Talented pair of seniors helping Eagles fly high on the ice

By: Timothy Pontzer | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 19, 2018

 Utica Eisenhower senior co-captains Matt Haist (foreground) and Nick Cventanovski await a face-off Feb. 17 against Macomb Dakota. The duo has helped Ike earn a 16-4-2 overall record, at press time, and a second straight MAC Red title.

Utica Eisenhower senior co-captains Matt Haist (foreground) and Nick Cventanovski await a face-off Feb. 17 against Macomb Dakota. The duo has helped Ike earn a 16-4-2 overall record, at press time, and a second straight MAC Red title.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Senior defenseman Nick Cvetanovski smiles during pregame warmups Feb. 17. Cvetanovski is in his fourth year on varsity.

Senior defenseman Nick Cvetanovski smiles during pregame warmups Feb. 17. Cvetanovski is in his fourth year on varsity.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — When the spotlight is brightest, Bob Hall knows who to trust.

The Utica Eisenhower hockey coach called this current roster one of the most talented teams the program has ever seen. However, when a crucial moment presents itself, Hall taps senior co-captains Matt Haist and Nick Cvetanovski to head over the boards.

At press time, Ike was 16-4-2 overall and had finished off a perfect 6-0 mark in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division.

“We rely on them; they’re our horses,” Hall said after a Feb. 16 practice at Suburban Ice Macomb. “They show up to play every single day. That’s not to say we don’t have other players that contribute widely, but our senior captains are a big part of our success.”

Hall’s words rang true the following day as Ike secured the top spot in the MAC Red with a 3-2 overtime victory against Macomb Dakota. The win secured back-to-back league titles for the Eagles, fueled by a goal from Cventanovski and a pair of assists from Haist, including a helper on the game-winner.

The tally gave Cvetanovski, the club’s top defenseman, his third goal of the season. The blue-liner has also pitched in eight assists during the campaign.

“(Cvetanovski) brings a needed physical presence because he’s such a strong kid,” Hall said. “He has a cannon, probably the hardest shot around, and honestly I wish he’d shoot more. He puts the program first all the time and is a true gentleman on and off the ice. He’s a great leader for us.”

Ike’s top defenseman said he takes pride in his leadership role.

“I just try to keep our guys accountable and on track, making sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” explained Cvetanovski, who is a four-year varsity player. “Our defense has great chemistry and is hardworking. We get the pucks deep and try to keep things simple to get the job done.”

While Cvetanovski is tasked with moving the puck out of the zone and securing breakouts, Haist is trusted to light the lamp. Playing left wing, he has answered the call with a team-leading 57 points.

“(Haist) is just a natural goal-scorer. Sometimes we look at each other on the bench in amazement with what he can do with the puck,” Hall said. “Teams try to contain him, but he still finds ways to put the puck in the net and set up his teammates. He just has a knack for the net, and that’s a hard thing to teach in this game, but it’s natural for him.”

In his second varsity season, Haist has registered 39 goals and 18 assists. His nine power-play goals also lead the team.

“Our guys are great on the breakout, and we have guys like (Cvetanovski) with big shots from the point, so I try to put those in,” Haist explained. “We work well out there as a team and really mesh well. Our chemistry comes from playing a lot of games together, and we know where we’re supposed to be out there.”

Haist said he also relishes wearing the “C” on his jersey. Along with Cvetanovski and assistant captains Reyse Valicevic and Chris Burkhardt, Haist believes they have created a strong leadership trust.

“We just try to get the guys ready and make sure everything falls into place,” Haist said. “Our team play is strong, and we work together to win games. I think we all lead well together, and we just want to win games. If we can make it all the way, that’s the goal.”

Cvetanovski agreed, believing the Eagles can make a postseason push.

“I think we can get far in the playoffs,” Cvetanovski said. “We’re a hardworking team that does really well with all the little things. We know what we need to do.”

The club will next see action against Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Southfield Sports Arena before returning home to take on Novi High at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 24.

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