Mick Sinclair, F, Stevenson: The owner of game-changing talent and leadership qualities, the senior center was the catalyst of the Spartans’ run to the Division 2 championship game. Sinclair earned second team all-state and first team all-KLAA accolades after racking up nine goals and 14 assists during the regular season.
“Mick was the do-everything guy for Livonia Stevenson,” Spartans coach David Mitchell said. “He played and excelled in all situations. He was a four-year team member, the captain and leader of the team.
“He was absolutely an extension of the coaching staff on and off the ice, which is what you want and need from your captain. He had an extremely successful and decorated high school career.”
Noah Willer, F, Salem: Whenever the Rocks needed a clutch goal in big-time games, Willer came through time and time again. He led Salem’s march to the Division 1 quarterfinal, scoring 25 goals and adding 18 assists for 43 points.
The senior forward and assistant captain tallied six points in four tourney games, including a goal and assist against University of Detroit-Jesuit in the quarterfinal at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor.
Willer’s strong all-around play earned him all-KLAA honors, as well as D1 all-state honorable mention accolades.
“Noah is a pure goal scorer who uses his body exceptionally well to protect the puck,” coach Ryan Ossenmacher said. “He led our team in power-play goals each of the last three seasons and (was) a tremendous leader on and off the ice.”
The third-year varsity player ended his career fourth all-time in Salem goals.
Josh Smith, F, Plymouth: It was another very successful season for Plymouth and the efforts of Smith had a lot to do with that.
Smith netted 13 goals among 24 points in 26 games and the senior captain was a strong plus-16 player for the KLAA South Division champion Wildcats.
He led Plymouth in points, assists, game-winning goals and shots on goal and the forward was honored with selection to the all-KLAA team, as well as earning D1 all-state honorable mention kudos.
“Josh is one of the most complete players I have coached in high school hockey,” coach Gerry Vento said. “He’s solid in all three zones on the ice. His hard work, determination and team-first mentality is what made him the ultimate captain.”
Austin Bottrell, F, Farm. Unified: The senior forward set a team record for single-season points with 62. Bottrell was good at scoring goals and being a playmaker, scoring 34 goals and assisting on 28. He had a hat trick in four games.
Bottrell was the fourth-leading scorer in the rugged OAA Red Division and was named to the Division 1 all-state second team. A three-year varsity player, he will play junior hockey somewhere next season, according to coach Ken Anderson.
“Austin had the best season by a player in our nine years as a team,” Anderson said. “Obviously, he excelled offensively but also was very responsible in our end. We could count on Austin to generate scoring opportunities all year long.
“He has a potent snapshot and knows where to put it. We counted on him in every situation and very rarely did he disappoint. When we needed him, he was there for us.”
Drake Cole, F, Farmington: The senior forward was a powerful presence on the attack for three years with the Falcons. He was one of the leading scorers in the OAA and area the past season with 35 goals, 16 assists and 51 points.
Cole, who is looking for a place to play junior hockey next season, had 115 points in three varsity seasons, scoring 68 goals and recording 47 assists. He was named to the Division 3 all-state second team.
“Drake had a great year,” coach Bill Newton said. “He was definitely our leader and lived up to all of our expectations. He just got better and better and topped it off with a really nice senior year.
“He was a big part of our (2014) state championship team, too. He’ll find somewhere to play at the next level and will do very well.
“Drake is the prototypical forward, what you would call a power forward. He’s big and strong and skates very well for a big guy. He can get to places on the ice where he can score goals. He can score beautiful goals and ugly goals. They all count for one.”
Noah Saad, D, Salem: The 2014-15 Rocks played like they were on a mission and a catalyst for that mind-set was Saad.
The senior captain was a standout in sparking Salem’s sweep of top 10 teams Plymouth, Northville and Brighton in the D1 regional, sending the game against the Wildcats to overtime with a booming goal from the point.
Hard-hitting and durable, Saad provided standout leadership qualities. Ossenmacher said the blue liner “played every other shift and logged a tremendous amount of ice time.”
Saad, a third-year varsity player, chalked up three goals and 21 assists, making the D1 all-state second team and all-KLAA squad. With those 24 points, he moved up to second place in career scoring by a Salem defenseman.
“Noah plays with a speed and physicality that few high school defensemen can match,” Ossenmacher said. “He has been a consistent performer for us each of the last three seasons.”
Alec Allen, D, Stevenson: Allen’s motor was always running in first gear for the Spartans, who fed off his relentless work ethic. A two-way threat, Allen tallied two goals and 16 assists while earning first team all-state and first team all-KLAA honors.
