PLYMOUTH — For the better part of two weeks now, the Grosse Pointe North hockey team had done its best to defy every odd out there, transforming a sub-.500 regular season into a drive to the Division 1 state championship.
On March 10 from Compuware Arena, the Cinderella story ended just a few feet shy of the grand ball.
Despite outshooting Brighton High 23-11 and controlling the better part of the night, the Norsemen had to settle for the runner-up trophy, falling in the final game of the high school season 4-3, thanks to a Bulldogs goal that came with just 1:32 remaining in regulation.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I’m real proud of these guys,” North coach Scott Lock said. “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’s Troy Marrett opened the scoring 3:27 into the game, and then Zach Morgan gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage roughly six minutes later on the power play.
North seemed destined for a 2-0 deficit after one period, but Joe Aluia turned an offensive-zone faceoff into a goal when he directed the dropped puck into the net as the buzzer sounded.
“For Joe to get that shot was great,” Lock said. “We needed that spark. …. Our kids were pumped up to get the second period going.”
Brighton went back up by two when Tommy Kivisto scored 11:08 into the second, but again North rallied with some late-period heroics, this time when Aluia took advantage of a Brighton turnover and buried it with 2:05 remaining in the second.
The momentum shift was impossible to miss.
North started controlling every facet of the game, generating multiple scoring chances while badly outshooting the Bulldogs in the third.
Riding said momentum, Aluia added his third goal of the game on a breakaway with 6:38 remaining in the game. But a bouncing puck that ended up near the endline was fired toward the North net and redirected in by Chet Daavettila at the 13:28 mark of the final frame.
North pulled its goalie for the final minute and had three solid chances to tie the game, but Brighton goalie Christian Michalik, who had 36 saves in a 2-1 overtime semifinal victory against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, did just enough to keep the puck out.
North, which was just 10-14-0 when the playoffs began, closes its season 15-15-0 after reaching the final for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.
Brighton (24-4-2) wins its second state title in program history. The Bulldogs beat Dearborn Unified 6-2 in 2006.
Follow Mike on Twitter @CandGMike.