Looking at the Alpena hockey team's stats this season, it's hard to make a case against Jared Kwiatkowski making an impact for the Wildcats every time he steps on the ice.
The junior forward has registered a point in all but four of Alpena's games this season and leads the team with 32 points (18 goals and 14 assists).
After posting just three points, all assists, last season as a sophomore, Kwiatkowski has flourished this season on the Wildcats' first line, skating primarily with Sam Rumbles and Zach Nash. While the trio hasn't always skated together during games, they've combined for 85 points this year.
The trio worked on developing chemistry together over the summer, skating together and working on passing when no one else was on the ice. For them, playing for the Wildcats came naturally after coming up through youth hockey programs together.
"Me and Jared played all 14 years together all the way up and Zach was with us every other year," Rumbles said.
At the center of the trio is Kwiatkowski, who has had five multi-goal games this season, the most recent of which came on Feb. 19 in a loss to Cadillac.
Division 2 Hockey Pre-Regional at Traverse City
Benzie Central vs. Traverse City Central- 5:30 p.m.
Traverse City St. Francis vs. Alpena- 7 p.m.
"Jared's one of the most skilled players on the team offensively and defensively," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said. "He's got great reach. He can reach almost from the blue line and to the red line and he's great on shorthand."
As the Wildcats (10-12-1) enter district play tonight, they'll undoubtedly be looking to Kwiatkowski to lead them.
Alpena plays the Traverse Bay Reps at 7 p.m. today at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City in a Division 2 pre-regional game. Benzie Central plays Traverse City Central in the other pre-regional game with the two winners meeting on Wednesday.
The Reps (11-12-1) are no stranger to the Wildcats, having beaten them 6-0 in a pre-regional final last season before losing to Kingsford 9-2 in the regional final.
"We know we're playing the reps and they're pretty good," Kwiatkowski said. "We lost 6-0 but we played pretty good."
While the Reps have had up and down points during the season, they've held their own against tough competition, playing to one-goal losses against Traverse City Central, Traverse City West and posting a recent win over Cheboygan. Muskegon Mona Shores and Escanaba have also tested the Reps this season.
But the Reps are not to be taken lightly. They own a 6-2-1 home record and have a trio of scorers with at least 24 points. Junior forward Zach Hill leads the Reps with 27 points, followed by Kevin Banducci (25 points) and P.J. Heger (24 points).
Contributions from Kwiatkowski, Rumbles and others will be crucial to any success the Wildcats have in the postseason. Several players going down with injuries has left Alpena with a shorthanded lineup, but no shortage of determination.
"We've been trying to emphasize our desire to go as far as we can and every game and every skate out here we're just trying to get ready for it," Doubek said.
If everyone contributes tonight, it could pay big dividends for the Wildcats. Alpena had five different players score and got a solid goaltending performance in net from Bret LeTourneau during a 6-4 win over Gaylord in its regular season finale on Thursday.
"We're got to get back to playing 100 percent with everybody giving 100 percent effort," Doubek said. "When we're positive on the bench, good things happen on the ice."