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Winners For #WestsideWeek

By Craig Peterson, 12/19/19, 8:30AM EST


Who Will Take The W In These Big-Time Matchups?

With 112 of the 137 teams in action during last Saturday’s Michigan High School Hockey Day, I had to go big with predictions giving you picks for all 11 games from the Alphabet Showcase. Two of the top conferences in Michigan battled it out in the third annual event, with the KLAA and MIHL playing to a 5-5 tie when all matchups had concluded from Eddie Edgar Ice Arena. 

I gave you seven, count em, seven correct winners from the showcase and one that was spot on perfect with Canton’s 4-3 win over Port Huron Northern. Now, props to Franklin, Churchill, Cranbrook and Brother Rice for flipping the script. Both Livonia schools there with considerable performances to make their presence felt along with CK and Rice answering the challenge in tough matchups. 


After our biggest weekend of games, I’m shifting focus to a particular region of the state. I’m loading up the wagons, saddling up and heading west…

...My general feeling so far this season is that there are a lot of West-Michigan teams trending upward with plenty of young, budding talent in the area. The perennial powers like Grandville, GRCC, FHNE and FHC continue to be in the mix while Rockford, Byron Center and West Ottawa continue their upward swings.

It’s getting awfully crowded on the west side and there’s tons of great matchups, so let’s dive in.


Forest Hills N-E vs. Byron Center

Friday, December 20th at 8:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: In picking my Dream Team of the Week, I mentioned the possibility of this game being a high-scoring affair. I think that holds true on Friday night with a final score to the tune of 5-4 or 6-3 because you’ve got two offenses here that can run and gun. FHNE has scored north of four goals in five of its last six outings and BC isn’t much different, scoring four-or-more in each of its three wins this season.

Worth noting: The top four scorers in this matchup are underclassmen with the Bulldogs’ Trevor Davis and Luke Nickolaus going up against FHNE’s Tyler Nickelson and Jack Zubkus. Byron Center’s future looks so bright, you’ve got to watch their games with sunglasses on. The Husky-Hawks may run the table to the State Tournament for a fifth consecutive year in 2020 and maybe even 2021, if we want to really project out with their youth. 

I love what BC is building and there are some really promising prospects making significant contributions in their lineup already. A pair of freshmen in Brady Breit and Logan Nickolaus show flashes of playing grown man hockey despite being just 14- and 15-years-old. However, with that youth comes inconsistency at times, and the Dawgs’ offense has gone cold on occasion this season. 

FHNE on the other hand has a bit more consistency playing in their favor and a long track record of success. They started out slow, with back-to-back losses on opening weekend but appear to be firing on all cylinders now with eight players averaging nearly a point per game. I can’t get Nickelson’s performance out of my head from last weekend’s Lowell-Caledonia game, as he just dominated the rink. Give me BC to put up a Hell of a fight and score some goals, but FHNE outlasts and outscores them in the final period.


Forest Hills N-E


Byron Center



Grandville vs. Rockford

Saturday, December 21st at 2:30 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: Rockford is still a bit of an unknown to me. They’ve played just three games through the first month of the season; not a typo. There’s a handful of programs around the state that take similar approaches to the start of their schedules and it totally fascinates me. On one hand, it affords you an ample amount of practice time to teach and implement your systems and iron out all the kinks before results really start to matter. Inversely, the absence of games makes adjustment to the level of speed a bit tougher too, when your opponents are eight or 10 games into their schedules. 

This weekend’s games may be the two toughest opponents on the Rams’ schedule with GRCC on Friday and then this matchup with the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. It will definitely be a challenge to get up for these two games, being that Rockford hasn’t played a game in 13 days. Dayton Perroud has been great, though, and Ryker Christian’s two-goal performance against Northville is noteworthy as well.

Caden Fisher has started all six of Grandville’s games and the three-year senior has been stellar between the pipes with a 1.83 goals against and .944 save percentage this season. Riding a five-game win streak, Fisher has gotten plenty of run support from Jonathan Dubbink, Andrew Uturo, Brendan Bourne, Josiah Lambers and Gavin Rozema who have combined to net 17-of-23 goals for the Bulldogs.

