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D3 HOCKEY: Detroit Country Day overcomes self-inflicted pressure, repeats as D3 champs by rallying to beat Houghton

By: Ben Szilagy, March 9, 2019, 6:40 pm

PLYMOUTH — Detroit Country Day had a bull’s-eye on its back the entire year. While you might think teams looking to unseat the YellowJackets from the Division 3 throne placed it there, it wasn’t.

It was self-inflicted.

All season long, the mantra coach Frank Novock uttered from his lips was “we don’t want to let the guy before you or after you down.”

“The guys before us set an example, and this group didn’t want to be a weak link,” he said on Friday. “I don’t want to call it a legacy, because it’s not the right word. It’s just being proud of being a part of Country Day. Proud of where we come from.”

Country Day can now add to its legacy with the program’s first ever back-to-back Division 3 state titles in program history with a 4-1 win over Houghton at USA Hockey Arena.

“They both took the same amount of effort, and the same amount of work to achieve, but it feels the same as last year. It feels great,” senior goaltender Sam Evola said.

Things didn’t come easy for Country Day (24-4-2) early, and the YellowJackets had to adjust.

Two minutes into the first period, Houghton (23-6-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Senior Brendan Erickson intercepted the puck in the offensive zone, and quickly found fellow senior Seth Francois open. Francois fell to a knee and still had the wherewithal to fire a shot for a 1-0 lead.

“We haven’t started games well throughout the playoffs. I told the guys that we haven’t done anything. It’s been two minutes. Let’s just get back to what we do, and who we are,” Novock said.

The seniors got the message loud and clear.

Country Day held Houghton without a shot on net for the final 12:40 seconds of the first period giving the offense a chance to get a goal and tie the score.

With 1:37 left in the period, just after a power play, Lucas Krol fired a shot from just inside the point on the left side for a 1-1 tie.

The second period was more back and forth, but the YellowJackets got another goal to go in to extend the lead with 1:20. Junior Dallas Hood received a pass from senior Josh Rice. Hood fought for a space in the slot and stuck with the play and scored the puck for a 2-1 lead.

The end of the second period put Houghton in favorable position as the Gremlins went on a 5-on-3 to close the period.

“Having the lead early was great it started good inertia for us. We were just getting beat on loose pucks, and the one-on-one battles,” Houghton coach Corey Markham said.

“But us not cashing in on that was the biggest turning point. We had good looks, but we just missed.”

“We wanted to protect the house, and keep guys close and force Houghton to the outside. That way Sam could get a good look at it, and save it,” Novock added.

Sam Evola then executed a plan that only Danny Ocean, and his gang of thieves would appreciate stopping two solid point blank chances early in the third period to rob Houghton of getting back into the game.

Mickey VanAntwerp then put the game away on a Bobby Orr-like flying goal immediately after the kill two minutes into the third period.

Junior Logan Gotinsky chipped the puck ahead to VanAntwerp who then moved to the crease with a single motion. He then fell over the crease of the net and still found a way to put in the 3-1 goal as he flew to the ice.

Krol added an empty net goal late in the third period for a 4-1 win.

The loss was especially hard for the Gremlins, who had to overcome a lot of personal setbacks back home. Last summer, the town of Houghton experienced massive flooding that took out roads and took the lives of some of the members of its community.

One in particular was that of Thatcher Markham who was trapped in his basement when the flooding happened. The team wore a commemorative sticker on the back of their helmets in his memory.

Even though getting back to USA Hockey in the aftermath and rebuild of Houghton the Gremlins wanted to bring a title back home with them.

“It just hurts. It hurts really bad that we couldn’t bring it back for them,” senior Kevin Bostwick said as he began to break down in tears.