“Alec is a player who thrives on competition and has a strong desire to improve,” Mitchell said. “Alec only knows one way to play the game and that is to go as hard as he can. Whether a game or practice, Alec’s approach was always the same, which is needed to become the type of player he has become. Alec played and excelled in all situations and will be very exciting to see how his career progresses in future years.”
Cullen Barber, G, Stevenson: Barber’s spectacular season was rewarded when he was presented with practically every postseason award available, including a berth as the starting goalie on the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association’s Dream Team and the state’s Most Outstanding Goalie award.
While splitting time with last year’s starting goalie Andrew Rozenbaum, Barber went 8-1-1 during the regular season with a 1.71 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
He took over the crease on a full-time basis once the postseason kicked in and delivered several outstanding efforts.
“Cullen just kept earning more and more ice time with his play,” Mitchell said. “He is the ultimate competitor, both in games and in practice.
“He seemed to thrive on big situations and stayed calm under pressure. All his accolades for this season were very well-deserved. He has an extremely bright future in front of him.”
Andrew Jossey, F, Plymouth: Whether delivering a crunching hit or deftly depositing the puck over a goalie’s trapper, Jossey demonstrated he could do whatever the Wildcats needed.
Jossey, a senior who made the all-conference team as well as being selected to the D1 all-state second team, was a force with a team-high 15 goals and 18 assists in just 24 games.
The prototypical power forward also was a plus-18 as coaches had no qualms about playing him in all kinds of situations.
“Soft hands along with being a powerful skater made him a difficult match-up for the opposition,” Vento said. “His combination of strength and athleticism made him a special player.”
Liam Walker, F, Salem: One of the most important players for the D1 state quarterfinalist Rocks was senior forward Walker.
When he was out with a mid-season injury, Salem lost all four games. With him back in the lineup, the Rocks took off down the stretch and won a grueling regional.
Walker, had a solid year all season, netting 13 goals and 25 assists for a team-leading 38 points. But he really turned it up in the postseason. He centered the top producing line, which tallied eight of Salem’s 12 playoff goals. It was his overtime goal in the pre-regional win over Plymouth that catapulted the Rocks.
The assistant captain brought a mix of “energy and offensive creativity” to the lineup, Ossenmacher noted.
Yet Walker could get it done on defense, too, displaying the “team-first attitude” prevalent on the 2014-15 Rocks.
“He was one of our most effective and tenacious penalty killers during the season,” Ossenmacher said.
Dylan Smith, F, Churchill: The senior center wowed opponents with a dangerous combination of size and speed.
His versatility and unselfishness were reflected in the fact that he scored 17 goals and assisted on 17 others.
His most impactful goal was the game-winner in the Chargers’ pre-regional overtime victory over Livonia Franklin.
Alex DeFlorio, F, Stevenson: A first team all-state honoree, DeFlorio was a threat to score a goal every shift he was on the ice. DeFlorio’s fiery style rubbed off on his teammates. The senior netted 14 goals and 10 assists during the regular season.
“Alex is a player that plays with a ton of emotion and hates to lose,” Mitchell said. “He is very gifted in the offensive zone and has a knack for finding the back of the net. He worked extremely hard to get better and his development was very noticeable from the time he came into our program to the time he left.”
Frank Zak, D, Farm. Unified: The senior defenseman was not only adept at performing his assigned role on defense; he regularly jumped into the offense, too.
In addition to scoring four goals, he had 30 assists – an impressive number for any player, especially a defenseman.
Zak’s performance was recognized with a berth on the Division 1 all-state first team. He will likely play junior hockey next season, too.
“While putting up great numbers, Frank was asked to play against the opposing team’s top line,” Anderson said. “He has a knack for being able to slow the game down when he has the puck and making the right play in critical situations.
“For a defenseman to get that many assists is pretty special. It means he was involved offensively and was always around the puck.
“I assume a lot of those (assists) were on Austin’s goals. They were a dynamic duo. Frank has a great mind for the game and is definitely a leader.”
Justin Makowski, D, Franklin: Makowski was a productive blue-line workhorse for the re-energized Patriots, who enjoyed their finest season in several years. A first team all-KLAA performer, Makowski racked up two goals and 23 assists.
“Justin was our force field on defense,” Franklin coach Dennis Gagnon said. “He played a ton of minutes, usually against the other team’s best, and nobody got around him in a one-on-one situation.
