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Livonia Stevenson ices Novi to earn return trip to D2 final four

By: Ben Szilagy, March 10, 2015, 11:15 pm

ANN ARBOR — A four-goal rampage in the second period provided Livonia Stevenson with more than enough offense Tuesday night to send the Spartans back to the Division 2 final four.

Stevenson cruised past Novi, 5-1, at Yost Ice Arena on the University of Michigan campus. It earns the Spartans a return trip to the semifinals of the state tournament.

“Every coach wonders what they have coming into every year,” Stevenson coach David Mitchell said. “We knew we had a hard working group that listens so well. We’ve had great leadership all year, and with kids like that you can turn the ordinary into extraordinary.”

The second period contained all of the action in this contest.

Stevenson (18-5-5) got on the board just 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the second period when junior forward Zach Finzel tipped in a Andrew Nowak shot from the point for the game’s first goal.

The Wildcats (17-9-2) tied it up with a power play goal with 7:31 remaining in the period. Senior Bryan Fegert blasted a shot from the left circle that ricocheted off the goaltender’s pads and into senior Brad Hofelich’s possession. Hofelich put the rebound in the net.

The four-goal eruption from the Spartans, who’re returning to Compuware Arena for the first time since 2013, followed.

Junior Nate Sudek started the barrage with just under seven minutes left in the period when he skated with the puck into Novi’s end. He picked the top shelf to give his team a 2-1 lead.

Moments later, Stevenson got a quick goal from Vince Glenn. On the ensuing possession, senior forward Stephen Olschanski completed the scoring blitz when he crashed the net during a two-on-one rush with 6:01 left.

All three goals occurred in a dizzying span of 57 seconds.

“You don’t expect that, ever,” Mitchell said. “We wanted to stay the course after giving up that first goal. All year long, this team has been determined, and after a goal we always have a bump-up shift.

“We came back and built a nice lead.”

The Spartans tallied their final goal with 8:52 left in the third period on the power play. Glenn registered his second goal of the night.

The loss was particularly hard for Novi coach Mark Vellucci following a successful season in which the school claimed its first regional title since 2011.

He insisted he couldn’t have been more proud of his players.

“It’s tough. It’s hard scanning the faces in that locker room, but Stevenson played a real solid game," Vellucci said. "We had 10 seniors out of 11 returning players. They worked so hard for us all year. To go out like this is tough.

“They represented what Novi is about. They have a lot of class and character. Sure, today’s game is a downer," he added, "but they can keep their heads held high.”

Stevenson and Novi both registered 22 shots on goal. In addition to the offensive highlights, Stevenson junior goaltender Cullen Barber had a standout performance, stopping 21 shots.

“Cullen Barber seems to thrive off these type of games," MItchell said. "He held us in the game early on when we weren’t very good and he played well. His attention to detail is incredible, and it just translates into the game."

Stevenson meets Escanaba at 5 p.m. Thursday in the state semifinals at Compuware Arena in Plymouth.