Fisher could see a lot of work on Saturday. Rockford has thrown 86 shots on goal in their last two games against Northville and EGR, and I could see a similar flurry coming again. He’s seen his fair share of storms though, and I get the sense that this game will come down to quality of shots, not necessarily quantity and with Grandville’s assortment of skilled forwards, I’m confident they can attack scoring areas and capitalize on some great chances.

Expect a low-scoring one here, I’m leaning in favor of the Bulldogs.  







GRCC vs. East Grand Rapids

Saturday, December 21st at 5 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: On paper, East has a lot of great pieces in place. Three-year starter Tate Potteiger in net, solid playmakers up front in Ryley Sikkenga and Nathan Milanowski along with contributions from the back end in Robbie Stuursma. Nine games in though, it just hasn’t quite clicked with a 3-6-0 record thus far and giving up roughly 35 shots against per game. It’s a young group with just five seniors on the roster and getting buy-in to a commitment in the defensive zone can take time with younger players. I’m confident EGR rights the ship with a little bit more time but GRCC presents a tough test to close out 2019.

With the exception of a 5-0 blanking by Ohio’s St. Ignatius, the Cougars have been in a plethora of tight games this season and haven’t given opponents much opportunity at all. Jake Onstott has been on another planet through the first seven games of the season, as the NAHL Shreveport prospect has dominated play with seven goals and 13 points. Outside of Onny, Ryan Rollins and Nathan Rublein, I’m not quite sure what GRCC has for depth and maybe that is the Pioneers’ path to pull the upset in this one. 

Saturday night is the only scheduled meeting between these two teams but I can definitely see them colliding again at some point along the line in the D-III playoffs, with both sides having enough weapons to make a run at the end of the year.

I think it’s low-scoring, I think it’s tight, I think GRCC’s top end is just good enough to get the better of EGR in this one. Going with the Cougars in a nail-biter. 


East Grand Rapids





Can I make a bonus pick? I’ve got a bonus pick. Both teams would be considered Northern programs buuuuuut you could make the case that Traverse City Central is kind of a west-side team, right? C’mon, it’s too good of a matchup to pass up...


Traverse City Central vs. Alpena

Friday, December 20th at 6:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: That’s right! We’ve got Givens Bowl V!! Head coach Chris Givens of TCC squares off against assistant coach and son Cam Givens of Alpena. The family rivalry currently stands at 2-2-0 during this awesome series and I’m sure this swing-game showdown will make Christmas at the Givens house even sweeter next week!

Now, Central is off to a six-game unbeaten streak, its best start to the season since 2014-15 when they finished with a 19-8-1 record. The last few years have been tough sledding in TC, but with guys like Nick Sommerfield who’s got 13 points along with Ethan Vander Roest and Will Dawson at nine and eight points respectively, the tides are turning in Grand Traverse Bay. Sophomore Grant Neuhardt just made the 30th start of his young career also, and will only continue to settle in as “the guy” for the Trojans.

Alpena’s start hasn’t been as favorable at 1-4-0 out of the gate, but back-to-back ties against good opponents in Flint Powers and GRCC last weekend hint that the Wildcats are starting to click. I’ve got great respect for what head coach Chris Limback has built in Alpena and while he lost a lot from last year’s D-III State Quarterfinal squad, they’ve spent the first half of the season working to fill a lot of those voids. Big Jim Bolanowski has been one of those replacements, stepping out of Cooper Black’s 6-foot-6 shadow and into the goal crease. Bolanowski is no half pint either, as he comes in at all of 6-foot-3 and eats up a ton of space as well. He’s definitely good enough to give the Wildcats a fighting chance in this one and frustrate Central’s shooters. 

The rematch in late February could prove to be a much different story, because by then, Alpena will have identified a few more of its key roles in the lineup. As it stands right now though, I just think its too slanted in TCC’s favor. I've got dad teaching son another lesson at Howe Ice Arena.




Traverse City Central


Alright! How many Westside Week winners can we wrangle up in Week 5? Connect with me on Twitter, and let’s talk about some big games coming up.