November marks the beginning of the 2017-18 high school hockey season. This post takes a look at the six teams of the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL), how they fared last year and what lies ahead for this season.
|Kalamazoo United||9-1||21-4-1||Pre-Regional Loss|
|Portage Central||5-5||8-17-1||Pre-Regional Loss|
|Portage Northern||1-9||8-18||Regional Final Loss|
Kalamazoo United had their strongest season in program history in 2016-17, claiming their first ever SWMHSHL regular season and tournament championship. The Hams boasted league co-MVPs Noel Cavey and Jacob Remelius, plus goalie-of-the-year Mitch Kihm. They have graduated along with their other top five point scorers. They do have some solid returners back such as the Warner brothers at forward and Nathan Carr at defense, but United will have to replace a lot of offensive production.
Mattawan loses their top two scoring players in Jeff Kirkendall and Ben Berkowitz, along with SWMHSHL 2nd-team defenseman Nate Roberts. They return their other 2nd-team defenseman in Brad Kolinski, their third-highest scorer Jake Kruzich, goalkeeper Shaffer Moore, and just about everyone else from last season.
The Southwest Michigan Blades made a huge jump last season, going from only two total wins the season before to 22 in 17-18. Notably gone are top scorer Evan Wilson and
defenseman Schuyler DeVries, but the Blades return almost everyone from last season, including 2nd-team goalkeeper Zac Hattan for his sophomore campaign.
Portage Central graduated top scorer Max Mones and 2nd-team defenseman Kobe Vincent among six seniors. Notably back for the Mustangs include their #2 scorer Konnor McLeod for his junior year, along with fellow underclassmen Skyler and Jaden Sorenson.
The Kalamazoo Eagles have a new head coach in Randy Shoemaker. He’s no stranger to the league as a former Eagle assistant coach and Mattawan player. Also gone are 1st-team defenseman David Kiel and other key seniors Blake Jarrett and Mark Andrysiak. Returning playmakers include Jimmy Wressel and Carter Maxey.
Portage Northern has to replace top scorer Eli Cartier, but he is one of only three seniors gone from last season. Their 2018 senior class has a lot of major contributors from last season such as Grant Ernst, Griffin McLeod, and Will Todd. Also of note is goalkeeper Peter Todd, who showed flashes of potential after his trial by fire last year as their lone goalie as a freshman.
The master list of home games and league games for all six teams can be found here. Stay tuned to the Slocum Sports Network for SWMHSHL broadcast throughout the winter.
The Southwest Michigan Blades topped Portage Northern 2-1 and Portage Central downed the Kalamazoo Eagles 6-4 Wednesday night at Wings West. Because of these two games, the Blades and Portage Central are guaranteed to finish in the top four of the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL) standings, meaning they’ll be in the tournament semifinals in two weeks along with Kalamazoo United and Mattawan. Meanwhile, Portage Northern and the Eagles will finish in the bottom two and be relegated to consolation games.
The first game remained scoreless until 2:09 remained in the second period. Will Todd scored for the Huskies with an assist by Drew Fitzgerald and Tyler Simon. Portage Northern stayed ahead until 5:16 was left in the third period as a Jaxon Dobrolowski powerplay goal evened things up. Then with 58.9 left, Mason Fitch scored on a wrap-around for what would be the game winner. The Blades move to 16-7-1 overall and 4-4 in league play, good for fourth. They advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time in eight years. The Huskies fell to 5-15 and are at the bottom, 1-8 in league play.
In the second game, two quick goals in the first three minutes (William Anderson, Konnor McLeod) gave Portage Central a 2-0 lead after the first period. Max Mones made it a three goal game in the second, but a Blake Jarrett powerplay score put the Eagles back within two, 3-1, after two. Skyler Sorensen quickly made it a three goal game again, but David Kiel matched him 18 seconds later for the Eagles. But two minutes after that, with 12:10 remaining, McLeod pushed the Mustangs back up by three.
They would need the cushion as penalties, including a major for checking from behind, set up two Eagle powerplay goals. James Wressel and Zachary Blackwell put the score at 5-4 with 8:12 left in the game. However, the Mustangs were able to hold on from there, sealing the game in the final minute on an empty netter by Kobe Vincent. The win moves the Mustangs to 8-12 overall and 5-4 in league play, third best. The Eagles drop to 7-12-1 overall and 2-6-1 within league play.
These four teams will meet again, but in a different combination next Wednesday with the Eagles against the Huskies, and the Mustangs against the Blades. Before then, the Blades meet Kalamazoo United in league play Saturday. The other three have non-conference games ahead. Portage Central travels to Byron Center Friday, Portage Northern hosts Lowell/Caledonia Saturday, and the Eagles host Marysville Saturday.
