Chelsea hockey aims for its third final four in four years as regional play gets underway
Griffin Moores | MLive.com file photo
Chelsea High School hockey coach Don Wright knows what it takes to get to the hockey final four at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. He’s led the Bulldogs there twice in the last three years, including in 2012.
But after losing 11 seniors from last year’s state semifinal team, plenty of his players don’t.
“The returning players that we have are motivated and know what it takes,” Wright said. “The new players, certainly they’ve got to kind of learn that. They hear about it and what not. To get to the final four, it’s a lot of hard work. Players have got to be intense, so I think you learn that along the way.”
The road to Compuware Arena begins this week with regional play across the state. It concludes next week, with state semifinals Friday and state finals Saturday.
Of the seven Washtenaw County boys ice hockey teams, the Bulldogs may be the most poised to have a deep run. After going to the semifinals last year, Chelsea started this season unbeaten in its first 10 games, and finished the year 17-5-2.
Injuries helped slow down the Bulldogs near the end of the season. But even with a depleted team, Chelsea played close games against Salem and Escanaba, both ranked in the state in Division 1 and Division 2, earlier this month.
“We’ve had a real strong year. We had a little bump, we’ve had a number of injuries, but we have some of those guys back,” Wright said. “So I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.
Taylor Atchley leads Chelsea with 44 points, “a pretty consistent player for us,” Wright said, while Jacob Ryan has 26 goals in 25 games.
“He’s a factor in every game, it’s just that simple, quite frankly if nothing else just due to his hard work,” Wright said.
Goaltender Charlie Miller, in his first season as a starter, has a 2.50 goals against average and an .891 save percentage.
Chelsea will open its playoffs Tuesday against Father Gabriel Richard, which put up an 18-7 record on year.
“They’re always a hard-working team, I don’t expect it to be anything different,” Wright said.
Past that, it will face either Dexter or Jackson Lumen Christi, two teams swept in the regular season. But waiting on the other side of the bracket is Dearborn Divine Child, a team the Bulldogs tied, 5-5, this season.
Division 2 Regional at Saline
Quarterfinals (Feb. 25/26): Huron vs. Pioneer, 5 p.m. Feb. 26, Ann Arbor Ice Cube; Skyline vs. Carleton Airport, 7:30 p.m Feb. 26., Ann Arbor Ice Cube; Saline vs. Pinckney, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25, Arctic Coliseum.
Semifinals (Feb. 28): Huron/Pioneer winner vs. Skyline/Carleton Airport winner, 7:30 p.m., Ann Arbor Ice Cube; Saline/Pinckney winner vs. Temperance Bedford, 5:30 p.m., Arctic Coliseum.
Finals (March 2): Arctic Coliseum. Winner advances to play March 5 at Yost Ice Arena.
Division 3 Regional at Allen Park
Quarterfinals: (Feb. 26): Allen Park Cabrini vs. Dearborn Divine Child, 8 p.m., Redford Ice Arena; Father Gabriel Richard vs. Chelsea, 5 p.m., Arctic Coliseum; Dexter vs. Jackson Lumen Christi, 7:30 p.m., Arctic Coliseum.
Semifinals (Feb. 28): Allen Park Cabrini/Dearborn Divine Child winner vs. Allen Park, 8 p.m., Redford Ice Arena; Father Gabriel Richard/Chelsea winner vs. Dexter/Jackson Lumen Christi winner, 6:30 p.m., Arctic Coliseum.
Finals (March 2): Allen Park Civic Arena. Winner advances to play March 6.