Cranbrook Hockey Players
Left to right: Jack Wineman, Charlie Finsilver and Andrew Swartz. (Wineman family/Finsilver family/Swartz family)

Led by captain and All-State center Jack Wineman, the Cranes won their 18th state championship.

When it comes to winning state championships in hockey, the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood High School team has no peers.

The Cranes have played in 20 state title games and won 18 of them, losing only to Calumet in 1996 and 1998.

Their latest triumph was a 4-1 win over previously undefeated Calumet at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth for the Division 3 title, their first state championship since 2015.

Five Jewish players were on the Cranbrook-Kingswood (15-4) roster. While they acknowledged the pressure that comes with playing in such a successful program, they said it’s a good thing.

Jack Wineman, a senior center from Birmingham, played on the Cranes’ top line this season. He was one of the team’s four captains, and a first team Division 3 all-state selection by the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches’ Association.

His first-period goal against Calumet (18-1-1) gave Cranbrook-Kingswood a 2-0 lead. He had eight goals and 17 assists this season.

“Obviously, the pressure [to succeed] motivated me to leave my mark on the program and hang another banner in the rafters, but it didn’t put extra pressure on me,” he said. “Our goal this season was to have fun every day and work hard until the end.”

Junior right wing Ty Esterline from Commerce Township was injured and missed most of the season, but he was cleared to play in the postseason.

He made the most of the opportunity, scoring Cranbrook-Kingswood’s fourth goal against Calumet. It was the only goal he scored in the five games he played this season.

“Our team winning so many state championships doesn’t put pressure on me,” he said. “It actually benefits me because it pushes me to become better as a person and hockey player so we have the opportunity to win a state championship.

“There’s more pressure to not let down your teammates who have become your family over the past few months.”

Junior defenseman Jacob Budabin from Troy assisted on Cranbrook-Kingwood’s first goal against Calumet. One of the Cranes’ top defenseman, he had three goals and 12 assists this season.

“The pressure is always there to perform given the team’s history of state championships,” he said. “At the end of the day, however, we have to pave our own path and it really helps when you have the kind of guys around you that we did this year.

“Also, the coaching staff pushes us to be the best we can, and not use our team’s history as pressure, but as motivation to be the best we can be.”

Charlie Finsilver is a junior right wing from Bloomfield Hills. He had a pair of assists this season.

“The winning culture that has been established over the years by our team helps keep players on the right track,” he said.

“We understand the legacy and stature of past players and teams, so we know we have large shoes to fill. The pressure motivates us to live up to that legacy.

“Every time I put on the Cranbrook-Kingswood jersey I know I’m playing for something greater than myself. It truly is humbling.”

Andrew Swartz is a junior defenseman/forward from Toronto. He had 10 assists in 19 games this season.

“The pressure caused by the tradition of winning is beneficial to me and my teammates,” he said. “It’s the type of pressure that makes us want to win more. The pressure pushes our team to keep going, to keep winning, to not stop winning, and be the best team in the state every year.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused stoppages and shortened the high school hockey season. There also were unprecedented mitigations for players.

But the Cranes rolled with the punches, according to Finsilver, whose grandfather, Stan Finsilver, is a past president at Temple Israel.

“The COVID-19 protocols were just obstacles that had to be tackled mentally and physically,” he said. “Abiding by the protocols was the only way we were able to play. We really didn’t have a choice. It was either follow the protocols, or don’t have a season.

“As the season went on, the protocols became more of a familiar foe, and became less frustrating.”

In addition to Wineman’s All-State honor, second-year Cranbrook-Kingswood coach John LaFontaine was named the Division 3 Coach of the Year by the MHSHCA.