Cabrini survives double sudden-death overtimes to win CHSL hockey title

Allen Park Cabrini hockey players celebrate their CHSL championship on Feb. 16 at the St. Mary's Athletic Complex in Orchard Lake, after besting Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 6-5 in overtime. (Courtesy photo)

The Monarchs of Allen Park Cabrini have had their moments in Catholic League championship showdowns. Boys teams have won in five sports, the girls in nine.

“But they’ve never won in hockey,” said coach Matt Grant, who, as the team’s first-year coach, can say the same thing.

In the most exciting of all the contests last Saturday when the CHSL crowned eight champions, Cabrini survived two 8-minute sudden-death periods for a hard-earned 6-5 victory over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett for the Division 2 championship at the St. Mary’s Athletic Complex arena in Orchard Lake.

Four minutes into the second overtime, junior forward Austin Kieltyka picked up a loose puck near the center line and took off for the Knights goal.

“I heard the coach yell, ‘It’s three on one.’ We practiced that a lot. I looked up and saw Evan (Taylor) open on the other side and passed to him.”

Taylor said he didn’t have time to think. “It was instinct. Just shoot it.”

It was a bang-bang play. Liggett goalie Jake Rosenberg couldn’t react in time to block the puck, sending the Cabrini bench onto the ice in wild jubilation.

The quick ending of the game resembled the beginning of it when senior Austin Molina whipped the puck off the faceoff into Liggett’s net for a 1-0 Cabrini lead. Only 13 seconds had elapsed.

Over the next 25 minutes, into the second period, Taylor, Andrew Seminara and Molina all converted power-play goals to build Cabrini’s lead to 4-0. They were feeling pretty good about themselves.

Before the game, Liggett coach Mike Maltese remarked how it was important for his young team (he lost 13 players to graduation last year) to “take advantage of opportunities.”

Liggett did just that when the penalty bug bit the Monarchs. In 20 minutes’ time, the Knights put on a furious assault to tie the game at 4-4 on power-play goals by Matthew Holder, Will Nicholson and Luke Zinn, and an unassisted goal by Ryan Warezak.

There were 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the game when Holder beat Monarchs’ goalie Vincent Marroni to complete Liggett’s improbable comeback for a 5-4 lead.

Cabrini went into desperation mode. Junior Nick Brown, near the blue line, some 60 feet away from the net, sent the puck on an ice-hugging route into a sea of legs and sticks.

Goalie Rosenberg didn’t have a chance. He didn’t see the puck, but when the Cabrini players and fans erupted, he knew what had happened.

The game was tied 5-5. There were only 98 seconds left in regulation.

In the first sudden-death period, both teams had to fend off power-play opportunities to set the stage for the dramatic climax.