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Detroit Country Day beats Houghton, 4-1, to win back-to-back Division 3 2019 state hockey titles Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News

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Plymouth — Some goals mean more.

When Detroit Country Day senior forward Mickey VanAntwerp wrapped one in around sophomore Houghton goalie Jimmy Pietela to put Country Day up, 3-1, early in the third period in the Division 3 final on Saturday, it came right after Country Day had killed off more than a minute of a 3-on-1. Houghton never recovered from the missed opportunity, and Country Day went on to win, 4-1, its second-straight state title.

"That was a huge penalty kill that we had," VanAntwerp said. "It was a great momentum changer for us."

"If you kill off a 5-on-3, you've got a pretty good chance of winning the game," Country Day coach Frank Novock said. "We said we wanted to protect he house and let Sam (Evola) get a good look at shots. Our goal right after that was a huge part of the game."

BOX SCORE: Detroit Country Day 4, Houghton 1

Senior goalie Sam Evola had another strong finals performance for Country Day (24-4-2). He handled the aggressive offensive style of Houghton (23-6-1) well, allowing only one goal about four minutes into the game. Last season, he also only allowed one goal in the state title game.

"One of my mottos is that you shouldn't give up a goal in the first minute or last minute of a period," Evola said. "I didn't do that."

"You've got to learn from your mistake and correct it," Evola said about allowing the first period goal. "You can't keep thinking about that goal. You've got to bounce back. You've got to stay focused."

"We know if we only allow a few shots, he's going to save all of them," VanAntwerp said about Evola. "We always know he's got our back."

Houghton struck 56 seconds in. Senior forward Seth Francois stole a puck along the right boards, floated out over the top of the circles and lofted a wrister towards the net that  deflected off a Country Day defender to find the back of the net.

But Country Day outshot Houghton in the first period, 13-4, and it finally paid off when sophomore forward Lucas Krol beat Houghton's goalie with a slap shot from just inside the blue line with 1:37 left in the first period. Junior forward Dallas Hood and junior forward Logan Gotinsky got the assists.

Play tightened considerably in the second period as neither team recorded a shot on goal for the first eight minutes of the frame.

With 1:20 left in the second period, Hood scored on a wrist shot with a Houghton defender draped all over him, assists going to senior forward Joshua Rice and senior defenseman Nick Thewes, to put Country Day up, 2-1, at the second intermission.

"At the beginning we came out slow and weren't playing our game," VanAntwerp said. "We went all-in in the the second and third (periods), stopped their forecheck and got it out as quick as we could, put pressure on them and got pucks in the net."

Houghton started the third period on the 5-on-3 which VanAntwerp scored his goal right after. Krol added an empty-netter with about 53 seconds left to put Country Day up 4-1 and seal it.

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Houghton loses, 4-1, to Detroit Country Day in 2019 Division 3 state final Eric Coughlin, The Detroit News

Houghton loaded a bus full of fans at 2 a.m. Saturday morning to get to Plymouth in time for the puck-drop. The hockey game was a welcome diversion for a community recently ravaged by flooding last year.

"Our community is so special," Houghton defenseman Kevin Bostwick said. "They're always behind us. It hurts really bad not bringing this one home to them."

"Credit Country Day," Houghton coach Corey Markham said. "They're as strong a team defensively as we played all year. They pack it in and block shots. They defend with four back on the blue line, and we didn't handle that very well. Tremendous job by them (Country Day)." 

Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer

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