TRAVERSE CITY — The Hounds are healthy and hungry.
Even though the Traverse City junior A hockey team has already locked up a trip to the AAU national championships in Las Vegas, the Midwest Junior Hockey League playoffs could play an important role in how that trip plays out.
The Hounds ended the season by losing their last three games while missing six skaters due to injury. Those players are all back and eager to get back to the team’s winning way when they start the postseason by hosting the Alpena Street Cats at Centre ICE Arena on Friday.
“I would say I’m back to 100 percent,” said forward Jake Gillis, who missed the last two weeks of play with a leg injury.
Traverse City (32-7-1-2) ended the season with losses to Sault Ste. Marie (8-2) and Detroit (3-2 and 4-3) — who will battle each other in the other league semifinal next weekend.
“We were pretty short,” Gillis said of those games. “We had 11 guys on the bench against Detroit. That wasn’t even our team. We were running two lines and defense. We definitely didn’t take those games to heart, that’s for sure.”
Defensemen Kevin Hansen (concussion), Alex Grizzel (shoulder) and Zach Early (shoulder) were out, as well as forwards Gillis (leg), Dalton Gertsen (shoulder) and Kevin Miloser (shoulder).
“This week, we’re just trying to get everyone back on the ice and healthy and get our lines set,” defenseman Kenny Simmons said. “I think we’re going to be ready. We’re pretty confident and ready to get this show on the road.
“Last week was a pretty easy week of practice, and everybody’s back and ready to go.”
The Hounds won seven of eight regular-season matchups with the Street Cats. The only setback was Nov. 8 in Alpena.