Dow High’s dream of returning to the Frozen Four was put on ice Friday night.
Fifth-ranked Flint Powers scored a shorthanded goal and a power play goal in the third period to snap a tie and beat host Dow 3-1 in a Division 3 hockey regional final at the Midland Civic Arena.
Powers improves to 14-3 and advances to Wednesday’s 5:15 p.m. quarterfinal at Michigan State University, while Dow ends at 10-5.
“I’m really proud of the boys. They really competed this whole hockey game, and that’s something I hope they look back on,” said Dow coach Dick Blasy. “I know losing really hurts right now, but I’m hoping when they look back on this many years from now, they’ll be proud of themselves, because they competed and played hard and gave everything they had.
“It’s unfortunate that we came out on the wrong side of things, but that’s sports,” he added.
After watching his team’s season come to a disappointing and abrupt end last March due to the pandemic only a couple of days before the Chargers were slated to play in a state semifinal, Blasy admitted that, while Friday’s outcome was difficult to swallow, it was better than being left hanging again.
“With the COVID(-shortened) season, we were able to make the most out of what we had. We stayed healthy, and we got to finally complete a season,” he noted. “… We started it, and we finished it, as opposed to wondering what we could’ve done. This hurts, but there’s closure.”
Dow senior forward Cam Patty said he appreciated every moment he got to share on the ice with his teammates.
“It was really tough, starting the year off and not knowing all the time (whether or not we’re going to have a season). But once we finally got into it, we were just thrilled to be together,” said Patty. “It’s a family here. I love it. It’s one of my very favorite things to do every single day, and that’s why I’m here.
“ … Obviously, when it’s your last year, you just want to win and see how far you can get. It’s tough (to end with a loss),” he added. “You just have to embrace everything you get, embrace the time you get with the guys. It’s tough, but we’re going to bounce back.”
In a matchup of athletic, hard-skating teams, Powers carried play for most of the first period and forced Dow goaltender Collin Lemanski to make eight saves, including a handful of tough ones. But it was Dow which eventually struck first.
At 11:35 of the period, Dow’s Conor Dunlap charged toward the crease with a defender hanging all over him and the puck on his stick. Somehow, despite being twisted around out of position, Dunlap managed to flip the puck past Powers goalie Nick Kurtiak for a 1-0 lead. Billy VanSumeren and Patty assisted on the play.
In the second period, it was Dow’s turn to carry play and generate more quality scoring opportunities. And it was Kurtiak’s turn to stand tall, making nine saves to keep Dow off the board.
Meanwhile, Powers took advantage of a Dow penalty midway through the period. Twenty seconds into a power play, Mason Czarnecki centered the puck to Jacques Lavrack, who one-timed it past a helpless Lemanski from the slot for a bang-bang goal.
The score remained knotted at 1-1 heading into the second intermission.
Powers carried its momentum into the third, peppering Lemanski with a barrage of shots and eventually capitalizing, ironically, eight seconds into a Dow power play. Trey Carlock got behind Dow’s defense, received a nice pass ahead from Tyler Lawrence, fought off a defender on a breakaway, and flipped the puck past Lemanski from close range to give Powers a 2-1 lead at 10:37 of the period.
Three minutes later, on a Powers power play, Lavrack carried the puck deep into the Dow zone and slipped it to Czarnecki, who beat Lemanski, again from close range, to make it 3-1 at 13:24 of the period.
Dow wasn’t able to mount much of a threat down the stretch.
“We played with so much better energy (than we did in Wednesday’s semifinal). We were ready to play today,” Blasy said. “Special teams got us. … And those are things that, in a one-month regular season, you don’t get a lot of time to work on.
“ … As a coaching staff, we talked and said, ‘Man, we really would’ve like to see what this team could’ve done in a four- or four-and-a-half-month season,'” he added.
Patty agreed that his team played with energy and determination Friday.
“I’ve got to give credit to Powers. They’re a really good team, and they’ve showed it the whole year. They’ve played some really good teams,” he noted. “I thought we played pretty solid, and either team could’ve won the game tonight. It just wasn’t our game. It happens, and next year we’ll bounce back.”
Powers finished with a 25-17 advantage in shots on goal and a 28-17 advantage in scoring opportunities. Kurtiak finished with 16 saves, while Lemanski had 22.
While Dow will graduate five seniors, the Chargers will have 17 returners, including numerous key players, coming back next season.
“Some of these juniors are my best friends. I see them at school, and they’re some of my best buddies,” Patty said. “It’s going to be a real good team (next year). … It’s going to be a fun team to follow.”
For his part, Blasy had nothing but praise for his seniors.
“Those seniors were the heart of the team. They’ve been so important to this program. … They’re all just competitors, and you always knew that, game in and game out, they were going to play hard,” he said.
“I thought all five seniors had a great career at Dow High, and I love each one of them. It’s really sad to see them go. It’s never, ever easy to say goodbye.”