PREMIUM: No. 36 Bay Reps (18-4-1)
The Reps have been on a roll since Christmas with a 11-1-0 record since December 28th. Junior goaltender Judd Lawson has been sound in net, with a .928 save percentage and 1.75 goals-against average. Goal scorers Kaleb Miller, Andrew Hardy and Benjamin Polomsky provide enough firepower in front of Lawson that the Reps could potentially be looking at a return trip to Plymouth for a second straight year.
POTENTIAL: No. 50 Traverse City West (15-9-1)
Mason West may be the best freshman in the state, and he could legitimately sneak TC West into the Regional Final. He’s good enough to keep the Titans in close games, but I’m a little leery of their offense, as it can run hot and cold. If the freshman goaltender can hang on long enough to give Michael Schermerhorn, Tyler Esman and Erich Springstead a chance to produce, TC West can pull off a surprise.
POSSIBLE: No. 41 Reeths-Puffer (14-7-2)
Two things make the Rockets a threat here. A first-round bye puts them one victory away from the Regional Final. Then, they’ve got a plethora of scoring options in the lineup to the tune of five guys with double-digit goals. RP struggles a bit when the offense is limited, and the Reps and Titans are good enough to snuff them out. However, a couple power plays or defensive breakdowns and the Rockets could propel their way into the Elite Eight.
PREMIUM: No. 29 Byron Center (13-9-1)
They’re young, and consistency will be the big question mark with this group. It’ll be boom or bust, as I think they could be bounced in the first round just as easily as they could be in the Final Four. If Trevor Davis and Josh Froysland can hold it down on the back end, and Luke Nickolaus and Brady Breit play their best hockey up front, the Bulldogs should be the front-runner to win their second straight Regional.
POTENTIAL: No. 47 West Ottawa (10-10-3)
Results haven’t been going the Panthers’ way in 2020, with just a 6-9-1 record since the New Year. Two of those losses have been at the hands of first-round opponent Hudsonville. However, a lot of those losses have been competitive, and leading scorer Luke Linart is a solid playmaker with 22 goals and 43 points as a senior. He is good enough to play hero hockey and get his team to a Regional Final.
POSSIBLE: No. 64 Jenison (12-9-2)
I can’t believe I’m omitting Grandville from the mix in Region 2, but they’ve been bitten HARD by the injury bug and it’d be an immensely tough road to overcome. Factoring that in, I like Jenison’s potential to make some noise if they can pull off a first-round upset. There’s nothing fancy about this bunch but they just play hard and have decent structure in place. They won’t quit, and Nick Rathsack and Noah Sheldon lead the way to give them a chance up front.
PREMIUM: No. 70 Kalamazoo Eagles (17-7-0)
It’s a close Region, but I give the edge to the Eagles despite the fact that Cap City defeated them earlier in the year. That 4-3 finish came down to overtime, and when the two teams square off in a round-one rematch, I expect it to be a tight one again. Kalamazoo just has a wealth of talented forwards like Alexander Johnson, Trent Stoner and James Onderlinde that I can’t overlook. If the offense gets hot, they could breeze through the Regional rounds.
POTENTIAL: No. 89 Capital City (15-8-1)
I’m pretty confident the winner of this Quarterfinal matchup will go on to win the Region. The Caps kept Kzoo’s top scorers at bay in the first meeting but can they do it again? It’ll be a tall task and I’ve got some concerns, but they’ve done an impressive job defensively against some pretty good teams this season. It wouldn’t be the biggest upset of the tournament, but an upset nonetheless if Ethan Bond and Daniel Bendele can lead the Caps to a second consecutive Regional Championship.
POSSIBLE: No. 103 Mid-Michigan Marauders (11-13-0)
Will they boom or will they bust? Offense has exploded at times which is enough to put a scare into teams, however, the concern for me is when scoring is limited. The Marauders are just 2-10-0 when producing three-or-less goals in a game, so if leading scorer Carson Finney can’t get going, it could spell trouble for Mid-Michigan. Low-scoring affairs don’t bode well but I like their chances of making it to the Regional Final; that alone is enough to get the underdog story going.
