Plymouth — If you looked at the shots on goal alone, you'd be led to believe Detroit Catholic Central won Friday's Division 1 hockey semifinal against Rochester United by a wide margin.
That wasn't the case, as Catholic Central narrowly defeated Rochester United 4-2 at USA Hockey Arena to advance to the state championship game.
Catholic Central will play Saginaw heritage, which defeated Traverse City Bay Reps 5-2, in the final.
Catholic Central outshot Rochester United 55-10 but Domenico Munaco was an impenetrable force in goal for the better part of three periods.
"It's a frustrating experience because you're playing well and you're all over them," Catholic Central coach Brandon Kaleniecki said. "For us, it's about sticking to the game plan and making sure we're doing the things that allowed us to get all those chances."
A goal by Jack Myers with 12:28 to go in the third period, his second, to tie the score at 2-2 sent shock waves through the arena as it was only Rochester United's eighth shot on goal while Catholic Central (28-1-1) was well over 40.
"Obviously that was a tough spot to be in," Kaleniecki said of Myers' tying goal. "We've been in a lot of close games all year. Fortunately for this team, we've had guys that step up. We live to fight another day."
Mitch Morris responded about two minutes later to give Catholic Central the 3-2 lead, sucking the air out of Rochester United (26-4). Carter Corpi scored the back-breaking breakaway goal with under two minutes left.
Rochester United coach head coach Bryan Kowalski referenced this loss in the program's first state semifinal as an opportunity to grow.
"Our goal all year was first and foremost to win a league championship and also win a state championship," Kowalski said. "Really proud of the way that my guys worked all year, but also how they worked today."
Success in the semifinal is nothing new for Catholic Central as it has now made the Division 1 title game in six of the past seven years.
This is Kaleniecki's third appearance in the finals since taking over as head coach four years ago.
"We're just really excited to get back," Kaleniecki said. "We're excited to be here. We're excited to get another shot at (the state title)."
Catholic Central will face the winner of Friday night's other semifinal between Saginaw Heritage and Traverse City St. Francis for the state championship on Saturday night.
It will look to avenge last year's semifinal loss by winning its first state championship since Kaleniecki's first season as head coach in 2016.
"Last year was really upsetting," Morris said. "It's sad to see a bunch of seniors gone like that. Our quote in our locker room is 'remember that feeling'. It's something we've got to take advantage of in this next game."
Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer.
At USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Hartland 6, Birmingham Brother Rice 2
Trenton 4, Marquette 0
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Detroit Catholic Central 4, Rochester United 2
Saginaw Heritage 5, Traverse City Bay Reps 2
Final: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Houghton 8, Riverview Gabriel Richard 0
Detroit Country Day 3, East Grand Rapids 1
Final: Saturday, 2 p.m.