When the high school hockey season started back in November, there were more questions than answers. In leagues previously filled with standalone programs, this time around, most were co-op squads. That put the Big Nine with three and the Metro League with four teams vying for the league bragging rights. Lapeer High Schools became the new name of the merged teams from Lapeer East and West after a heavy and swift budget axe over the summer forced the two to combine. Kearsley, Holly and Brandon joined forces under the KBH United moniker and Swartz Creek brought in Clio as part of its program. Fenton remained as the lone standalone program.
What that meant, was that every game mattered and no one could afford a loss, let alone a tie. However, as the season wore on, a little help from friends juggled the final league standings in the Metro League, leaving Creek-Clio and KBH United as co-champs. Because Lapeer High Schools had tied with Fenton and Fenton had beaten KBH, 6-5, all of a sudden, several teams that were looking to be runners up ended up standing atop the heap.
In the Big Nine, Flushing’s dominance through much of the season that included upsetting perennial powerhouse Flint Powers and several other top squads in the area, began to suffer several setbacks. In the end, Flint Powers and Davison will share the final Big Nine title at 2-1-1 and Flushing finished the confernece season at 1-3-0. Next season, all three will join the Saginaw Valley Conference.
In the Genesee Area Conference, just as many changes took place with Goodrich as the lone standalone program left after Linden/Lake Fenton/Durand cooped to form the Tri-City Chiefs and LakeVille became the primary with Dryden and North Branch. Goodrich drew Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in its pre-regional round at the Polar Palace in Lapeer and awaits Flint Powers or the winner of Saginaw Nouvel or Freeland at Perani Arena in the regional finals.
Heading into the pre-regional round of the postseason on Monday, uncharted waters still laid ahead, as enrollment numbers because of the co-op status have pushed several of the teams up a division. Lapeer faced the daunting task of looking Lake Orion squarely in the eyes Tuesday after deadline, with ranked
Clarkston awaiting the winner. Creek-Clio faced former Big Nine foe
Grand Blanc. The two squads got a good look at one another last Wednesday, with the game ending in a 3-3 draw. That made Tuesday’s pre-regional game a marquee match-up at Perani Arena. Both squads were looking to bring a slightly different game plan to the table to come out on top. A unexpected loss for Creek-Clio came in the first period when Cody Delorenzo suffered a broken arm. Coach John Badal wasn’t too worried about the kids stepping up because they had rallied to tie with the Bobcats. It’s just hard to see a senior go down just before the big post-season contests. The winner of the Creek-Clio vs Grand Blanc game then gets KBH or Flushing. Davison’s pre-regional matchup put it up against yet another new co-op with LakeVille joining forces with Dryden and North Branch this season, two schools that have never fielded hockey teams. LakeVille had a rough start, but has righted its ship just in time to take on one of the storied teams in the area. Davison was the winner, 8-0, in that one and will now have to stub its collective toe early to take on Port Huron Northern. Northern is ranked No. 11 in the latest overall coaches poll and No. 3 in Div. 2.
To say the postseason will be an exciting one is an understatement. Play big or go home has a whole new meaning this time around and there remain just as many questions as answers as we wait to see who moves on as this column is printed Wednesday night.