The Kalamazoo United (KU) hockey team is off to a 14-1-1 start this season. They currently sit in second place in the Southwest Michigan High School Hockey League (SWMHSHL).
KU is off to their best start in team history and they have proven to all the doubters that they are one of the teams to beat in the league this year.
Up to this point, the seniors on the team have had to struggle and lose an innumerable number of games. KU finished last in the league during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons and wasn’t a threat to win a league championship.
Last season the team finished third in the league, which was major progress compared to previous KU teams. The KU team this year knows they are a threat to the rest of the league and won’t be satisfied until they are one of the final four teams playing for the state championship at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.
KU coach Tyler Kindle is having fun coaching the team this season and loves seeing the effort the players are putting in each and every day.
“Even though the biggest challenge to coaching the team is getting everyone on the same page everyday, they have showed that they are able to do so,” Kindle continued. “This team has more experience than any other team I have coached. We have a great group of upperclassmen that have led this team for the past few years, so we haven’t had to start from scratch every year.”
Noel Cavey, assistant captain and senior at Loy Norrix, currently sits in the top ten in the state in points. Cavey is KU’s leading goal scorer and one of the most experienced players on the team. Just like his coach, Cavey knows this year’s team is something special.
“We bond way better as a team this year, and I feel like that is showing in the way we have played so far. Everyone on the team has a winning attitude and we don’t plan on losing many games.” Cavey went on to say, “We want to win the first league title in team history and make a deep run in the state tournament.”
Quentin Cerutti, assistant captain and senior at Hackett Catholic Prep, knew this team was different than previous KU teams when they defeated Mattawan last season. Mattawan is traditionally a team to beat in the league year in and year out. They lost to Mattawan earlier that season by seven goals. Mattawan went into that game thinking they were going to destroy KU for a second time.
“I was sitting on the bench in the third period up by three goals and I was listening to our entire section scream ‘Let’s go K-U!’ That was the greatest game of my life and the game that opened everyone’s eyes and showed them that we were a force to be reckoned with,” said Cerutti. “The difference with us and most teams last year was that our core group of players were juniors as opposed to seniors, so we knew this would be our year.”
Cerutti knows that KU would not have came this far if it wasn’t for the parents of the team and the students of the three schools (Loy Norrix, Kalamazoo Central and Hackett Catholic Prep) that KU consists of.
“To the parents of the team, I would like to say thank you so much for everything you have done for the team. To the students, thank you for your continued growth in support over the last four years. We went from nobody coming to our games, to packing the section in a span of four years. It has been an awesome experience,” said Cerutti.
Jacob Remelius, captain and senior at Loy Norrix, is KU’s leader and the one who keeps the team together. He makes sure to let the team know that they must play with the same intensity and effort every game, regardless of who they are playing.
“It feels great to be accomplishing so much early on this season. After struggling the past few years, it shows all the hard work that we have put in and how committed we are. Two years ago we didn’t win a single league game, and now we are 5-1 in the league. It feels amazing,” said Remelius.
Remelius’ level of play over the past couple of years has paid off for him. Remelius already has future hockey plans, one of them being the opportunity to play college hockey at Adrian College.
“Before I go off to college next fall, I am going to some junior camps this upcoming summer. I hope to catch the eye of some scouts and hopefully make a junior team before going to college,” said Remelius. “If I don’t make a junior team, I am still playing club hockey at Adrian and hopefully get the chance to make their National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) team in the next couple of years.”
Unlike Cerutti, Cavey and Remelius, Garrett Warner, freshman at Hackett Catholic Prep, doesn’t know what it is like to play on a struggling KU team. As a first year player on the team, the only thing Warner is used to is winning.
“I’m having a lot of fun playing with the guys this year. All of the upperclassmen have taken me in and treated me as if I am an upperclassmen,” said Warner.
However, Warner knows next year’s team is going to have difficulties overcoming the loss of the graduating seniors.
“This year’s team has a lot of playing experience, so with the seniors graduating this year, I don’t believe we will be as good next year. However, we will still have a solid line and a good goaltender, so we will find a way to overcome it,” said Warner.
KU has proved that their season is not a fluke. The team has a group of experienced upperclassmen that will pave the way for the underclassmen to take over the team once they graduate. Even though KU has accomplished great things thus far, they still have a long way to go. The first thing they have their eyes set on is winning the league championship in February.