The MHSAA hockey playoffs begin next week. After a strange regular season where almost every team had its ups and downs, the playoffs seem to be as open as they have been in a long time. Oakland County teams are spread out this year with 23 teams competing in nine different districts, though many are clustered in a small handful of locations.
Last year, county teams won the state finals with Detroit Catholic Central (Division 1), Brother Rice (Division 2) and Cranbrook (Division 3) taking the honors. Will history repeat itself? Or will new champions emerge?
Host: Novi Detroit Catholic Center
Teams: Detroit Catholic Center, Lake Orion, Lapeer, Rochester United, Troy United
To analyse: Host Shamrocks have won five of the last seven Division 1 titles and are 20-3 this year with two losses to out-of-state teams. Catholic Central hasn’t exactly blown people away with most of those wins by just one or two goals. But wins are wins, and the Shamrocks are an astonishing 47-2 in their last 49 games against Michigan teams. The top OAA team here is Lake Orion, who finished second in OAA Red. But all three have had their ups and downs this year, and none of them look likely to beat the hosts. Lake Orion will likely make the final, and the Dragons could keep him close. But the choice here has to be Catholic Central.
Take: Detroit Catholic Center.
Host: Dearborn Edsel Ford
Teams: Dearborn Edsel Ford, Farmington, M1 Griffins United, Plymouth, Plymouth Salem, Southgate Anderson
To analyse: M1 (Berkley/Royal Oak) and Farmington are sent south this year. Salem and M1 were seeded and clearly look to be the two best teams here, although Plymouth could be a tricky opponent for M1 in the semis. The Wildcats play a tough schedule in the KLAA; and although their record is only 7-16, they have been battle tested against some legitimate state title contenders. Still, it seems to have to come down to M1 and Salem. The Griffins have some great wins and a 17-5 record. But Salem’s tougher schedule and win over Hartland indicate he might have a bit more upside.
Take: Plymouth Salem
Teams: Clarkston, Davison, Fenton/Linden, Hartland, Lakeland
To analyse: Hartland is among the favorites to win the state title in Division 2 and is the clear favorite here. Lakeland was co-champion of the Lakes Valley Conference. The Eagles have faced some good teams, but nobody looks like Hartland. Fenton/Linden were unsuccessful against strong teams, beating the weak end of their schedule. Clarkston and Davison had a good win here or there but struggled to put things together. Ultimately, Lakeland should make it to the Finals against Hartland, but it’s hard to see the Eagles knocking out the top seeds.
Teams: Marysville, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Romeo, Sandusky, Stoney Creek
To analyse: While Marysville and Romeo got the top seeds, nearly all of those teams have games against one or more of the others — and all of those games were close. So anything can happen here. Stoney Creek has struggled to pick up wins as a combination of youth and injuries has made it difficult for the Cougars to start this year. But they’ve also played the toughest schedule of them all here hands down, and Stoney Creek owns a win over Marysville from late December. Still, the Cougars have been in crisis since the New Year.
Take: Romeo has been the most consistent lately.
Host: Brother Rice
Teams: Brother Rice, Birmingham Unified, Bloomfield Hills, Madison Heights Bishop Foley
To analyse: Foley had a great season with 15 wins. But none of them have faced a team like Brother Rice. The Warriors are having a down year, by their standards. But that still makes them a really good team that played roughly .500 hockey against one of the toughest schedules in the state. Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham Unified should be a fun semi-final on the other side of the bracket. The Kings won the first meeting against the Black Hawks and have enough firepower to give Brother Rice a hard time. Birmingham Unified have a road win against No. 5 Division 2 side Mona Shores, so they certainly have it in them to beat Rice. If there is going to be a year where the Warriors come out early, this seems to be the year.
Take: United Birmingham
Teams: Canton, Livonia Stevenson, Novi, Lyon South Unified, Walled Lake Northern
To analyse: South Lyon Unified finished third in the Lakes Valley Conference and struggled in the streak, losing three of their last four league games after starting 6-0 in LVC play. Novi hosts, but the Wildcats have really struggled this year. Stevenson, on the other hand, won the KLAA and is the clear favorite here. Like Hartland, the Spartans have been regular visitors to USA Hockey Arena in recent years for the semifinals and state finals, and they looked set for another deep playoff series this year.
Take: Livonia Stevenson
Teams: Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard, Chelsea, Dexter, Milford, Pinckney, Walled Lake Western
To analyse: Western and Milford are sent west to a very winnable region. Milford was an LVC co-champion and playing the best hockey in the streak. Really, Gabriel Richard, Pinckney, Milford and Chelsea are so close you could throw all four names in a hat, pull any one of them and defend them as winners – and Walled Lake Western isn’t far behind. behind. So I’m going to go with the hottest team lately, which would be…
Host: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood
Teams: Cranbrook, Dearborn Divine Child, Livonia Churchill, Livonia Franklin, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s
To analyse: It’s another solid group of teams. Churchill is always dangerous in a one-off situation. The Chargers have faced some of the best sides this year like Brighton and Livonia Stevenson and have mostly been very competitive. They might cause a surprise here. But that probably comes down to Cranbrook and St. Mary’s, who are the two seeded teams. St. Mary’s was a little better overall and won the teams’ first meeting this year 2-0. The final, should it happen, will likely be another close final.
Take: Sainte Marie
Host: Jesuit of Detroit UD
Teams: Detroit Country Day, Detroit UD Jesuit, Grosse Pointe North, Grosse Pointe South, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, Warren De La Salle
To analyse: Liggett finished second in Metro Conference East this year while De La Salle won MIHL South. These are your two seeded teams. Country Day has been playing really well lately. The Yellowjackets scored impressive victories in the stretch over Grandville and Saginaw Heritage. Add a strong team from Grosse Pointe South and you could have the best region in the state, one through four. And the host Cubs won’t exactly be child’s play. Despite going 7-17, Detroit UD Jesuit have wins over Cranbrook and Trenton, showing they can play any of the other teams in that region. But in the end, De La Salle has the best record, won a very tough division and recently handed Detroit Catholic Central its only loss to a school in Michigan this year.
Take: Warren De La Salle