The ice has disappeared from the hometowns of this weekend's Division 2 Ice Hockey Semifinalists.
But the best hockey action of the season will take place beginning today at Plymouth's Compuware Arena.
Below are team-by-team glances of all four teams contending for the MHSAA Division 2 championships. Those teams face off Thursday. Division 1 and 3 Semifinalists will be added after Wednesday's Quarterfinals, and play their Semifinals on Friday. All championship games are Saturday.
All Semifinals and the Division 1 Final will be streamed live at FoxSportsDetroit.com and MHSAA.tv. The Division 3 and 2 Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit Plus channels, with all nine games archived at MHSAA.tv.
Match-ups are as follows:
Division 2 Semifinals - Today
Forest Hills Eastern (22-6) vs. Birmingham Brother Rice (23-4-1) - 5 p.m.
Grosse Pointe South (21-5-1) vs. Port Huron Northern (17-10-1) - 7:30 p.m.
Division 3 Semifinals - Friday, March 9
Grosse Pte. Woods U. Liggett (25-3) vs. Chelsea (21-4-2) - Noon
Houghton (23-4) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (19-7-2) - 2:30 p.m.
Division 1 Semifinals - Friday, March 9
Brighton (22-4-2) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (17-10) - 6 p.m.
East Kentwood (19-9) vs. Grosse Pointe North (14-14) - 8:30 p.m.
FINALS - March 10 - Compuware Arena, Plymouth
Division 2 – 10 a.m.
Division 3 – 2 p.m.
Division 1 – 6 p.m.
Click for a full schedule of this weekend's games plus full results as they come in. Players statistics below are through the Regional round (Orchard Lake St. Mary's are through the Quarterfinal).
Record/rank: 22-4-2, No. 3
Championship history: One MHSAA title (2006).
Coach: Paul Moggach, 17th season (300-110-36)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association
Best wins: 5-3 over No. 5 Novi, 9-4 over East Kentwood, 5-1 over No. 8 Howell (Regional Semifinal), 3-1 over Division 2 No. 6 Midland.
Players to watch: Scott Schueneman, senior left wing (26 goals, 16 assists); Mitch Kahl, senior center (12 goals, 24 assists); Tommy Kivisto, senior center (14 goals, 33 assists).
Outlook: After two down seasons (relatively speaking), the Bulldogs won their first league title since 2009 and first District and Regional since 2006. Brighton closed the regular season with that win over co-Semifinalist East Kentwood before rushing through its four postseason opponents by a combined score of 19-2. Nine players had at least 10 assists coming into this week.
Record/rank: 19-9, unranked
Championship history: One MHSAA title (1993), three runner-up finishes.
Coach: Todd Bell, fifth season (70-60-5)
League finish: First in O-K Tier 2
Best wins: 4-3 over Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills, 2-1 over Division 3 No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central
Players to watch: Brett White, senior center; Erik Stapleton, senior left wing (stats not available).
Outlook: White was an all-state first-team selection and Stapleton a second-teamer as East Kentwood advanced to the Semifinals last season as well. East Kentwood has dominated throughout the postseason, winning its four games by a combined score of 35-7, and fell to some top competition during the regular season with four losses to ranked teams.
GROSSE POINTE NORTH
Record/rank: 14-14, No. 6
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 2002 Division 2), one runner-up finish.
Coach: Scott Lock, 14th season (record N/A)
League finish: Seventh in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 4 Livonia Churchill (Quarterfinal), 4-2 over Division 2 No. 4 Grosse Pointe South, 1-0 and 5-0 over Division 2 No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 6-1 over Division 2 No. 5 Marquette, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 2 Trenton, 5-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Port Huron Northern.
Players to watch: Brad Werenski, junior center (11 goals, 12 assists); Joe Aluia, senior right wing (15 goals, 13 assists); John Paul Lucchese, senior right wing (14 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: Grosse Pointe North entered the postseason four games under .500 but got even again with its fifth-straight win in the Quarterfinal. But the Norsemen have seen most of the best, with wins over half the top-10 teams in Divsion 2 and 12 losses against teams ranked in one of the three divisions. Senior goaltender Chip Wujek has posted two of his five shutouts in the last four games.
ORCHARD LAKE ST. MARY
Record/rank: 17-10, No. 2
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2008), one runner-up finish.
