In April, MAHA sent a team of seniors and a team of juniors to compete in the 2017 CCM NIT and represent the best that Michigan high school hockey has to offer.
Both teams were fielded from a talent pool of 248 players from across the state, undergoing an extensive tryout process. From that, 20 seniors and 20 juniors were selected, representing 21 different high schools from all three divisions.
The Senior Team — which featured seven players from last year’s group — went 2-0-1 in pool play and earned a spot in the championship game that Sunday for the fourth time in six years.
“Players bought into the program from day one of training camp,” said Senior Team head coach Ryan Ossenmacher (Salem, head coach). “They all seemed to understand this was a unique and important opportunity to represent both the state of Michigan and the entirety of Michigan high school hockey.”
Additionally, the Junior Team had its strongest showing ever, going 1-1-1 in pool play and making it to the final four as well. If the Juniors had managed just one more point in pool play, the NIT would have featured an all-Michigan championship game. However, a 3-3 tie on that Saturday to the Minnesota Junior Team would prevent that from happening.
“It was an honor and a privilege to coach for Team Michigan,” said Junior Team assistant coach Joe Ford (Capitol Area Patriots, head coach). “From a team standpoint, our [Junior] Team competed very well, nearly making the championship game. On an individual level, our players showcased their skill and talent on a very big stage. I was very proud of our results and proud of how our team played against the best in the nation.”
The CCM NIT continues to be the most scouted event around, mainly because the event lies shortly before various junior league drafts. There were scouts from the NHL, USHL, NAHL and many Division-I NCAA schools. Both teams’ success in the tournament in front of such scouts is important not just for the players at the showcase, but for all the players back home as well. A strong showing at the tournament by our teams, players and coaches helps validate all of high school hockey and gives our league credence nationwide.
“Team Michigan allows for Michigan high school hockey players to compete on a national stage against some of the best players in the country,” said Senior Team assistant coach Jeff Fleming (Brother Rice, assistant coach). “It says a lot about the players and programs we have in Michigan and is a great opportunity to showcase their talent.”
As the game of hockey continues to grow and evolve, so too does high school hockey. Affording its players the opportunity to compete on a national stage like the CCM NIT draws tremendous attention to high school hockey players statewide.
“This is just another example showing there is more than one path to advancement in hockey,” said Ossenmacher. “High school hockey continues to improve and prove itself as a place to develop and move onto the next level.”