CC revives tradition, defeats Saginaw Heritage for D1 title
Detroit Catholic Central chalked up No. 18 on Saturday night … state championships, that is.
Its 3-1 win over Saginaw Heritage in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 title game on Saturday night at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth Township is also the team’s first since 2016.
“I’m really happy that we got to celebrate,” said senior forward Mitch Morris, one of three Shamrock captains. “… I hope all the underclassmen realize it’s not that easy.”
Coach Brandon Kaleniecki certainly does.
“Obviously it wasn’t easy. The last three games, they all came down to the wire” – 1-0 over Salem in the quarterfinals, and 4-2 in Friday’s semifinal, which was tied in the third period. “That’s what makes winning so tough this time of year.”
Ryan Marra scored twice for CC, including an empty-net effort with less than a minute left, and MVP Rylan Clemons got the other goal.
The Shamrocks forced Saginaw Heritage goalie Jack Jesko to make 44 saves. But, as usual, it was CC’s defensive corps that made everything possible.
The group of senior Luke Collins, junior Gordie Husted, senior Joe Borthwick, junior Eli Brown, junior Brendan Miles and senior Brendan Hill stifled the Hawks, who were held to 14 shots all night.
“The six defensemen – they are outstanding,” said Saginaw Heritage coach J.J. Bamberger, whose team is the state runner-up for the second straight year. “They play together better than any other group of defensemen in the state.”
That group has led a spectacular defensive effort by the Shamrocks (29-1-1) this season. CC allowed only 34 goals in its 31 games.
“When you’ve got six defensemen like that, when you put up a couple of shots or chances, they’re going to shut the door on it,” Kaleniecki said. “You don’t have that every year, I know that.”
Stephen Sleva’s shutout bid was spoiled with 1:56 left when Edison Symons made it 2-1 by putting in a loose puck off a goal-mouth scramble.
But Marra scored his empty netter to clinch the state championship.
Clemons gave Novi Catholic Central a 1-0 lead 9:22 into the game when he cut in off left wing, got around a defender, and beat Jesko high on the short side. The goal came with a penalty being called on Saginaw Heritage and Sleva pulled for the extra attacker.
Marra made it 2-0 6:19 into the third period with his first goal of the evening when he tipped in Collins’ shot from the right point.
Saginaw Heritage, who defeated the Bay Reps 5-2 on Friday in a semifinal, ends the season 28-3.