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A Couple of Coin-Flip Picks

By Craig Petersoon, 01/16/20, 7:45AM EST


Matchups Between Teams Tight In The Standings Make For Difficult Decisions

Lots of fantastic matchups this week! So many games between opponents within 10-to-15 spots of each other in the state rankings, with a bunch of ‘em even being with five spots. That gives us some difficult games that could legitimately go either way, and the weekly picks seem to be getting tougher as the season rolls on.

Last week, I went 2-2 in a couple of CLOSE games, all of which were either tied heading into the third period or finished as a one-goal game. 


Teams have a pretty good resume by this point in the season. We’ve got a feel for what players to watch for and who is capable of big performances, but I’m confident there will be plenty of surprises and upsets down the stretch. The picks are getting more challenging too and I’m seeking out the tough ones between two teams close in the standings. It’s a long week of games with great action every night, let’s get after it.


Chelsea vs. Davison

Friday, January 17th at 6:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: A real solid out-of-conference matchup for both of these programs. It’s been a standing meeting for Chelsea and Davison as far back as The Hub history goes, and the two teams are so evenly matched, the series is TIED over the last seven games with a 3-3-1 record.

The last two meetings have been decided by four-or-more goals, but I think the 2020 matchup will be significantly closer. Dylan McMullen and Jeffrey Schmidt draw a lot of attention with 21 points apiece, but how about senior Dominic Wendel. In seven starts, he’s put together a solid .943 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average against some pretty good opponents. Wendel has made 35 saves in four of those starts and could be the difference maker in this one.

Chelsea will throw everything and the kitchen sink at Wendel though, with six different skaters averaging at least a point per game and 13 different goal scorers this season. Gabe Vowles and Tyler Valik lead the way, with great secondary scoring from Corbin Steele and Devin McIntyre. Chiefs may outshoot and outplay Davison in this one, but with a solid showing between the pipes, I like the Cardinals in this one. Low-scoring for two periods but an empty-netter or two inflates the final score.




#48 Davison


#50 Chelsea



Plymouth vs. Northville

Saturday, January 18th at 8:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: It’s a battle of Top 35 teams and it won’t even be either team’s toughest matchup of the week. Plymouth heads to No. 16 Brighton on Tuesday while Northville challenges No. 5 Hartland on Thursday. The tough tests could either wear them out or show them the level of play they need to compete at, and the scales will tip in favor of whoever responds better.

Senior Nick McInchak leads all Mustangs with 12 points in 14 games but has just one assist in the last four games. Their last win came on Dec. 7th, against Rockford but Saturday’s matchup will be a great opportunity for both McInchak and Northville to get back on the right track. 

Plymouth comes in having won three of its last four. Ian Smith is elite but its been Brendan Allen heating up lately with 17 of his 33 points in the last five games. In that stretch, he's posted two five-point performances and a four-point outing for good measure. The Wildcats are developing some solid pieces around their top guy and have the makings for a strong punch in this one. 

The Mustangs will have a real good chance at getting their fourth win of the season, I just think Plymouth's top is a shade better than Northville's in this one.


#35 Northville


#29 Plymouth



Bay Reps vs. Traverse City Central

Saturday, January 18th at 6:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: I was pounding the drum last week on how the Reps are far better than their No. 44 ranking in the state, and what’d they do?? Shut out No. 18 Macomb Dakota at the North-South Showcase. My man Judd Lawson has given up ONE goal in the last 12 periods of hockey and the Reps have won five in a row. They’re hot, they’re rolling and they’re eyeing another upset in the Battle of the Bay.

Problem is, I think Central is the best all-around team in Traverse City and they are loaded this season with some fantastic playmakers. Grant Neuhardt has been awesome between the pipes too, and gave No. 3 Stevenson fits last weekend despite taking the 4-1 loss. 

Both goalies show out in this one with big performances, and the first one to blink loses. I’m runnin’ with the Reps!


