As a freshman, Ian Melrose gave up travel hockey to play for his school team, and he hasn’t looked back.
Now, the Berkley junior is an all-state forward, leads his team in scoring and relishes playing at home in front of a grandstand packed with classmates.
“I think most of the kids who play hockey at our school play for the varsity,” he said. “There are a few kids who play Triple-A, but we’re trying to get as much talent here as we can.”
Melrose had a goal and an assist Saturday as the Bears won their eighth straight, 3-2, over Farmington Hills Unified.
But Melrose isn’t looking back at the win streak, either.
“We don’t really dwell on it; it’s the next game to always think about,” said Melrose, who has 18 goals and 39 points. “It’s that game, next shift, and stuff like that. We don’t really look at the stats like eight games in a row.”
Instead, he said, Berkley (10-2, 6-1 Oakland Activities Association Red) has to focus on Novi, a formidable nonleague foe awaiting Saturday.
“We’ve got a tough road in front of us,” Berkley coach Jeff Fleming said. “We’ve got Novi, we’ve got Salem, Escanaba, Marquette, I mean, it’s really one game at a time, but the wins are adding up.”
The Bears reached the Division 2 quarterfinals last year, returned 12 skaters and even though only three are seniors, the team is ranked fourth in the state. Their last blemish was a 3-2 loss Dec. 5 to front-running Rochester United (ranked second in Division 1).
“We’re not going to win out; I don’t think Rochester’s going to win out. I think somebody’s going to beat them,” Fleming said. “It’s a pretty good race; it’s going to be tough, but there’s a lot of hockey coming up. I’m excited, and I’m happy where the kids are.”
Even though they’re not looking back, the Bears can’t afford to look past anyone, either. Although Farmington Hills Unified (7-8, 2-5) is several games back in the standings, the Flyers gave Berkley a good battle. Jack Cikra’s power-play goal with 5 minutes remaining brought fresh energy, as they had several scoring opportunities down the stretch. With a minute left, Andrew Nathan’s slap shot from the blue line got behind Berkley netminder Michael Schwanke, but didn’t have the momentum to cross the goal line and no one was able to pounce on the loose puck.
“Obviously, we had our chances; it didn’t go in for us at the end there, but we worked really hard and I’m proud of my guys,” Flyers coach Ken Anderson said. “We played very consistent. Our last game with Berkley was a 6-4 game but wasn’t as close. This one was very close all the way through; it was a good game to be involved in. They’re a hardworking team and we battled with them today.”
Max Dooley and Zach Leonard also scored for Berkley.