Games of the Week

Previewing the biggest matchups across the state during the opening week of the season

Craig Peterson

November 13, 2023


Tawas and Cadillac are set to square off at 5 p.m. on Monday. Unofficially, the first of more than 1,500 Michigan high school hockey games scheduled for the 2023-24 season. Each week, I’ll offer up some of the biggest matchups I’ve got circled on my calendar. Those matchups will include key players, stats and information to pay attention to as each game unfolds. I’ll even provide picks and predictions along with my analysis. And, invite you to submit your picks and play along with me as well. 

There’s no less than a dozen key matchups that have piqued my interest for various reasons. While I may not bring 12 games to the blog every week, I did think it was quite fitting to come out hot in Week 1! So let’s not delay…

Tawas vs. Cadillac
Monday, 5pm Tawas Bay Ice Arena

If you ain’t first, you’re last! Whether it was a coordinated effort or not, the Braves and Vikings have the unofficial honor of kicking off the ‘23-24 season. And I will say, this game does have some intriguing prospects. Tawas returns all three of its top scorers in Gage Maxfield (59 points), Kyle Indreica (50) and Cody Primm (32). Cadillac on the other hand, graduated a lot, including both of its goalies. Both teams produce a ton of offense while surrendering a good amount as well. This has the makings of a track meet, 7-5 or 8-4 type finish. I’ll go with the Braves and their trio up front to get it done.

Petey’s Pick: Tawas

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Brother Rice vs. Country Day
Tuesday, 6pm Oak Park Ice Arena

Every game means something, but this matchup means a bit more to the Yellowjackets. It’s an opportunity to play spoiler, as Rice is set to hang its sixth Division-II state championship banner. And, the Warriors are a bit vulnerable after losing a ton of their offense to graduation last spring. So a win for DCD could really catapult them into a huge ‘23-24 campaign. However, I think Clay Spencer and company could struggle to produce enough offense to put Rice away on its home ice. Turner England and an experienced D corps will make this a 2-1, 3-1 type game, and I don’t see Country Day finding the back of the net more than once. Rice finds a scrappy way of getting a win on banner night.

Petey’s Pick: Brother Rice

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Reeths-Puffer vs. GR Christian
Wednesday, 6:30pm Trinity Health Arena

The Rockets won 19 games last season and only graduated five players. While they remain in the OKC’s lower tier — the Fischer Division — I think they’re more than capable of competing with mid-range teams in the conference, like Grand Rapids Christian. Tyler Tindall and Jaxon Stone are a dangerous and experienced tandem that could give Eagles defenders like Jack Micus a challenge. Goaltending will be interesting for RP though, with a first-year sophomore in Huck VanDyke and Mark Stewart, who only has four varsity-level starts. Tindall and Stone will produce, but  I like Josh Hooper and Josh VanSchepen to take advantage of Reeths-Puffer’s inexperience in net, to the tune of 4-2.

Petey’s Pick: GR Christian

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Clarkston vs. Flint Powers
Thursday, 6pm Detroit Skating Club

If you watch one game all week, make it this one. Similar to the Rice-DCD matchup, I think this game has far more meaning to Clarkston than it does defending D-III state champ Flint Powers. Games like this are an opportunity to make a statement, loud and clear. Difference here is the Chargers have to go on the road, with a ton of new faces on the roster, against a highly experienced a extremely talented Clarkston team. Owen Croston will draw plenty of attention in this game, likely score a goal and factor in on another. But keep an eye on Ronnie Wade. He’s the key to the Wolves’ offense with smart positioning and creative play-making ability. I like him to have a big night en route to a Clarkston victory.

Petey’s Pick: Clarkston

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Novi vs. Livonia United
Thursday, 7:30pm Novi Ice Arena

KLAA middleweights square off in a game with pretty big implications right out of the gate. The East Division is wide open this season, and a win in Game 1 would do wonders for either program. Coach Jason Reynolds has a good amount of offensive threats at his disposal with Bryce Brown, Austin Ferris, Jack Krupinski and Caleb Kurto, to name just a few. This first-year co-op of Churchill and Franklin brings the best of both worlds to the mix, which may be tough for a young Novi team to handle. Red Stallions storm out of the gates with five or six goals in a dominating with.

Petey’s Pick: Livonia United

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Bay City vs. Grosse Pointe South
Friday, 7pm Bay County Civic Arena

This is a tough spot for first-year coach Alan Korolewicz to start his tenure for the Blue Devils. He’s got the luxury of having 11 seniors on the roster, but opening up the season on the road, against a sneaky good Bay City team is a tough spot. Gunnar Weber, Sean Daily and Lucas Nieman finished last season one, two and three in scoring for the Wolves, and coach Zach Schalk has been building the program consistently over the last four years. He’s positioned the program to have a big ‘23-24, and I think it starts with a résumé win over an MIHL team on opening night. 

