St. Clair Shores Unified hockey players celebrate a goal during a game earlier this season against L’Anse Creuse Unified. The Lakers are in line for a Macomb Area Conference White Division title a season after finishing 4-20.

St. Clair Shores Unified hockey players celebrate a goal during a game earlier this season against L’Anse Creuse Unified. The Lakers are in line for a Macomb Area Conference White Division title a season after finishing 4-20.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Shores Unified hockey having bounce-back season

By: Jason Carmel Davis | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 1, 2019

 Junior forward/defenseman Robbie Shock skates with the puck. The Lakers’ next game is against South Lyon Unified at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 10 in Chelsea.

Junior forward/defenseman Robbie Shock skates with the puck. The Lakers’ next game is against South Lyon Unified at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 10 in Chelsea.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ST. CLAIR SHORES — A season after finishing 4-20 and in the basement of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, the St. Clair Shores Unified hockey team has one of the best offensive attacks in the state and is in the midst of a big bounce-back season.

The Lakers (13-6 overall and 5-0 in the MAC White at press time) have outscored opponents 101-40. That includes a 36-3 advantage in division games.

“A couple weeks ago, it was brought to my attention that we’re a top-five scoring team in the state, and I was shocked to see we were that high,” Unified coach Nick Radjewski said. “We have a balanced attack and a lot of speed, so when we are going the right way, we create a lot of turnovers through pressure, and eventually, when you keep sustaining that, you will break teams down and get chances in droves.

“We’ve been able to generate enough chances that pucks start going in in bunches.”

The Lakers get going right away. The team has outscored opponents 42-7 in the first period. So far this season, Unified has tallied 248 points while allowing just 85.

“We always try to start fast, and since we have so much speed, I think maybe we catch people unprepared for it right off the start,” Radjewski said. “And along with a fast team, we have excellent goaltending, so when we get out front, opposing teams start pressing harder for chances of their own, which oftentimes creates even more opportunities for us.”

The Lakers have 10 players who have notched at least 10 points this season. That group is led by senior forward/defenseman Andrew Leja, who has 21 goals and 21 assists. Senior forward Jack Suede has posted 19 goals and 16 assists, while Ricky Schoenrock has tallied 14 goals and 16 assists.

“At times this year, they’ve played on lines together as a trio or apart in different combos, and it hasn’t affected their rate of scoring at all,” Radjewski said.

In goal, seniors Mathieu Sauve and Cam Denbaas have been solid. Sauve and Denbaas are 6-3 and 5-3 overall, respectively, and both have a .924 save percentage. In total, Unified has allowed 2.26 goals per game.

“Our goaltending is stellar, and it’s a huge asset to have because you never feel like you’re out of the game,” Radjewski said.

The coach added that the team is confident in whoever is back in net.

“Anyone who’s watched hockey knows that a hot goalie can steal a game, and with our speed and balance, we can be a dangerous team for anyone to play,” Radjewski said.

A pleasant surprise has been the play of senior defenseman Tomas Konecny — a foreign-exchange student from the Czech Republic. Prior to the start of the season, Konecny’s host family contacted Radjewski about a possible tryout. Konecny fit in right away, Radjewski said, and has helped the team on the ice.

“Once we saw him on the ice, we knew he would help, and he’s exceeded our expectations,” Radjewski said of Konecny, who has tallied three goals and three assists in 14 games. “He’s strong, smart and extremely hardworking.

“He’s also a super funny kid and fits in perfectly with the boys. Our kids are a pretty close-knit group away from the rink, and I would venture that (Konecny) is never not with one of the boys when we aren’t at the rink. They go to dinner, to parties, school dances and anywhere else teenage kids go together, and Tomas is right in the middle of all of it.”

Leja said he believes the team’s strong play this season will be the start of a new, prosperous era for St. Clair Shores Unified hockey. He said prospective future players have already begun showing interest in the program.

“It’s awesome to see the program finally having some success after struggling for so many years,” Leja said. “I’m glad I was able to be a part of the turnaround season.”

The division title is the first for the program since 2010. Radjewski said winning the MAC White was a goal set at the outset of the season.

Radjewski called this one of the most enjoyable seasons of his 17-year coaching career. He spoke glowingly of his players and their hard work, dedication and camaraderie.

“As you do this for a while, you learn that teams like the one we have now are few and far between when it comes to the intangibles on and off the ice all coming together, so let’s live in the moment and enjoy it all while we have it,” Radjewski said. “And in the meantime, nail down all our small details as much as possible so that come the playoffs, maybe we can make everything last just a couple weeks longer. I believe that’s going happen. The kids are confident, focused and want the same things that we want for them as coaches.”

The Lakers’ next game is against South Lyon Unified at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 10 in Chelsea.