Listen back to Wednesday’s games below:
SWM BLADES VS PORTAGE NORTHERN
PORTAGE CENTRAL VS KALAMAZOO EAGLES
Listen live Wednesday on the Slocum Sports Network to action from the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL). Set for 5:30 p.m., the Southwest Michigan Blades face Portage Northern, followed by Portage Central versus the Kalamazoo Eagles at 7:45 p.m.
With two weeks until the league tournament, these teams are sitting third through sixth in the six-team standings. Those who finish in the bottom two spots miss out on a chance at the conference tournament title. Entering these games, Portage Central is third with eight points (4-4), followed by the Blades with six points (3-4), the Eagles with five (2-5-1), and the Huskies with two (1-7).
The Blades and Eagles both will be missing key players following game disqualification penalties during the 4-3 Blades victory on Saturday. The Eagles had Nicholas Burr tossed with Schuyler DeVries and leading scorer Evan Wilson both getting disqualified for the Blades.
For the Portage Northern Huskies, a loss guarantees them a spot in the bottom two. They enter at 5-14 overall against the 15-7-1 Blades. The Blades won 5-3 over the Huskies back on January 4, but they’ll missing Wilson, who tallied a hat-trick last month.
In the second game, the Portage Central Mustangs are 7-12 overall with the Eagles at 7-11-1. The Mustangs topped the Eagles 4-1 when they met on December 21. Portage Central has won six consecutive meetings with the Eagles, with the last Eagle win on February 5, 2014. The Mustangs can secure a top four spot with a victory or draw.
Listen to both games live on the Slocum Sports Network. The Huskies and Blades meet at 5:30, followed by the Mustangs and Eagles at 7:45.
The third and final contest Saturday at Wings West was the most dramatic as Kobe Vincent scored with 0.4 remaining to deliver a 2-1 win for Portage Central over Mattawan in the 15th annual Renbarger Cup game. In the earlier games in the fifth annual Youth Hockey Fights For Kids with Autism event, Kalamazoo United defeated Portage Northern 7-3 and the Southwest Michigan Blades topped the Kalamazoo Eagles 4-3.
In the final game, it stayed scoreless until 13:08 remained in the second period on an unassisted Mattawan goal by Ben Berkowitz. With 24 seconds left in the second, Max Mones deflected a shot from Erek Decker to tie the game on the powerplay at 1-1. Both teams had powerplays and chances, but both defenses and goaltenders held firm, keeping the score at 1-1 until the final second of regulation. At 0.4, senior defenseman Kobe Vincent put it over the left shoulder for the Portage Central victory.
Listen to the final moments here:
The victory puts Portage Central at 7-12 overall and 4-4 in SWMHSHL play, good for third in the standings. Mattawan falls to 10-7-1 overall and 6-2-1 in league play. The win ends a two-year losing streak for the Mustangs against the Wildcats. Mattawan had beaten them 6-1 this season and won thrice last year, including in the league championship.
In the first game of the evening, Kalamazoo United moved to the top spot in the league standings, improving to 7-1 in league and 17-1-1 overall thanks to a 7-3 win against Portage Northern. The loss dropped the Huskies to 5-14 overall and 1-7 in league.
United gained a 2-0 lead after the first period thanks to goals by Topher Strunk and Noel Cavey. Nathan Carr added to the lead in the second, but Eli Cartier was able to keep it from getting out of hand for the Huskies. He scored to make it 3-1, then scored again following Cavey’s second goal for a 4-2 score at the second intermission. Hunter Taplin put United back up by three within a minute of the third, but Griffin McLeod’s shot from center ice two minutes later made it a two-goal game once again. From there, United clamped down and scored twice in the final three minutes; Cavey getting his third, followed by the first high school goal from freshman Jack Kirschensteiner.
Following that in the second game of the evening, the Blades of Southwest Michigan took the 12th annual Rivalry Cup game over the Kalamazoo Eagles 4-3. The Eagles started ahead with two goals in the first five minutes, coming from David Kiel and Blake Jarrett. The Blades tied the game up by the break on scores from Evan Sampson and Alex Ploehn. The Eagles scored on the powerplay thanks to Zachary Blackwell early in the second, but Jaxon Dobrolowski used a shorthanded goal to tie the game up again.
It remained tied at 3-3 until 8:09 remained in the third when the Blades scored shorthanded again, this time from Dominic Buentello. The Blades kept the score at 4-3 from there despite a messy third period which saw ejections for two players from each squad. The win avenges a 1-0 loss to the Eagles from earlier in the year, putting the Blades at 15-7-1 overall and 3-4 in league play, good for fourth. The Eagles drop to fifth at 2-5-1 in league play and 7-11-1 overall.
