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Chiefs extend season with dominating D1 playoffs triumph

 Chiefs extend season with dominating D1 playoffs triumph

Canton senior Nathan Oberliesen (left) is congratulated by a teammate following his second-period goal Wednesday night.

Canton and Downriver Unified both skated into Wednesday’s MHSAA Division 1 regional hockey clash with four wins a piece, so you’d expect a down-to-the-wire contest, right?

Far from it.

The Chiefs dominated from the moment the final note of the National Anthem was piped through the Eddie Edgar Arena sound system, earning a 4-0 victory.

Now 5-19-2, Canton advances to Saturday’s 6 p.m. regional semifinal game against host Livonia Stevenson.

To check out video highlights from Wednesday’s game, click here.

If Head Coach Justin Maedel’s squad can shock the Spartans — Stevenson (13-11-1) defeated Canton 6-0 last month — it would move on to the Feb. 28 regional final against either Salem or Plymouth, who match up in Saturday’s second semifinal showdown.

Up-and-down season

The Chiefs’ record is a bit deceptive considering they played tough in the majority of their games.

Sophomore Cameron James slides a pass through multiple Downriver Unified defenders
Sophomore Cameron James slides a pass through multiple Downriver Unified defenders

“We’ve had our ups and downs,” said Maedel. “We’ve been in a lot of our games; we had two overtime games when we just couldn’t bury the puck. We’ve been so close, but we just haven’t been able to find that extra ‘oomph!’ to finish.

“Tonight, I liked how our goalie, Riley Demeester, played. I thought our penalty kill was really good tonight, too. There were some other areas in which we were a little sloppy though. There were times we couldn’t quite generate enough speed; it felt like we were skating in mud for whatever reason.”

Canton constructed a firm 2-0 advantage during the first period thanks to goals from sophomore Paolo Decina (who was assisted by freshman Jason Sharbaugh) and sophomore Cameron James, who netted his team’s first of two short-handed lamp-lighters.

Short-handed success

Canton senior Brandon Early carries the puck into the Chiefs zone
Canton senior Brandon Early carries the puck into the Chiefs zone

“We had Cameron and his brother Ethan flying around out there on our penalty kill and they did a great job,” Maedel noted.

Demeester provided an extra boost of momentum to the Chiefs’ cause with 18 seconds remaining in the first period when he snagged Gabe Schmidt’s sizzling wrister to preserve the shutout.

Senior Nathan Oberliesen extended Canton’s lead to 3-0 with a goal from the doorstep. Brody Kocurek and Brandon Early assisted on Oberliesen’s net-finder.

Cameron James capped the scoring with his second short-handed goal with 8:29 left in the game.

Downriver Unified consists of players from five high schools: Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic Central, Monroe High School, Dearborn Edsel Ford, Dearborn and Southgate Anderson.

Mystery opponent

“We didn’t know a lot about them coming in, other than the scores of their games,” Maedel said. “I thought they were solid and they checked everything, which wears teams down. I know they were wearing us down.

Canton freshman William Schley skates along the boards during the regional game Wednesday night
Canton freshman William Schley skates along the boards during the regional game Wednesday night

“It helps us playing in the KLAA, which is one of the top divisions in high school hockey.”

Maedel said his team will take advantage of the three days it has to prepare for its rematch with Stevenson.

“Obviously, there are some things we need to clean up that we weren’t cleaning up the first time we played them,” Maedel said. “Stevenson has a very strong program. We’ll prepare the best we can and — who knows — maybe we can shock them.”

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

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Ed Wright

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