By Chris Zadorozny
The first day of March usually signifies that it’s time for March Madness in college basketball. It was a whole kind of different March Madness in Michigan as many regional final hockey games were being played.
In a matchup in Dearborn on Saturday night, the Plymouth Wildcats knocked off Woodhaven 5-3 and ended the Warriors’ season.
While Plymouth was a contender from last year, Woodhaven was probably the surprise team of the season in the Downriver area.
The Wildcats won the region at the same rink last year, only facing a different opponent, and ended up going to the quarterfinals, where they fell toDetroit Catholic Central.
The Warriors weren’t even in the playoffs last year, but it was a whole new story in 2014. Woodhaven got off to a great start, powered by eight seniors, and advanced all the way to Saturday’s regional final.
Unfortunately, only one team could move on.
Plymouth used a powerful forecheck in the first period, and stayed ahead of the Warriors the entire game.
It was the Wildcats’ strong start that seemed to take the Warriors by surprise.
“We gave up a goal real quick, we gave up a second one. We didn’t exactly have, exactly what we thought we had, where we wanted them,” said Woodhaven Coach Bryan Sullivan.
Just 26 seconds into the game, the Wildcats scored on a rebound, something that has been uncharacteristic of Warriors senior goaltender Trevor Monaco.
A shot from the right circle by Wildcat senior forward Charlie Supernois was first stopped by Monaco, but the rebound trickled right to senior forward Nick Schultz who buried the puck into the empty net. Junior forward Josh Smith tacked on the second assist.
Then, five and a half minutes later, a poor defensive clearing attempt by senior defenseman Johannes Dejongh resulted in the game’s second goal. Dejongh attempted to bat the puck out of mid-air to clear it, but failed, right in front of his own net.
The puck rolled right onto senior forward John VanDenBergury, who put right through Monaco’s five-hole. Senior forwards Corey Smith and Michael Scarpello had the assists.
Things weren’t going very well for the Warriors, as they were outshot 10-3 by the end of the first period. The Wildcats had too much pressure, but Woodhaven didn’t give up. They came out hard in the second period, and it paid off.
Just six minutes in, Wildcat junior defenseman Ben Chafin took an interference penalty, giving the Warriors some life on the power play.
Thanks to some miscommunication by the Wildcats defense on the far boards, the puck squirted out to Warriors senior forward Craig Yacoune.
Yacoune deked around one defender, and as he was falling down, sniped a shot over the glove of Wildcat junior goaltender Erik VanDenBosch, to give the Warriors a power-play goal, as well as pull within one midway through the second period. Junior forward Nick Youngheim and senior forward Brett Gomolak had the assists.
Plymouth answered no more than 20 seconds later, as a scramble in front led to a loose puck where senior forward Kyle Melnick buried it past Monaco.
Woodhaven would answer back about five minutes later.
At the 4:30 mark of the second period, a great pass off the near boards by freshman defenseman Michael Faremouth found a streaking Dominic Moore.
Moore broke in on VanDenBosch and sniped a shot from the left circle, right past his glove, bringing the Warriors once again, within a goal.
Unfortunately for Woodhaven, the Wildcats answered right back almost a minute later as junior forward Andrew Jones shot one through Monaco’s five-hole from his knees. Chafin and Schultz assisted on Jones’ goal.
It seemed like the Wildcats were going to answer the Warriors each and every time, and as the game went on, it worried Gerry Vento, the Wildcats Coach.
“We had an answer for them, but I don’t know how many more answers we had, because they were coming.”
The Warriors were coming indeed, and as the clock wound down to almost a minute left in the second period, the Wildcats took a penalty that proved costly in the third period.
Just 36 seconds in, senior defenseman Jacob Swindle fired a shot from the point. VanDenBosch made the initial save, but his five-hole was wide open, and sophomore forward Alex Robinson was on the doorstep to bury it, and bring the Warriors within one goal again. Gomolak had the other assist on the Robinson goal.
The Wildcats didn’t answer this time, but the clock became the Warriors enemy.
“Once we scored early in the third period, I thought we’d get a little more momentum to see what would happen. We just couldn’t get back up to the top of the hill,” said Sullivan.
The Warriors, still down by a goal, couldn’t keep up the pressure late, and couldn’t even pull Monaco for the extra attacker until less than a minute was left on the clock.
The sixth skater didn’t help, as Schultz found the open net with six seconds left, right before he was rocked hard into the boards. The pain was there from the hit, but he slowly got up and celebrated with his teammates, knowing he iced the game, pushing his team to the next round. Smith and junior defenseman Jake Zaborowski had the assists.
The Warriors head into the offseason losing eight seniors, but bring back a huge core that should compete for the regional title next year.
“It’s always tough for the seniors. They gave everything they had, I feel bad for them, they’re going to wake up tomorrow and realize they had a hell of a year, much better than we anticipated. I don’t think anybody thought our record was going to be what it was at the start of the year and where we’re at now,” said Sullivan.
“I don’t think Plymouth thought they were going to get a game out of us, like they did. We were always within one or two shots, and we just needed to finish on a couple of more chances.”
Vento gave a lot of credit to the Woodhaven team though, and despite moving on to the next round, wasn’t too pleased with his team’s performance on Saturday night.
“We put a lot of pressure on them in the first, but we weren’t playing physical, we weren’t playing the body, we let them hang around. It was a 2-0 game and there was a lot of hockey to play obviously, I thought we could’ve done a better job and put the hammer down on them, but to their credit they didn’t let us.”
The Wildcats will face Detroit Catholic Central on Wednesday, a team that defeated them during the regular season.
“I expect a storm coming at us on Wednesday,” said Vento. “We played them once already this year, lost to them 2-0, we know what we’re in for. They’ve played a lot better since we last played them. We have to put a better effort in tonight or it’s going to be a different story.”
To read the original article that appeared online on MI Prep Zone on March 2, 2014, go to www.miprepzone.com/thenewsherald