On To Plymouth
24 Teams Just One Win Away From USA Hockey Arena
March 7, 2020
Are you still playing? Did your team survive Championship Wednesday? We are just seven days away from the State Finals at USA Hockey Arena next Saturday, and any team still standing as of today has a one-in-eight shot at a State Championship. Let that sink in for a moment.
There’s been blowouts. There’s been upsets. Some Regions went according to plan. Others were wrought with parody. Nonetheless, the dust has settled and our State Tournament matchups are set. With 12 games on the docket for Quarterfinals on Saturday, I’ve got game-by-game breakdown and predictions on who will be marching on to Plymouth next week.
Petey’s Picks: 70-48
Starting on the Westside with Byron Center and Reeths-Puffer, this should be the tightest of the four D-I matchups. I’ve been very outspoken about my obsession with BC and the raw, young talent that they’re loaded with. However, that might need to get checked at the door with Reeths-Puffer in the mix. Nolan Convertini, Caden Brainard, Quinn Fowler, Navarre Klint… The Rockets have plenty of goal scoring and a nice amount of depth that should offset what the Bulldogs bring to the table. RP is 0-2 against Byron Center this season but took the Dogs to OT in the most recent matchup on Feb. 14th. This one will be snug as well. Beating a team three times in one season is a tall task, but I just can’t take off my BC biased glasses. Cautiously, I’m going with the Bulldogs.
Kalamazoo could continue their thrilling playoff run in Year 1 of the program against Saginaw Heritage. I’m not ruling the Eagles out of it completely, I just think they’d need a lot of things to go their way for an upset to happen. Kalamazoo is the most penalized team in the state (probably) and Heritage has the best power play in the state (also probably). That adds up to one volatile combination. If the Eagles can stay out of the box and play 5-on-5 for significant stretches of time, I could see this one being close on the scoreboard. I don’t know how comfortable Kzoo is playing from behind though, so if frustration sets in, I could see Brady Rappuhn and company really throttle down and pull away in convincing fashion.
Similar to the Stevenson-Novi Regional Final that went to three overtimes, Salem could pack things in, play a really conservative game and keep this Quarterfinal matchup uncomfortably close for top-seeded DCC. The Rocks are disciplined enough and have sound enough structure. I think they’ll be smart about picking their battles within the bigger war that will take place at Novi Ice Arena. The Shamrocks have superior talent and depth but all it takes is a power-play opportunity or two for the Rocks to capitalize, energize their own bench and really put the pressure on their heavily-favored counterparts. I’ll take CC to out-shoot and out-possess Salem, but coach Ryan Ossenmacher’s squad dictates the pace by making the game painfully slow. That at the very least puts the Rocks within a cross-bar or missed open net away from a stunning upset.
L’Anse WHO Unified?!? The biggest Regional Champion shocker in my book; I never saw LCU coming and hats off to them for a fantastic playoff run thus far. Never been ranked higher than 60th in the state this season, had a sub-.500 record until playoffs and their biggest win was against No. 41 Grandville until this magical postseason. BUT… here they are, and I’m not counting them out of this matchup with Howell either. The Highlanders will be the most talented, deepest and structured team that LCU has faced all season, so it’s going to be a monumental task matching up with Stefan Frantti and Steven Miller. With Jeffrey Deriemacker and Jack Majchrzak though, Howell will have to defend as well as they attack as one slip up or mistake could keep this game tight as well.
“The King of the North! The King of the North! The King of the North!” Two Top-25 teams square off in Gaylord at 1 p.m., and only one can continue the trek downstate. I’m expecting an ugly one here; physical, every inch of ice is earned, knock-down, drag-out, garbage goals from scrums in front with bodies flying all over when Marquette and TC Central take the ice. This is gonna have that playoff-type atmosphere from the opening puck drop and it’s going to be tense. These kinds of moments are typically dictated by the seniors, and guys like Nick Sommerfield and Chris Usiondek will throw their best punch (figuratively). However, I like Jakob Peterson and Gaetano Cammarata to take over, willing the Redmen to victory in an absolute battle.
It’s an MIHL matchup between Brother Rice and Port Huron Northern at Suburban Ice Macomb. The Warriors outscored PHN 13-4 in two games just one week apart from each other. However, I think the Huskies will come into this one highly motivated to knock off the favorite and Rice hasn’t faced a challenge in two weeks. Watch Brendan Dickinson, Chad Noetzel and Logan O’Flanagan catch the Warriors off balance by scoring first, or even hanging onto a lead after the first period. Ultimately though, I like Rice to regain its footing and secure a comfortable victory given the way Ryan Murphy and crew have been cruising along this postseason.
