Chippewas expecting tough test against unbeaten Griffins

Manistee’s Slade Carver looks to make a pass during last Friday’s loss to Cheboygan. The Chippewas host the Griffins tonight. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

The Manistee hockey team’s first losing streak of the season ended at five games.

The co-op Chippeaws are in the midst of another five-game skid and face a big test if they don’t want it to reach six.

Manistee hosts the unbeaten FNV Griffins, who bring a 12-0-1 record to West Shore Community Ice Arena tonight.

“They’re very strong, they’ve very good,” said Manistee coach Jeff Patulski. “Hands down, it will be our toughest game we’ve played yet this year.”

The Griffins — a new co-op between Freeland, Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central and Sagniaw Valley Lutheran — have been rolling through the first half of the season with a tie at Gaylord last Saturday as the only “blemish” on their schedule.

So, the timing of tonight’s game for the Chippewas (2-10) is “not super great,” according to Patulski. “We’re coming off kind of a tough stretch here against what we call pretty tough teams. The schedule doesn’t get any easier. It actually gets quite tougher (tonight).”

Tonight’s game is the first of two this weekend for the Chippewas, who hit the road for a Northern Michigan Hockey League game against the Mid-Michigan Storm (3-8) in Gladwin on Saturday.

“They’re two totally different hockey teams,” Patulski said. “Saginaw is very much a controlled, speed team, a lot of puck possession, a lot of puck control. Gladwin typically is a grind-type team, dump it and grind it out.

“Saginaw is going to be similar to what we’ve been playing where the teams take away time and space and move the puck really well. Time will tell how well we’ll match up with them, if we can contain them a little bit.”

The Griffins have been racking up a ton of goals this season and are averaging 7.23 per game. Manistee, meanwhile, has lost each of the last five games by the same 4-1 score and is averaging just 2.08 goals a game this season.

Although the Chippewas have been out-shot in most games, they were nearly even with the opposition in a loss to Petoskey last Saturday.

“We matched up with them on shots … and the quality chances were there,” Patulski said. “We just didn’t finish them. We are definitely struggling with getting the puck in the net and obviously that has to change.”

Manistee has improved its depth with players returning from illness, injury and suspension, but playing within the system has been an issue.

“They’re outside the age where freelance is allowed,” Patulski said. “You will not be successful at this age bracket with freelancing. We’ve got to play within our group and all we can do as coaches is keep harping the same thing — just to play within the system and work hard.”

 

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