FARMINGTON HILLS — Mitch McCann is in his first year with the Farmington Hills Mercy hockey team, but the bench boss was quickly introduced to the intensity, drama and importance of the Catholic League playoff tournament.
And on Feb. 16, his girls kept with their recent tradition while giving McCann his first taste of league supremacy.
“It’s so great for these girls, to see what this means to them,” McCann said last week about Mercy’s 3-1 victory against Livonia Ladywood in the Catholic League final, played at Joe Louis Arena. “To go down there and be part of that arena, and be in the locker rooms and to experience it all, it was pretty special.”
It also served as a trifecta of titles.
Mercy won its first-ever league championship in hockey two years ago.
The girls defended that in 2013, and then earned the three-peat with McCann at the helm.
“This was one of the biggest goals we had,” McCann said of the league playoff. “Really, though, we were on the outside looking in just a few weeks ago. We had to come from behind in a couple games just to make (the playoffs).”
Once in the final, the Marlins were faced with a Ladywood team that had won the only other meeting of the season by an 8-3 count.
“I think how we matched up at the time of the first game was rough,” McCann said. “We hadn’t skated in a week after (the holiday) break because of the weather, and (Ladywood) had played a couple games. We didn’t have our game legs, and they exploited that weakness.”
Mercy was more confident entering the rematch, and they played like it.
Junior Anna Julien scored the game’s first goal with just 1:51 remaining in the opening period.
Ladywood had the immediate answer, though, tying things up just 54 seconds later.
The back-and-forth contest remained deadlocked at 1-1 until Julien notched the game-winner with a little more than five minutes to play in the third.
Emily McCann added an empty-netter with 20 seconds remaining, for good measure.
“This was a game of redemption for us,” Mitch McCann said. “We were ready to go.”
Mercy, 9-3-2 at press time and in first place of the Michigan Metro Girls High School Hockey League’s Division 2, still had three regular-season games remaining before the league playoffs begin March 3.