Playoffs get underway NEXT WEEK! I’ve got a whole bunch of good stuff coming your way centered around the “second season” and I know there’s still a handful of regular-season games left but I can’t wait any longer. After sizing up all three playoff brackets, I’ve keyed in on 10 potential upsets that could happen in the first couple days of the tournament.
Now, what qualifies as an upset? How about two teams separated by 10 spots or more in the rankings. A victory by the underdogs would totally overturn the applecart and shift the playoff picture drastically. I’ve got them 10 through 1 below from least likely to most likely, in my opinion. Feel free to share your upset picks with me on Twitter.
If I’m the Trojans, this Region has never been scarier. There’s no doubt that coach Chad Clements’ team is the most talented group of the bunch, but Trenton has just lacked that “next level” at times this season that would normally separate themselves from the pack. Brenden Cobb is 2-2-0 against Top-30 teams this season and has stopped 122-of-129 shots faced in those games. Now, he hasn’t seen an offense like Trenton yet but he’s shown an ability to keep his team in close games. All it takes is a blocked shot or blown edge in the neutral zone in favor of Skyline, and Jamie Newton or Isaac Lippert could pounce on an opportunity.
I just shake my head at this Region. Five of the top 10 teams in D-II crammed into one bracket. It’s just wrong.
I’d feel more confident in the possibility of an upset if the Wildcats were playing a bit better at the moment. They’ve lost five of their last eight games and it’s been tough sledding, but things change in a win-or-go-home situation. Backs against the wall, Plymouth’s top line will compete with Stevenson and if coach Gerry Vento can get good mileage out of his depth guys, this could be a close game going into the third period. Ian Smith, Brendan Allen and Gavin Roach in a tight game late with a chance at an upset? It’ll make ya sweat a little bit.
It’s been a tough season for the Bulldogs. While they finished 2019 with a 2-8-0 record, Hancock is 7-3-0 in its last 10 games and have been trending in the right direction as of recently. Sophomore year has been a learning experience to say the least for goalies Isaak Pietila and Brandon Pietila, and they haven’t fared well against Houghton giving up 16 goals in two games. But, even an average outing against the Gremlins could be enough to give Hancock a chance in this one. Austin Salani, Mason Mikesch, Colton Salani and Petr Anderson can score in bunches and all it takes is a few quality scoring opportunities and power plays, and the Bulldogs could outscore Houghton in a 6-4 type of game.
The Eagles have beaten West Ottawa twice already this season, so maybe this wouldn’t be considered quite the upset! Defeating them a third time in just 42 days will be a tall task and the Panthers know what to expect in this matchup, so H-Town won’t sneak up on anybody here. Senior Derek Scholten has turned away 70-of-74 shots in the two previous games, and the team’s leading scorer Ryan Blackburn, posted six assists. A stout goaltender and effective playmaker add up to a huge potential upset on Tuesday.
I really like Midland as a sleeper pick in the playoffs, but if they don’t take care of business in Round 1, they’ll be going to bed early anyway. These two teams actually meet tonight in Bay City for a regular-season tilt, which can tell you a lot or tell you nothing depending on how coaches handle the game. There’s been a couple times this season when Bay City has played some opponents really tough, even though they were outmatched. They score a lot of goals too, which should raise a few red flags for the favorites and Zac Lewandowski is too good to contain at times. Chemics will have to play a really clean game to avoid an upset here.
I don’t think either team is playing their best hockey right now, which just leaves this game wide open. The Jags dropped five straight games at the end of January and Churchill hasn’t gotten by much better with a 2-4-1 record since January 30th. Coach Jason Reynolds will come in with a good game plan, the challenge will be if the Chargers can execute it. Allen Park has given up 34 of its 59 goals against in the third period alone, so I could see Churchill keeping things tight through the first two periods, with a shot at some late-game excitement from Dominic Krupinski and Ian Wood.
The two teams combine for 10 total wins on the season, so this wouldn’t be a monumental upset. It would be a huge turnaround for the Marauders though, after Wyandotte handled them 6-0 back in December. What will be different the second time around? Well, if Carlson can stay out the box and avoid penalties, it could provide a huge boost. The Bears cashed in on two power plays the first time around and the man advantage can provide a huge swing of momentum. If Dominic McNamara and Nic Kirksey can play a clean game, maybe the offense can cash in on a few opportunities of their own.
Byron Center is a lot of flash-and-dash with some fancy playmakers. How do you combat that? With grit and toughness, and Jenison has plenty of that. They’re just a hard-working bunch and guys like Nick Rathsack, Noah Sheldon and Brendan Austhof, among others, have been rewarded for their effort with really solid offensive production. The Wildcats don’t really get blown out either, so I’m confident coach Jack Williams’ squad will compete and keep it close. Byron Center is on the rise and I think they’re a confident bunch, but they better not get caught looking ahead.
It wouldn’t be a huge upset, but an upset nonetheless. These two went to overtime in their last meeting back in late January, and the rematch should be just as tight. The Eagles have some really good offensive threats with six skaters averaging a point per game, and Trent Stoner leading the way with 15 goals and 32 points. The Capitals are an extremely well-coached and disciplined bunch though, and have rendered some serious offensive threats ineffective this season. They’ll have a real solid game plan in effect in this one which should lead to a couple great opportunities for Daniel Bendele and Ethan Bond to convert.
I like Lumen and they’ve had a stellar season, but I think they’re just a tad overrated checking in among the Top 30 in the state. East hasn’t exactly been having its best year, but the gap between these two isn’t nearly what the rankings might suggest. Ryley Sikkenga is a fantastic goal scorer, and Nathan Milanowski, Ted Campbell and Robbie Stuursma add some viable secondary options as well. Senior Tate Potteiger has been way better in the second half of the season, and he’s faced some tough opponents during his three-year career. I like EGR to survive in a close one and end the Titans’ season early.
Be on the lookout! Playoff hockey starts Monday and I’m sure it won’t take long before an unassuming underdog pulls off an upset that stuns the MI-HS Hockey world. Maybe I’ll see you right back here for Round 2 stunners?
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