PREMIUM: No. 8 Marquette (21-4-0)
One-of-seven teams in the state with 20-plus wins this season. I’ve been all about this Marquette squad since Week 1, and they’re heading into the postseason playing their best hockey having won 11-of-12 games. There are 14 Redmen with double digits in points, which is out of this world, and two stellar goalies giving up less than 1.70 goals per game. With high-end forwards and defensemen in Gaetano Cammarata and Jakob Peterson, plenty of depth and elite goaltending, Marquette is a serious threat to not just take the Region but push for a D-II State Title as well.
POTENTIAL: No. 46 Escanaba (12-10-0)
They’ve lost to Marquette twice already this year by a combined margin of 13-2, so the Eskymos have to keep Game 3 a close contest before we can consider a potential upset. Escanaba has won four consecutive games nearing the playoffs, though, and Ethan Silverstone and Kyle Krutina combine to make a dynamic duo. Senior Trevor Denome has made 40-plus saves in each of the previous two meetings, but he might have to make 50 for Escanaba to pull off the Regional Final upset.
POSSIBLE: No. 65 Kingsford (11-11-0)
The Flivvers have had a tough time keeping pace with Marquette. Two games. Two decisive outcomes. Evan Hedtke stopped 75-of-85 shots in those meetings and he’ll have to be near perfect for Kingsford to push the needle in its favor. Load up on a forward line of Trey Bociek, Reese Fortner and Hunter Fortner, and hope they can create offense every third shift to stun the eighth-ranked Redmen in Round 1. That happens? The road to a Regional Championship would break wide open.
PREMIUM: No. 17 Traverse City Central (19-3-2)
The Trojans have returned to dominance in The North! Coach Chris Givens has done a fantastic job with this young group, getting them to compete at a high level and put together and flirt with a 20-win season. Highlighted by victories over Houghton and Salem, TC Central has six skaters averaging a point per game, and Charlie Douglass, Nick Sommerfield and Will Dawson are stellar goal scorers. The best part? TCC is YOUNG with just four seniors on the roster, and sophomore goaltender Grant Neuhardt is good enough to give the Trojans a chance to win right now.
POTENTIAL: No. 53 Mona Shores (16-8-0)
The Sailors head into the postseason having won five in a row and eight of their last 10 games. They’re going to need a lot of help from depth skaters if they’re going to upset TCC in a potential Regional Final matchup, and Mona has some options with seniors like Cayden Mollema and Nathan Taylor. Opponents will definitely key in on Connor Winegar and his team-high 41 points, so if he’s limited, can other players step up and get the job done? There’s 11 Sailors who have reached double digits in points; I’m not counting them out!
POSSIBLE: No. 102 Petoskey (8-16-0)
The Northmen check in outside the Top 100 in the state, so pulling off a Regional Championship would be a monumental achievement. They open up against TCC in the Semifinals, which doesn’t offer up any favors and the Trojans have already beaten Petoskey twice this season by a combined score of 16-1. If their top line can get loose and capitalize on a few power plays, Nick Aown and Derek Hebner could be just dangerous enough to pull the upset. The Northmen are very top-line heavy though, with that duo combining for more than 100 points on the season, adding up to a boom-or-bust scenario.
PREMIUM: No. 48 Rockford (10-12-1)
A late-season win over Regional opponent FHNE tips the scales in favor of the Rams. A potential rematch will be very even and could go either way but I’ll stick with the recency bias, running with Rockford as the favorites to win. Only one skater is averaging a point per game and nobody has eclipsed the 25-point plateau. There’s no real standouts, but that’s what can make the Rams so dangerous is having to defend against an evenly-balanced offensive attack from Kyle Switzer, Braeden Fouchea and Dayton Perroud, among a slew of other threats.
POTENTIAL: No. 45 Forest Hills Northern-Eastern (15-7-2)
They went 11 straight games without a loss at one point this season, but the last five weeks haven’t quite been as kind to the Bird Dogs. However, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if FHNE takes home its fifth consecutive Regional Championship. Tyler Nickelson and Cameron Cain lead a balanced three-line attack, and when Kyler Lowden is in the zone, this group can be dangerous. They may be down at times, but FHNE is rarely out of it, with six of seven losses being decided by two goals or less.
POSSIBLE: No. 74 Kenowa Hills (12-12-1)
A very unassuming .500 record and ranked in the back half of the state, I could see a lot of teams overlook Kenowa here. This group puts up a ton of goals though, and an offensive team can be a dangerous team this time of year. Senior Gabe Partridge has 29 goals on the season and four other skaters have also hit double digits in goals. They’ll need a big performance or two between the pipes to swoop in on a Regional Final but the firepower up front should at least keep them in the hunt against two very good teams.
