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Chase Schmittou and his Roosevelt teammates bring an unbeaten record into tonight’s showdown with 11-1-0 Woodhaven.
As far as historical rivalries go, the one between the Roosevelt and Woodhaven hockey team does not have roots that run very deep.
Roosevelt has one of Downriver’s longest running high school hockey programs, but for much of their existence the Bears have not been very good.
Woodhaven did not even have a hockey team until about a decade ago and in the early days the Warriors did not even play the Bears.
In fact, last year’s 4-0 victory over Roosevelt was Woodhaven’s first ever against the Bears.
That’s all changed this year. Roosevelt has one of its finest ever teams and Woodhaven may, too.
The Bears are 11-0 and Woodhaven is 11-1 and something has to give tonight when the teams meet on Woodhaven’s home ice at the Ice Box Sports Arena.
Both of these teams are special and they are having magical kinds of seasons.
This is also a statement kind of a game because the two are paired – along with three-time defending state champion Trenton and Anderson – in a pre-regional tournament to start the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs.
“When you play against a team that is in your own regional, the real games start with the (state) tournament,” said Woodhaven Coach Bryan Sullivan.
Sullivan tried to downplay the importance of the game, but had to admit that there was more than usual at stake.
“It is a Downriver bragging rights sort of a thing,” he said. “And it is an important league game. Winning the league is one of our goals and beating Wyandotte helps us achieve that.”
Here is a look at how the two teams stack up as they hit the ice tonight:
OffenseThe Bears are killer on offense. Led by Gerald Mayhew and Nick Kovalchik, this team flat-out gets it in the offensive zone.
Fast, tricky and unselfish, you do not stop the Bears; you can only hope to slow them down.
Woodhaven, led by the likes of Jeremy Klotz and Jordan Nixdorf, is no slouch in the offensive zone, either, but Roosevelt is one of those eye-popping offensive team that come along only every now and then.
DefenseWith and experienced blueline crew, one might expect Roosevelt to have an edge in this area, too, but the Bears have not been rock solid defensively this season.
Roosevelt allowed an astounding nine goals in a winning effort against Canton earlier this year and just before Christmas they had a near collapse against Grosse Ile, allowing five third-period goals.
Defense was supposed to be a soft spot for Woodhaven this year and Sullivan even had to switch some forwards back to “D” to patch some holes.
But the Warriors have played some fine team defense this season and the patched-up blueliners have held up pretty well
Special teamsGive an edge here to Roosevelt simply because the Bears can be so dynamic and explosive on offense.
The Bears move the puck so well and have so many skilled offensive players that stopping them with the man advantage is difficult, to say the least.
GoaltendingA clear edge here to Woodhaven. Chris Kirk, who showed flashes of brilliance, was a little inconsistent as a sophomore, this year he is more focus, more determined and is one of the best goalies in the area.
He held Trenton and Grosse Ile to one goal each in wins over those Downriver rivals this season.
Roosevelt goalie Chase Schmittou and Ben Mekolon are experienced, but some of the bit numbers other teams have posted against the Bears are troublesome.
CoachingThis is an interesting battle between two veterans behind the benches.
Both Sullivan and Roosevelt Coach Mike Quint played at Trenton as high schoolers, but each has his own style of play.
Quint’s teams play on the offensive edge, always looking for a chance to put the puck in the net.
Long passes and lots of breakaways are the hallmark of Quint’s teams.
It is a fun style to watch, but always looking to land a haymaker often leaves a club venerable to absorbing one from the other team.
Sullivan is a more conservative coach. He believes in waiting for opportunities and then taking advantage of them.
It is a sound strategy, but if you don’t take advantage of your fewer scoring chances you can find yourself in a hole.
- Return to Paging Mode
There are two standout contests just waiting to make 2011 a special year in boxing.
I think we will get one of them.
Negotiations between David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko began in December. That fight makes sense in the early part of the summer.
When the heavyweight division gets it right, the whole sport is lifted. This rivalry has been building for the best part of two years.
The moment Haye gets in the ring with either of the Klitschko brothers, the fight has the potential to stop clocks across the globe.
The same would certainly happen were Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather ever to get it on.
Pacquiao would trade blows with Mayweather tomorrow, but nothing is ever simple with the Pretty Boy.
He is mired in all sorts of domestic disputes in Las Vegas – and they are heading for the courts this month and next.
If he can sort out his marital arrangements and find a way not to engage aggressively with security guards at his gated home, we might see him in the ring again this year.
Mayweather is too rich a talent to be idle. But he needs to wise up. The cup does not runneth over for ever.
Haye, 30, is already talking about retirement at the end of the year. Though I hung up my gloves at 29, I think that is premature in his case.
If he wants to be considered a great heavyweight, it will take more than a fight with Wladimir or Vitali. That is the start of something, not the end.
It is another big year for Carl Froch and Amir Khan. Froch is inked to fight Glen Johnson in the super-middle Super Sixes semi-final.
You can never write off Johnson but you now have to give Froch a chance of winning this competition, which will be a superb achievement for him and British boxing.
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Khan will look to take on the winner of Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander – who meet at the end of the month – probably in May.
Froch was beaten by Mikkel Kessler, but if you look at his record he has been in war after war for the past couple of years. I don’t know if there is a fighter that packs more drama into a fight than Froch.
The Jean Pascal fight was an absolute classic.
And he was half a minute from defeat against Jermain Taylor before pulling that one out of the bag.
He lost against Kessler in the early part of last year but not by a mile. And then he came back to completely shut out Arthur Abraham.
Bear in mind that these are unification fights. The standard of opponent is sky high every time he fights.
Khan, too, had a fantastic year in 2010. He is now a headline act in America after the Marcos Maidana bout.
He beat the most dangerous light welterweight in the world in dramatic circumstances.
And this after beating Paulie Malignaggi.
It would be nice to see him fight in the UK this summer to consolidate his success and show the wider sporting public what a superstar he is.
If Ricky Burns has only half the fun this year that he had last he will be a fulfilled fighter.
His fight in Glasgow against Roman Martinez to claim the WBO super-featherweight title was the best in Britain in 2010.
We look forward to the continued progress of our Olympic and World amateur champions James DeGale and Frankie Gavin, who are both ahead of schedule.
And on a more personal note, I guarantee that my own hot prospect Carl Frampton will win a major domestic or European title at super bantamweight this year.
Thanks for your continued support of this column. Happy New Year – it’s going to be a great one for boxing.