Catholic Central hockey team cruises to third straight state championship

Detroit Catholic Central skaters swarm winning goaltender Nick Galda after the final horn of the Shamrocks’ 5-1 win in the MHSAA Division 1 state championship hockey game at Plymouth’s U.S.A. Hockey Arena. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

PLYMOUTH — All it took was a wake-up call.

When Brighton scored three minutes into the second period and put Novi Detroit Catholic Central behind for the first time in the post-season, it didn’t take long for the Shamrocks to respond.

Parker Jamieson scored the tying goal less than three minutes later, and Brian Apple got the go-ahead goal later in the period. From there, Catholic Central closed strong, registering a 5-1 victory for its third straight state hockey championship, at U.S.A. Hockey Arena in Plymouth on March 12.

Jamieson said Brighton’s tally provided the spark of motivation that everyone wearing blue and white needed.

“They got the first goal and everyone was down, but we were ready to go,” he said. “As soon as we got our first goal, the floodgates were opened. As soon as we scored, we knew it was happening. That’s it. We wanted it more than them; we came out on top.”

In what seems to be an annual tradition, Catholic Central hockey players gather with the state championship trophy in front of their fan section at Plymouth’s U.S.A. Hockey Arena. The Shamrocks downed Brighton, 5-1.
In what seems to be an annual tradition, Catholic Central hockey players gather with the state championship trophy in front of their fan section at Plymouth’s U.S.A. Hockey Arena. The Shamrocks downed Brighton, 5-1.

Six minutes into the second period, Nick Condon rifled a shot off the goalpost, Jamieson fished out the rebound and slid the puck barely across the goal line.

“I really felt like when we went down 1-0 and we responded with a goal to tie it up at 1, I thought that was a big point in the game for us,” coach Brandon Kaleniecki said. “That really swung the momentum back our way. Once we did that, it felt like it was only going to go forward from there.”

And boy, did it ever. Five minutes later, Apple got the Shamrocks’ second goal when he also banged home a rebound from the right side. Jack Swamba, Justin Hubenschmidt and Landon West padded the score with third-period goals for Catholic Central (26-4).

“I think we woke up a little bit and realized that for the seniors, this is going to be our last game. We all wanted to come together and really put it away, and we sure did,” Swamba said. “Nothing better than that: scoring in the state championship. This is the best moment of my whole life. We worked so hard for this all season, and we finally got it.”

“It comes down to how you respond,” Kaleniecki said. “You’ve got to be able to step up your game at the most important times.”

It wasn’t lost on the Shamrocks that five different players tallied their goals. Nate Grondzieleski assisted on the first three, and Nick Galda was solid in goal all night.

Brian Apple lifts the puck over the Brighton goaltender, giving the Shamrocks a 2-1 lead late in the second period.
Brian Apple lifts the puck over the Brighton goaltender, giving the Shamrocks a 2-1 lead late in the second period.

“That’s typical of our team this year,” Kaleniecki said. “We’ve had a lot of different guys chip in. We talk about it being a team, first and foremost. We’re not a group of guys that rely on one guy to score, and that shows in our stats. We have a lot of guys that are all right around each other. We can always go back to, ‘Hey, we’re a hockey team here; we’re not a one-man show.’”

“We’re very deep, and we’ve got a lot of talent,” Swamba added. “Whether it’s the first line or the fourth line, we’re all going to work hard.”

It was Catholic Central’s 14th state championship in school history, tying the Shamrocks with Trenton for the second-most statewide. Catholic High School League affiliate member Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook tops the list with 17.

Catholic Central had also beaten Brighton in the 2014 and 2016 title games and lost to the Bulldogs in 2013 and 2017, so it’s been a pretty good back-and-forth rivalry.

“They do a great job, and they are consistently here for a reason,” Kaleniecki said. “You don’t get here by accident. You’ve got to tip your hat to them and everything they’ve done and everything they’ve accomplished over the years. It’s no surprise when we get here and come across them, right?”

St. Mary’s falls in Division 3

One one hand, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was successful at slowing Midland Dow’s offensive attack. But on the other, Dow had a hot goalie whom St. Mary’s couldn’t solve.

As a result, two goals in the final 2:29 of play gave Dow its first state hockey championship, as they downed the Eaglets, 2-0.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s played in the Division 3 state championship game, falling to Midland Dow 2-0. It was the Eaglets’ first appearance in the finals since 2011.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s played in the Division 3 state championship game, falling to Midland Dow 2-0. It was the Eaglets’ first appearance in the finals since 2011.

St. Mary’s (19-9-1) was seeking its first title since sharing the 2008 crown with Marquette, after a legendary 1-1 contest which featured eight overtimes before the MHSAA declared both teams champs.

“It’s not easy to win state championships, especially when it’s a one-and-done-type (playoff) system,” coach Brian Klanow said. “I thought we played extremely well today; we just couldn’t bury our opportunities.”

The Eaglets advanced into Saturday’s final with a thrilling triple-overtime semifinal win against Warren De La Salle on Friday.

“It’s part of the process, we knew going into it,” Klanow said. “I’m sure they’re tired, but we certainly had some gas today. We had our opportunities to win this game. My hat’s off to their goaltender (Collin Lemanski); he played extremely well.”

Despite the close loss, the Eaglets took consolation in making the championship round for the first time since 2011.

“We worked together we weren’t like a team that just had two individuals scoring all the goals. We truly felt like we were a team coming into this,” captain Dylan Magdich said. “We weren’t able to win it all, but I’m proud of all the guys. We made a great run this year.”



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