Two teams in complete survive-and-advance mode, the stage for this Hartland–Rockford matchup was set after both teams escaped Regional Finals by way of one-goal victories. I think this Quarterfinal will be much, much closer than the 42 spots that separate them in the state rankings and this is where Hartland’s playoff road gets… “Rocky.” We are going to find out just how good Rams like Dayton Perroud, Braeden Fouchea and Will Haggerty are when they line up against the Eagles’ best. Coach C.J. Pobur’s squad is going to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Hartland’s Ryan Piros and Rockford could dictate the pace of play for long stretches in this one. However, I’ll take Piros to have a big performance between the pipes and frustrate Rams shooters in a way they haven’t seen yet this season. Two-time defending champs in a low-scoring close one.
HOT GOALIE ALERT!! Joey Cormier has given up just three goals in his last five starts, putting a bow on what has been a fantastic season for the three-year senior who maintains a 1.64 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. Stevenson was nearly bitten by a hot ‘tender in the previous round when Austin Muirhead stopped 52-of-54 shots on Wednesday. Now, they collide with a Trenton team that’s had their number in the postseason as of late, having ended the Spartans’ run in each of the last two seasons and the goalie whose done it each time. This is a hurdle Stevenson hasn’t been able to get over in the playoffs and if the offense goes cold again like it did in the Regional Final, Hunter Allen and Ethan Holt will make them pay in ways Novi could not. I’m actually going with coach Chad Clements’ crew to pull off the upset thanks to Cormier coming up clutch.
The day begins with Calumet and Gaylord at 1 p.m., and of all the matchups on Saturday, I’m the most confident in this one. Sam Gorno has been outstanding in the playoffs and getting the Blue Devils their first Regional Championship since 2004, but we’re wading into deeper waters and the shore is a long ways away. The Copper Kings have Gaylord right where they want them, and I believe Tanner Rowe, Alex Mattila and the Loukuses will be too much to keep up with. Coach Dan Giachino’s group should overwhelm and dominate this Quarterfinal matchup, entering the Final Four as favorites to win the whole thing now that Grosse Pointe South is out of the picture.
Gabriel Richard got a huge monkey off its back on Wednesday with a 6-0 drubbing of rival Riverview who had beaten them twice before. With the Pioneers getting over the hump, I see them head into this Quarterfinal matchup with Chelsea cool, calm, collected and confident. I’m not writing off the Bulldogs, either, as they’re a bunch that just keeps finding ways to win. Tyler Valik and Chelsea are playing much better than their No. 66 ranking, with a 2-1-1 record against teams ahead of them in the standings since the beginning of February. Valik has two goals and eight points in those four games and another big game from him could give the Dogs an outside chance at an upset. Give me Nathan Vazquez to lead RGR past Chelsea for a return trip to Plymouth.
Of all 12 Quarterfinal picks, I hate this one the most. Two evenly-matched teams with similar makeup, elite-level playmakers and smart hockey minds. I wish I could make a confident selection in this one but I just look at Jacob Onstott against Luke Blasy? Wash. Collin Lemanski or Ryan McClelland? Coin flip. Mike Slobodnik and Dick Blasy? Even. I could see multiple lead changes, trading power-play goals, huge swings of momentum and a total roller coaster of emotions. I believe quite confidently that the winner of this will go on to the State Final, and legitimately could go either way with this pick. GRCC started out the season hot and look to be finishing the same way, so I’ll give the Cougars the slightest of edges based purely on momentum.
After upsets of No. 14 U-D Jesuit and No. 5 Grosse Pointe South, University Liggett turns its attention to two-time defending champion Country Day. I’m not ruling out the Knights completely, as I Country Day is not invincible like in year’s past, but it won’t be easy either. Doug Wood is on another planet right now with 10 goals and 15 points in the playoffs which bodes well for Liggett. If he can catch a break or two and catch the Yellowjackets napping, Wood can single-handedly keep this game within reach. The problem for Liggett lies in Country Day’s strength; their blue line. Jacob Thomas, Gino Sessa and this senior laden group have faced some pretty dynamic forwards in their careers, and they’re well equipped to contain a dangerous threat. I think Wood is effective, but kept in check just enough for Country Day to continue its title defense for a few more days.
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