West-Michigan’s Game of the Year
GRCC and Byron Center battle for the top spot in Grand Rapids
December 14, 2023
Just nine matchups on the slate this week for the Picks, but they all feature teams up and down the statewide rankings. I updated my Top-25 Rankings earlier this week to really focus in on the upper crust of Michigan high school hockey. But I also find a ton of value in MyHockeyRankings data, as it ranks every team in the state. This week’s slate of games features matchups between evenly matched teams top to bottom, at least according to MHR. It’s a diverse lineup as well, with some usual suspects and Top-10 matchups but also a handful of unique non-conference games between mid-majors and up-and-comers. Let’s update the picks thus far this season before breaking down the weekend’s matchups:
Romeo vs. Stoney Creek
Friday, 6pm @ Suburban Ice Macomb
Stoney Creek is a very talented team, but I’d argue they have lost their three biggest games on the schedule thus far. Now, all three of those losses were highly competitive with a one-goal loss to Eisenhower, two-goal defeat against M-1 United and a three-goal game with Clarkston. So while I think it’s been a strong ‘23-24 campaign, SC still needs a signature win. Romeo presents a good opportunity to get that done, ranked 14 spots ahead of the Cougars on MyHockeyRankings. Tyler Burns, Patrick Axworthy and Carson Cagigal may need to score five-plus goals to put away Romeo, but I think they get it done on the second half of a back-to-back this week.
Petey’s Pick: Stoney Creek
Escanaba vs. Hancock
Friday, 7pm @ Wells Sports Complex
There is next to no information available regarding Hancock on the Hub. However, I can confirm they are extremely hard to score against, given the team’s 1.50 goals-against average. Even the high-flying offense of Houghton only put Hancock away 1-0, and that was just a few days ago. I love Escanaba and was super high on guys like Graham Johnson and Nolan Bink coming into the season. But offense has been a little tough to come by in their big games so far. Given the Eskymos’ struggles and Hancock’s ability to suppress opposing attacks, I like the Bulldogs to win their first road game of the season.
Petey’s Pick: Hancock
Saginaw Heritage vs. Mattawan
Friday, 7pm @ Saginaw-Bay Ice Arena
Mattawan has lost three of its last four and Saginaw Heritage has dropped four of its last five. Both of these teams are desperate for a win this weekend. The Wildcats offense has been pretty tame as of late; not completely snuffed out but not explosive either. This may be a spot for Brayden Lewis and Matt Novak to get loose a bit and produce, as Heritage gives up 4.71 goals per game. Wildcats win a close one, 4-3.
Petey’s Pick: Mattawan
Big Rapids vs. Eastside
Friday, 7pm @ Ewigleben Ice Arena
The Cardinals got back on track last weekend with two wins at the D3 Showcase. But, Eastside may be a bit of a matchup nightmare for Big Rapids. Goalies Reed Drouare and Leland Alvarez have compiled a team goals-against average of 2.00, and have only allowed more than three goals once this season. That presents a real challenge for the Cardinals who have scored four-or-more goals in four of their five wins. Eastside keeps this a low-scoring game, a 2-1 or 3-1 look to it. Jack Monaghan keeps piling up the points as well with his fifth multipoint game of the season for Eastside.
Petey’s Pick: Eastside
Hartland vs. Brighton II
Saturday, 7:30pm @ Hartland Ice House
It’s the second of three scheduled meetings between these KLAA rivals. If they play their cards right, they could tangle a fourth time come playoffs in March. There’s plenty of familiarity between these two teams, and Tim Arrick aptly captured the intensity of this rivalry with a single photo. Hartland, even on the heels of a 4-2 loss to No. 1-ranked Detroit Catholic Central, is playing some really good hockey. I expect them to get out to a better start in Game 2 of this rivalry series than they did in Game 1, and the Eagles even it up at a game apiece.
Petey’s Pick: Hartland
Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. Byron Center
Saturday, 2pm @ Southside Ice Arena
This may be the game of the year in Grand Rapids. GRCC wins low-scoring games; not a single one of their outings has hit the over on 5.5 goals this season. I’m totally fine with winning games that way, but I don’t see Byron Center being kept at bay. The Bulldogs have scored five-or-more goals in five straight games, Cade Pratt and Jackson Froysland are on fire, and Ben Passeno and Luke Philo are heating up as well. Too many scoring threats to keep quiet in this one; Byron Center wins 5-2.
Petey’s Pick: Byron Center
Bishop Foley United vs. Grand Blanc
Saturday, 3pm @ John Lindell Ice Arena
Grand Blanc is off to its best start to the season in Hub history. That run began with a 7-4 win over Bishop Foley United three weeks ago. That was a tie game with under three minutes left in regulation though, and I fully expect the rematch to have a different outcome. Still high-flying, still plenty of up-and-down action with a ton of offense. However, I’m taking Grant Stocker and Bishop Foley to be on the right side of things when the dust settles. Stocker had a natural hat trick against the Wildcats last time; he’ll need to produce in bunches once again to net a different outcome.
Petey’s Pick: Bishop Foley United
Plymouth vs. Salem
Saturday, 6:30pm @ Plymouth Cultural Center
The Park Schools rivalry rarely disappoints. Plymouth beat Canton three weeks ago. Canton beat Salem two weeks ago. I’m taking Salem to beat Plymouth this weekend to complete the transitive property loop and force a three-way tie. The Rocks will have to play some of their best hockey to do it though, and I don’t love this matchup for them. Salem is giving up goals in bunches — six goals against over the last five games — and Plymouth has plenty of threats who can expose that weakness. But weird things happen in rivalry games and there is plenty of bragging rights at stake. A big performance from Karsen Patel secures a 4-3 win for Salem.
Petey’s Pick: Salem
Chelsea vs. Portage
Saturday, 6:30pm @ Arctic Coliseum
While Portage is 5-2-0 and Chelsea is still winless, only four spots separate these two on MyHockeyRankings. It’s an even matchup for sure, but stylistically, it’s bad. The Bulldogs have struggled to score goals — only eight in six games — and the Muskies are stout defensively. Lee LaPorte and Andrew Curry have only given up 14 goals all season, and have held four straight opponents to two goals or fewer. The Arctic Coliseum is a tough place for road teams to get a win, but Portage’s playing style is perfect for this environment.
Petey’s Pick: Portage
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