This is the calm before the storm.
For the last week in 2015, there was only a single winter sport with games scheduled. Come Tuesday, the fun will begin with girls basketball starting followed by wrestling and boys basketball and the rest of the sports that will extend their seasons into 2016.
But for one last week, there was only one sport: Hockey.
Fortunately, the county has plenty of talent in that single sport. And there were quite a few performances that allowed for a healthy amount of Athlete of the Week nominations to be cast. Rather than ramble on, let’s get right to the nominees for the week of Nov. 23-29.
Logan Neaton, Brighton hockey
Entering last week, Paul Moggach suggested that the conversation surrounding his team was that it was about to be another mediocre year in Brighton. The Bulldogs were off to an 0-2 start, and now they were about to face two powerhouse programs at the Cranbrook Thanksgiving Invitational. Many thought, given the slow start, that they were sure to come away winless. Instead, behind 49 totals saves from their junior goaltender, they evened up their record and won the Invite for the first time in seven years, defeating the fourth- and second-ranked teams at the end of 2014 in Rochester United and Cranbrook, respectively. Neaton had 18 stops in a 4-0 shutout of Rochester and then posted 31 saves in a 6-2 win over the host school. Said Moggach of his goalie: “He was a stud for us.”
Nick Foran, Brighton hockey
The Bulldogs had easily the two best wins of any Livingston County hockey team last week, first defeating Rochester United, 4-0, and then Cranbrook, 6-2, to win the Cranbrook Thanksgiving Invitational. And many of the Bulldogs were impressive on offense, perhaps none of them had a better two-day stretch than Foran. The senior was held without a point in the Rochester game, but was instrumental in Brighton’s win over Cranbrook, which clinched the Invite for the first time since 2008. The senior captain scored two goals and tallied an assist. He was also at a plus-2 in the first game and plus-4 in the championship. Considering the defenseman posted those numbers, and the defense is what Brighton coach Paul Moggach raved about in those two games, he’s absolutely worthy of the nomination.
Joe Ullstrom, Hartland hockey
Hartland improved to 4-0 on the season with wins over Pinckney and Milford last week, the first victory being a 6-2 bashing of the Pirates and the second an 8-0 mercy-rule triumph over Milford. Ullstrom failed to score in either game, but totaled an impressive seven assists in the two contests. On Monday, he posted four of those assists to help Hartland get to 3-0. The last three helpers came against Milford. Although the competition wasn’t quite at the level of Brighton’s — Pinckney and Milford are a combined 0-6 — the numbers are still enough to warrant serious consideration.
Max DiCicco, Howell hockey
The Howell hockey team lost its first game last week, falling 6-5 in overtime to Bay City Wolves on Tuesday. It was no fault of DiCicco, who continued to do his best Nick Pratt impression, recording another three points — two goals and one assist — to lead the Highlanders’ high-octane offense. DiCicco now has 10 points on five goals and five assists in three games played this season. He’s also accounted for five of the team’s 18 goals. Therefore, the senior earns his second bid in a row for Athlete of the Week, as he’s off to a sensational start in the 2015-16 season.