Detroit Country Day outlasts Hancock to advance to first state final since 1989
Plymouth – After losing to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, 3-0 back on December 16th, Detroit Country Day head coach Frank Novock challenged his team to play a full 51 minutes at the team’s next practice, hoping that lesson would be a useful one later in the season.
“It’s kind of funny, the last game we lost, we put 51 minutes up on the clock at practice and the puck never touched the ice,” Novock said. “It was ugly, but they took their medicine and so far, we’ve just kept rolling with what’s happened after that.”
Since that practice, the Yellowjackets had won 17 consecutive games heading into Friday afternoon’s Division 3 semifinal against Hancock at USA Hockey Arena.
And Country Day would need that full 51 minutes on Friday as the Yellowjackets used a late goal from Harrison Dunbar and a much needed penalty kill in the closing minutes to hang on for a 2-1 win to head to the hockey state finals for the first time since 1989.
In the Division 3 state final, Country Day (27-2-1) will face Livonia Churchill, who will be playing in its first state final in school history after beating Riverview Gabriel Richard 3-1 in the first semifinal of the day.
Novock said that while his team is excited about its first finals appearance in 29 years, the Yellowjackets are entering Saturday’s final with the expectation of winning its first title since 1981.
“Obviously, it’s a great feeling, but nothing has been accomplished yet and we know that,” he said. “It’s a tremendous honor to play tomorrow, but if the right result doesn’t happen tomorrow, then it’s all been for naught. That’s how hard the guys have worked, that’s their only focus right now.”
After Country Day tied the game at 1-1 late in the second period on a goal from Dallas Hood, the two teams would be held scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the third period despite several scoring opportunities for both teams throughout.
Dunbar would break the 1-1 tie with 2:20 left to play as the senior forward deflected a shot from Jacob Thomas to give the Yellowjackets their first lead of the game.
Shortly after Dunbar’s go-ahead goal, Hancock would have one final shot as the Bulldogs went on the power play with just 1:58 left to play.
But with the help of strong goaltending from junior Sam Evola, who turned away several shots in the closing seconds to preserve the win. Evola made 25 saves on the day in the win for Country Day.
“I just stuck to what I’ve been doing in practice, working hard every day,” Evola said of his performance in the final minutes. “I just go out on the ice and that’s all I can do.”
Matching Evola nearly shot for shot on Friday afternoon was Hancock netminder Dawson Kero, who turned away 29 of the 31 shots he faced on the day.
Hancock (23-7) head coach Dan Rouleau praised the play of both goaltenders and said that he did anticipate that Friday’s semifinal wouldn’t see much scoring.
“Both of them were fantastic,” he said. “We knew going in that they had a great goalie and we knew we had a great goalie. We did expect a very low scoring game like this.”
Hancock’s lone goal of the game came in with 12:15 left to play in the second period when Trevor Tchida found the back of the net to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.