Guys on the Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day hockey team celebrate with the D-3 trophy Saturday after holding on to beat Livonia Churchill 2-1.

Guys on the Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day hockey team celebrate with the D-3 trophy Saturday after holding on to beat Livonia Churchill 2-1.

Patricia O’Blenes


Country Day hockey completes magic run, wins D-3 state title

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 10, 2018

 Mickey VanAntwerp pulls away from a defender before scoring the first goal of the game Saturday afternoon.

Mickey VanAntwerp pulls away from a defender before scoring the first goal of the game Saturday afternoon.

Patricia O’Blenes

 Country Day junior goalie Sam Evola made 30 saves in the clinching victory.

Country Day junior goalie Sam Evola made 30 saves in the clinching victory.

Patricia O’Blenes

 Country Day fans came out in full force to root for, and celebrate the team's first state title since 1981.

Country Day fans came out in full force to root for, and celebrate the team's first state title since 1981.

Patricia O’Blenes

 Frank Novock, center, was ready to celebrate as the final seconds melted away in the D-3 final.

Frank Novock, center, was ready to celebrate as the final seconds melted away in the D-3 final.

Patricia O’Blenes

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PLYMOUTH — The speed and momentum was too much.

Too much to be stopped now, too strong to be denied at this point.

Mickey VanAntwerp charged over the blue line, fought off a hook and a slash before flicking the puck to the back of the net.

He was soon to follow, crashing into the goal, then quickly climbing out and officially launching the celebration for the Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day hockey team.

VanAntwerp’s speed and momentum was too much, a scary parallel to the season the Yellowjackets capped with a Division 3 state championship.

“What an honor to coach this group,” coach Frank Novock said following a 2-1 victory over Livonia Churchill Saturday afternoon at USA Hockey Arena.

The feeling was likely mutual for this team, which completed what has been a steady building of the Country Day program.

Saturday marked the first time since 1989 the Yellowjackets played for a state title, and the current group made the most of the opportunity.

VanAntwerp got the scoring going with just 38 seconds remaining in the second period, picking up a loose puck at the Churchill blue line and using just enough speed to get behind the defense. 

The puck beat Chargers goalie Chris Sergison an instant before VanAntwerp’s momentum carried him into, and almost through the net.

"He was (0-for-8) on breakaways this year,” Novock said with a laugh. “He saved his best for last. That’s the fastest I’ve seen him skate all year. … I think that goal let us breath a little bit. We were pressing a little bit, and we were a little sloppy in our end at times. That was huge for our psyche.”

Country Day goalie Sam Evola remained unbeatable in net, turning away a number of key Churchill opportunities.

That gave way to a Tim Stebbins goal 6:07 into the third for a 2-0 Yellowjackets lead.

From there on out, it was time to hold on.

Churchill took its game, and offensive pressure, to another gear the final 10 minutes or so.

The Chargers thought they had cut the deficit in half at one point, but officials said a fluttering rebound that beat Evola was knocked in with a hand.

“Disappointed,” was all coach Jason Reynolds said about the officials’ decision not to use video replay on the call.

But his team made it 2-1 with 7:53 remaining in regulation while on a 5-on-3 power play. 

Novock said the rest of that penalty kill, and the final frantic moments when Churchill pulled it goalie, felt like an eternity.

“You knew they were going to get chances,” he said with a smile.

This chance, to take home a trophy, was one the Yellowjackets hadn’t had in quite some time, though.

The program’s last championship came in 1981.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Novock said of slowly growing the program. “This doesn’t happen overnight.”

No, but over the course of many years, it can.

The Yellowjackets have spent the past few winters threatening to be contenders come playoff time, though always stumbling short of a date in Plymouth.

When the 2017-18 season began, Novock admitted he had reason for concern.

“I said before the year started, my biggest doubts were us scoring goals and leadership,” he admitted. “They far surpassed my expectations.”

There came a point about a month ago, Novock added, where he realized something special was possibly brewing.

His team was outplayed in a 3-0 loss to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, and Novock held a 51-minute practice without pucks the next day.

“They owed me a game,” he said. 

His guys responded.

The Liggett loss, on Dec. 16, was the last of the winter.

His team reeled off 16 wins in a row to close out the regular season, blew past Walled Lake Western 8-0 to start the playoffs, knocked out Highland-Milford 3-1 in a regional semifinal and beat Flint Powers Catholic 2-0 to claim a regional title.

In the quarterfinals, the Yellowjackets needed overtime to get past Grand Rapids Catholic Central 3-2, then upset Hancock High 2-1 in a semifinal.

“It’s amazing,” senior captain Carter Elrod said after the final.

“There’s nothing like this right here,” Evola said. The junior goalie made 30 saves in the clinching victory.

Country Day ended the year with a 28-2-1 record, including a 21-game win streak.

The speed of this team racing toward the final, the momentum generated all winter was too much to be stopped now.

Too much for Churchill.

Too much for nearly every foe that took the ice.

“It’s sad knowing the season is over,” Elrod said. “But I’m so glad I was able to help this team do what it did.”

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