comfortable running all four lines consistently on any given night. That depth comes up big late in games when other teams start to wear down. 

Having depth is one thing, but having camaraderie up and down the roster does nothing but make the team even stronger.

United has had weekend getaways, traveling up to the Upper Peninsula to play Houghton High and Hancock High back in December. At the beginning of January, United held a parents weekend where it traveled to Traverse City to play Grand Rapids Christian and Portage Central. 

Experiences like those help the team bond more than it already has over the years.

“A lot of these guys have been playing hockey together in the area for a long time,” Kowalski said. “Now they have a chance to play on the same team instead of playing against each other, so that makes it a lot more fun.” 

United is led by what Kowalski calls his “senior line,” consisting of three forwards and two defensemen. 

The forwards start with Marcello Munaco, who has been a great energy guy and has helped a great deal with the team mentality, according to the coach.

Rounding out the trio, responsible for 42 goals through 19 games, are Michael Zyrek and leading scorer Austin Streng.

“Those three guys, three seniors, have really pushed us over the hump this year,” Kowalski said. “They have played a lot of minutes for us.”

Leading the charge on the blue line for United are Kyle Crutchfield and Niko Mantzios. The two senior defensemen have accounted for 35 points between them. 

Captaining United this year is defenseman Carter White. The senior was voted captain by the players.

“He’s a lead-by-example kind of player,” Kowalski said of White. “Not a super vocal kid, but logs a ton of minutes for us and works hard.”

Kowalski complimented his team for how it has handled all the success that has come its way this season. He knows United will get every team’s best shot on any given night. His players have prepared and handled the challenge well thus far.

“We do the homework, we do the scouting reports, we watch the film, and we treat every game like it’s the last one, and that mentality has helped us,” he said.

With six games left in the regular season, United still has a lot in front of it. It currently sits atop the OAA standings at 8-0. Winning the league is certainly a goal that the coach has in mind, and he believes his team has what it takes to make it to the OAA title game.

Beyond that, Kowalski just wants his team to improve and take things one game at a time. The ultimate goal is for United to be playing its best hockey when it takes the ice for the first game of the postseason.

“Right now in practice, we’re really honing in on our systems play and our team play with defensive and offensive zone,” Kowalski said on what needs to happen for United to finish the season out as strong as it started. “Special teams is so big down the stretch — that’s really how you can capitalize and take over games. We’re really focusing on the systems that we want to continue to run.”