Balanced, Talented Chargers All Playing Roles in Pursuit of Ultimate Goal

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

February 23, 2022

Nolan Salayko is confident heading into the MHSAA ice hockey postseason because he’s confident in his Flint Powers Catholic teammates.

All of them.

“I think with this team, we just have so much depth with all of our lines,” the senior defenseman said. “In years past, we had maybe a superstar, and then it would drop off a little bit. This year, everybody plays their role perfectly and it’s helping us win.”

Salayko and the Chargers have done plenty of winning, going 20-4-1 this regular season. They enter Regionals ranked No. 1 in Division 3 and No. 2 in the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Super 10.

They’ve done it with an incredibly balanced attack, as five players have scored 10 or more goals, and eight have more than 20 points.

“Ever since the summer, Coach has said how we’re going to be built on depth this year, and we can all see it,” Powers senior forward Luke Cramer said. “We don’t look to just one guy if it’s the end of a game and we’re down a goal. We really rely on each other. Everyone can make a great play, and we all know it.”

By relying on everyone, the Chargers are hoping to take the next championship step after coming up just short over the years. Despite having won 34 Regional titles, qualifying for 21 Final Fours and seven Finals, Powers has never won a Finals championship.

“That’s a big one with the program,” Powers coach Travis Perry said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years, and there were three guys before me, and those guys all had a lot of success, as well. But we still haven’t won that last game. Hopefully, one of these years it’s going to happen and we get that bounce to go our way.”

Flint Powers Catholic hockeyPerry added that he didn’t like talking about the program’s lack of a title, but he admitted to feeling a sense of urgency with this year’s team, as it features most of the 2020-21 roster, which advanced to the Division 3 Semifinals.

“From my end, you never know when you’ll have a team this good again,” he said.

The players are very aware of the program’s history, but they also would rather not talk about it.

“Each year is a different year,” Cramer said. “You hear about it from time to time from outsiders. But inside our team, we don’t think about it too much.”

In order to try to end it, though, Perry continued to schedule up this season, adding some of the state’s top teams to the Chargers’ slate.

They’ve played the No. 1 teams in both Division 1 and 2, losing 2-0 against Detroit Catholic Central and defeating Hartland 2-1. In total, they’ve played 10 ranked teams, going 7-2-1 in those games.

“We knew we had a good team coming back, so we wanted to put those guys in over their heads,” Perry said. “We tried to make the schedule as hard as we could. That was one of the things we said as a coaching staff this year, we thought that we could go into the playoffs at 15-10, and if we did, we’d be battle tested.”

The schedule didn’t just test the Chargers, it gave them a new level of confidence.

“Playing those teams again this year, we have the confidence in knowing that we can play with them,” Cramer said.

Flint Powers Catholic hockeyAnd that confidence runs through the roster, as they’ve all contributed to building it. All 18 skaters have scored at least one goal this season, led by Mason Czarnecki with 17.

Czarnecki is also tied for the team lead in assists with 21. Jacques Lavrack (14 goals, 19 assists), Cooper Gerhardt (11 goals, 21 assists), Trey Carlock (seven goals, 19 assists), Weston Reinig (seven goals, 18 assists), Brenden Tarpening (11 goals, 14 assists), Nolan Berner (10 goals, 14 assists) and Kyle Barbour (eight goals, 15 assists) are all averaging nearly a point a game or more.

Behind a strong Powers defense, goaltender Nick Kurtiak is having a solid season as well with a 1.49 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

It all adds up to a confident group heading into Thursday night’s postseason opener against Big Rapids. But it’s also one that’s very aware anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament.

“You just take it, honestly, one game at a time and one practice at a time,” Salayko said. “We just keep trying to get better and better every game.”

If they allow themselves to dream a bit, however, and think of winning that final game and bringing a first hockey title to an already prestigious program, the tenor changes – if only for a moment.