League play resumes Wednesday at Wings West with Portage Northern hosting the Blades at 5:30, followed by the Eagles and Portage Central at 7:45. Next Saturday, Portage Northern hosts Lowell/Caledonia at 2:15, followed by the Eagles and Marysville at 4:30 and the Blades against United at 6:45. Meanwhile, Mattawan hits the road for two non-conference games over the weekend, against Cadillac Friday and Big Rapids Saturday.
Listen back to all three games from Saturday night below:
PORTAGE CENTRAL VS MATTAWAN
SWM BLADES VS KALAMAZOO EAGLES
KALAMAZOO UNITED VS PORTAGE NORTHERN
Portage Northern erased a 4-1 hole Wednesday night to get their first SWMHSHL victory of the year, defeating the Kalamazoo Eagles in overtime, 5-4. In the earlier game, Kalamazoo United mercy ruled Portage Central 8-0.
In the second game, the Eagles scored the game’s first goal shorthanded with 3:04 left in the first period, James Wressel assisted by Carter Maxey. With 10:46 in the second, the Eagles made it a 2-0 game on a David Kiel powerplay goal, assisted by Nick Burr.
With 8:04 in the second, the Huskies got on the board thanks to Eli Cartier off an assist by Griffin McLeod. But within the next three minutes, the Eagles had goals from Wressel and Maxey to grab a 4-1 lead into the second break.
After missing opportunities on the powerplay in the first two periods, the Huskies took advantage of Eagle penalties in the third. With 8:55 left, Cartier scored a powerplay goal with assists from Will Todd and Grant Ernst. Not even a minute later, they had another powerplay and another goal, this time from Grffin McLeod with 8:19 left. At 2:04 on the clock, Ernst scored with an assist from Cartier to tie the game and force overtime.
OT only lasted 53 seconds as off a long deflection from the Husky defensive zone, Cartier took off and scored unassisted, grabbing a hat-trick and a 5-4 win for Portage Northern. They improve to 5-13 overall and get their first league win at 1-6. The Eagles drop to 7-10-1 overall and 2-4-1 in league play and end a five-game win streak which included the only loss Kalamazoo United has suffered this season.
As for United, they ran by Portage Central 8-0. Noel Cavey and Hunter Taplin had goals in the first period. They both struck again in the second on powerplays, along with goals by James Amat and Brenden Warner. Quentin Cerruti and Jacob Remelius had goals in the third to end the game via the mercy rule. Cavey finished with six points, adding four assists to his two goals.
United improves to 15-1-1 overall and 6-1 in SWMHSHL play, one point behind Mattawan (who has played one more game) for the league lead. Portage Central is 6-12 overall and 3-4 in league play, still in third thanks to the Eagles falling to the Huskies.
United will play at the Eastside Stars Friday. Then Saturday, all six league teams meet in games that can be heard on the Slocum Sports Network. It’s the Huskies against United at 1:30, the Southwest Michigan Blades and Eagles at 4:15, then the Mustangs and Mattawan at 7.
Listen back to both of Wednesday’s contests below:
HUSKIES VS EAGLES
UNITED VS MUSTANGS
Wednesday features another SWMHSHL doubleheader from Wings West on the Slocum Sports Network. In the first contest at 5:30 p.m., Kalamazoo United meets Portage Central. After that at 7:45 p.m., the Kalamazoo Eagles meet Portage Northern.
After losing their first game of the season last Wednesday to the Eagles, United bounced back with 9-1 and 5-1 wins over Northview and Jenison in the weekend showcase. They’re 14-1-1 overall and 5-1, trailing Mattawan (6-1-1) by three points for the league lead. In their first meeting with Portage Central back on December 7, United won 4-1. Meanwhile, the Mustangs are 6-11 overall and 3-3 in league play, good for third in the standings. They split their weekend showcase, defeating Grand Haven 3-1, but falling 5-4 to Davison.
For the other matchup, the Eagles are riding a tide of momentum that started with their 7-7 tie with Mattawan at the start of the month. Last week, they gave United its first loss, then picked up wins over Cadillac and Grand Rapids Northview as part of the weekend showcase. Now at 7-9-1, it’s a strong turnaround from a slow 2-9 start to the year.
Even with a win and draw against the top two teams in the league, the Eagles are fourth at 2-3-1 in SWMHSHL play, one point back on Portage Central. As for Portage Northern, they are the lone winless team in league play at 0-6 entering their first meeting of the season with the Eagles. The Huskies are 4-13 overall, having lost 3-1 and 8-3 to Okemos and Rockford over the weekend.
