Metro League Preview

Will someone not named ‘Gabriel Richard’ win a division championship?

Craig Peterson

October 19, 2023

Photo from Instagram | @fgr_gh_hockey
Photo from Instagram | @fgr_gh_hockey

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard has won three consecutive Metro League West Division championships. Not to be confused with Riverview Gabriel Richard, that’s won two straight Metro League East Division championships. Both title races were wrapped up by the first week of February last season, as AAGR and RGR have separated themselves significantly from the Metro League pack.

The 12-team league is split into two divisions of six programs based out of southeast Michigan. The league has seen a good amount of turnover at the top prior to the most recent runs by the Pioneers and Irish. Detroit Country Day, Woodhaven, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Grosse Ile and Southgate Anderson have all won division titles in the last decade. 

Eight teams finished with an overall winning record in Michigan high school hockey competition last season. The Metro League in totality is one of the most competitive leagues in the state, with three programs winning regional titles in 2023 alone.

Last Season’s Champion: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, Riverview Gabriel Richard

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard has won three straight division championships, and may be the odds-on favorite to make it four in ‘23-24. This is a program that’s set goals and checked them off like a to-do list. Win the Jilek Cup as the top team in Ann Arbor. Check. Win the Metro League West. Check. Win a regional championship. Check. Year after year, they push the envelope a little bit further as a program. That trend continues, as the Irish start to set sights on state tournament success, a trip to Plymouth and a Division-III state title. Check?

Riverview Gabriel Richard went 10-0-0 in Metro League play last season as the only undefeated team. The Pioneers’ top six goal scorers have all graduated, taking with them 88.9 percent of the offense produced in ‘22-23. Brendan Brothers brings a sense of stability to the back end, as doing Ryan Rainey in goal. But there’s an undeniable hole in the Pioneers’ offense. No team in the state will have to replace more than RGR this season.

Players To Watch: 

Nick Dunphey, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard Senior Forward

He scored in all but three games last season for the Irish as a ‘secondary’ scoring option. With the departures of Jack Lapinski and Adam Kulick, ‘23-24 should be the Nick Dunphey show. 

Clay Spencer, Country Day Senior Forward

An absolute puck hound who plays with great pace. Spencer may have the most junior hockey potential of anyone in the Metro League this season. He was the team’s leading scorer as a junior with 45 points.

Bobby Leis, Allen Park Senior Forward

Enters the ‘23-24 season on an active 21-game point streak. Leis leads an Allen Park squad that will absolutely pull some upsets this season. A good amount of offense returns, including Leis’ 53 points.

Brendan Brothers, Riverview Gabriel Richard Senior Defenseman

A big body that can skate and make plays from the back end. Brothers had a quiet 14-point season as a junior but is ripe to erupt in his final season. Had a good fall season while skating in the MDHL as well.

Fisher Gurney, Grosse Ile Senior Defenseman

Led the Red Devils in scoring with 55 points as a junior. Gurney is dangerous from all over the ice when the puck is on his stick. Grosse Ile only graduated six players last season, so a lot comes back in ‘23-24, including its top performer.

Ryan Rainey, Riverview Gabriel Richard Senior Goalie

I didn’t love the season he had with the MDHL this fall. However, Rainey has won 15 or more games in each of the past two seasons for RGR. I expect him to bounce back in MI-HS action and have a real strong winter yet again.

Petey’s Prediction: Country Day and Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard

Coach Clint Robert has done an incredible job with Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard. That program has done a complete 180 during his tenure. Not only does he have them in a position to compete and be successful, but do it consistently on a yearly basis. It’s been wave after wave of talent in recent years. From Quinton Gove in ‘20-21 to Jack Waldo the following season, and then Waldo to Jack Lapinski last season. Now, Lapinski passes the torch to Nick Dunphey. The Irish have had a rotating door of top-level prospects come through under Robert. That trend continues this season, as does the program’s reign over the top spot in the West Division.

Just 5-3-2 last season in Metro League action, Country Day may stand to make the biggest improvement from last season to this season. For starters, few in the East Division return the number of players — and key contributors — like the Yellowjackets do this winter. Top scorer Clay Spencer may be the best forward in the league. Plus, Hunter Novock and Trevor Corless add even more game experience to the mix. I think RGR takes a step back this season, which opens the door for another team to claim the top spot; insert Country Day.

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