PREMIUM: No. 13 Saginaw Heritage (20-2-0)
The top line of Brady Rappuhn, Matthew Cole and Ethan Houck is electric and if you give them power-play opportunities, they WILL make you pay. I’m expecting another deep playoff run for the Hawks and if that is to happen, they’re going to need some depth contributions. That comes in the form of Connor Krauseneck, who’s the perfect pest on a forecheck and will buy time for the top line to do what they need to do. It’s probably one of the more battle-tested groups that coach J.J. Bamberger has had and they’ll hit the ground running when the postseason begins.
POTENTIAL: No. 66 Midland (8-16-0)
At the halfway point of the season, I would’ve had Heritage as the runaway favorite outscoring Regional opponents 29-1 in three games. The loss of Matthew Babinski hurts as well but with Matthew Witt and Tyler Pritchett, Midland has some pieces in the mix to make them serious contenders in Region 4. This potential championship matchup could be one of the best this season and if Midland stays out the box, they could pull off a huge upset in Division-I.
POSSIBLE: No. 82 Bay City (11-11-2)
Midland better not get caught looking ahead, because Bay City could make ‘em pay in Round 1. Zac Lewandowski is a powerful playmaker, and Ethan Borowski and Jacob Holsing add nice secondary options for the Wolves. I wouldn’t be totally shocked by a first-round upset, especially if Cayden Kerkau is “on” that night. That happens? It’ll be Bay City with a spot in the championship, squaring off with the favorite in Heritage, and then let the chips fall where they may.
PREMIUM: No. 12 Brighton (14-8-2)
To quote Denzel Washington’s character in Remember The Titans, Brighton is, “like novocaine… Just give it time; it always works.” Sometimes, the Bulldogs click right away, win 20 games and are the front-runners. Other times, they start off sluggish, opponents thump on ‘em through December and by the New Year they’re humming along, again, as front-runners. Either way, Paul Moggach and Kurt Kivisto iron out all the kinks and get the boys right in time for yet another deep playoff run.
POTENTIAL: No.16 Howell (14-10-0)
The Highlanders have two dynamic playmakers in Dominic Rossi and Stefan Frantti, and they’ve been battle tested after playing the program’s toughest schedule in six years. While they rank in the Top 25, Howell only holds a 4-8-0 record against other Top-25 teams, and to claim its first Regional Championship since 2010, they’ll have to find a way to beat the top teams in the area. I’m confident that coach Rocky Johnson can get his squad to compete with the top teams, but knocking ‘em off with the season on the line is a totally different task.
POSSIBLE: No. 20 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (5-15-1)
It’s been a rough season for the Eaglets with only one win since the New Year. Seven losses have been by just one goal and another four losses by just two goals though. A couple bounces the other way and OLSM’s record could very easily be flip-flopped. The top line of Krzystof Petryla, Chris Dundas and Matt Kuphal is excellent, accounting for more than 70 percent of the team’s offense. If opponents fail to shut them down, that top trio could quite possibly knock off a couple teams.
PREMIUM: No. 31 Macomb Dakota (15-8-0)
They’ve got top-end kids, good depth, quality goaltending and they’re the best team in their Region. All the fixings for a playoff run. Senior Shane Romback leads the Cougars at both ends of the rink as a solid-skating, left-hand shot defender and the team plays with great confidence in front of Jack Mastronardi who has a 1.77 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. One of my favorite sleeper teams who, if they can survive the Regional, could sneak into the D-I State Final.
POTENTIAL: No. 40 Utica Eisenhower (12-10-1)
The Eagles are a scrappy bunch and actually just split a weekend series with Dakota earlier this month. Their first-round matchup will be snug; it’s a game that I could see being decided in overtime as Ike and RU are very evenly matched. I give Eisenhower the leg up in that first game because of Salvatore Carabelli and his .921 save percentage. If they survive a tight game on Thursday, it would certainly set up a decisive third game of the season with Dakota for the Regional Championship.