Listen to United vs the Mustangs, then the Eagles and Huskies on the Slocum Sports Network. Game one is scheduled for 5:30 with the second game to follow around 7:45.
The Kalamazoo Eagles upset Kalamazoo United Wednesday evening 4-3 to end United’s undefeated season, followed by a 6-4 Mattawan victory over the Southwest Michigan Blades.
In the first game, the Eagles took control quickly, scoring after 1:40 on a James Wressel goal, assisted by Blake Jarrett. Wressel returned the favor, setting up Jarrett for another goal about five minutes later, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead that they took into the first break.
United very rapidly tied the game in the second period, as Noel Cavey scored 63 seconds into the period, followed by a Nathan Carr about two minutes later. Only 63 seconds after Carr’s goal, Cartey Maxey tallied a shorthanded goal for the Eagles, pushing back ahead 3-2.
That score held until the start of the third, where 24 seconds into the period, Quentin Cerruti tied the game once more, thanks to a powerplay goal. Within the next two minutes, the Eagles again reclaimed the lead, using a David Kiel powerplay goal. They then held off United for the final 15 minutes to avenge a brutal 9-2 defeat against United back in December. It puts the Eagles at 2-3-1 in SWMHSHL play and drops United to 5-1 in league play and 12-1-1 overall.
In the second game of the evening, the Mattawan Wildcats topped the Southwest Michigan Blades for the second time this season, winning 6-4. Early penalties put the Blades behind the eight-ball, setting up a Ben Berkowitz powerplay goal in the first five minutes of play. Berkowitz scored again during 4-on-4 play a few minutes later, followed by a Jeff Kirkendall powerplay strike not long after, for a 3-0 Mattawan lead at the first break.
The Blades fought back, scoring five minutes into the second thanks to Jaxon Dobrolowski. With 3:42 left in the period, Alex Ploehn pushed the Blades back within one. But the Wildcats scored twice in the final three minutes, within 20 seconds of each other, to grab a 5-2 lead at the second intermission. Kirkendall scored his second, followed by a powerplay goal by Jake Kruzich.
Only 26 seconds into the third period, Brad Kolinski gave Mattawan a 6-2 lead, a hole too big to climb out of. Dobrowski and Ploehn both got their second goals late in the third, the former on a powerplay and the latter shorthanded, but it was too little, too late.
Mattawan sits at the top of the SWMHSHL standings with 13 points at 6-1-1; they’re 9-5-1 overall. The Blades are 12-7-1 overall and 2-4 in league play, fifth now after getting jumped by the Eagles. All six league teams play Friday and Saturday against non-league opponents as part of Hockey Weekend Across America. The full list of games can be found here. You can listen back to both of Wednesday’s games on the Slocum Sports Network below:
KALAMAZOO EAGLES VS KALAMAZOO UNITED
MATTAWAN VS SWM BLADES
High school hockey returns Wednesday to Wings West and the Slocum Sports Network with two games from the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League. The first contest at 5:30 pm. sees Kalamazoo United against the Kalamazoo Eagles, followed by the Southwest Michigan Blades against the Mattawan Wildcats around 7:45 p.m.
Kalamazoo United remains unbeaten overall at 12-0-1 and are a perfect 5-0 through their first pass of SWMHSHL games, including a 9-2 drubbing of the Eagles back on December 14. The Eagles are 1-3-1 in league play with a 7-7 tie of points-leader Mattawan in their last conference game on January 4.
Although United is unbeaten, Mattawan is one-point better in the conference standings, having played twice more for a 5-1-1 record. They’re 8-5-1 overall entering their rematch with the Blades, which the Wildcats controlled for a 6-1 win on December 3. The Blades are 12-6-1 overall and are 5-1-1 since the start of 2017.
Listen to both contests live on the Slocum Sports Network with scheduled starts of 5:30 for United and the Eagles and 7:45 for the Blades and Wildcats.
The lone winner coming out of Wednesday night’s SWMHSHL action at Wings West were the Blades of Southwest Michigan, who defeated the Portage Northern Huskies 5-3. Meanwhile, the Kalamazoo Eagles and Mattawan Wildcats played to a 7-7 tie.
