Metro Detroit - The 07 Lapeer Storm took part in the 2019 Big Chill Ann Arbor hockey tournament over MLK Weekend and skated away with the Championship banner.
Things got off to a bit of a shaky start for the Storm on Saturday morning. Taking on the Illinois Admirals (a team comprised of 06/07 players), the Storm fought hard but wound up on the losing end of a 3-2 hockey game in Allen Park. In game two on Saturday evening, the Storm again played a team comprised of both 06/07 players, but were determined from the start and skated away with a 6-1 victory over the boys from Columbus, Ohio.
On Sunday morning, the Storm took on the North Olmstead Eagles from Cleveland in an end-to-end contest that ultimately finished in a one-one tie. As it turns out, the tie was all the Storm needed to advance to the Final Four, as the number four seed. Entering the Final Four, the seeds were as follows: #1 Illinois Admirals, #2 Little Caesars Farmington Hills, #3 West Kent Hawks, and #4 Lapeer Storm.
On Sunday evening at UM-Dearborn stadium the #1 seed Illinois Admirals took on the #4 seed Lapeer Storm in a re-match from the tournaments first game. From the start, the semi-final match-up looked remarkably similar to the original contest, as both teams raced up and down the ice and shared quality scoring chances on both ends of the rink. In the end, the 07 Lapeer Storm scored an empty-net goal with a little over one-minute remaining to advance to the finals with a 4-2 victory over the top-seeded Admirals. In the other semi-final contest, Little Caesars Farmington Hills topped West Kent 3-1.
The stage was set on Monday afternoon in Farmington Hills, when the Lapeer Storm took on Little Caesars on their home ice for the championship.
Early in the first period, Little Caesars struck first, when a shot from the point somehow managed to find its way through traffic and sneak past #88 Dylan Callan to make it 1-0. The score did not stay this way for long, as with 7:26 to play in the first period, #14 Zaviero Politowicz picked up a rebound off of a #83 Nick Hoffman shot and snuck it inside the left post to knot things up a one a piece.
In the second period with the game still tied at 1, #87 Logan Larsen picked up a rebound to the left of the Little Caesars goalie and pounded it home, to put the Storm in front with 11:31 to play in the second stanza. The lead was short lived though, as Little Caesars scored less than 29 seconds later to tie things up at 2-2. Following some intense end-to-end action, #77 Jakob Barton gained position in front of the Little Caesars net and after receiving an excellent pass from #8 Jon Whited, buried it low glove side with a quick wrist-shot to put the Storm up 3-2. Approximately five-minutes later, #97 Avery Cook picked up a loose puck just outside of the offensive zone and raced down the right wing. Just as the Little Caesars defenseman went to poke-check the puck, Cook fired a wrist-shot that beat the goaltender top-shelf and put the Storm up 4-2 with 2:54 to play in the second.
Entering the final period with a two goal lead, the Storm battled on both ends of the ice, but with 9:35 to play in the contest, Little Caesars pulled within one to make it 4-3 on a break-away goal, that somehow squeaked through the pads of Callan, who initially had appeared to have made the save. For the next nine-minutes both teams shared quality scoring opportunities and were turned aside with some fantastic saves by the two net-minders. With just under thirty-seconds remaining, #5 Jordan Davis picked up a clearing pass from #2 Cory Hall and backhanded a shot from just inside the Farmington Hills blue-line into an empty net to seal the victory and the championship for the Lapeer Storm 5-3.
Dylan Callan steered aside 20/23 shots faced and was instrumental in both the semi-finals and finals for the Storm. His teammate and fellow goaltender #35 Josh Eager was a main reason for the Storm advancing, as he maintained 1.66 GAA in the round-robin portion of the tournament. In the championship, the customary hard-hats were awarded to #21 Devon Grote for his outstanding performance on defense for the Storm and #14 Zaviero Politowicz for his dominating fore-check and consistency throughout the game. The tournament MVP was awarded to #87 Logan Larsen. Larsen played fantastic all weekend long, and was definitely a contributing factor to the Storm's championship run.
Coach Brent Bernard was very pleased with his teams performance over the weekend and commented briefly following the locker-room celebration. "I am very excited for this group of boys. I (our coaching staff) have asked a great deal of them this season and they have delivered. I think they are really starting to see the importance of trusting in each other as teammates, and accepting personal responsibility (accountability) for their play. For them to start this tournament off with a tough one-goal loss, and ultimately win it all, speaks to their commitment and belief in each other. I could not be more proud of a group of kids. They are all MVP's in my book."
The 07 Storm will enjoy this tournament championship for a short period, before they get back to work and participate in the Little Caesars Howe 3 Playoffs throughout the month of February.