Northern Michigan United 18U Hockey Wins State Title

GAYLORD — Three years ago, the Northern Michigan United 18-Under travel hockey team was just formed.

Over the past few years, the team – which consists of players from all over Northern Michigan, and even the Upper Peninsula – has built tremendous chemistry on the ice and has grown into a high-caliber team.

On Sunday, October 30, NM United enjoyed their most successful moment to date when they captured a state championship after a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over Grand Rapids West Michigan Varsity at Optimist Ice Arena in Jackson. .

The dramatic win capped an unbeaten state tournament for Gaylord-based NM United.

“It’s a large area, Northern Michigan, and this program was meant to cover and bring players from across the region, so we have some of the best Northern Michigan players from their respective high school teams,” said said NM United chief executive Kevin Hopp. . “We have several players from Traverse City down to Alpena, Tawas, and we even have one from the (Upper Peninsula). Downstate, you can go to a lot of places and play hockey, but for us here in northern Michigan, when we make a team like this, we have a lot of great hockey players on our team.

“That obviously helps us compete with anybody in Michigan State, and just the fact that these boys all know each other. There’s a lot of chemistry already, so it often takes an entire season to do that for a hockey team, but we’re pretty lucky that these boys know each other and we have talented hockey players in Northern Michigan.

“They win hockey games, but they have formed friendships over the years that will last a lifetime.”

Two college players from Cheboygan Area High School helped NM United win the title, including senior Luke Karsten, who has stood out for the Chiefs in recent seasons.

Hopp praised the work ethic of Karsten, one of the best all-around players on the team.

“I’ve watched Luke skate since he was little, his mum (Amy) used to bring him here and skate at Gaylord, but the great thing about Luke is he’s just a workaholic,” said Hopp. “Obviously he’s got a lot of skill and handles the puck well, but what I really like about Luke is he just has a fire and an intensity that a lot of other kids don’t have. . You can put it here and it will give you 110% all the time. He doesn’t give up, he’s good at forechecking, he handles the puck well and plays well (defense).

“Not only is he a talented hockey player, but he’s a great boy with a positive attitude.”

Also on the team is Oliver Walvaag, an international student from Norway who will play for the Chiefs this winter.

“We just found out about him this fall as well, so he came over from Norway and he played hockey there, then we had a roster opener, and obviously he came here to play hockey, so there were families there (in Cheboygan) who knew about it and asked if we had any availability in the squad, and he came for the tryout,” Hopp said of Walvaag. “Oliver, he fits right in. You’d never know he’s here as an overseas student. Just a very outgoing kid and a good hockey player, and he’s a lot like Luke (Karsten) in that “He’s just a workaholic. He just takes it out when he gets the chance to get out on the ice.

“Another big boy who fit in for us from the start.”

With the 18U title win, the NM United team will compete in a national tournament in Maple Grove, MN., in March 2023.

After proving they can beat the best in the state, the players, coaches and everyone else involved at NM United are eagerly awaiting this rare opportunity.

“There are going to be some of the best teams from all different parts of the country,” Hopp said. “Everybody’s excited because it’s something you’ve obviously been working for for a long time. Winning the state championship and going there is just a big deal for hockey in Northern Michigan. Most at the time it was always a downstate team St. Clair Shores area, stuff like that, so for us to be successful and have that opportunity for the boys, I think everything the world is excited to be able to go out there and play. It’s not too far. We’ve competed with some teams in some tournaments that are some of the best in the country, so it will be a real challenge for the boys.”

The tournament capped off a strong fall campaign for NM United, which finished with an 18-3-2 record.

With a championship won, Hopp is thrilled the team has established itself as a traveling hockey state powerhouse.

“It’s huge because when people in the state of Michigan think of hockey, you have all these opportunities for kids in the Grand Rapids and Detroit area, Saginaw, Bay City and Midland, but in northern Michigan – not just in hockey, but in a lot of sports – I don’t want to say we’re left behind, but you don’t usually think of northern Michigan as a sports area, so I think the team is capable To do that and succeed was great,” Hopp said. “It’s going to bring attention to us, and obviously it’s going to bring attention to the players because we have quality players here who deserve that recognition.

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