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February 27, 2014

Local girls’ hockey teams set for Metro League playoffs

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

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Local girls’ hockey teams set for Metro League playoffs
Grosse Pointe South’s Tenley Shield and University Liggett’s Ania Dow fight for the puck during a game played at Liggett on Jan. 9.

GROSSE POINTE — Play in the Michigan Metro Girls Hockey League has been very competitive, and the league’s 14 teams are set to take the ice at University Liggett for postseason play starting March 2.

Liggett has been the top performer of the Grosse Pointe schools throughout the regular season, collecting 26 points in league play as of Feb. 22.

After reaching the semifinals of the Division 1 tournament last year, Liggett coach Cassandra Jaeckle hopes that increased depth and experience will pay off for her team.

“I think, overall, having three lines being able to roll keeps your entire team fresh, so when it comes down to that third period, when you have to hold the lead or maybe gain the lead … we have that depth right now that I don’t think we ever had at Liggett,” Jaeckle said of her experienced roster.

In a 4-1 loss to top-ranked Cranbrook on Feb. 18, Liggett surrendered two power-play goals, and Jaeckle said that cleaning up special teams would be important in preparing for the playoffs.

“We had plenty of chances to get back into that game (against Cranbrook) and we just didn’t finish on a few key plays,” Jaeckle said. “The second thing is special teams. We had five penalties against Cranbrook, and they converted twice. If we stay out of the box, we might have given them a really good game.”

Blue Devils
Coming off of a streak of three straight appearances in the postseason championship game, Grosse Pointe South has had an up-and-down season while going 8-8 in league play. South lost 10 seniors from last year’s team, but the new players have been improving steadily, explained South coach Joe Provenzano.

“We have a lot of new players, and the girls have been working extremely hard, so we’ve seen a ton of progress throughout the lineup from the new players and the players who have been with the team for three or four years,” Provenzano said.

At press time, the Blue Devils sat in sixth place out of eight teams in Division 1, so Provenzano said that his team will have to play with great intensity from the outset of the tournament to reach the finals once again.

“We’re definitely going to draw one of the top teams right off that bat, so we’re trying to prepare for that. If we play with high intensity and within structure, and we try to outwork every team, then we’ll have success,” Provenzano said.

Grosse Pointe North
The Norsemen have had an equally up-and-down season as South, going 8-8-1 in league play and ranking fifth in the standings going into the last week of regular-season play.

North was also a victim of attrition in the offseason after graduating nine seniors from last year’s team, but Norsemen coach Joe Lucchese explained that he’s excited to see the improvement his team has made this year when the postseason starts.

“When you look at our success this year, it’s been when we play as a team and everybody plays solid two-way hockey. We’ve played solid against all of the top teams, so if we can tighten up on that, we’ll have fun in the playoffs. I’m looking forward to it,” Lucchese said.

In the second half of the season, North has defeated second-place Liggett and tied fourth-place Port Huron.

Aside from Cranbrook, which returns 20 players from a state-title team last year and has led the league throughout the season, Lucchese said there has been more parity in the regular season, and that should create for an exciting playoff.

“It’s been a lot tighter than in past years. Cranbrook is outstanding this year — there’s no doubt about that. But after that, it’s considerably close,” Lucchese said. “It’s going to come down to who’s got good goaltending going into the playoffs and what teams work the hardest for what they want.”

Each Grosse Pointe team will be playing in the Division 1 bracket for the Metro League playoffs. Four quarterfinal games will be played on March 2 starting at noon at McCann Arena in Grosse Pointe.

Semifinals are March 5, with the championship game being played on March 8.

First-round matchups were not yet determined at press time.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Thomas Franz at tfranz@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040.