“That would be, honestly, great,” Cramer said. “Not only for our school, but for our team and this program and what we’ve tried to build all these years. It would be a great way to leave our mark here.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mason Czarnecki (25) and his teammates skate toward their bench during Saturday’s game against Livonia Stevenson. (Middle) Chargers Jacques Lavrack (3) and Kyle Barbour (16) are among those working to push the puck into Stevenson’s goal during the 4-2 win. (Below) Powers players huddle up. (Photos courtesy of the Flint Powers Catholic hockey program.)

Brother Rice's Rosa Relishing Final Run with High School Hockey

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

January 26, 2023

If the Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice hockey team ends up winning the Division 2 championship in March, it could be said that the journey to that title started in August with an offer he wasn't ready to accept.

Greater DetroitThat’s when senior Peter Rosa who was coming off an all-state season last year as a junior — went to Louisiana to train for a few days with the Shreveport Mudbugs, a team in the North American Hockey League. 

Rosa said at that point he was already wanting to come back to Brother Rice for his senior season, but given how he impressed the Mudbugs coaching staff during that camp, it didn’t stop Shreveport coaches from trying to change Rosa’s mind after they informed him he had a roster spot if he wanted it. 

“They wanted me there,” Rosa said. “They said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to come develop here?’"

But Rosa stuck with his original intentions, saying thanks, but no thanks, so he could play one final year of high school hockey. 

As a result, Rosa is already going down in the history books as one of the best to ever play for a storied Brother Rice program.

Following Tuesday’s win against Warren De La Salle Collegiate, Rosa has 22 goals and 25 assists in 17 games for the Warriors this winter.

He is No. 2 on the school’s all-time points list with 116, although he likely won’t be able to catch leader Mackenzie MacEachern, who had 154 points during his time at Brother Rice.

However, odds are good that Rosa will be able to overtake MacEachern’s record of 65 goals scored in a career, since Rosa currently is at 59. 

Rosa is a versatile 5-foot-10, 175-pound offensive stalwart who can play center and both wing positions. 

Rosa raises his stick in celebration after scoring Rice's first goal in the eventual 4-2 loss. When Brother Rice lost to Trenton in a Division 2 Semifinal last year, Brother Rice head coach Kenny Chaput said odds were good at the time that it would be the last time he would coach Rosa.

“I was fully planning on that being his final game with us,” he said.

Rosa went to Shreveport following the season to practice and meet the team in what was his first encounter with the Mudbugs before going back in August.

But throughout the summer, Chaput, through conversations with Peter’s dad and Brother Rice assistant coach Todd Rosa, had an inkling that Peter preferred to play at Brother Rice for his senior year.

Once the official word came from Peter at the beginning of the school year that he was coming back, there was a challenge for Chaput. 

Given Rosa was good enough to play at junior level, it was tempting for coaches to feel they didn’t have anything left to teach Rosa in high school. 

“I had to make sure I went above to push him so he doesn’t get stale with things,” Chaput said. “It’s still a challenge because he gets things done that a lot of other kids don’t. But there’s tweaks in his game that he still needs to do, so we’ll continue to push him the best we can. Obviously, we didn’t want him to have a year where he didn’t get pushed and he didn’t progress.” 

With Rosa in the fold, Brother Rice is an obvious contender to win its second Division 2 title in three years. 

“I don’t think there’s anything like playing for your school and for your classmates,” said Rosa, who said he’s not sure yet if he’ll play in Shreveport or for another junior team after he finishes high school. “Having the benefit of hanging out with kids in school all day, and then coming to practice with them and playing with them, I’ve built relationships with many kids on the team that I wouldn’t trade anything for. I’ve had a great experience.”

Even worse for opponents is that after the loss to Trenton in that Semifinal, Rosa is motivated for redemption. 

“That’ll leave a pretty bad taste in your mouth,” Rosa said. “I just felt like I had some unfinished business.”

If that business ends up being finished, opponents will sure wish those Shreveport coaches could’ve changed Rosa’s mind in August. 

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at keithdunlap78@gmail.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice's Peter Rosa gains steam on a rush during last season's Division 2 Semifinal against Trenton at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Rosa raises his stick in celebration after scoring Rice's first goal in the eventual 4-2 loss.