When it comes to playoff hockey, a 3-0 lead in the first period is usually a safe bet to punch a ticket to the next round.
But for the Grosse Pointe South boys squad, taking a three-goal advantage in the first eight minutes of last week’s Division 2 quarterfinal only re-affirmed the mantra that comes this time of year: “anything can happen.”
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, it did.
“There was still so much game left,” coach Bob McKillop a day after his guys lost to Port Huron Northern 4-3, ending the season two wins shy of a state title. “We got up early and had a nice lead, but then the game turned into a special-teams contest, and that favored them.”
Northern finally got on the board with 30 seconds remaining in the first period, then pulled within one in the final moments of the second.
A goal early in the third tied the game, and then a power-play tally with 6:30 remaining in regulation sealed the comeback.
“They had to have everything go right for them to win, and really, it did,” McKillop said, forcing a laugh. “I thought we played a very strong game. Our guys battled. It just wasn’t in the cards for us.”
Still, there was plenty gained this season, according to McKillop.
After starting 2-8, South finished 16-12-0 and set itself up as a team to contend with on a regular basis in the very near future.
“Going into the year, you really didn’t know what to expect,” said McKillop, who finished his first year with the team. “We started the year 2-8 while we tried to adapt and adjust to a new system, and learn who we were. But these guys came a long, long way. We may not have been the flashiest team around, but everyone bought in. I think we’re disappointed not to win a state title, but I think we took some big steps. This was a successful season for these kids and this program.”
As for the future?
“This next year will be a lot easier,” McKillop said. “The transition stage has come and gone. Now we have guys that understand me, and know what we want to do.”
“The goal now is to hang banners,” he added. “We want to win state titles, but most importantly, have kids go through this program and leave as better hockey players, better young men and with a chance to continue their careers beyond high school. That’s what makes a program successful, and that’s what we want his program to be.”