It was a victory in a way for the Eagles, who had lost to Mattawan 6-1 back in November. The opening game of the evening saw heavy scoring in the first and third periods. Mattawan’s Ben Berkowitz scored first on a powerplay with 10:03 on the clock. 50 seconds later, Michael Winters evened the game for the Eagles and only 31 seconds after that, Nick Burr put the Eagles ahead. The Wildcats tied the game back up with 7:33 on a Brady Lawrence goal. At 3:34, David Kiel reclaimed the lead for the Eagles, but Jeff Kirkendall tied things back up only eight seconds later. James Wressel then scored with a minute remaining for a 4-3 Eagles lead at the intermission.
Neither team found the back of the net in the second period, with the lone highlight coming when Eagles coach Brent Jarrett was ejected for arguing the spot for a face-off. (Fittingly, the song “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green was playing during the argument, which is likely the PG version of how coach Jarrett felt during the moment.)
A Zachary Blackwell powerplay goal at 13:16 in the third put the Eagles ahead by two. Kirkendall got his team back within one 34 seconds later, but at 11:17, Wressel pushed the Eagles back up by two. Kirkendall made it a hat-trick at 9:59, which Wressel matched at 7:08.
Berkowitz got his second score to put Mattawan back within one with 5:22 remaining. Then, with 47 seconds left, Jake Kruzich evened the game at 7-7 and forced overtime. Neither team could break the deadlock, leading to the draw. Burr led all players with five points on a goal and four assists for the Eagles. For Mattawan, Kirkendall had four points on the hat-trick and an assist with Berkowitz getting two of each for four as well.
The second contest of the evening saw a 5-3 win for the Blades of Southwest Michigan over the Portage Northern Huskies. Both teams added one goal in the first period; from Will Todd of the Huskies and Evan Wilson of the Blades. Wilson scored once more 17 seconds into period number two. Before the first minute of the period could elapse, Grant Ernst tied the game at 2-2.
It remained at 2-2 until the 1:56 mark of the second on a powerplay goal by the Blades’ Mason Fitch. Fitch scored again with two seconds remaining on an odd occurrence. Portage Northern had a 5-on-3 powerplay begin with seven seconds left in the second and with a face-off in the offensive zone, decided to pull their goalie for a brief 6-on-3 advantage. Fitch took advantage of this, clearing the puck all the way into the net off the face-off.
The third period became very chippy between the two squads, featuring 47 penalty minutes and two ejections. Griffin McLeod knocked the water-bottle off the net on a rocket from the blue-line at 5:26 to get the Huskies back within one. However, Evan Wilson’s third goal of the evening in the final two minutes sealed up a 5-3 Blades win. He finished with a game-high four points.
The win puts the Blades at 8-5 overall and 2-3 in league play, tied for third with Portage Central. Portage Northern falls to 2-9 overall and 0-4 in league play. The earlier draw puts Mattawan at 7-4-1 overall and 4-1-1 in league play. The Eagles are 2-9-1 overall and 1-3-1 in league play. Mattawan is off until Friday, January 13 at home against the St. Joseph Lakeshore Warriors. The Eagles host Byron Center Friday, then meet the Riley Hockey Club on Saturday the 14th. The Blades travel to Dexter Saturday, then south of the border against Valparaiso Sunday. The Huskies go Saturday to Okemos, then face Portage Central in league play next Wednesday.
Listen back the full broadcasts from both contests on the Slocum Sports Network below:
SW MICHIGAN BLADES VS PORTAGE NORTHERN
KALAMAZOO EAGLES VS MATTAWAN
The high school hockey season resumes Wednesday with four of the six SWMHSHL teams meeting at Wings West. Mattawan faces the Kalamazoo Eagles at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Southwest Michigan Blades against Portage Northern at 7:45 p.m. Both contests will be broadcast live on the Slocum Sports Network.
Mattawan has already met each league opponent once and sits second in the standings at 4-1, only behind the 5-0 Kalamazoo United. The Wildcats (7-4 overall) dropped the Eagles 6-1 all the back in the season opener on November 16. The Eagles are 1-3 against SWMHSHL foes so far, with a 1-0 win over the Blades and losses to Mattawan, Kalamazoo United and Portage Central. The Wildcats have controlled the rivalry in recent memory, taking eight of the last ten meetings along with the last five contests. The Eagles last topped Mattawan in December 2014.
The second game of the night has a similar recent history; Portage Northern has won eight of the last ten, along with the last five contests, over the Blades. It’s their first meeting this season.
The Blades are 1-3 in league play with a win over Portage Central and hold a 7-5 overall record, significantly improved from a two-win season last year. The Huskies are 0-3 in the league standings and 2-8 overall. After winning their opening contests against at Traverse City and Manistee, they’ve dropped eight straight. Although, they’ve had some close games against tough opponents.
Listen to both contests on the Slocum Sports Network. Coverage will begin shortly before the puck drops at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.