Playoff hockey starts Monday! Wipe the slates clean; everyone goes back to zero. All that matters is the next 51 minutes, as all 139 teams enter in to a one-game season. Win and you move on; lose and you go home. Only three teams earn the honor of finishing 2020 with win, and I’ll walk you through all three Divisions to share how I think these ones play out over the next few weeks.
If I take DCC and give you the field, would you take it? I hate to sound like a broken record here, but yet again D-I is the Shamrocks’ to lose. They’ve made it to the State Final six of the last seven years, and looking at how this one shakes out I’m confident they’ll make it a seventh appearance in 2020. Salem could put a good scare into the favorites in the Quarterfinals, and whoever comes out of the Saginaw Heritage/Brighton Semifinal will provide a good counterpunch in the State Final. When the dust settles, it’s CC no matter what.
In recent years, this has been the most competitive of the three Divisions. While it’s still tight with a lot of top teams, I break down the 2020 bracket into three tiers. Stevenson and Brother Rice as the favorites, Marquette, Trenton and Hartland with a good chance, and then everyone else. The Redmen will hold Rice accountable in the Semifinals. The Warriors should breeze through to the Final Four and I think they could find themselves in a good scrap with Marquette for their toughest game in three weeks, how will they respond in a tight-checking game?
On the other half, I just think the Spartans run outta gas. Their route to a D-II title: No. 11 Plymouth >>> No. 9 Canton >>> No. 8 Novi >>> No. 3 Trenton >>> No. 4 Hartland >>> winner of No. 2 Rice and No. 5 Marquette. Nobody in the state is going to feel sorry for them, but this seriously defies all logic. “You’ve got to beat the best to be the best” sure, but you also don’t have to keep a broken system in place for fear of the unknown either.
For the first time that I can remember, I think D-III is actually the most competitive and deepest of the trio. I could see as many as five different teams from three quadrants with a legitimate shot at taking the title. Country Day has a two-time championship to defend. Grosse Pointe South and Calumet are loaded. Forest Hills Central has half the bracket to themselves. Houghton, Cranbrook, U-D Jesuit and Midland Dow could play spoiler. Far and away the toughest bracket of the bunch to fill out. Ultimately, I have the top-ranked team in the Division surviving to win the Championship, but any one of the previously mentioned teams could make a push and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.
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