Byron Center ice hockey has done nothing but trend upward since its start as a program in 2016-17, with Regional titles the last four seasons, two trips to the Semifinals and a Division 2 runner-up finish in 2021.
Byron Center is 14-0 heading into this weekend’s trip to Traverse City for the Rick Deneweth Memorial North-South Showcase, where the Bulldogs will face Marquette tonight and Lake Orion on Saturday. Byron Center also is ranked No. 1 in Division 2 in part on the strength of a December that saw the team win eight games while giving up a combined 10 goals – earning the Bulldogs the honor as MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month.”
They’ve played one game since the end of holiday break, shutting out Rockford last weekend after heading into the two-week layoff by also shutting out the Rams. Byron Center total has five shutouts total this winter and allowed only one goal in four others games, backstopped by senior goaltenders Carson MacKenzie (1.30 goals-against average) and Devon Lay (1.07).
It’s also not just how the Bulldogs have won, but who they’ve defeated. They started December with a shutout of Midland Dow – which admittedly is having a rough go this season, but remains the reigning Division 3 champion. Byron Center followed with a 4-1 win over current Division 3 No. 2 Flint Powers Catholic, and also picked up wins during December over Division 1 No. 6 Muskegon Mona Shores (6-3) and Division 3 No. 8 Grand Rapids Catholic Central (4-2). Those were in addition to handing Division 3 No. 10 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern its first loss, 3-1, on Nov. 25.
The Byron Center team is a cooperative that includes players from Wayland and Grand Rapids South Christian. The Bulldogs are a combined 123-46-4 under coach Jordan Steger since that start in 2016-17, and a 2019-20 Division 1 tournament run was stopped in the Semifinals when the season was abruptly ended due to COVID-19.
MacKenzie made the all-state second team last season and is one of four all-state honorees back from a year ago; senior forward Brady Breit, junior forward Jackson Froysland and senior defenseman Josh Philo also made the all-state second team at their positions.
Breit and senior forward Logan Nickolaus lead with 12 goals and Nickolaus has a team-high 28 points, with Breit at 23 points and Froysland at 10 goals and 22 points total. Junior forward Cade Pratt has eight goals and 17 assists for a team second-best 25 points.