Cranes girls figure to again contend for state title

Cranes girls figure to again contend for state title


Cranes girls figure to again contend for state title


Senior captain Syd Pollak is a four-year varsity player who figures to lead Cranbrook Kingswood’s offense this season.

Senior captain Syd Pollak is a four-year varsity player who figures to lead Cranbrook Kingswood’s offense this season.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood’s girls hockey team has been a force in the Michigan High School Girls Hockey League ever since head coach Terry Brooks took over eight years ago.

The Cranes have won two state championships — 2010 and 2013 — and have advanced to at least the semifinal round of the MHSGHL state tournament in each of the last four seasons.

Brooks expects this year’s team to live up to those high standards.

“This is one of my better teams and I’m pretty excited about the quality of players we have. I think this year’s team should be very competitive,” said Brooks, whose team opened the season Nov. 17 with a 9-0 shutout of Detroit Country Day. “My seniors are pretty darn competitive and we have real strong goaltending. By and large, I think I’m going to have a pretty strong team.

“I think this team can contend for a state championship. I really do,” he added. “I haven’t seen the other teams play yet, but I know what I have and I don’t think other teams can put the quality of players on the ice that I can put on the ice. I don’t have any players I have to hide. Every one of them can play.”

The Cranes have an experienced group of players returning from last year’s squad, which lost in the state semifinals, 2-1, to eventual champion Grosse Pointe South. Brooks expects to have a skilled team with plenty of depth, which figures to pick up right where it left off last season when it skated to a 19-6 overall record and a third-place finish in the MHSGHL behind South and Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett.

“We were right there last year and I thought, by and large, we had one of the stronger teams in the state last year,” Brooks said. “Out of that team, we lost four seniors. I always try to not be senior-heavy. I always try to bring in a few freshmen every year and let them play. That way I don’t have a vacuum where I have a real strong team one year and don’t have anything the next.”

Captains lead squad

Cranbrook Kingswoood will be led by senior captains Syd Pollak and Hannah Eibner and junior captains Courtney Wright and Aryn Margulis.

Pollak figures to be one of the team’s leading scorers this season and got off to a smashing start with a goal and three assists in the season-opening victory over Country Day. The four-year varsity standout is an aggressive winger who has a “nose for the net.” Brooks looks for her to have a big year.

“Syd has always been one of our top scorers. She’s not real big, but she’s very, very feisty and in girls hockey that’s really something you can’t teach,” Brooks said. “She’s very aggressive and goes after every loose puck. She has a good shot and knows how to score goals. She’s going to lead by example. She’s just wired that way.”

Eibner gives the Cranes a steady presence at both ends of the ice. She is the team’s top defender, who will play on the penalty kill and will be a scoring threat on the power player.

“Hannah’s a good all-around player with a hard shot for a defenseman,” Brooks said. “She doesn’t really rush the puck a lot, but we try to get her the puck at the blue line because of her shot that she can keep low. We just let her wind up and let it go.”

Wright is another big, strong winger with strong scoring potential and good leadership qualities. Margulis is a center with speed who also figures to be among the team’s top scorers.

Cranbrook’s top line — called the Green Line — will consist of Pollak, Margulis and Olive Stevens. The second line of Wright, senior Madison George and sophomore Georgia Hinnant figures to have nearly as much firepower as the first. The third unit of sophomores Natasha Vasan, Samantha Chinn and Claire Norwick supplies the depth.

Besides Eibner, other defensemen include seniors Alayna Margulis and Reilly Knoer, junior Michel Faliski, sophomore Brigette Ballard and freshman Grace Al-Sheikh.

Senior Kaitlyn Alvord and sophomore Maggie McMurray, recovering from an injury, will compete for playing time in goal as the season goes on.

Strong team all-around

“When I look at my team from top to bottom, I really don’t have a weak player,” Brooks said. “I don’t have to shorten my bench in the tougher games. I can play everybody. They are all good players with experience.

“I like that this team can all play hockey. They all come from good hockey backgrounds, so I don’t have to waste any time on teaching skills. They all come in with skills and experience and that’s a huge benefit for me as a coach.

“I think this is going to be a good, all-around, fundamental team,” he added. “I don’t like to open up the game. I want them to play a system. I want them to play defense and I guess I’m a little conservative on that.”

Cranbrook Kingswood’s main competition this season should come from defending state champion South, plus always tough Liggett and much-improved Farmington Hills Mercy.

The Cranes have never had a losing season under Brooks and he aims to keep it that way. Their first home game will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 against Walled Lake.

“We’re always one of the teams to beat. Everyone looks at us and when they see Cranbrook out there, we seem to have to play our toughest games almost every night,” Brooks said. “They know that if they don’t show up to play us, we’ll mop the ice with them. My girls don’t mess around. They want to win.”


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