Source: Farmington Press
Author: Mike Moore
GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Joe Jones admitted that he knew exactly what he had, but he had no clue what to expect.
With all the talent he figured his roster would include, there was no real way to be sure.
“Not until they hit the ice,” the Farmington Hills Mercy hockey coach said. “You never really know until they get out there and start playing games.”
He knows now, and he’s loving it.
Jones is in his first year as head coach with the Marlins, but his transition from assistant to where he is now has coincided perfectly with his team’s transition from young and inexperienced, to one of the best in the Michigan Metro Girls High School Hockey League.
Jones’ uncertainty entering the winter was understandable, though.
Of the 23 girls on the Mercy roster, just four were seniors.
“It’s been fun,” said senior captain Julia McAree. “The younger girls listen. They are very willing to learn. And they’re good, too.”
McAree spoke shortly after a 2-1 loss to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett Jan. 29 at McCann Ice Arena.
Liggett, a Division 1 team that had just two losses all year, beat a Mercy team, which plays in Division 2, dealing with injuries and playing with just one senior in the lineup.
“It’s a loss in the scoreboard, but in my opinion, we played fantastic,” Jones said afterward. “I judge a game by how we played, and we had a great game. … We were down two players, played shorthanded, but I thought we played a fantastic game.”
That’s been the case all season.
Liggett improved to 10-2-0 with the win.
Mercy’s only other loss was a 2-1 setback to an undefeated Grosse Pointe South (11-0-0) team.
“The key to the success of this team is depth,” Jones said. “We have 23 players on the roster, and these girls can all play. Even the girls who are beginners have improved so much.”
“That depth allows us to keep our top lines fresh,” he continued. “We played three games in a row in one weekend, and in the second game, we played the fourth and fifth lines quite a bit. The next day in a league game, we were able to roll our top lines more because they were rested.”
Asked if he was surprised at all with a 9-2-1 record and a first-place standing in Division 2, Jones said, “a little bit.”
“We don’t have a girl in the top-20 scoring in the entire league, yet we’ve won nine times and lost twice,” he added. “It goes back to the depth we have. And we’re young. So we’re good now, and we’re going to be good for years to come.”
“I remember two years ago when we graduated eight girls, and the next season it was tough,” McAree said. “We only lost two girls from last year’s team, so we came in young but with some decent experience.”
All focus now remains on finishing the regular season strong and preparing for the D-2 playoffs, which begin March 10.
“As good as we’ve played, I’d like to keep getting better,” Jones said. “The goal is to work at it, get a little better every day, and peak in March when we start the tournament.”