Coach: Brian Klanow, 12th season (216-95-25)
League finish: Fifth in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League
Best wins: 3-1 and 4-0 over No. 6 Grosse Pointe North, 4-1 over No. 7 Utica Eisenhower (Quarterfinal), 2-1 over Division 2 No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 5-4 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 5-2 over Division 2 No. 2 Trenton, 3-1 and 4-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Port Huron Northern, 4-1 over Division 3 No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Players to watch: Shane Bednard, senior center (12 goals, 19 assists); Luke Rodgers, senior right wing (17 goals, 10 assists), Cody Milan, sophomore center (six goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: The Eaglets' list of impressive wins includes one each against the top-ranked teams from both Division 2 and 3; those two teams also beat St. Mary once, and Division 1 top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central beat OLSM three times. But the Shamrocks are out of the tournament and the Eaglets are still in and finished runner-up last season. St. Mary also boasts a couple of sharp left wings in sophomore Mitchell Vanderburg (16 goals, nine assists) and junior Cooper Anstett (10 goals, 16 assists).
BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE
Record/rank: 23-4-1, No. 1
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 2005), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Lou Schmidt, Jr., ninth season (156-77-15)
League finish: Tied for second in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League
Best wins: 10-4 over No. 3 Port Huron Northern, 4-1 over Division 1 No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary, 2-1 and 4-3 over Division 3 No. 1 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.
Players to watch: Chris Wilberding, senior defenseman (10 goals, 29 assists); Thomas Ebbing, junior center (23 goals, 38 assists); Mackenzie MacEachern, senior right wing (37 goals, 42 assists).
Outlook: Last season’s runner-up is the favorite this time. Brother Rice’s losses were to Division 1 top-two teams Detroit Catholic Central (twice) and Orchard Lake St. Mary, and Division 2 No. 2 Trenton. The Warriors have outscored opponents 156-61, with six players scoring at least 10 goals this season. Sophomore goaltender Jack Bowman has a 1.93 goals-against average.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN/EASTERN
Record/rank: 22-6, No. 10
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Todd Gallup, third season (59-22-1)
League finish: Second in O-K Tier 1
Best wins: 4-3 over East Kentwood, 5-4 over No. 7 Traverse City Central (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Chris Hollemans, senior defenseman (eight goals, 25 assists); Sam Rennaker, junior center (31 goals, 18 assists); Brad Reitter, junior right wing (18 goals, 30 assists).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern/Eastern has outscored its four postseason opponents by a combined score of 17-7, and all opponents 114-67 this season. Although Rennaker and Reiter had scored 45 percent of the team’s goals heading into this week, seven players had at least 10 assists. The Huskies/Hawks are 17-2 over their last 19 games.
GROSSE POINTE SOUTH
Record/rank: 21-5-1, No. 4
Championship history: One MHSAA title (2007), one runner-up finish.
Coach: James Bufalino, third season (45-25-7)
League finish: First in Michigan Metro High School Hockey League
Best wins: 5-3 over No. 6 Midland, 2-1 over No. 7 Traverse City Central, 3-1 over No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 3-1 over No. 2 Trenton (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Cameron Gibson, senior right wing (22 goals, 10 assists); Wesley Cimmarrusti, senior center (16 goals, 21 assists); Nolan Monforton, senior right wing (14 goals, 20 assists).
Outlook: Grosse Pointe South hasn’t lost in 18 games (one tie) after starting 1-4 this winter. Although offense has provided arguably the biggest push – the Blue Devils have averaged 5.6 goals per game since the early struggle – senior goaltender Christopher Schebil has been solid as well with a 1.78 goals-against average and four shutouts entering this week. Eight Grosse Pointe South players had at least 10 goals this season heading into Tuesday’s 11-goal showing.
PORT HURON NORTHERN
Record/rank: 17-10-1, No. 3
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up in 2001.
Coach: Daryel McCarrel, 359-201-44
League finish: Sixth in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League
Best wins: 5-3 and 6-1 over No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary, 6-2 over Division 3 No. 8 Sault Ste. Marie.
Players to watch: Bryce VanHorn, sophomore right wing (17 goals, 16 assists); Bobby King, junior left wing (16 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: Port Huron Northern’s record might not glisten like some of the others – especially considering its 7-10-1 finish in its league. But the Huskies played 14 of their 24 regular-season games against ranked teams, and are riding a 7-1-1 streak. Only four players had at least 10 goals coming into this week – but seven had at least 10 assists. McCarrel moved into 11th in MHSAA history for hockey coaching wins this season.
