Looking to make noise

MARQUETTE – What could prove to be a wide-open MHSAA hockey regional tournament opens play on Tuesday at three sites spread hundreds of miles apart.

The eight-team Division 2 district is hosted by Gaylord by doesn’t include the northern Lower Peninsula school.

Instead, it’s something of a midway-point meeting place for the four Upper Peninsula and four Lower Peninsula teams when they get ready for the finals.

Before that, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Marquette plays at Escanaba while Negaunee hosts Kingsford.

L’Anse will take part in its traditional Division 3 regional at Michigan Tech University later this week.

The Marquette County schools in the D2 regional are in the unusual predicament of being classified as underdogs, since Esky won both previous meetings with the Redmen, while Negaunee has managed just three wins all winter.

But MSHS’ games against Escanaba were close, 3-2 and 2-0 decisions, while Negaunee came on late, beating Lake Superior Conference champion Jeffers 7-2 to open the league tournament, then losing to the Flivvers in the finals of that event just 6-4 barely more than a week ago.

And if the Miners can pull off the upset Tuesday, they’ll stay home to face the Marquette-Escanaba winner at 7 p.m. Thursday.

But if Kingsford prevails against Negaunee, the Flivvers also earn the right to host the Thursday game for the right to travel to Gaylord at 1 p.m. Saturday to take on a team from the Lower Peninsula half of the regional – Midland, Midland Dow, Michigan Storm of Gladwin or Bay Area Thunder of Essexville. Those teams take part in a doubleheader in Gladwin on Tuesday with the winners squaring off Thursday.

Dow looks like the strongest team from that contingent with a 17-7 record and playing in the Saginaw Valley League.

The winner of this regional advances to the quarterfinals, which would likely remain in Gaylord if a U.P. team advances, on Tuesday, March 8.

The quarterfinal opponent would come from the Portage Central regional, which includes some southwestern Lower Peninsula schools along with Petoskey and Traverse City Central.

After that, a team would advance to the Division 2 semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, and the state championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 12, both contests at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.

Division 3 at Michigan Tech

L’Anse earned a bye in the first round, but will have to play the winner of Tuesday’s Calumet-Houghton game at 6 p.m. Thursday.

An unlikely win there would place the Purple Hornets in the regional championship at 1 p.m. Saturday against either Hancock or Jeffers.

From there would be a quarterfinal tussle against the D3 Gaylord regional winner on Wednesday, March 9, in Marquette or Sault Ste. Marie, likely dependent on where the Gaylord regional winner comes from.

The Gaylord region has teams ranging from Sault Ste. Marie in the north to Mount Pleasant furthest south.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.