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Lakeland captain Ian Farley (7) slides past Auburn Hills Avondale's Brendan Nofs during a game earlier this season. Both are looking to compete for league titles, Lakeland in the KLAA North and Avondale in the OAA White. (Special to The Oakland Press/CHRIS WALL)
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Auburn Hills Avondale
The Yellow Jackets must find a way to replace all the offensive firepower they lost to graduation a year ago. Fortunately for coach Karl Daiek, he returns the bulk of his defense, and that might be the team's saving grace as it looks to win an OAA White championship this season.
Avondale, which finished 17-9 overall and runner-up to Berkley-Ferndale in the White last year, has 11 players returning to the team. Among them are seniors Craig Zimmerman (D), Luke Senkowski (F) and Jordan Edwards (F), juniors Erik Gadzinski (F), Emmett Wagner (F), Paul Miriani (D), Max Spurlin (D) and Patrick Riedy (F). Sophomore goalie Nikolas Senkowski also returns for the Yellow Jackets.
"We have a lot of young players that we're going to rely on to make up for the (lost) scoring," Daiek said. "Bringing these new players up to speed will be the most important factor in the level of success that we will reach."
It won't be easy for the Bears to duplicate their success from a year ago. The team was 22-3-2 overall, won an OAA White championship and reached the regional championship before falling to St. Mary's.
Coach Jeff Fleming lost some top-notch talent to graduation, but does return 13 letterwinners. Leading the way will be a pair of all-state players. Junior goalie Stephen Wroe earned first-team all-state honors last season and will be back between the pipes. Senior forward Joey Leider was an honorable-mention selection and will lead the team up front. Senior Nolan Young, who's been with the team four years now, is back to lead the defense.
"We've got a good core returning and we picked up six new players that will have to contribute for us to be successful," Fleming said. "Our team goals are to complete in our league, be competitive in our showcases and put our best effort in the state tournament."
On the surface, the Chargers will face the challenge of nurturing a roster full of newcomers. They return just seven players from last year's 14-10-1 squad. But a deeper look into the United team shows that it returns some real good talent at the top. Last year's team MVP, Chase Smith, returns for his senior season. He had 33 points a year ago and will captain this year's team. Also back is senior assistant captain Kevin Barnett, who had 32 points last season. Both earned all-league honors. Joining them as offensive threats is sophomore Johnny Artemenko and junior Connor Holman.
Defensively, the Chargers have seniors Brian Keener (assistant captain) and Andrew Settecerri back to lead the way. In between the pipes is senior goalie Nick Dingwall. The team is 4-2-1 in its first seven games, including 3-1-1 in the OAA White.
"We have set a number a couple of goals for this season which include putting ourselves in a position to compete for the OAA league championship and going deeper into the state playoffs then we did last year," coach Bruce McAlister said.
Coach Bryan Krygier has some talent back from last year's OAA Red regular season champions. But he'll be forced to integrate a bunch of incoming talent to the 2012-13 squad. Ten letterwinners are back, including both of his goalies - juniors Jack Viazanko and Nick Surovec.
Senior captain Adam Johns will lead the defense, which also returns Shawn Cotter and Eric Matynowski, who will miss the first half of the season to injury. On offense, juniors Chase Wiedemann, Garrett Polish, Jacob LaPorte and Carter Rea all return to provide Krygier with some offense.
"We have well-rounded forwards on the team, any of which can score for us," Krygier said. "We are a hard-working team that can play physical. Defensively, we have (Johns) back to take on the leadership role from the blue line. He's a hard worker and will do whatever is asked of him."
One goal the Wolves are looking to attain is winning another OAA Red championship. Krygier has put together a challenging schedule which will test the Wolves.
"As long as we work hard and are disciplined, we can win a lot of games," the coach said.
KBH United (Flint Kearsley, Ortonville-Brandon, Holly)
Coming off a successful season which included a share of the Flint Metro League championship, KBH will be in rebuilding mode this season.
Coach Steven Yuchasz lost 12 seniors off last year's team, which finished 12-11-1. He'll be relying heavily on his eight returning letterwinners, including seniors Brent Smiles (G), Patrick Corey (D), Trever Hunter (F), J.T. Kirby (F), Kyle Nishek (F), along with junior A.J. Yuchasz (D) and sophomores Steven Niles (D) and Tristen Younes (G). Smiles is the team captain and an "absolute team leader," according to his coach.
"We're rebuilding," Yuchasz said. "We're very young and inexperienced at all forward positions. We've got solid goaltending and a young, but solid defense."
Coach Tim Ronayne has just a handful of players back from last year's regional champion squad - the first Lakeland team to win a regional title in 32 years - so he'll have his work cut out for him this season. But he's optimistic his new talent has the ability to step up and integrate into the team structure.
Ronayne will rely on returnees such as Ian Farley, Kyle Jakubowski, Jake Riutta and Trent Lloyd to help the newcomers fit in. Among the newcomers expected to make an impact are Garrett Unsworth, Jake Lennard, Zac Rankin, Seth Farmer, Justin Pahl, Blake Anderson, Ross DiFalco, Mike Markley, Josh Smith, Pat McElwee, Billy Schroeder, Joey Slenzak and Cody Crawford.
