Public School Invitational Attracts Some Of State’s Top Hockey Teams

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Public school invitational attracts some of state’s top hockey teams

With the Michigan Public High School Hockey Invitational Showcase beginning today at Chelsea’s Arctic Coliseum — the home ice for the Pinckney hockey team — practice times have been hard to come by for the Pirates and coach Ted Kroll.

That can happen when 53 public high school teams from across the state — and all four in Livingston County — flock in to compete in a total of 52 games through Sunday.

So to meet the demand for ice, Kroll had to move one of the Pirates’ practices to before school this week.

"It’s hard to get ice this week," Kroll laughed. "We moved our practice to 5:20 a.m. Thursday and I think the boys are pretty excited about it. There’s just so much ice taken up during the showcase.

"It’s a like a throwback from when we started up here in 1999-00," he continued. "Normal ice for us was 5:30 in the morning. I’m used to it. It brings me back."

Pinckney, along with Howell, are each in action today. The Pirates (7-11-2) will face Rochester Stoney Creek at 7:45 p.m. with the Highlanders (14-3-2) taking the ice against Novi (13-4-1) at 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, the Pirates face Rochester United at 5 p.m. while Brighton (13-3-2) will skate against St. Clair Shores at 7 p.m.

Once teams commit to the tournament they are paired based on their rankings by U.S. High School Hockey Online to try and get the most competitive matchups.

What that means for Brighton coach Paul Moggach and the Bulldogs is a chance to face a team they otherwise might not schedule.

"I think the real value of the showcase, one like this especially, is your opportunity to play teams who you normally wouldn’t schedule," he said. "When we set our schedule in April for our non-conference opponents, we don’t know if they’re going to be competitive or not. By December, when things are kind of laid out and you see where teams are and how they rank in the state, (showcase organizers) match you with opposition where the teams are having similar seasons, ant that’s a good thing."

Thursday’s games include Brighton vs. Marquette at 6 p.m. and Hartland (9-7-1) vs. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills at 7:45 p.m. The last game of the week featuring a county team is Hartland vs. Utica Eisenhower at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday.

In all, nine teams ranked among the top 10 in Division 1, 2 and 3 will participate.

In its second year, the MPHSHIS — promoted as the largest high school athletic showcase in Michigan — began in part due to questions public school coaches had in regards to the MHSAA tournament and rules regarding private schools.

The event runs the same week as the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League showcase in Trenton, which features some of the top private school teams in the state.

"The private league, for the most part, has always had its own tournament and they limited teams that could participate," Moggach said. "The public school coaches felt there was an opportunity for more schools to participate.

"It started last year when there was a lot of consternation between the public and private schools," he continued. "(The MPHSHIS) is strictly for public schools and it’s the first time that’s ever happened. In all the other sports, I don’t think there’s anything that’s comparable. I give a lot of credit to those who put this together."

Most importantly, Kroll said, it gives players from public school teams some good exposure to potential junior and college teams.

"It’s about the idea of opening it up for scouts to see these boys who have the interest to continue playing," he said. "Even for boys not pursuing a super-compettive, (NCAA) Division I program, there are people looking at all the different levels. It’s good for any high school kid.

"It’s not about winning and losing a tournament as much as it is getting these boys some exposure."

Brian Beaupied

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