Ice hockey

What to watch in high school hockey state tournament

Brighton goalie Logan Neaton makes the save during Catholic Central's 3-0 win over Brighton in the 2016 Division 1 hockey final Saturday at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.

Brighton goalie Logan Neaton makes the save during Catholic Central’s 3-0 win over Brighton in the 2016 Division 1 hockey final Saturday at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.

Here is a look at finals week in high school hockey, including the quarterfinals that will be played Tuesday and Wednesday in Divisions 1-3. Rankings used are from the regular season-ending numbers posted by the coaches association through the Michigan High School Hockey Hub.

Can Hartland break through for its first hockey state championship?

Hartland (ranked No. 2 in Div. 2 at 24-2-1) has yet to collect a state title, but has had many chances in recent years after earning its sixth consecutive regional crown Saturday. The Eagles (led by Mr. Hockey candidate Josh Albring) will have to get through 2016 state runner-up Livonia Stevenson (ranked No. 4) on Tuesday night in Novi to qualify for their fourth final four appearance in the past six years. Hartland has been the state runner-up twice — in 2013 and 2014.

Can Flint Powers Catholic win its first state title?

Like Hartland, but spread out over the past 35 years, Powers Catholic has been only a runner-up. Six times — even dating back to 1983 when Greg Rolston set the state record for most goals in a season at 93 (until Powers’ Ron Rolston broke it the following year with 94, which still stands today).

Now ranked the No. 1 team in Division 3 at 27-1, this could be the Chargers’ year. They must get past No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central at 24-2-2 in the quarterfinal Wednesday and potentially No. 3 Calumet in the semifinal Friday to make school history.

U.P. Power

Calumet has been there before, winning six state championships since 1992. The Copper Kings’ last championship game appearance came as Div. 3 runner-up in 2011, and they will take on unranked Big Rapids in the Wednesday quarterfinal at Sault Ste. Marie.

Can Romeo repeat as defending champ in Division 2, arguably the most balanced division in the state?

Not likely. Not only would Romeo (16-11) have to face the winner of Hartland-Stevenson in the semifinals, it first has to get through No. 1-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice (22-4-1) in the quarterfinals. That would be the upset of the season.

Geographic brackets or seeding?

A strong case was made for seeding the tournament based on some local regional results that paired up higher-ranked teams pretty early. Brighton took out No. 1-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the weekend regional, but it was less of an upset because of the fact the Bulldogs had been No. 1 prior to dropping to No. 3. Coaches said that game would have been a great state final or at least a semifinal, a few games later on the tournament path than when it took place. The same thing happened in Div. 3 in the U.P. where only Calumet advanced, leaving No. 4 Hancock and No. 7 Sault Ste. Marie out of the quarterfinals.

Another Brighton vs. Novi Detroit Catholic Central Div. 1 finals matchup?

For fans and coaches who are fine with not seeding early-round tournaments, all could still witness yet another Brighton vs. DCC showdown in the state final. DCC, led by Mr. Hockey candidate Zach Sprys-Tellner, is the three-time Div. 1 defending state champ ranked at No. 2. It beat Brighton in the championship game last year and in 2014. Brighton won the state championship in both 2012 and ’13, beating the Shamrocks in the ’13 title game.

Will top Mr. Hockey candidate Jake Crespi lead Brighton to that title again?

The senior forward was an eighth-grader the last time Brighton won the state championship. If anyone can change that tide, Crespi can. He is unique in high school hockey in that the majority of prep players advance to junior hockey — or avoid joining their high school team altogether — before committing to a college program. But Crespi verbally committed to Lake Superior State in December. “I wanted to have more fun with hockey,” Crespi, who played AAA hockey for seven seasons, told the Livingston Daily at the time. “I lost touch with my love of hockey. That was difficult because it’s been my dream since I was a little kid. Losing your dream and kind of losing your way was tough. When I made the jump to high school, I found it again.” He has 28 goals and 26 assists in 28 games.

Livonia Churchill’s first final four?

No. 5 Livonia Churchill (20-8) won its first regional crown over the weekend since winning regionals back-to-back in 2011 and ‘12. But the Chargers, led by Mr. Hockey candidate John Doyle, have never gotten to the Final Four. That could more easily change as they are favored in a quarterfinal date with unranked Saline on Tuesday and should also be favored over the two unranked teams coming out of the west side quarterfinals.

Northville’s first final four since 2004?

No. 4 Northville (21-6-1) has its best shot of advancing to the final four in many years after beating No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood in the regional final, 3-2, in overtime. Not only a confidence booster but now the Mustangs play unranked Macomb Dakota (15-10-2), which knocked off No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit in the regional, 7-6. Northville last reached the final four in 2004.

Conference powers

Both the Kensington Lakes Activities Association and the Detroit Catholic High School League have five representatives each still alive as regional champions. And despite the soon-to-happen breakup of the KLAA, all the teams return to their respective conferences next season.

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