By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BIG RAPIDS — Team North is headed south.
Actually, they’re already there. And have been for two days.
The select hockey team will represent northern Michigan in the 34-sport State Games of Michigan starting today.
Eight area players and three coaches are on the 23-member team that opens up play in the eight-team field against Team West today at 7 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Edge Ice Arena. The tournament continues through Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. title game at Griff’s Ice House.
“We’ve got a pretty good representation from Traverse (area),” said TC Central coach Chris Givens, who is an assistant coach on the team, along with TC West’s Jeremy Rintala and Trojan assistant Scott Harvey.
TC West forward Jake Saxton and defenseman Jacob Benker, TC Central forwards Cam Givens and Alex Oliver and Bay Reps forward Andrew Dzierwa are on the team, along with Cadillac’s Spencer Graham and Patrick Briggs and Manistee’s Jacob Harrie.
Team North has had a pair of two-hour practices thus far, one each Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s definitely different,” Chris Givens said. “You’ve got a lot of skill there, obviously. The challenge really comes from these kids all coming from different programs and different coaches and different philosophies and strategies. Trying to get them all on the same page in a really short amount of time can be a real challenge.”
“Jeremy and I were commenting, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to have this team for more than just a few games?’” Givens said.
The eight-team field consists of four metro Detroit teams and four teams from the rest of the state.
Team North plays Metro South at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Metro North at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The top two teams from each division — the Griffins and Red Wings — advance to Saturday evening’s semifinals, with the title game and third-place contest Sunday.
“We’ve got good players with really solid skills,” Givens said. “Between Levi Wunder (Escanaba) and Raymond Bryce (Houghton) and some other guys that put up a lot of goals last year, there’s definitely some firepower there. But every team has got it, too. It’ll be interesting to see how we do.”