TRAVERSE CITY —
Johnson said winning the North American Cup in Port Huron was a turning point for his Traverse City North Stars.
"It was the first tournament those guys won together as a team," he said.
Ryan Dickerson and Jack Boyce split time in goal, while Ethan Stoudt and Dylan Davies anchor the defense and left wing Zak Johnson helps power the offense.
"They've come together as a team," Johnson said. "They're a great bunch of kids."
The North Stars posted a 25-19-3 record this season, winning the district crown with a pair of victories over Mackinaw City in Gaylord. They took the first game 4-0 and won the second 4-3 with 4.3 seconds left in overtime on a Scott Klavon goal.
The Stars do have a very tough draw in the state finals, facing the nation's top two teams — the USA Eagles and Grand Rapids Griffins — in pool play, as well as the Ann Arbor Wolves.
Pee Wee AA
The Dave Harvey's Pee Wee AA team won the Little Caesars league with an 18-1-1 mark.
With a 33-12-2 overall record, the players ages 12-13 head to Canton on March 1-3 for the state tournament.
The team's offense is led by left winger Ryder Rolston — the son of assistant coach and 20-year NHL veteran Brian Rolston — center Mark Alekseykov, goalies A.J. Ruskowski and Sam Randall and Cadillac center Jacob Cook.
"It's been a pretty good group effort," Russell said.
The squad faces off with Canton, Farmington and Jackson in pool play, with the top two teams in each of the two pools moving on the semifinals.
Russell's team was 1-0-1 against Jackson in league play and didn't meet up with Farmington or Canton. The top team in the state, the Grosse Ile Islanders, is in the other pool. The TC team was 0-2 against Grosse Ile, but the last of those meetings was a 5-4 overtime setback in the Silver Sticks tournament.
"They're very good," Russell said of Grosse Ile. "But we took them to overtime."