On Wednesday, a team of juniors and a team of seniors representing MI-HS hockey departed from the Arctic Coliseum in Chelsea, Mich., bound for the CCM NIT.
The Senior Team, coached by Salem High School's Ryan Ossenmacher, features 20 players from 14 different teams around the state of Michigan. From Calumet (Rory Anderson, F) in the Upper Peninsula, to Mona Shores (Isaiah Bathrick, D) on the west side and Trenton (Kyle Lucas, D) downriver.
The Seniors boast a variety of talented forwards (Jed Pietila, Frank Ruffino, Matt Schaumburger and Blake Heier)as well as big-bodied defensemen (Garrett Johnson and Connor McGinnis) anchored by two stellar goaltenders (Brett Miller and Logan Neaton).
Highlighted by four players (Brett Lanski, Brendan Smith, Blake Tosto and Connor Witherspoon) who scored 30 goals during the 2016-17 season, expectations are high for the Seniors.
Physical forwards like Jaron Pangborn, Blake Johnson and Zachary Sprys-Tellner should provide a spark up front. Additionally, Regular-season teammates at Detroit Catholic Central, Spencer Kimball and Austin Roell provide experience and cohesion to the defensive corps.
The Juniors, or HP-18s, are a young but talented bunch coached by Livonia Stevenson's Dave Mitchell. Up front, the forwards are fast and talented. Griffen Sanom, Brandon West, Jacob Behnke and Matthew Kahra provide a spark to the forwards, with speed that can be beneficial on an Olympic sheet of ice.
Eleven of the forwards averaged a point per game during the HS hockey season, so names like Josh Albring, Tyler Haydu and Adam Conquest highlight a balanced offensive attack.
Expect the defense to contribute as well, as guys like David Breazeale, Jake Beaune and Sam Brennan pose an offensive threat from the blue line.
Goalies Fletcher Bolda and Will Tragge posted two of the highest save percentages by juniors this season, and they will have plenty of help from a stingy defense group highlighted by Justin Song, Dominick DiPonio and Jordan Kovacs.
That coupled with gritty U.P. forwards Joe Phillips and Dawson McKay as well as Dylan Montie, Case Kantgias and Julian Decina from the metro-Detroit area, the HP-18s group will be expected to play a full, 200-foot game.
Both teams get underway Thursday evening, the Seniors get things started against Massachusetts at 7:45 p.m. EST, while the HP-18s follow shortly after at 10 p.m. EST against the Wisconsin Seniors.