Stevenson steamrolls over Churchill, 6-1; Salem next
Livonia — Familiarity can be a funny thing when the state playoffs start. Familiarity can lead to a close hard fought game, or it allows you to attack at full speed.
Livonia Stevenson and Livonia Churchill aren’t strangers by any means, and it showed on Wednesday night. The Spartans used six different goal scorers to beat the Chargers, 6-1.
Stevenson will face Salem on Friday in a regional final at the Plymouth Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m.
“No. You can’t (expect that),” Stevenson coach Dave Mitchell said of the outcome. “Churchill has played well all year, and they have a lot of talent that you never expect a six-goal game. We expected it to be tight.
“Our guys played out flying, and we were ready to play. We kept the pace up, like we wanted to. This win is totally on our team’s effort.”
The Spartans (19-6-1) took a while to get going on offense in the first period. Senior Zach Finzel created a turnover in Churchill’s end and fired a shot from the far side for a 1-0 lead with 1:46 left in the first period.
“It was honestly just luck. I wanted to just throw the puck at the net, and see if I could score,” Stevenson’s top defenseman said. “I was caught off guard.”
“I couldn’t have been happier for him,” Mitchell added. “Finzel doesn’t provide a lot of offense for us because he’s so solid on the back end. He gave such a great shot, and led the way for us.”
Stevenson’s second line of Justin Alton, Sam Judd, and Alex Walkuski controlled the second period for the Spartans as Alton and Walkuski increased the lead to 3-0 with goals two minutes apart.
If one of them wasn’t scoring, the other two were setting it up.
“That line is all juniors, and they really sparked us in the second period. It’s something you hope to see this time of year, but those kids really stepped up and played really well. It was incredible,” Mitchell said.
Everything wasn’t smooth sailing, though as Churchill (20-6-1) went on the power play with 6:38 left in the second period. Sophomore Connor Burnette battled for the puck down low and found senior Spencer Kovacs waiting at top the left circle. Kovacs lifted a shot to the top shelf for a power play goal that cut into Stevenson’s lead, 3-1.
The Spartans weren’t done as Stevenson rattled off three goals in the third.
Stevenson’s top line set up a nice back hand goal by senior Joe Alcantara for a 4-1 lead with 10:21 to play before fellow seniors Alex Siroky and Alex Oquist scored late in the game.
Before the Spartans play Salem, Mitchell said there are still things the team will clean up during a Thursday practice.
“We have to have better discipline, and we need to work on our passing as well. We’re going to be going up against a very good team on Friday, and we’re going to have to play a clean game to keep our season going.”