The sixth annual CAAC High School Hockey Showcase will be smaller than in previous years, but one of the three games at Suburban Ice of East Lansing on Saturday will be very big.
In its first five years, the Showcase featured all of the league’s teams playing in one place in one day, and included a skills competition after each contest. But scheduling conflicts this year have reduced the number of games to three, two of which will be played almost simultaneously.
The current league leaders, the Eastside Stars, will not be a part of this year’s celebration due to a previous commitment to a tournament in Cleveland. Jackson United also will not participate.
“We were a little disappointed that we couldn’t play in it,” Eastside coach Scott Crilly said. “The kids really like the skills competition, so we’ll certainly miss it.”
Okemos and Jackson Lumen Christi will square off in 3 p.m. opener, and break a three-way logjam at the top of the CAAC standings. The Chiefs and Titans each have just one league loss so far, as does Eastside, which already has played Lumen both times and Okemos once.
Lumen Christi has won the last three league titles, and is favored to win it again. Okemos coach Bill Sipola would love to stop that streak this season.
“We’re right there,” Sipola said. “We figured that (the league title race) would come down to the few games between us and Lumen and Eastside. This is a huge game for us.”
The Chiefs will take the ice with a deep, experienced and balanced team.
“A lot of years, we only have two lines of skilled players, but now we have three,” Sipola said. “Goaltending is good for us and we have some veteran defensemen. We only lost two players from last year, so just about everybody is coming back.”
After the game between Lumen Christi and Okemos, Holt will face DeWitt/St. Johns at 5:30 p.m., and Grand Ledge/Fowlerville and the Capital Area Patriots will face off at 6.