There’s a lot of hockey to be played between the season openers this week and the state championship games on March 10. There are great teams and great players throughout the state, from the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula to densely populated southeastern Michigan, which swept last season’s three titles.
But, at least heading into the season, chances are good that the successor to Brighton’s Jake Crespi will come from his own backyard.
Livingston County has two of the strongest candidates for Mr. Hockey in Hartland senior Josh Albring and Brighton senior Adam Conquest.
Albring was among the finalists for last year’s award, making the six-player all-state Dream Team. Only one other junior, Northville defenseman Jack Sargent, was voted to that team.
Conquest didn’t make all-state, but he brings strong credentials that include signing with Bowling Green State University last week and being the youngest Michigan high school player chosen in May’s United States Hockey League draft.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Albring said. “I just try to play my game and do as much as I can for the team. Overall, the only goal I have is the state championship.”
Ditto for Conquest.
“It’d be cool to go back-to-back years,” he said. “I’m not gonna let it change me from using my teammates during games or even in practice. I’m still going to play how I play, but I’ll have it in the back of my mind. I’m working toward that goal and a state championship.”
Winning a state championship is almost a prerequisite for winning Mr. Hockey.
Of the 26 Mr. Hockey winners, 16 led their team to state championships that season and four others won it the previous year. Brighton’s two winners, Zach Hitch (2006) and Crespi, were chosen after leading the Bulldogs to state titles.
Conquest has the combination of talent, status and championship potential to contend, according to Brighton coach Paul Moggach.
“Winning Mr. Hockey is a lot about the team,” Moggach said. “If we can put a good team with him, which I think we’ve got, and we can play Brighton hockey, he’s got as good a chance as anybody.”
Albring has been a leading force on Hartland teams that reached the Division 2 state semifinals the past two seasons, scoring 57 goals and 98 assists in 58 career games. He’s a two-time first team all-stater.
“He’ll have just as good a chance, or better, than he’s had before, being it’s his senior year,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said. “Everyone in the state knows who Josh Albring is; eyes are on him. It’s just up to him to perform at a high level for him to be considered for that.”
Conquest already has a college hockey scholarship guaranteed. Albring is still weighing his options. Both players are convinced that playing high school hockey for three seasons, rather than travel hockey, wasn’t a detriment in pursuing their hockey dreams.
Albring left travel hockey after his freshman year to play for Hartland.
“Ever since I came to high school, I’ve definitely gotten more looks than I had playing AAA or anywhere else. The looks, I’m not worried about getting those. That will come in due time if I play my game. I’m just trying to stick towards that.”
Conquest played for Brighton as a freshman, played AAA hockey as a sophomore, then came back to the Bulldogs to help them win a state title.
“High school is always looked at as a league where you can’t make it to college or juniors,” Conquest said. “With Jacob Crespi committing last year and me this year and many kids on other teams, it just goes to show you that you can do it anywhere you want. It’s just how hard you put your mind to it and how hard you work.”