FARMINGTON HILLS — The tension had reached a boiling point, with one team clinging to the lead and the other armed with a wicked case of desperation.
Shots came from all directions, from five guys momentarily, and then a sixth as the net on the opposite end of the rink sat empty.
And somehow, in the midst of it all, John Lethemon told himself to stay calm, issuing a self-reminder of what had gotten his team to this point to begin with.
Here was Farmington High, an underdog in every sense of the word, leading state power and defending-state champ Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood 3-2 with roughly a minute to play in regulation.
And here, as he had been all night, was Lethemon, a brick wall in net for the Falcons, turning away every offering the Cranes hurled in his direction.
The best came with 52 seconds to play, a left-handed glove save that kept the puck out of the top corner and kept this Division 3 quarterfinal out of overtime.
Some 52 seconds later, Lethemon was being mobbed by his team, the unquestioned hero in the biggest shocker of the 2014 hockey tournament.
“This is huge for our program,” Farmington coach Bill Newton said moments after his guys completed the 3-2 stunner against Cranbrook Wednesday night at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena. “It’s great for these kids. To know we have practice tomorrow is awesome.”
As for Lethemon, a senior captain who faced 62 shots in the win?
“Phenomenal,” Newton said simply. “It’s tough for a goalie to win Mr. Hockey, but tonight was a Mr. Hockey performance.”
“We did everything but score,” Cranbrook coach Andy Weidenbach said of his No. 1-ranked team that outshot Farmington 62-15. “We played good enough to win, but their goaltender was phenomenal. … Anything he could see, he stopped.”
While the drama came late, the key for the Falcons came early when Jason Petras scored the game’s first goal just 4:36 into the opening period.
“I think that really calmed us down,” Newton said. “We play much better with the lead.”
But Cranbrook, which had scored 12 goals in two regional games, wouldn’t be held off the board long.
Christopher Brown tied the game at 1-1 when his screened shot found the back of the net late in the first on a power play, and then Johnny Wagner put the Cranes up 2-1 five minutes into the second on a blast from the blue line that Lethemon never saw.
Cranbrook totally controlled the game from that point forward, but Lethemon was up to the challenge.
Then, with 3:09 to play in the middle period, after having just killed a penalty, Farmington tied the game on a Drake Cole goal.
The teams were tied 2-2 entering the third, and again, Cranbrook controlled the flow, flooding the Farmington zone with pressure, but unable to solve Lethemon.
With 6:31 remaining, Farmington senor Nick Heffron forced a turnover in the Cranbrook zone, swiped the puck, and made a nifty move to put it in the back of the net.
It was the Falcons' 15th and final shot of the night, which was all their senior goalie needed.
“I knew I just had to stay sharp,” Lethemon said of his 59-save performance.
He did get a few assists from the net behind him, as Cranbrook hit the post on five separate occasions.
Asked about the final 52 seconds of regulation, after his glove save, he just smiled.
“I wanted the clock to tick as fast as it could,” he said. “I had to stay calm. I had to stay focused.”
When the final horn sounded, the arena, heavy on Farmington faithful, erupted.
After shaking hands with the Cranes, the Falcons posed for pictures inside their own zone, celebrating one of the biggest wins in program history.
Newton said his guys could enjoy it until midnight.
“We hope to have a lot of hockey left,” he said. “They can celebrate and enjoy this for a little while, but their ultimate goal is a state title, and we’re not there yet. We have to come back down, get hydrated, get rested, and get ready for what’s next.”
Farmington (19-10-0) is set to face Grand Rapids Catholic Central at 1:30 p.m. March 7 at Compuware Arena in a D-3 semifinal.
GRCC (18-6-4) beat Flint Powers Catholic 2-1 in six overtimes Wednesday night.
The trip to the semifinals is the first for Farmington since the 2008 team lost to Midland High 2-1 in a D-2 semifinal.
Cranbrook, the 2013 D-3 state champ, ends the season 26-2-0.
Mike Moore will be at Compuware Friday for the D-3 semifinal. Complete coverage of the game will be posted on the Sports page immediately following its conclusion at www.candgnews.com.