Winter sports preview: Hockey

Tribune Staff • Dec 7, 2018 at 12:42 AM

While winter settled in early on the Lakeshore this year, it still couldn’t compete with the local hockey teams, which had their seasons well underway by the time the snow started sticking.

The Grand Haven-Spring Lake co-op team is back in business after their conference championship season a year ago and has the same drive and team-first attitude that got them so far last season.

Fruitport will once again join forces with Kenowa Hills for a hockey co-op with the continued goal of developing players and building a successful team environment.

Both teams occupy the O-K Fischer Division, along with Northview, Byron Center, Hudsonville, Jenison and Grand Rapids West Catholic. While Grand Haven finished atop the conference last year, Kenowa Hills finished at the bottom. In the end, both teams fell in the opening round of the playoffs and hope to better that result this year.

Here’s a closer look at what is in store for Lakeshore hockey this winter.

Grand Haven-Spring Lake

Last year: 12-9-4 overall, 7-1-2 O-K Fischer Division, conference champions

Key players: “We rely on all 20 players to continue putting Grand Haven on the map,” said Grand Haven head coach Keegan Ferris. “’24 all in’ is a phrase we cite often referring to the 20 players and four coaching staff members that it takes to continue the drive to grow as a program and reach the goals set forth by our players.”

Conference contenders: Jenison, Byron Center

“No conference game is easy,” Ferris said. “All the teams are well-coached and make every game competitive. We anticipate that Jenison and Byron Center will both be extremely difficult opponents once again this year, and look forward to the opportunity to compete against both of these great programs.”

Team outlook: “We have a fantastic group that are all committed to the process of a high school hockey season,” Ferris said of his 2018 team. “We expect to improve every week and develop individual players to ultimately make our team better throughout the season in preparation for the playoffs. Our goal in every season, this one being no exception, is to win our conference and make a playoff run in March. We have improved our playoff experiences in the last three years. We look to continue that growth this year and officially put Grand Haven on the map as one of the top programs around.

“Grand Haven-Spring Lake varsity hockey is a team full of individuals who are committed to the team and all that entails. We have committed ourselves to holding each other accountable and pushing each other every day to simply be better. Every night you can expect the Bucs hockey team to compete like maniacs, outwork the opponent and join the fight. We encourage everyone to come out and see what high school hockey is all about as we continue to work toward creating a premier destination for hockey players by providing player development, a safe environment and opportunities for players to reach their individual goals post-high school.”

The Bucs have already hit the ice for their first batch of games, getting off to a 2-3 start to the season. Losses to Forest Hills Central (4-0) and East Kentwood (2-0) were a sour start before a 4-1 win over Portage Northern and a 6-1 win over Cheboygan turned things around. Most recently, the Bucs fell to Bay Reps 6-2. They return to the ice Friday, Dec. 14, against Byron Center at home.

Kenowa Hills/Fruitport

Last year: 3-20-1 overall, 0-10 O-K Fischer Division

Key players: Senior right wing and alternate captain Brenden Deneen, junior defensemen/center and captain Logan Granger, junior defenseman and alternate captain Jared Raisanen, junior center Gabe Partridge, junior goalie Derek Smith, junior left wing Keenan Laming, sophomore wing/center Darrian Orr, sophomore left wing Nolan Holtrop, sophomore defenders Will Braun and Mathieu Hannahs

Conference contenders: Grand Haven and Byron Center

Team outlook: “Our first goal is to compile a winning record,” said first-year head coach Matt Wiedenhoeft. “Our secondary goal is to win the conference title. Grand Haven and Byron Center are the favorites in that race.

“The boys are improving every time we touch the ice. We are implementing a new system that is high paced and aggressive. It’s a new style of hockey and the boys are adapting to it very well.”

The Knights have already gotten their first few contests out of the way and sit at 1-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play so far. They kicked off the season with a 6-1 loss to Byron Center, followed by a 9-2 loss to Reeths-Puffer. They tallied the win column with an overtime victory over Portage Central on Dec. 1 before falling to Hudsonville in their most recent contest, 10-2. They will return to the ice Wednesday, Dec. 12 against Mid-Michigan.

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