Back-to-back champs start regional play

By Wendi Reardon Price
Clarkston News Sports Writer
After a tough schedule and winning the OAA Red League, Clarkston Varsity Hockey is ready to hit the ice for the MHSAA Division 1 Region 4 tournament this week.
“Regionals is always going to be tough,” said Nathan Bryer, head coach. “It doesn’t matter who you play because it’s playoffs and everybody is going to be playing their best hockey of the year.”
He added the Wolves have had a ton of success this winter season.
“We had a lot harder schedule,” he said. “We were more consistently than the previous year playing top teams in the state – Brighton, Detroit Catholic Central, De La Salle, Salem and Forest Hills Central. You can go through out schedule and we had 4-5 big games each month. Then, at the end of the year we ended up with Brother Rice in the Trenton Showcase. For a team that took on a more rigorous game schedule, we handled it well. We had a lot of success. I think we are more battle tested than we were at this time last year. We had all ups and downs but all for the better.”
Bryer shared he thinks the team is more ready for the post season than they were last season.
“We are an older team and again we are a team that has been to regionals some of them 3-4 times in a row and know what that taste is like and how hard it’s going to be,” he said “I like where we are at right now. We are a confident group. We are ready to take on that task, but it doesn’t matter who you play it’s the playoffs and anything could happen.”
One of the biggest strengths the team has is their depth. Bryer shared they have the ability to wear down other teams by using everyone on the Clarkston roster.
“Then, our ability to defend,” he added as another strength. “We have a two headed monster in net with Calum Hartner and Brady Damian. The way we defend, keep pucks out of our net and take pride in the D-zone is one of our strengths as well. A lot of that is a testament to Coach Adam Larkin who handles that for us. Those are qualities of hopefully teams who can be successful in playoffs.”
The Wolves closed the regular season with a 2-2 tie with Bay City Central last Friday.
Clarkston finished the OAA Red League as champions and going undefeated, 10-0, a first for the program.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Bryer. “It’s something Clarkston Hockey has never done before. It’s a cool achievement. They have earned it and they worked hard for it. They deserve it. It’s a tough league and it’s tough to go undefeated. I was proud of our group.”
He added the team had the league clinched with two games remaining.
“It would have been very easy for us to take or put off the gas and not be up for those games,” Bryer said. “I thought we did a good job of showing up and competing and defeating two really good teams to finish it out.”
Clarkston posted a 7-1 victory over Lake Orion, Feb. 10. Owen Croston scored three goals and had one assist. Logan Golub had one goal and one assist and Kyle Lynch had one goal.
Ron Wade had four assists and Ronan Howard had two assists. Evan Adams, Frank Stanek, Quinn Farrell and Johnny Walker each had one assist.
Damian had six saves in the net while the Wolves made 60 shots on Lake Orion’s net.
The Wolves defeated Birmingham Unified, Feb. 8. Lynch had one goal and one assist. Golub and Wade each had one goal. Brady Earing, Cole Moyses, Stanek and Howard had one assist each.
Parker Pace had 18 saves in the net and the Wolves made 44 shots for the night.
Bryer added it’s awesome for this group of players to accomplish going undefeated in the league.
“I was going through some of the achievements this senior class has had,” he said. “Owen and Parker, they are 4-year starters. They have really seen our program go from two years in a row last place in the OAA to the last two years winning the OAA. I am really happy for this group. When we talk about a senior class leaving the program better than where they got it when they started, they can really hang their hat on that. The accomplishment shows – back to back OAA champs, All-State honors, Team Michigan honors. We have two four year guys and then another 3-4 3-year guys. They have seen our program develop into what it is now.”
Clarkston plays the Grand Blanc in the regional semifinal on Thursday. The regional final is set for Wednesday, Feb. 28. Both games are at Dort Federal Event Center in Flint at 7:30 p.m.

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