Petey’s Pick: Bay City

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Bay Reps vs. Cranbrook
Friday, 7pm Centre Ice Arena

Similar to Bay City, a win over an historic program like Cranbrook would be a huge feather in the cap for the Bay Reps. They get the Cranes to come all the way up to Traverse City on opening weekend, and top prospects like Grant Lucas, Larson Millar and Ethan Coleman may even make the Reps the favorites in this matchup. Roman Cicco is one of the best defensemen in the state, but he’s sure to be tested by this high-powered offense. If he can move pucks north and keep teammates like Michael Horton and Thomas Kiemel on the attack, it may keep the Reps from mounting an offensive of their own. Gonna be a good one, maybe a couple lead changes, but I’ll go with the Reps, 4-3.

Petey’s Pick: Bay Reps

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Houghton vs. Escanaba
Friday 7pm Dee Stadium

The winner of this game will be whoever has fewer football players on their roster. I kid, I kid… but this is definitely a challenge for U.P. teams and a good amount of West-Michigan programs. For real though, the winner of this game may likely win the Great Lakes Conference. Crazy to think about, with this matchup being the first of the season but the outcome carries a ton of weight. I took the Eskymos to win the GLC in my conference previews, so my hands may be tied a bit in this selection. But the Gremlins’ Mikey Maillette and Connor Raffaelli won’t make it easy. Hell, they may even make me look stupid with this pick and get coach Micah Stipech his first — of likely many — high school hockey victory.

Petey’s Pick: Escanaba

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East Grand Rapids vs. Salem
Saturday, 3pm Patterson Ice Arena

Speaking of football players, EGR is relying on quite a few of them to have an impact on the ice this season. I love the matchup here for both teams, and I like the Pioneers and Rocks to win a bunch of games this season. East has a tough matchup the night before with Stevenson; a spot that I actually like coach Chris Newton to get a signature win. Follow that up with another gritty KLAA opponent less than 24 hours later? Ugh. I believe in my Pioneers to get one win on the weekend, but two is too tough. Karsen Patel and Alex Telepo take advantage of the tough matchup and gut out a 4-3 road win.

Petey’s Pick: Salem 

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Byron Center vs. Stevenson
Saturday, 3pm Southside Ice Arena

Speaking of Stevenson, they’ll wrap up their West-Michigan trip with back-to-back challenges on opening weekend. Not one, but two MHSAA state finalists as they’ll clash with Byron Center on Saturday afternoon. Stevenson is young — the youngest team in the state — and this season will be a learning experience, starting with Week 1. I don’t see them getting a win on the westside, but Owen Hall and company will come away with a wealth of teaching moments. Close games, maybe even hold on to a lead or two at certain points, but Jackson Froysland and Cade Pratt will be too much, and ultimately put the Bulldogs over down the stretch.

Petey’s Pick: Byron Center 

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Sault Ste. Marie vs. Lakeland
Saturday, 3pm Big Bear Arena

This is a sneaky good matchup on opening weekend. The Soo was a Top-25 team last season with big wins over MIHL, KLAA, OKC and Big North opponents, to name a few. THIRTEEN skaters reached double digits in points in ‘22-23 and as many as nine of them could be back this season. It’s a very balanced attack with experienced goaltenders in Michael Bontrager and former AAA player, Cam Labadie. Lakeland counters with a pretty high-end line in Tim Hinkle, Brennan Grant and Austin Scanlon. A trio of returners who factored in on all three goals from the Eagles’ unofficial scrimmage “victory” over Clarkston last weekend. I’ll take depth over high end, and go with Sault Ste. Marie to wear down Lakeland

Petey’s Pick: Sault Ste. Marie

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Jenison vs. Sparta
Saturday, 6pm Griff’s Georgetown

Sparta (formerly Northview) was an extremely young group last season. They’re still young in ‘23-24 with just three seniors. Six of their seven leading scorers from a season ago are back for coach Kevin Bormes, and this group — and season — has been in the works for quite some time. Jenison presents a really tough challenge on opening weekend as a scrappy OKC opponent. So tough, that the Wildcats actually mercied the Spartans on opening night a year ago. I think that changes, and Sparta plays a tough Jenison team tough too. May not win, but it’s a close one. Jenison by a goal, 4-3 but a huge momentum boost for a young program building in the right direction for Sparta.

Petey’s Pick: Jenison

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