“He blocked nearly 100 shots, never missed a game, only took one penalty and managed to muster 23 assists. Justin is one of the best defensemen I’ve had the pleasure to coach.”
Jake Zaborowski, D, Plymouth: Among key reasons why the Wildcats were a team to be reckoned with was Zaborowski’s efforts both on defense and on the power play.
Zaborowski, a big physical senior defenseman with a heavy shot and ability to make a tape-to-tape outlet pass, collected two goals and 20 assists.
He led Plymouth in power play assists and hits and was named to the all-KLAA and D1 all-state second team for his efforts.
“Jake was a key part of a very successful power play and he could change a game with his physical play,” Vento said.
Dillon Phillips, G, Salem: Behind every great postseason run in high school hockey is a goalie on top of his game and that was definitely the case this season with Phillips.
The senior goaltender stymied three top 10 teams in a row during the D1 regional (Plymouth, Northville, Brighton) and gave the Cubs of U-D Jesuit all they could handle in the quarterfinal at Yost.
He compiled a 12-8-4 record and .906 save percentage for the season. But against top 10 teams, Phillips went 4-1 and stopped 95 percent of shots sent his way — evidence that he takes his game to the next level during crunch time.
“When Dillon was on, he gave us a chance to win any game we played,” Ossenmacher said. “Played big in net making the first save and made some very timely saves during our run.”
CO-COACHES OF YEAR
David Mitchell, Stevenson: Despite losing approximately 80 percent of the scoring from last season’s high-powered team, Mitchell was able to orchestrate another banner season for the Spartans, who took off like a finely-tuned Maserati after the holidays. The Spartans’ seven-year head coach expertly managed his lines to maximize chemistry and production, leading Stevenson to a 19-6-5 record and berth in the Division 2 state championship game against eventual champion Birmingham Brother Rice. Mitchell led the Spartans to the D2 state title in 2013.
“This team was a group that was very close both on and off the ice,” Mitchell said. “They bought into everything the coaching staff wanted them to do. The work ethic and commitment to improvement was consistently at a high level.
“They competed, they battled and they refused to get down or give up, no matter the situation. I could not be more proud of a team than I am of this one. It was truly a memorable season.”
Ryan Ossenmacher, Salem: Throughout his eight-year tenure as head coach at Salem, the Rocks have been a highly competitive group with plenty of success on the ice and accountability off it.
Ossenmacher’s professional approach has rubbed off, with players sporting dress clothes (including neckties) when leaving the locker room.
They also have demonstrated maturity and community awareness, helping youngsters during USA Hockey’s “Try Hockey for Free” event in February.
And don’t forget what the 2014-15 Rocks achieved in rinks all winter.
They posted a 14-11-4 record, but more importantly won a Division 1 regional championship for the first time in Salem history. Salem ultimately fell 4-2 to University of Detroit-Jesuit in a D1 quarterfinal at Yost Arena.
“Although this team went further than any other Salem team, it was not necessarily the most talented team we have had,” Ossenmacher said. “But they were one of the most ‘bought-in’ teams we have ever had.
“It was a special group who were committed to putting Salem first. We probably blocked more shots this year than any other season. That started with our top players. When your leading goal scorer (Noah Willer) also wins the best defensive forward award for your team, it goes a long way in stressing the importance of sacrifice and team-first mentality.”
Ossenmacher now has 102 victories at the Salem helm — the most by any Plymouth-Canton Educational Park hockey coach.
Salem’s senior leadership also was outstanding, a major factor in the team’s perseverance during struggles early in the season.
“At one point we were 8-4 and ranked in the top 10,” Ossenmacher said. “Shortly after we were below .500.
“It would have been easy to continue on that downward path, but our leaders (captain Noah Saad, assistant captains Willer, Liam Walker, Dillon Phillips and Evan Newel) wouldn’t let that happen, which is why we ended on such an upswing.”
Ossenmacher, who gave a nod to the “terrific” efforts of assistant coaches Aaron Cheesman and Brandon Scero, added that the way the Rocks rolled through the regional — defeating Plymouth, Northville and Brighton — was something that will not be soon forgotten at Salem.
“Our state quarterfinals appearance is further than any Salem team has gone,” he said. “The way we did it made it even more special. At the time, we were disappointed not making it to Compuware (where the semifinals and finals took place). But we can look back now and see what a special run it really was.”
Ossenmacher, a middle school science teacher in the Walled Lake district, resides in Northville with his wife and two children (ages 5 and 2).