An all-star team composed largely of Observerland hockey players pooled its talent to win the gold medal in the annual Meijer State Games June 25-28 in Grand Rapids.
For three of the players – Farmington’s Jason Petras, Hartland’s Kyle Mazur and Salem’s Evan Newel – it was their second championship in three years.
Team Metro West also included players from Livonia Franklin and Stevenson high schools, Novi, Farmington Hills Unified, Walled Lake Western and Northern and White Lake Lakeland.
The event was an Olympic-style tournament with eight teams in the 15-17 age group, each representing a different geographic region of the state.
In the championship game June 28, Petras and Stevenson’s Nate Sudek scored goals as Team Metro West defeated Metro South a second time, 2-1.
Hartland goalkeeper Christian Spangler made 28 saves for the winners. He backstopped the team to three tournament wins and Farmington’s Hunter Firestone the other two.
Metro West’s leading scorer in the five games was Franklin forward Chase Wallis with four goals and two assists for six points. Western’s Joe Pace led the team with a plus-8 rating.
The all-Franklin line of Trevor Lassaline, Brendan Whitney and Wallis managed to go the entire tournament without allowing a goal to be scored against it.
Metro West began its 5-0 run through the round-robin tournament with a 5-3 win over Metro South in pool play. Wallis saw to it the local team had a good start with a three-goal hat trick.
Whitney also was instrumental in the victory with three assists. Hartland’s Gabe Anderson and Newel scored the other goals. Spangler made 22 saves.
The all-Hartland trio of Blake Heier, Jacob Behnke and Anderson netted goals en route to a 5-2 defeat of Team North in the second game.
Unified’s Joey Lajcaj and Whitney also contributed to the scoring. Firestone was between the pipes and stopped 21 shots.
In the first of two games June 27, Metro West secured first place in pool play by downing Metro North, 4-2.
Petras, Wallis, Heier and Lakeland’s Matt Kovach figured in the scoring. Spangler guarded the goal and recorded 24 saves.
In the medal round later that day, Metro West eliminated last year’s chanpion, Team West, with a 3-2 victory.
Northern’s Brody Dorner, Sudek and Petras put the puck in the net for the winners, and Firestone made 25 saves to pick up his second win.
Good defense was as much a factor in the Metro West success. In addition to Mazur and Pace, the goalies had help from Stevenson defensemen Zach Finzel and Kevin Stefanick, Novi’s Ryan Fonda and Hartland’s Zach Sexton.
“It’s great when rival teams and players come together as one to compete and win a tournament,” Metro West assistant and Franklin head coach Dennis Gagnon said.
“They end up forging a bond for life. We didn’t win last year, but the kids, when they see each other at the rink, it’s still special. This will make it even more special, winning the gold.”
The 20 players who comprised Team Metro West were among the 40 who attended a three-day tryout at Kensington Valley Ice House in Brighton.
Hartland’s Rick Gadwa was the team’s head coach. Other assistants included Northville head coach Gordie Brown and Hartland assistants John and Ian McCullough.