Nordstrum scores in overtime, Hancock defeats Cranbrook Kingswood, 2-1
Plymouth — It’s been 17 years since Hancock coach Dan Rouleau has taken a team to a state final. His first opportunity was in 1999 when he was an assistant coach at Hancock, and now he and the Bulldogs are making their return.
“As an assistant, you get the kids to do the little things to believe. But, it’s always about our kids. That’s the best part for me,” Rouleau said. “Nothing changes as a head coach. I got a great group of kids, and I want them to remember this. The parade, the fanfare, all of it.”
Alex Nordstrom scored the game-winner as Hancock earned a spot in the Division 3 final with a dramatic 2-1 overtime win over defending champion Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood at USA Hockey Arena on Friday.
Hancock won the B-C-D championship in ’99 with a 7-3 victory over Big Rapids.
The play was evenly-played throughout as just two shots on goal separated the teams, 27-25 in Cranbrook Kingswood’s favor, through three periods. The difference though was in special team’s play.
“Hancock has a good power play unit. You give a good team enough chances they’ll eventually burry it,” Cranbrook Kingswood coach Andy Weidenbach said. “We just couldn’t do the same on the power play.”
Hancock (23-6) took advantage of a 5-on-3 with 6:21 left in the second period as senior Jack Fenton ripped a shot from the point that bounced over the shoulder of goaltender Stephen Friedland. Senior Luke Rautio knocked the rebound in for a 1-0 lead.
“We got off to another slow start. The second period has always been our period. We got after it in the second period,” Rouleau said.
The Cranes answered with 1:49 left in the period on an unassisted goal by senior CJ Regula.
“It was a nice play by CJ,” Weidenbach added. “He made the goalie flinch on the deke and he gave us the lift we needed.”
Goaltenders Dawson Kero, a sophomore, and Friedland stole the show. Late in the third period both were called upon to stop flurries in front of the net with either their trapper or smothering play in the crease.
“My teammates played really well to clear the puck all game,” Kero said. “We had a lot of blocked opportunities. It was a team effort.”
Penalties haunted Cranbrook Kingswood in overtime as the Cranes (19-10-1) sent two to the box creating another 5-on-3 opportunity with under four minutes to play in overtime.
But the Cranes defense stiffened up.
“It was a great opportunity,” Rouleau said. “You should score on a 5-on-3 most times. I thought when we didn’t score on it that we’d be down. But I’m proud we kept battling for that second chance.”
That second chance came off a deflection with 21 seconds left in the power play. The puck bounced off a defender’s facemask and landed at the feet of Nordstrom, a freshman.
As he gathered the puck, he slid to the left of the net and wristed his 31st goal of the season.
“Alex has exceeded our expectations all year,” Rouleau added. “When we picked the team this year, I knew he was going to be a top six forward for us. Turns out he’s a top three player for us.”