The hockey team at Flint Powers Catholic checks all the boxes of a state power.
Its 32 regional championships are a state record shared by Trenton. The Chargers have won 30 league titles, made 19 state semifinal appearances and played in seven state finals.
They’re overall record? An astounding 839-297-60 in 45 seasons. Yet, a mammoth void remains in Powers’ legacy.
The Chargers never have celebrated a state championship.
Coach Travis Perry twice got the program over the cusp, the last coming in a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to Calumet in the 2008 Division 3 final. The Chargers dropped a 3-1 decision to Bloomfield Hills Cranbook in 2010, their most recent title-game appearance.
“The 2008 final was especially tough because I felt we carried the play for most of that game,” said Perry, who is 228-65-13 in 11 seasons at Powers. “Powers has had many good teams start the season with what appeared to be a good chance to win a state championship, but for one reason or another, it hasn’t happened. After more than 40 years, sometimes you wonder when it’s ever going to happen, but we’ve always been able to put ourselves in the mix for a title.”
Perry is optimistic that the elusive victory will come next month. The top-ranked Chargers open postseason play Tuesday when they host No. 3 Saginaw Heritage at Crystal Fieldhouse in Burton Heritage eliminated Powers in last season’s opening round, 3-2.
“Obviously we have a strong test right off the bat against Heritage and, if we win, it won’t get any easier,” said Perry, whose team defeated the Hawks, 4-2, on Dec. 14. “It’s an exciting, top-10 matchup and hopefully we won’t come out on the wrong end this time. Heritage is one of many talented teams we’ll have to beat to win a state title.”
Perry thinks this year’s bunch might have the best chance to end the drought. Powers is 24-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division 3. Among all classifications, the Chargers rank second to Division 2 Brother Rice, the only school to beat them this season.
They’re 6-1 against ranked foes, including wins over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (No. 1 in Division 1), Livonia Stevenson (No. 4 Division 2) and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (No. 2 Division 3). They also beat defending Indiana 4A state champion Carmel (Gold), have outscored opponents 144-26 – including 10 shutouts – and all but two of their wins have come by at least two goals.
“It’s an exciting time of year for us and we feel we have as good a chance as any team in Division 3,” said Perry, whose team edged Midland Dow 4-3 to win the Saginaw Valley League championship on Wednesday. “We’ve been a notch better this year because of the experience level , most of all. We have had three seniors last year and have 11 this year. Our senior captains (Brendan Smith, Conor Witherspoon and Jake Polakowski ) have been tremendous and everybody on the team has bought into playing for the same goal.”
The captains have been with Powers for four seasons and are the team’s top scorers. Twelve players have at least 12 points.
“We feel more confident going into the state tournament than in past years and we are getting everybody healthy and playing their best hockey at the right time,” Smith said. “That was our goal and now we just have to keep that momentum going into the postseason.”
Powers also gets it done on defense, giving up 1.04 goals per game (down from 2.23 last season). The unit is anchored by goaltending trio Bradley Stebbins, Parker Rey and Adam Cantley. Stebbins has started 16 games.
“Our defense has been outstanding all year which, of course, takes a lot of pressure off your offense,” Perry said.
Poise under pressure has been another byproduct of experience. The Chargers rallied from a 3-0 deficit against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and a 3-1 hole against Midland Dow to win both games. They followed their only loss of the season with a 2-0 shutout of Livonia Stevenson barely 24 hours later.
“I swear, these guys remain unfazed no matter what,” Perry said. “I really was not sure how they were going to respond to the Brother Rice loss, but they rebounded immediately with a tremendous effort against a very strong Stevenson team. That told me a lot about this team as did turning such big deficit against St. Mary’s into a win, but many of these guys have played together for years and that has led to great team chemistry.”
That chemistry and camaraderie also is prevalent off the ice and in the offseason. The goal has been clear from the outset – win the state championship.
“Everybody has also settled into the role in which they can help the team the most,” Smith said. “It’s important they wanted to do that. We played together a lot in the summer and fall and have developed a great love of doing what it takes to win. So, our success this year is not surprising to me.”
Perry has imagined the scene that will ensue if the Chargers hoist a state championship trophy at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth on March 11, when the Division 3 championship is set to take place.
“Really, I don’t know exactly I would react, but it would be an incredible thing for all the players and coaches who have helped make our program what it is and to become Genesee County’s first state champion,” he said. “Winning the championship would also say a lot about the 22 guys in our lockerroom and their determination to get it done. It’s a big reason they all play high school hockey instead of on travel teams. They want to bring a state title home.”