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Well-oiled machine: Mt. Pleasant hockey off to best start in program history WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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The history of the Mt. Pleasant High School hockey program does not go back very far.

It was only in 2009 when the Oilers unveiled their varsity team and since then there been some highs as well as lows.

Right now, Mt. Pleasant is in the midst of by far its best start in program history as it improved to 6-0 on the season Wednesday night with a 4-1 triumph over Freeland at I.C.E. Arena.

This year’s start is in stark contrast to 2013 when the Oilers were struggling at 1-6-2 on Dec. 13 and eventually finished the season with a record of 7-17-2.

If Mt. Pleasant wins Friday night when it opens play in the Oilers Invite at 5 p.m. against L'anse Creuse North, it will equal the win total from last season and also do so in perfect fashion without a loss to date.

So how has such a turnaround been possible for Mt. Pleasant?

“Everyone is on the same page,” Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Willett said. “Everyone is working toward the same system and selfishness is to a complete minimum. That’s the difference. We’re playing hard for each other.”

The Oilers opened their season with an 8-2 win over Marysville Nov. 21 and followed it up with a 6-5 victory the next day against Port Huron. Those successes were followed up this month with victories over the Mid-Michigan Storm, Hudsonville, Grand Haven and Freeland by a combined goal differential of 20-5.

“We’re winning games but the biggest thing is we’re getting better at our process,” Willett added. “It doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says, it matters that we are getting better at what we are doing. That is how we pick up momentum.”

Making it all the more impressive is the fact that Mt. Pleasant only has two seniors on the roster after seven senior leaders graduated from the 2013-14 roster.

The lone two seniors on the Oilers are defenseman Collin Lambert and Logan Elliot, but it is not as if it is that inexperienced of a roster as many of the juniors and a couple of the sophomores saw significant action last season.

“It is an experienced team and these guys have had good coaching throughout their hockey career,” said Willett. “They’re coaching each other up now.”

Lambert has played hockey since he was a 3-year old and started travel hockey around the age of nine.

Just like most of the roster, hockey is simply is in the blood of Lambert.

“Once the varsity season ends, spring hockey starts and you play into the summer,” Lambert said. “It’s my passion and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

While the 6-0 start is something Lambert is proud of, there are plenty of games to come and now is not the time for Mt. Pleasant to rest on its laurels.

“It definitely feels good to be 6-0 but we just have to keep our heads right. Don’t get too confident,” Lambert said.

Lambert reiterated Willett’s words on why the Oilers have been successful through six games.

“The process that we’ve been working on is all about team. We’ve been sticking to that system,” added Lambert. “No one is individual. When the process breaks down, we fix it immediately.”

Junior Zach Heeke leads Mt. Pleasant with 11 goals and eight assists in six games, while Max Trucks has seven goals and eight assists. The goalie tandem of sophomores Aaron Friedlein and Andrew Lambert have kept opposing teams at bay, surrendering a total of just 12 goals in six games.

Friedlein recorded a recent shutout in a Dec. 3 win over the Mid-Michigan Storm. Andrew Lambert, the younger brother of Collin, allowed only one goal in Wednesday’s game on 14 shots.

“We haven’t allowed any cheap goals. Both of them are making solid saves and doing an outstanding job,” Willett said.

Trucks scored a pair of goals in the victory. Kyle Reihl and Mitchell Haines added one goal apiece.

“With the process we have in place, we have a chance to beat anybody,” Willett said.

Last Updated: 12/11/2014 5:36:42 PM EST