"The new players have a good feel for the game and will fit in nicely," Ronayne said. "The key will be to get the new guys to step up and take on bigger roles as the season progresses."
Madison Heights Bishop Foley Unified (Parkway Christian)
The Warriors lost some key pieces off last year's team, and lost some of its depth. But coach Dave Williamson's cupboard is not bare, by any means.
THe Unified team returns fourth-year goalie Alex Day, who allowed 2.77 goals per game last season. Senior captain Kaylan Taylor is also back for his fourth year with the team and will anchor a top line which also includes juniors Tyler Hiltunen and Austin Lukaschewski. Lukaschewski led the team with 47 points in 2011-12. Defensively the team will be led by fourth-year player Dominic Doxen, along with junior Rudy Stuglin, sophomore Andrew Williamson and junior Kristin Doxen.
"Obviously we do not have the depth that we had last season," Williamson said of his 1-2 Warriors, which is a combined team with Sterling Heights Parkway Christian. "We are a smaller team number-wise this year. We have some new players who are inexperienced playing at the high school level. But they have already learned that we (the team) must be responsible in our own end first."
A new coach, with a new philosophy, yeah, what the Mavericks need this year is some great leadership. And that's exactly what first-year Milford coach Paul Ogden is hoping to get from some of his team leaders.
"This year's team has a positive attitude," Ogden said. "They have a lot of fun, work hard in practice and are starting to showcase in games what they learned in practice."
Ogden said team defense will be one of the keys to his team's success this season. That, along with the aforementioned leadership he hopes to get out of the likes of goalie Tony Bima, defensemen R.J. Hogg and Connor Welsh, along with forwards Matt Nassar, J.J. Munce, Evan Wilson, Trevor Tierney, Dominic Bates and Alex Anderson.
The team has nine players back from last year's squad.
Todd Krygier has proven to be one of the best high school hockey coaches around over the past few years. But this season will really put the Wildcats' coach to the test.
His team returns just six skaters and two goalies from last year's team. He'll rely on four of those players - all of which played on the 2010-11 state championship team - to lead the way. Among them are senior captain Collin Pew and senior assistant captains Mark Baker and Carl Faraon. Senior Patrick Carney and junior Austin Petty return in goal for Novi, which finished 19-7-1 last year.
"If we win, it will be with everyone having a team-first attitude and a hard work ethic," Krygier said. "We're going to work hard and smart every day, execute our team systems and look to win the next game out."
The Ravens have a new coach, Craig Ward, and a relatively new roster. At least a young one. So Ward and his fellow coaches will rely heavily on the leadership of those players returning from last year's team, which bowed out of the state tournament at the hands of the eventual state champion, Brother Rice.
Senior co-captains Trey Sobolweski (F) and Seth Schuit (D) lead the way. Also back is senior goalie Max Benoit, junior forward Evan Fall and sophomore goalie Danny Harlick. Sophomore forward/defenseman Matt Bashi and freshmen forwards Quinn Fall and Clay Kosnick provide Ward with some fresh, incoming talent to the varsity roster.
"Our goal is to be competitive at every level," said Ward, who coached Royal Oak for three years back in the early 2000s. "Having a new coach and new program with new players, it will take some time to adapt to the surroundings and the culture of how we learn the game of hockey and life."
Royal Oak Shrine
Third-year coach A.J. Plaskey is hoping team depth will carry his squad in 2012-13. The Knights are deep at the forward position, as well as in goal.
Senior forward Joe Nagle - all-catholic last season - returns after scoring 27 goals a year ago. Also returning up front is senior Dan Tresnak and sophomore Michael Mann. Senior Hugo Stange is back at goalie.
Providing depth at forward will be Chris Bradley, Ryan Bradley and Zack Zednik. Steve Erwin will help out in goal.
South Lyon Unified
With nine players - all skilled, impact players - returning from last year's team, sixth-year coach Bill McCreary is optimistic about this year's Unified team.
Returning to form a solid defensive corps for McCreary are seniors Grant Braekevelt, Nick Burton (assistant captain), Matt Wisniewski (assistant captain) and Cam Thomas, along with junior captain Blake Robertson. New to the unit are seniors Grant Widger and Jake Burnia. Junior Aaron Callan returns in goal and will be paired with newcomer, sophomore Justin Zabinski, to provide South Lyon with a solid net presence.
Offensively, the team will count on senior assistant captains Alex Hudgens and Corey Haas, along with junior Corey Robertson - all of which return from last year. Newcomers include seniors Sean Carroll, Mitch Paquette and Jake Warren, juniors Cam O'Donnell, Tyler Manasco, Dylan Cordes and C.J. Meyers, along with sophomores Joe Taiariol and Joe Watson.
"Being upperclassmen heavy, our experience and character, combined with our skill, should allow us to enjoy our share of success this year," McCreary said. "How much and how quickly will depend on the time it takes for our 12 new players to adjust to varsity hockey."
