The stakes are always high when Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League rivals Novi Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook get together.
And the two programs with state championship pedigree did not disappoint in a game that featured end-to-end action Saturday on the Olympic-size rink at Plymouth’s Compuware Arena.
But after 51 minutes of regulation time and another eight minutes of overtime, nothing was settled as CC and the Cranes battled to a 1-1 draw in a battle between the top-ranked teams in Division 1 and 3, respectively
“It was a good pace, Cranbrook is a great team, extremely well-coached,” said CC interim coach Danny Veri, whose team is 10-0-1 overall and 7-0-1 in the MIHL’s North Division. “It’s just tough. We tried to match up and do what we could do. They got one there late. It was a dogfight from the beginning.”
CC carried a 1-0 advantage into the final period after Ryan Burnett’s shot from the left point eluded the glove hand of Cranbrook goaltender Spencer Applebaum at 5:01 of the second period with Mitch Ossowski and Blake Veri drawing assists.
But despite being outshot 12-4 in the final period, Cranbrook scored the equalizer with only 3:52 left when senior defenseman Jack Blumberg cut in alone and split the seam of the CC defense to beat goaltender Spencer Wright. (Brendan Seppey drew the assist.)
And the Cranes’ Blake Rogow nearly put in the game-winner with only 1:25 remaining when his short back-hand caromed off the left goal post.
After CC’s J.P. Lafferty darted in and missed a backhand with 10 seconds left, the two teams went to an eight-minute OT period.
“You don’t want to give up a fluky goal, so if you get the puck at the point you got to make sure you get it through,” Cranbrook coach Andy Weidenbach said of his overtime strategy. “When you’re in your own end you got to make sure you get it out. You just want to make the safe play, but you don’t want to put your foot off the gas either. You want to keep playing and playing hard. I thought both teams did that well. It was pretty exciting in overtime. You just don’t want to make a crazy mistake.”
CC, which outshot Cranbrook 36-22 overall, had a 4-1 advantage in the OT period.
“We matched our horses against Andy’s, then we went ahead and tried to capitalize with our second line against their second and third line,” Veri said.
Cranbrook (10-1-1, 5-0-1) enjoyed an 11-7 shot advantage in the opening period and nearly scored on a Rogow tip-in that was alertly turned aside by Wright.
“First period was our best period for sure,” Weidenbach said. “We’ve had 21 days off between games. I thought in the second period we had a little bit of the leg problems. Guys were a little flat-footed in our zone. They had us surrounded. They had the pressure. Applebaum came up big in the second and kept us in the game. He gave us an opportunity to tie it up in the third.”
CC, meanwhile outshot the Cranes 13-5 in the second and came up with the one goal. With 6:40 left in the second, Applebaum robbed Andrew Spiegel from point-blank range.
“For whatever reason that seems to be our better period this year,” Veri said. “And I don’t know if it’s the way that we’re changing or if takes a little bit for us to shake the cobwebs out of our head. We did play very well in the second period tonight.”
And so did Wright, who stopped 21-of-22 Cranbrook shots in 59 minutes of action.
“He was good, he was solid,” Veri said of his senior netminder.
Meanwhile, Applebaum came up with another key save on Dillon Jones with 10:47 to go in the final period which could have given the Shamrocks a two-goal cushion.
“I thought both goaltenders were sensational,” Weidenbach said. “They stopped everything that they could see. I thought Applebaum was particularly good for us. He saw a lot of rubber in the second period and kept us in the game. Both goaltenders were just outstanding.”
The two teams will meet again Friday, Jan. 30 at Cranbrook with possibly the MIHL North Division title on the line. And in the rematch you can expect much of the same type of play.
“We both play a similar style,” Weidenbach said. “We both push the pace a lot. In the defensive zone we try to block a lot of shots. Both teams are similar. Both teams played a pretty good game. It was a good high school hockey game tonight, as good as advertised.”
Despite the tie, the mood in the CC dressing room afterwards was somewhat somber.
“Not happy,” Veri said. “They were disappointed. They let it get away.”