Detroit Catholic Central (Division 1), Hartland (Division 2) and Detroit Country Day (Division 3) will all be playing at USA Hockey Arena — formerly Compuware Arena — in Plymouth in hopes of successfully defending their state titles.
The Division 2 semifinals will be held Thursday with Hartland facing Trenton at 5 p.m., followed by Birmingham Brother Rice-Marquette at 7:30. The title game is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Hartland and Trenton have developed a great rivalry with the teams playing for the state title the last two years and Hartland coming out on top both times, 4-2 in 2018 and 4-0 last season.
“We have a handful of guys, go-to guys who have been there the last couple of years so that’s big, because sometimes it’s more than just hockey, it’s a big night, Final Four and that’s a big rink so there’s pressure this time of year,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said.
“We’re led by a senior group in defenseman and captain Dakota Kota, assistant captain in defenseman Sam Kastamo, assistant captain in junior forward Kieran Carlile and junior assistant captain in forward Adam Pietila, and we have a goaltender in junior Ryan Piros who is getting his first taste of MHSAA playoffs this year and he’s been the backbone of our team all season.”
Hartland will be going up against the state’s premier goaltender in Trenton’s Joey Cormier.
Gadwa has a lot of respect for Trenton and Cormier, saying: “What a great rivalry our two programs have put together, playing each other back-to-back state finals and then a few years prior to that we played them again the last time they won a championship (Trenton defeated Hartland 8-3 in 2014), so three state title games in the last decade is pretty impressive.
“When you look at their team, they're led by one of the top goaltenders, if not the best in Joey Cormier and a couple of dynamic scorers and a great player on the back end so it should be a great game.”
Detroit Catholic Central has won two state championships in the last four years, including 3-1 over Saginaw Heritage last season.
Catholic Central will face Byron Center Friday at 5 in one semifinal with Howell playing Saginaw Heritage at 7:30. The title game is set for Saturday at 7.
Catholic Central fifth-year coach Brandon Kaleniecki, who played for Red Berenson at Michigan, won a couple of state championships as a player for C.C. in 1999 and 2000.
“Brendan Miles, a defenseman, Kyle Gaffney and Dylan Dooley are our three captains and the guys we look to, they have made our team go, especially in the second half of the season,” Kaleniecki said.
“We feel fortunate to have two goalies in Louis Finnegan and Adam Blust and we’ve played them pretty much right down the middle, it wasn’t our intention to do that, but we knew they were both really good, so we wanted them to both play early and let it sort itself out. It got to the point where we were just comfortable with either one in net so rather than overthink it, if it’s your time to go, you go. We know that’s not the norm, but that’s what we have and it’s Louis’ turn to go Friday.”
Finnegan and Blust have combined to give up just two goals in four postseason games, including a 5-0 win over Berkley, a 10-0 win over Farmington, a 5-1 regional final win over Birmingham Groves and a 6-1 state quarterfinal win over Salem.
Catholic Central’s top line is made up of Dooley (20 goals), Gaffney (50 points) and Blake Salamon.
While Finnegan and Blust have played well, the same can be said for Heritage goalie Jacob Winters, who has a 0.61 goals-against-average during the playoff run with a .979 save percentage.
Detroit Country Day is the two-time defending champion, having defeated Houghton 4-1 last season.
Country Day will be facing Calumet at 1:30 or following the Midland Dow-Riverview Gabriel Richard semifinal at 11 a.m. The championship game will be played Saturday at 3.
Country Day ninth-year coach Frank Novak has his team playing well after assistant coaching stints at Wayne State and Bowling Green.
“I think this is the best senior group I’ll ever have no matter if I’m gone after this year or if I get another 25 years,” said Novak, who played his college hockey at Western Michigan. “This senior group is just tremendous young men, yes they are good hockey players, but very few coaches can say they have their team on cruise control as far as in the classroom, off-ice discipline, just all tremendous young men.”
Dallas Hood, a captain, centers Country Day’s top line of junior Lucas Krol and Logan Gotinsky. Krol has a team-high 30 goals, including two hat tricks during the postseason with Gotinsky contributing 18 goals and 40 points.
Greg Enright is Country Day’s goalie with defensemen Jacob Thomas and Gino Sessa playing in front of him.
“Greg Enright is our goalie and he’s been put in a tough spot, having Sammy Evola the last two years, Mr. Hockey, big shoes to fill but I’ve told him be Greg Enright and be your own legacy, your own hero and you’ll be fine, and he’s done a tremendous job this year,” Novak said.
“Calumet has been ranked No. 1 basically all year, their top line has like 130 points, their second line, if that’s what you want to call it, has 117. They fly, have unbelievable skaters and we’re going to have to have our best game to beat them.”
Calumet avenged last year’s postseason loss to Houghton with a 5-1 regional final win this month with the line of Alex Mattila, Tanner Rowe and Gabe Coppo playing well, and Mattila scoring a pair of goals.
At USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Hartland vs. Trenton, 5
Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice vs. Marquette, 7:30
Byron Center vs. Detroit Catholic Central, 5
Saginaw Heritage vs. Howell, 7:30
Midland Dow vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard, 11 a.m.
Calumet vs. Detroit Country Day, 1:30