PREMIUM: No. 7 Hartland (15-5-2)
The longest active run as Regional Champions in the state. Hartland is far and away the favorite to win its ninth consecutive Wooden Mitten. I expect Adam Pietila and Kieran Carlile to dominate the offensive zone and Dakota Kott to keep opponents out of the D-zone. If the Eagles’ offense lets up long enough for a Regional opponent to generate a scoring opportunity, I’m confident Ryan Piros can answer the call in net. I think it’s a bit of a down year for the two-time, reigning, defending D-II State Champs but I see no reason why they wouldn’t survive Regionals for a ninth straight postseason.
POTENTIAL: No. 55 Davison (17-7-0)
Jeffrey Schmidt and Dylan McMullen are a real strong one-two punch for the Cardinals. The pair of seniors account for 60 percent of the team’s total goals scored and both have surpassed the 50-point mark on the season. For Davison to pull off a Regional Championship, though, they’ll need some significant contributions from depth players and the entire team will have to compete at a pace they haven’t played at all season. If Dominic Wendel has a career night in net and Hartland gets into penalty trouble, the Cardinals might have an outside shot at a stunner.
POSSIBLE: No. 101 Tri-Valley (9-13-0)
Similar to Davison, I think they could struggle with how fast Hartland is capable of playing at. The Titans will also have to defend a lot and defend well; two things that don’t bode well for a team giving up 4.68 goals per game. Jackson Kocur is a giant power forward who can be a force when he wants to be and Kyle Brown has a great motor that leads to some quality scoring opportunities. They’ve both eclipsed the 30-goal mark, so if they can find a way to produce three goals in a Regional Final, there’s a chance they snap Hartland’s streak.
PREMIUM: No. 3 Brother Rice (17-5-2)
The Warriors are fueled by a fantastic top line; the combination of Ryan Murphy, D.J. Dixon and Nick Marone is one of the best trios in the state. Rice also has some solid depth up front and a reliable blue line that plays a stellar defensive game. The team as a whole allows just 22 shots on goal per game and senior Cooper Duncan is quietly making a case as best in the Class of 2020. He hasn’t seen a ton of work, but in the Warriors’ biggest games, he’s been strong in net and could be the key to a State Playoff run.
POTENTIAL: No. 25 Lake Orion (15-8-1)
I liked ‘em a lot better in the first half of the season than the second half, but I’m not counting out the Dragons just yet. Kade Manzo, Thomas Reath, Brendan Finn, Andrew Potyk, Brendan Bajis… There’s A LOT of really good pieces here. But Lake Orion is going to have to have a good game plan AND they’ll have to execute it flawlessly to take down the Warriors in a potential Regional Final. Rice is experienced and has been here many times before; they won’t be rattled. Can the Dragons match that and rise to the Warriors’ level?
POSSIBLE: No. 61 Bloomfield Hills (16-7-1)
There’s a really good chance they could sneak into the Regional Final and upset Lake Orion in the Semifinals. You get to the championship and you’ve got a chance. Jeremy Kahan made 58 saves in a 4-2 win against Birmingham Unified and has made 30-plus saves in 11-of-18 starts. Hot goalies can carry a team and if Kahan heats up, maybe that gives Drew Speaks, Kyle Lucia and Colin Segasser enough time to generate a few offensive opportunities.
PREMIUM: No. 32 Port Huron Northern (11-13-0)
If the Huskies don’t win this Region, I’ll retire from writing. Well, maybe I won’t go that extreme but the other six teams in the Region rank outside the Top 90 in the state and PHN has some really nice forwards that I’m confident can get the job done. Cameron Barlass, Chad Noetzel, Logan O’Flanagan and Brendan Dickinson have all scored double digits in goals and they’re battle tested after playing the 17th toughest schedule in Michigan. Assuming they win this Region, and get a third shot at Brother Rice in the Quarterfinals, the Huskies have the potential to be a dark horse contender for the D-II Final Four.
POTENTIAL: No. 94 Stoney Creek (6-17-1)
I like the Cougars to come out of the other half of this Region and be in the Final next Wednesday. They’ve only won six games on the season but four of them have come since Jan. 30th, and they’ve played a pretty tough schedule of opponents. I think that gives them a leg up on the three other teams in their half, and if you give Will Boyer and Bobby Dessy a chance to score some goals, Stoney Creek might be able to hang around late in the game.