#15 Traverse City Central


#44 Bay Reps



Forest Hills Central vs. Forest Hills N-E

Saturday, January 18th at 5:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: War of the Woods II. One of the best rivalries on the west side, and I know I made a pick for their first meeting back on Dec. 28th, but this is too good to gloss over. 

I think FHC lost the previous meeting more than FHNE won, and what I mean is, the Rangers out-possessed, out-played and over-matched the Bird Dogs but hockey’s a funny game where the better team doesn’t always win. Rangers had plenty of zone time during the winter break matchup but never really ATTACKED the net, settling for lots of perimeter shots. FHNE sat back, bided its time and when an opportunity presented itself, they pounced on it and capitalized on odd-man rushes, ultimately winning the game.

Rangers heavy hitters Mason Kelly and Ryan Jeffreys were held off the score sheet while Nate Nickelson and Cameron Cain came through in big spots for FHNE. 

As much as I love FHC this year, it’s time to give the Bird Dogs the credit they deserve. I can’t put my finger on what’s made them so efficient this season but they play hard, they’re never out of the game and they haven’t given up more than three goals in a game since Opening Weekend. If FHC is gonna win, they’ll need four-or-more to get the job done and I just don’t see a path to that happening. I’m finally buying into FHNE. I don’t know HOW they get the win, but they get it done again on Saturday.


#45 Forest Hills N-E


#27 Forest Hills Central



Macomb Dakota vs. Lake Orion

Friday, January 17th at 7:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: There’s a lot to love about both of these teams and I’ve been pretty vocal about players on both sides this season. Dakota had its six-game win streak snapped and got humbled a bit at the North-South Showcase last weekend, while LO has won 10-of-11 dating back to Thanksgiving. 

Brendan Finn is awesome for the Dragons and one of my top forwards in the class of 2021, but it’s been the resurgence of Kade Manzo over the last few weeks that’s grabbed my attention. He returned as the team’s leading scorer from a season ago and had high expectations following his sophomore year. He started out ‘19-20 pretty good but has exploded in the last four games with three goals and 11 points, giving LO two legitimate playmakers. 

This will be Lake Orion’s toughest test of the season with Dakota checking in at No. 18 on MyHockeyRankings. The Cougars have allowed an average of two goals per game; stingy defense, right? Not so fast! They’ve allowed four-or-more goals in three of the last five games. I think it’ll be a shootout. High-scoring. Lots of firepower. Lead changes galore. Last goal wins type of game.


#26 Lake Orion


#18 Macomb Dakota



Calumet vs. Brother Rice

Saturday, January 18th at 7:00 p.m.

BREAKDOWN: They’re human!! Brighton finally bested the Copper Kings 3-2 two weeks ago and No. 35 Northville stymied them again last weekend, before narrowly escaping 2-1 in overtime. I don’t want to get too carried away in their last two contests; I think Brighton is turning the corner a bit in the second half and Calumet outshot Northville 56-16, apparently running into a bit of a hot goalie. I still believe they’re one of the top teams in the state and my early favorite to win D-III, but what once appeared to be an unstoppable force has been humbled a bit.

Rice will come ready for two big tilts in the U.P., first against Houghton and then this matchup Saturday night to round out the trip. The Warriors’ top line of Ryan Murphy, Nick Marone and D.J. Dixon is electric, but I might actually give Calumet the nod when it comes to depth as they’ll put Scott Loukus, Dean Loukus and Tanner Rowe on different lines. That diversity makes the Copper Kings tough to defend and I’ve got a deep sleeper that nobody talks about. Senior Alex Mattila gets overshadowed by Calumet’s Big Three but he could be a HUGE factor moving forward. With five goals and 10 points, Mattila has some explosive moments and was electric against U-D Jesuit. His performance can tip the scales in either direction.


#2 Brother Rice


#6 Calumet


I’m lovin’ the picks, people! Talking teams, impact players, key matchups… Let’s keep the conversation going on Twitter.