Farmington High hockey playing like a team on a mission

By: Mike Moore | Farmington Press | Published January 13, 2011

 Farmington senior Nick Elliot battles with a South Lyon player during a Jan. 13 game. The Falcons won the contest 6-2 to remain perfect on the season.

Farmington senior Nick Elliot battles with a South Lyon player during a Jan. 13 game. The Falcons won the contest 6-2 to remain perfect on the season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

FARMINGTON HILLS — If there’s ever been an arena where successful superstitions must always be honored, it’s the world of sports.

Whether it’s a pre-game meal or even a specific door used to enter the locker room, if it works, it works, so there’s no sense changing it.

Before the first game of the season, players on the Farmington High hockey team made a half-hearted poster that simply read, “refuse to lose.”

On their way to the ice, every guy tapped the poster, and by the time the night was done, the Falcons had upset Livonia Stevenson 2-1. For each of the next four games, the same routine was carried out and respected, and the same result followed.

“After the fifth game, we had to tape that thing together because it was falling apart,” senior forward Alex Schmitt said with a laugh. “But we weren’t getting rid of it. Sports superstitions aren’t something you mess with.”

As Schmitt talked after a Jan. 12 practice, he and his teammates had reason to mend the sign in any way possible. The Falcons had played 11 games, tapped their poster 11 times and left the rink with 11 victories.

At press time, and following a Jan. 15 victory against Northville High, the Falcons were officially 13-0-0 and 4-0-1 in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division — the OAA does not recognize overtime wins, but the overall record does.

“They’re on a mission right now. I don’t know how else to say it,” coach Marc Vellucci said. “They’ve really bought into that motto of refusing to lose. … It’s a group of guys who have taken winning to heart, and they’re doing something special right now.”

While 13 wins to start any season is certainly impressive, the most important part just may be how the Falcons have gotten those wins, which is anything but predictable.

They’ve shown the ability to win the close ones, three by one goal and two more by just two goals.

They’ve also demonstrated the ability to put teams away early and often, winning six games by four goals or more.

“If you showed me our schedule before the season and told me we’d be unbeaten at this point, I would have said, ‘No way,’” senior goalie Tim Rogers said. “But looking back on how we’ve played, it’s tough for me to say I’m surprised now. Once the year started, and we got those first few wins, our confidence just kept growing and growing.”

Confidence is certainly a reason for the strong play, but it’s hardly exclusive.

The offense has been dynamite, notching 68 goals, an average of 5.2 per game.

The defense and goaltending, meanwhile, has been suffocating, allowing just 25 goals, which is less than two per game.

Team depth is also a strong suit. The 24-man roster comprises 16 seniors, most of whom are in their third year with the varsity club.

“Guys know their roles,” Rogers said. “They’ve been around for a while, understand what’s needed to win, and when you put that all together, we do pretty well.”

“Most high school teams are going to live and die with two lines and two sets of defensemen when you really break it down,” Vellucci said. “I have no problem rolling four lines, and the cool thing is, some of our top guys are surrendering statistics because of it.

But all that matters to them is how the team itself does. We’re able to stay fresh. We’re able to keep guys ready all game.”

Lastly, chemistry is something players and coaches spoke of glowingly.

“They’re playing as a team, and they’re not going to take their foot off the gas,” Vellucci said.

“The locker room setting is the best I’ve ever been associated with,” Schmitt said. “I’ve been on teams where guys don’t get along or there’s that tension, but this is like a family. It’s like a bunch of brothers.”

There was little hesitation when asked about going undefeated.

“Their minds are set on an unbeaten season,” the coach said.

“It’s one game at a time,” Schmitt said. “But we feel the only team that can beat us, is Farmington.”

Correlations have been drawn comparing the current squad to the 2007-08 team, which finished the year 26-2-1 — with one major difference.

“We talk about getting to Compuware and winning a (Division 2) state title all the time,” said Vellucci, whose ’07-08 team lost in the semifinals. “It’s going to be a battle, because some of the best teams in the state are in D-2 this year. But we’re looking forward to the challenge. This is a team that can get it done. This is a group of kids that wants to get it done.”

Keep the tape handy.