Amazing what a deep run in the playoffs will do for the psyche of a hockey team. A year after winning a regional title before losing in the Division 2 quarters, coach Ian Smith's team has its sights set on reaching Compuware in 2012-13.
But the challenge will be overcoming the loss of several key players to graduation. The Cougars do return eight letterwinners, led by all-state honorable mention goalie Maxx Grant. Other key returnees include senior forward Chris Stanbury (co-captain), junior forward Nolan Arbour, sophomore forward Josh Niederhauser and senior defenseman Nick Wojno (co-captain). Smith said his team will be a strong skating and physical, giving it plenty of opportunities to put the puck in the net.
"We're still a relatively young and inexperienced team with a good amount of players new to high school hockey," said the coach, whose team finished 13-15 a year ago. "The team should improve and progress throughout the season as experienced is gained."
The Colts will have some big shoes to fill in 2012-13. It won't be easy, but coach Tim Zimmerman has 12 returning players ready to step up to the plate. Last year's team was a big offensive threat. This year's team may have to rely on defense to win games.
Seniors Colin McLean and Joe Brodzinski will lead that defense, while senior forward Edmund Qiao and junior Harrison Stoolmiller are back to lead the offense.
"Our team will need to play great team defense in order to be competitive this season," Zimmerman said. "Each player will need to be responsible for his position when the opponents have the puck."
The Colts were 16-10 last year, losing in the pre-regional.
If early-season returns are any indication, the Red Hawks sure won't have much trouble scoring this year. They've scored 39 goals in seven games. Problem is they've given up 27.
Coach Joe Barone's team returns 12 players from last year's team, including five seniors. Leading the way so far has been senior Nathan Gurzell, who has 21 goals and 26 points in those first seven games. He's an assistant captain, along with Ian Marchand, to the team's captain, Cory Faw. Senior John Merola (assistant captain) and junior Jeff Merola - the team's top goalie - will also play big roles for Athens this year.
"We're hoping to compete for an OAA White division championship and work towards hitting our full potential come February for the state playoffs," Barone said.
Walled Lake Central
Coming off an 11-14 season a year ago, co-head coaches John Fritz and Dan Copeland will rely on a plethora of returning talent from last year's team to take a step forward in 2012-13.
The Vikings return 14 players, 11 of which are seniors, this year. There are six juniors and three sophomores on the roster.
"It will take all 20 players as a team to make this season a success," Fritz said. "Eight of our seniors have been with the program since their freshman year and came up through our JV program. This gives us time to mold the team as we want them to play."
Walled Lake Northern
Quite often teams face a difficult task of rebuilding after massive losses to graduation. That won't be the case at Walled Lake Northern, where 10th-year head coach Claude Tunison returns some of his best talent from last year's 18-7-1 squad.
His top two scorers - junior forward Austin Sansom and senior forward Eric Woolf - both return to the team. Seniors Joe Rozek (F), Jack Paulson (D), Austin Gateman (F), Kyle Anicka (F), along with juniors Daniel McCormick (D) and Keegan Brown (D), also return. Tunison will have returning goalie, senior Grant Luzynski, also returning. New to the team will be senior forward Austin Severson, sophomore forward/defenseman Kyle Boerner and sophomore forward Nikolai Vidinovsky.
Tunison says that although he's got a lot of talent back, he's hoping his new players will integrate into the mix. If they do, he feels he'll have another strong team capable of contending for a league title and a deep run in the state playoffs.
"Hopefully we can get this squad to peak come the end of February," Tunison said. "Should the talent and leadership mix blend well, then I feel we could compete as a Top-10 team."
The Corsairs were one game away from reaching the state quarterfinals. Their goals might be a little more grounded this year, as they welcome in a slew of young talent.
Coach Marty White does have one of the most potent offensive weapons in the county returning in senior forward Austin Sereno. He was a second-team all-state selection a year ago. He'll be joined by fellow seniors Max Vancile (F), Drake Murray (D) and Tyler Wortman (D), along with junior goalie Scott Koenigbauer as players White will count on to help the team achieve its goals.
"We're a young team this year, having added four freshmen and three sophomores to the roster," said White, whose team finished 13-12-1 last year. "We are going to rely on hard work on both ends of the ice if we want to have a successful season."
New head coach Steven Kuza knows that if you've got depth, you can compete in the OAA White. So with 10 players back, and 21 on this year's roster, there's no doubt he thinks he's got the team to compete.
Junior Connor Schram will captain this year's Lakers. Seniors Ryan Houle and Peter Gapczynski, along with junior Evan Root, are the assistants. Through the first six games of the season, Houle and senior Ellis Fried lead the team with seven points apiece. Seniors Luke Andrews and Nolan Taylor have split the goaltending duties.
"The biggest about our team this year is depth. Everyone can play hockey," Kuza said. "Ultimately, the goal I had for our team this year is to win the league. And I also think we can go far, looking at our pre-regional and regional."
Jason Schmitt covers high school hockey for The Oakland Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, read his "In The Zone" blog here and follow our high school hockey coverage on Twitter @MIPrepZone.
Last Updated: 12/11/2012 11:51:53 PM ESTblog comments powered by Disqus