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 Utica United’s David Soule carries the puck up the ice in a Division 1 regional first-round game against Macomb Dakota Feb. 27 at the Mount Clemens Ice Arena. United fell 9-0 to the Cougars, ending its season at 10-15-1 overall.

Utica United’s David Soule carries the puck up the ice in a Division 1 regional first-round game against Macomb Dakota Feb. 27 at the Mount Clemens Ice Arena. United fell 9-0 to the Cougars, ending its season at 10-15-1 overall.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Utica United hockey continuing to grow

By: Jacob Herbert | Shelby - Utica News | Published March 2, 2020

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UTICA — The season may be over, but the program is still working.

A 9-0 loss to Macomb Dakota in a Division 1 regional first-round game Feb. 27 at the Mount Clemens Ice Arena officially closed the book on the 2019-20 campaign for the Utica United hockey team.

The teams played just two periods before the game was called due to the Michigan High School Athletic Association mercy rule, which states that after two periods of play or anytime during the third period, the game will be terminated when a team leads by eight goals.

“At 9-0, we felt that if they gave us another period, we probably would have come back and beat them,” coach Bob Clouston said with a laugh after the game.

Though the games are done for the time being, the growth of the team in just two years of being a United team is well documented.

In its first season, United, which pairs players together from both Utica High and Utica Ford II, went 6-20 overall. The overall record this season improved to 10-15-1.

Perhaps the biggest changes surrounding the team occurred off the ice. The team had a full bench this year and moved home rinks from Suburban Ice Macomb to Fraser Hockeyland, which allotted for a better practice time and an extra day on the ice.

The team also has some of its game-day routines handled for it as players enter the locker room to find uniforms washed and hanging in their respective lockers.

“We treat them like they’re NHL players,” Clouston said. “It’s as if they’re playing for the Red Wings.”

Clouston admired his team’s work ethic this season and attributed that to the upbringing of his players and the community built around Utica United hockey. No matter the score, no one hangs their heads and no one throws in the towel.

“They worked as hard as they could in every practice, every game,” the coach said. “It was fun to come to the rink every day.”

From a player perspective, Kyle Manzella, Brendan Kaczmarek and Bailey Paynter led the charge. Manzella scored 24 goals, according to his coach, and Kaczmarek kept United in a plethora of games this season in his goalie spot.

Heading into next season, Clouston has a strong junior class he is excited to work with.

“Guys like (Turner) Tomatti, (Ethan) Gehrke and Jimmy Hamm. Guys like that are remarkable to go forward with,” he said. “Mike Priebe is a sophomore defenseman who logged a lot of minutes for us this year, and we expect even more from him next year.”

Clouston also expects an estimated 10-12 new players to enter the program next season to go along with an exciting junior class.

The future of United hockey is bright, but the program would not be where it is today without the foundation laid down by seniors like Manzella.

“I just had a speech about him in our dressing room, but Kyle Manzella is our hardest worker, not just on the ice, but in the classroom,” Clouston said. “He’s got a 4.12 GPA. When you have a kid like that, with the foundation that he lays, you hope other players want to follow that, and they are.”

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