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Grosse Pointe Farms

January 29, 2014

South hockey using defensive mentality to spark strong start

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

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Grosse Pointe South’s Tyler Demery and goalie Andrew Wright are pictured during a practice drill on Jan. 21.

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Grosse Pointe South hasn’t played the prettiest brand of hockey this season, but the results would prove otherwise. At 11-3-1 overall at press time with an unbeaten record in the Michigan Metro League, the Blue Devils’ commitment to playing within their system has brought big dividends. “We do a lot of things differently than a lot of teams do. We’re built from our goaltender out. We play a pretty intense system, as far as the neutral zone goes and in our own end,” South coach Bobby McKillop said. McKillop stressed that patience is needed to see his team progress throughout the season, but he is starting to see more improvement. “It takes time for the guys to understand that and really get their arms wrapped around that so everyone is accountable for all five guys on the ice and they know what they’re doing,” McKillop said. “I think we’re about 25 or 30 percent of the way there, and hopefully, in the next 10 games, we’ll steadily improve to that 70 or 80 percent mark.” South has received great goaltending play to get victories in the first half of the season. Senior Andrew Wright leads the Michigan Metro League in goals against, allowing an average of 0.46 goals per game. Fellow senior Trent Magheilse is second in the league, as he has surrendered 0.67 goals per contest. Playing in front of Wright and Magheilse has been defenseman Ian Corbett, for whom McKillop had high praise. “In my opinion, he’s (Corbett) one of the best defensemen that I’ve seen this year so far. He handles the puck well and plays well in his own end. He’s tough, smart, doesn’t make too many mistakes with the puck — and he knows what to do with it, and he’s a leader on and off the ice,” McKillop said. Focusing on being strong in the defensive and neutral zones has been the main emphasis for McKillop this year. “We don’t have a lot of playmakers so, because of that, we really have to play from the goaltender out and capitalize on the other teams’ turnovers in the neutral zone, and we have to outwork every team we play,” McKillop said. One of the leaders on the offensive side of the puck has been captain Andrew Bigham, a senior forward and three-year varsity player. “He’s very talented with and without the puck. He’s one of the best players in the league offensively, but he’s also one of the hardest working players in the league, and that’s what makes him so dangerous,” McKillop said. “As good as he is offensively, he’s also good as anybody without the puck.” Forwards Andrew Hyde and William Walker were two other leaders that McKillop recognized, but he said that the key to South’s success has been the depth and strength of the rest of the team. “I’m very fortunate to have the group of guys that I do have that come to work hard every day and are committed to what we do,” the coach said. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and our weakest link is pretty strong. We’re a team — nobody is carrying us to a championship.” South played Ann Arbor Pioneer on Jan. 25 and Woodhaven High on Jan. 29, both after press time. South hosts Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at City Sports Center.

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