Courier-Leader & Flashes News

Mattawan hockey celebrates regional championship

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

Back on March 1 the Mattawan hockey team had plenty of reason to celebrate. The Wildcats defeated Portage Northern 6-2 in a Division 2 regional championship game; held at Wings West Arena in Kalamazoo.
“I thought it was one of our most gutsy games of the year,” head coach Chris Diense said of the program’s first regional title since 2008. “It is not easy to beat any team three times in a season and especially not your rival who is well coached and was as healthy as they’ve been all year, playing really good hockey. We hung on after taking a five minute major in the first with a great team effort from Colin Porn in the net all the way up front to go in after the first tied 0-0.”
Mattawan took a 2-0 lead early in the second period and largely controlled things from there.
“It was a special night for our group winning the first regional championship in over 10 years,” Diense said.
Getting to hoist an impressive trophy was a feeling Diense hopes the team never forgets.
“It felt great, super happy for our team and especially the six seniors for all the hard work they put in to make it happen,” he said. “The key to success this year was really all about having 21 players who were great young men, engaged and eager to learn. They worked hard and got better everyday playing one of the toughest schedules Mattawan has played in recent years. We had a lot of great memories including the Regional Title win, The Renbarger over Portage and beating number five ranked Saginaw Heritage in Division 2 which may be the highest ranked win the program has ever had.”
Of course the season came to an end on March 4, in a 7-1 loss to Byron Center.
“It is always extremely tough to see it come to an end and every year it is a special and unique group,” Diense said. “To see the effort the seniors and our team put in every day I couldn’t be more proud of them and what they accomplished. I think it says a lot about the group you have when after the season you see all the emotions come out when it is over and see how much they love one another but for a lot of them this is the last hockey they will ever play and you realize how much the game has meant to them and our program has meant to them. That’s what’s tough but also rewarding seeing a great group of young men and watch them grow not only as a group but individuals throughout their high school career.”
The Wildcats, who finish with a 15-11-2 record, lose six seniors to graduation, but Diense is hoping the team can reload for another post-season run.
“Super optimistic,” he said. “We lose a lot of key players with the six seniors but could potentially return five defensemen and nine forwards, with seven of those being sophomores this year and our starting goalie. Our pipeline has grown tremendously at Mattawan, having roughly 24 players tryout in prior years to 40-plus players yearly trying out, which continues to grow… competition for ice time is always a good problem to have.”

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