POSSIBLE: No. 81 Romeo (11-10-2)
As much as I love Northern to take the Region, there’s always the possibility of getting caught looking ahead. Romeo lost to PHN 4-1 back in January and by all accounts, the Huskies were pretty well in control of that one. There are benefits to seeing a team a second time later in the year, though, and coach Keith Knight has another chance to scheme for Kyle Giza, Gavin Skinner and Evan Drouillard. Put those top scorers in positions to succeed and there’s the possibility of stunning a team looking past the Bulldogs.
PREMIUM: No. 2 Livonia Stevenson (21-2-1)
They are the best team in Division-II, in my opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a shoe-in for Regional Champions. All five teams in the Region are ranked in the Top 30 in the entire state. It’s a good thing the Spartans are loaded with offensive weapons like Seth Lause, Nick Justice, Brendan Heard and Tanner Liptow, because they’re gonna need it to survive a gauntlet of a playoff run. With 13 guys in double figures, Stevenson has enough options at its disposal, they just need to execute.
POTENTIAL: No. 26 Plymouth (10-14-1)
Senior Ian Smith was pretty well contained when the Wildcats played Stevenson back in December. He’s the key to Plymouth’s success with 53 points on the season but Brendan Allen and Gavin Roach have come a long way since the previous meeting too. The top line is legit and coach Gerry Vento will have his troops ready to scrap. I think this first-round matchup could be very close and if Stevenson gives way to a couple penalties, Plymouth is good enough to capitalize on opportunities and springboard its way into the Regional Final.
POSSIBLE: No. 19 Novi (12-10-3)
I wanna buy into the South Lyon hype, but Novi has been so good as of late and so well coached that I just can’t see a Regional Final without the Wildcats in it. The two teams played to a 3-3 tie on to end the regular season, and the rematch may be just as even. Isaac Gibbs is a real nice goal scorer, and Maanas Sharma, Jay Naidu and Nate Erskine provide quality depth up front. Max Rallis will have to log A LOT of minutes for Novi to win a Regional, but if they can find some offense against tough opponents, it’s definitely possible.
PREMIUM: No. 6 Trenton (17-6-1)
The Trojans have some sensational forwards from Hunter Allen and Ethan Holt to Collin Preston and Gregory Obrycki. I’m not completely sold that this Region is a runaway for Trenton, though, as some of the other teams in the mix have closed the gap a bit on the top dogs this year. Joey Cormier has had to bail his team out a couple times as well, with 30-plus saves on seven different occasions this season. They’re my pick, but I’d be leery of a cold offense running into a hot goaltender.
POTENTIAL: No. 27 Ann Arbor Skyline (18-4-0)
Skyline’s goalie situation is just scary enough to put doubt in Trenton’s mind for the Round 1 matchup. Both Brenden Cobb and Tommy Letke have sub-2.00 goals-against averages and if the Eagles stifle the Trenton offense through the first half of the game, momentum could start to build. Skyline, Pioneer and Woodhaven have been beat up on pretty good by the Trojans over the years and everyone has them circled on the calendar. I’m expecting Jamie Newton, Isaac Lippert and Ryan Schmunk to come in playing their most inspired hockey of the season.
POSSIBLE: No. 49 Ann Arbor Pioneer (20-3-1)
The Pioneers have had Trenton in the crosshairs since last year’s 2-1 defeat in the opening round. They head into the playoffs on a 16-1-1 run, and will be lying in wait for whoever comes out of the Skyline-Trenton matchup. Senior Michael Leighton has one of the best save percentages in the state and made 33 saves in last year’s meeting with the Trojans. He’s more than capable of frustrating opposing shooters and Ethan Kotre, Jack Ceccacci and Sean Fitzgerald are just good enough to cash in on a few scoring opportunities.
Tag(s): Home Big North Petoskey Traverse City Central Great Lakes Escanaba Kingsford Marquette Houghton KLAA Canton Plymouth Salem Livonia Stevenson Hartland Novi Lakes Valley Conference South Lyon Unified Macomb Area Conference Romeo Metro League Ann Arbor Pioneer Mid-Michigan Hockey Conference Tri-Valley Titans MIHL Port Huron Northern Brother Rice Trenton Oakland Activities Association Lake Orion Rochester Stoney Creek Birmingham Unified Bloomfield Hills OK Conference Kenowa Hills Forest Hills N-E Mona Shores Rockford Saginaw Valley Davison South Eastern Conference Ann Arbor Skyline