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Stevenson scores three times in the second, defeats Escanaba 3-2 in D2 semifinal

By: Tom Markowski, March 13, 2015, 4:12 pm

Plymouth – Livonia Stevenson came at Escanaba goaltender Jack Valentine in waves in the final two periods of Thursday’s Division 2 semifinal at Compuware Arena.

The Spartans fell behind, 1-0, after the first period on Escanaba’s star forward Levi Wunder’s goal at 13:43.

Goals by Shane Leonard and Vince Glenn 42 seconds apart gave Stevenson the lead before Escanaba tied the game at 2-2 on Hunter LeMarch’s unassisted goal at 10:25 of the second.

Escanaba, playing in its first state semifinal, looked to have regained the momentum but Stevenson quickly took it back on a fine play by junior Nate Sudek.

Sudek’s goal at 10:51 of the second gave Stevenson a 3-2 lead and the Spartans made that lead stand up as they defeated the Eskymos (18-11-1) by that same score to advance to Saturday’s final.

Stevenson (19-5-5) will play Birmingham Brother Rice (23-6) for the championship on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Stevenson won the title in 2013. Trenton won it last season.

Sudek dug the puck out from behind the net and sent a backhander past Jack Valentine. Mick Sinclair and Alex DeFlorio got the assists.

“It’s always part of our game plan,” Sudek said of the quick turn of events. “They had just tied it. It brought us back in (the lead).”

Stevenson outshot Escanaba 16-4 in the period and continued to apply the pressure in the third as it again held a significant edge (13-3) in that category.

Sudek that’s the way his team plays. They don’t sit back. They carry the play whenever and wherever they can.

“Absolutely. You always want to get that insurance goal,” he said. “We want to put the pressure on. We have faith in our defense. Our defense has been good all season.”

They were again on this night, too.

Stevenson goaltender Cullen Barber stopped 14 shots including one by Wunder with 7:15 remaining. Wunder displayed his superior speed as he broke in down the right side and got off a backhander to Barber’s glove side. Barber made a skate save before he was hit in the head by a teammate.

“I saw him come in on his forehand,” Barber said. “Taking notes during the game is huge. Then I saw him switch to his backhand. I think I made (the save). I don’t know. I was looking to the side when I got hit.”

Stevenson coach David Mitchell confirmed that his goalie indeed made the save.

“We tried to limit their chances,” Mitchell said. “But with a player like Wunder, it only takes one.”

It didn’t take long for the teams to go on the offensive. Hayden Haslow of Escanaba was assessed a minor penalty less than three minutes in and Joe Alcantara had the game’s first good scoring chance but Valentine made the save to keep the game scoreless.

Just over two minutes later LeMarch intercepted a pass near center ice and broke in on Barber. DeFlorio was called for hooking and LeMarch was awarded a penalty shot. LeMarch tried to go top shelf but Barber stopped wrist shot.

Wunder, the lone senior on his team, took some time on the ice after the game was over before leaving. He just wanted to reflect.

“It’s great to be here,” he said. “I don’t feel bad with our performance.”

Escanaba coach Matt Hughes said the season was one his players will remember for a long time, though they might not grasp that fact on this day.

“The community has been great,” he said. “The businesses chipped in to keep the cost down for the fans coming on the bus for the seven-hour trip. It’s great for the program. The kids don’t even know about winning a regional title, and getting to Compuware is always the goal.”