POSSIBLE: No. 42 Rochester United (12-11-0)
I’ve liked RU all season long. Even when they started out 1-7-0, I felt like Jack Myers and Matt Kanaras showed a lot of potential and could get the team heading in the right direction. Caden Ebinger has elevated his game as well and now Rochester United has won nine of its last 10 games. I fully expect the winner of the Eisenhower game to make it into the Regional Final, setting up a potential matchup with Dakota. RU gave the Cougars everything they could handle in their December matchup, and if they get another crack at the top dogs, they’re definitely capable of taking down the favorites.
PREMIUM: No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central (18-5-0)
They’ve had some trials and tribulations this season, which is uncharacteristic of the Shamrocks in recent years. Two losses to Brother Rice and another defeat at the hands of Grosse Pointe South suggested DCC was susceptible. However, after a very impressive display at the MIHL Showcase and dominant win over No. 2 Livonia Stevenson, coach Brandon Kaleniecki has righted the ship and water has found its level. Kyle Gaffney, Dylan Dooley and Brendan Miles headline a CC team whose engines are firing on all cylinders with a Division-I title to defend.
POTENTIAL: No. 51 Birmingham Unified (12-9-1)
The tough part for everyone here, is in order to win the Regional, they’ll have to go through the toughest opponent they’ve faced all season in the top-ranked Shamrocks. I give BU the best shot at doing so because I’m confident they’ll be the other half of the championship game next Wednesday. The Kings have put a scare into a couple Top-25 teams in Cranbrook, Lake Orion and Canton, and who knows? Sean Piotrowicz has a hot night and Brendan Lamb cashes in on a good look or two and maybe, just maybe there’s an outside chance.
POSSIBLE: No. 78 Troy United (15-8-0)
They’d have to pull off a pretty big upset in the Quarterfinals and then the hugest of huge upsets in the Regional Final, so I don’t love Troy here but I’ll give them an outside shot for a couple reasons. There’s a lot of juniors and seniors on this squad and they’ve got some pretty solid depth scoring with eight guys reaching double digits in points. Junior Sam Kotas and company are giving up just over two goals per game, so if Troy can defend well, ice the puck and keep contests low-scoring, they could at the very least make Region 7 interesting, pull off one upset and have a chance at a second.
PREMIUM: No. 10 Salem (14-10-0)
The Rocks have taken their lumps in the second half of the season. After finishing 2019 with a 8-3-0 record, Salem is just 6-7-0 since New Years but the schedule has been a gauntlet during that stretch, playing the toughest slate of games among public schools. That should leave guys like Alex Schaumburger and Devan Grayshaw battle tested and ready to face anyone when the postseason starts. The Regional playoffs could be a breath of fresh air for coach Ryan Ossenmacher’s bunch, and an opportunity to return to their dominating ways.
POTENTIAL: No. 37 Northville (6-18-1)
I would be shocked, stunned, rattled to my core if the Regional Final is anything but Salem and Northville. If that happens as I expect, the Mustangs have just enough pieces to put doubt in the minds of their KLAA counterpart. If you leave him unaccounted for, senior Nick McInchak can be a dangerous scorer in space and make opponents pay. Similarly, Joe Loebach in net has given Northville a chance to steal games against superior opponents like Grandville, Stevenson, Country Day, Calumet and Hartland. If coach Gordie Brown’s boys hang around long enough, they can definitely steal a Wooden Mitten.
POSSIBLE: No. 97 St. Frances Cabrini (8-17-0)
They’ve got wins over some pretty highly-ranked opponents including Ann Arbor Pioneer, Riverview and Liggett. If Salem gets caught napping in the Quarterfinals, Cabrini could pull off a first-round upset, especially the way Luke Metropoulos and Andrew Seminara produce on the score sheet. Those two scorers plus Evan Taylor on the back end… Monarchs don’t have a ton of depth but if the Rocks get into penalty trouble or leave the door open, Cabrini has a chance to pull off a Round 1 stunner and make it to the Final.
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