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March 14, 2012

North and South hockey end year as runners-up in final weekend, South girls are state champs

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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North and South hockey end year as runners-up in final weekend, South girls are state champs
North’s Anthony Saleh, right, gives chase to the puck along with Brad Werenski (22) during the second period of the D-1 final March 10. North rallied from a 3-1 deficit to the tie the game at 3-3 midway through the third period.

PLYMOUTH — As the waning hours of March 9 faded into the history books, Scott Lock stood outside his Grosse Pointe North hockey team’s locker room smiling, fielding questions about a 6-3 victory against East Kentwood and a date with Brighton High the following day for the Division 1 state final.

Yet, as he answered inquires about his own team, the inevitable question was fired his way about the fact that all three divisions in the boys hockey finals featured Grosse Pointe area teams, not to mention the North and South girls teams that were set to face off for the Michigan Metro Girls Hockey League state final.

“They may need to move Hockeytown from Detroit to the Grosse Pointe’s for a day,” Lock said smiling. “It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot to be proud of with what’s going on here.”

Out of nowhere
A lot was made of what North did come playoff time, transforming a 10-14 regular season into a state final run.

Lock was one of the few who wasn’t surprised one bit.

“When you play in the MIHL and you see the teams we see on a nightly basis, it gets you ready for everything,” Lock said. “We’re playing teams like Catholic Central and Brother Rice, and Cranbrook every night. It’s the best league in the state, so to go near .500 during the season is something I’ll always take if it leads to this opportunity.”

Despite outplaying Brighton for the better part of the night, outshooting the Bulldogs 23-11, and battling back from two, two-goal deficits, North was on the wrong end of a 4-3 score thanks to a Brighton goal with just 1:32 remaining in regulation.

“I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I’m real proud of these guys,” Lock said after the game. “It was one of those games where we didn’t get a ton of puck luck. I thought our kids played really well. We just didn’t finish.”

Brighton was up 2-0 and 3-1 at separate points in the final, but both times North fought its way back into the game, eventually evening the score at 3-3, thanks to senior Joe Aluia’s third goal of the night with 6:38 remaining in regulation.

North is set to graduate 10 seniors from this year’s team, which finished 15-15-0.

Back in the mix
When James Bufalino took over at South three years ago, he inherited a program looking to regain its footing.

Three years later, he’s all but put the Blue Devils back on the map.

“I don’t know if this program is back, per say, because I think the benchmark of being back is a state title, but we’re certainly on the right track,” Bufalino said after falling 4-1 in the D-2 final to Birmingham Brother Rice. “Being in games like this really helps kids take notice of our program. We grabbed some attention this year, and hopefully, that translates into future success.”

South finished the season 22-6-1 after losing to a Rice team that Bufalino said was “a different caliber team than we’ve seen all year.”

Final result aside, Bufalino was quick to praise his guys and the run they enjoyed, particularly a 20-game stretch in which the Blue Devils didn’t lose a single contest.

“You had to enjoy all this,” he said. “This group had the ability to fight for what they wanted. … This was a very successful season.”

More to come
While the North and South boys teams were busy at Compuware in Plymouth, the North and South girls teams were less than 10 miles away, facing off for the Metro League state title.

South won its second consecutive title, upending North 4-1 in a game played at Eddie Edgar Arena in Livonia.

Check back for a complete wrap on the Lady Devils and their journey to a championship.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.