After 28-win season and state title, CK hockey team is back for more
January 22, 2014
BLOOMFIELD HILLS — They were a group spurned the year before, upset from the state playoffs in a loss nobody saw coming.
So the following winter, they were talented, deep, but most of all motivated.
Maybe even a little angry.
And they played like it, too.
By the time the 2012-13 hockey season came to a close, the Cranbrook-Kingswood boys team had 28 wins under its belt to go with a Division 3 state title.
From a pure talent standpoint, coach Andy Weidenbach called it one of his best teams ever.
The results were hard to argue.
But when this winter began, the Cranes had a much different look.
Half the team had moved on, while 10 players were new to the varsity roster.
And after a season of so much success, there had to be a leveling off, right?
Well, not yet.
New team. New year. Same results.
“I don’t know that we expected to be playing this well and be this competitive this early,” Weidenbach said last week about his current team. “This isn’t something we really anticipated.”
The Cranes closed last season by winning 11 straight games.
Their current win streak has now reached 26 games, with a 15-0-0 record at press time.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys, but they’ve all bought into the system,” senior Chris Brown said. “They’ve adapted well, and that chemistry has been there right from the start.”
Opinions about Cranbrook playing up in the playoffs, as opposed to D-3, usually get loudest in late February, but the fact remains that the Cranes have played and dominated teams from every division so far.
After starting the year with a 5-1 victory against Plymouth High (a D-1 team), Cranbrook knocked off others, such as Trenton High (D-2), Novi Detroit Catholic Central (D-1), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (D-1) and Birmingham Brother Rice (D-1).
Many games haven’t been close, either, with the Cranes averaging 5.3 goals per game and allowing 1.9.
“Our strong point has been our ability to put the puck in the net,” Weidenbach said, trying to deflect the gaudy numbers. “At the same time, we’re getting timely goaltending from our guys. It’s really that simple.”
The Cranes’ trio of top scorers has been deadly, with Brown, the latest former Red Wings’ son (Doug Brown) to star for CK, leading with 15 goals and a team-best 46 points.
Sam Miletic has notched 19 goals and 18 helpers, while Austin Alger has 15 goals and 35 points.
In relatively even time between the pipes, the goaltending trio of Austin Movinski, Spencer Applebaum and Tristan Need has been rock solid, with a combined save percentage of .911.
Six times this year, they’ve allowed just a single goal.
“We’ve had great leadership, and I think that goes a long way,” Miletic said. “We’ve had some veterans step up. The newer guys have bought in, and it’s led to what we’ve done so far. At first (with 10 new players), there was some adjustment, and we had to work on the system more than usual. But as the season has gone on, those guys have done an amazing job stepping up.”
Weidenbach cautioned comparing last year’s team to this, though.
The previous group, he said, was deeper, with “three-plus lines we could put out at any time and there wouldn’t be a drop off. This year’s group may be better on the top end, but we’re not as deep.”
The other main factor he pointed out was motivation.
Last year’s team was out to prove something after being eliminated by Marysville High in the 2012 regional round.
“That team was easily motivated and easy to coach,” Weidenbach said. “There’s a different dynamic with this group.”
That’s not necessarily a handicap, though.
“We’re motivated to go undefeated,” Brown said.
“We have a lot to prove,” Miletic said. “I think we’ve proved a lot already, but we’ve got a long way to go. We’re on a mission to show people just how good we can be.”