Record/rank: 21-4-2, No. 7
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Don Wright, 12th season (189-101-26)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Best wins: 6-5 and 4-1 (Quarterfinal) over No. 10 Jackson Lumen Christi, 6-3 over Division 2 No. 8 Brownstown Woodhaven, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 10 Lake Orion.
Players to watch: Taylor Atchley, junior center (20 goals, 17 assists); Jacob Ryan, junior right wing (13 goals, 28 assists); Joe Hewitt, senior right wing (22 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: Chelsea is an offensive powerhouse averaging 5.4 goals per game this season. Senior left wing Brad Hepler and senior center Kyle Whipple both had 34 points apiece heading into this week, and total the team had seven players with at least 10 goals -- and have scored a total of 145. Wright led the team to its fifth-straight league title, and this will be the Bulldogs' second Semifinal appearance in three seasons.
GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 19-7-2, No. 6
Championship history: One MHSAA title (2011), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Mike Slobodnik, second season (44-13-2)
League finish: First in O-K Tier 1
Best wins: 4-0 and 4-1 over Division 2 No. 10 Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 3-0 over Division 1 No. 10 Lake Orion.
Players to watch: Donald Sund, senior center (33 goals, 22 assists); Owen Kane, senior center (12 goals, 15 assists); Remy Woods, sophomore forward (11 goals, 12 assists).
Outlook: Sund and Kane were among the heroes from last season's MHSAA championship win; Sund had the team's first three goals and Kane had three assists in the 7-2 victory over Calumet in the Final. So although the Cougars have seven losses, it's impossible to look past them. Those losses came to either higher-ranked teams or much bigger schools, and GRCC has seven shutouts -- including two in its last four games.
GROSSE POINTE WOODS UNIVERSITY LIGGETT
Record/rank: 24-3, No. 3
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recently 1990).
Coach: Robb McIntyre, fourth season (75-27-1)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Best wins: 5-3 over No. 10 Jackson Lumen Christi, 4-2 over No. 9 Sault Ste. Marie, 8-3 and 4-0 (Quarterfinal) over No. 8 Marysville, 5-0 over No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 8-1 over No. 5 Dearborn Divine Child (Regional Final), 5-2 over Division 4 Grosse Pointe South
Players to watch: Jacob Soyka, junior center (25 goals, 33 assists); James Counsman, junior left wing (33 goals, 24 assists); Mark Evan Auk, junior defenseman (33 goals, 37 assists).
Outlook: University Liggett is the highest-ranked team left in Division 3 and has beaten five of the top 10 in part because of an offense averaging 5.8 goals per game with 12 players tallying at least 10 assists heading into the week. The Knights have outscored their four postseason opponents by a combined score of 33-4. Those losses came to Division 1 No. 7 Utica Eisenhower, Division 2 No. 8 Brownstown Woodhaven and Hartland.
Record/rank: 23-4, No. 4
Championship history: One MHSAA title (1982), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Corey Markham, 13th season (172-123-14)
League finish: First in Lake Superior Hockey Conference
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 8 Sault Ste. Marie, 5-2 over No. 5 Dearborn Divine Child, 5-1 over No. 2 Calumet (Regional Final), 2-1 over Division 2 No. 5 Marquette.
Players to watch: Connor Hannon, sophomore center (17 goals, 21 assists); Ray Brice, sophomore left wing (20 goals, 14 assists); Trevor Mattson, senior center (16 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: This is the third time in 11 seasons that Houghton has made it to the season's final week -- the Gremlins lost by a goal the first two times, including in a 2002 Division 2 Semifinal. Mattson centers a powerful line with sophomore left wing Jed Kallio (31 points entering the week) and senior right wing Aaron Kolehmainen (32 points). Markham also coaches the Houghton girls golf team, which won the MHSAA Division 1 Upper Peninsula championship last spring.
Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.
Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.
This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.
Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.
They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.
‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”
It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.
Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.
Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights. They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.
The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.
“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”
Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.
“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.
Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.
Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.
Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.
Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.
The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.
Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.
“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”
Morris echoed Guy.
“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”
The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.
The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.
“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.
“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”
Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.
“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.
“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”
High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.
But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.
“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”
But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.
“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”
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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)