Title hopes dashed: MSHS unable to get offense untracked in 4-0 semifinal loss

Marquette's Tyler Bergwall follows the puck fired by Trenton in their MHSAA Division 2 tournament semifinal game played on Thursday, March 7, 2019, at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth. (Timothy Arrick photo)
Marquette's Sean O'Connor, left, works to keep possession of the puck against Trenton in their MHSAA Division 2 tournament semifinal game played on Thursday, March 7, 2019, at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth. (Timothy Arrick photo)

PLYMOUTH — The Marquette Senior High School hockey team faces a long bus ride home today.

The Redmen suffered a 4-0 season-ending loss to Trenton in the MHSAA Division 2 state semifinals at the USA Hockey Arena outside Detroit on Thursday night.

But head coach Doug Garrow says it will be more celebration than anything else.

“Every year I’ve been doing this, the hardest part is in the locker room. But as soon as they leave the locker room it’s fun,” Garrow said after the game. “We’re going to go back to the hotel tonight and have a good time. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, these guys did a good job all year.”

Trenton broke open a close game with two goals in the opening moments of the third period to take a 3-0 lead.

The Trojans advance to Saturday morning’s state championship game to meet Hartland, which defeated Birmingham Brother Rice 6-2 in Thursday’s earlier semifinal.

After Trenton’s Alex Perrin opened the scoring with what proved to be the game-winner just 3:09 in, the story of the game was both Marquette’s speed and the inability of the Redmen to convert power-play opportunities.

Trenton was penalized twice within the game’s first six minutes, at one point leaving Marquette with a two-man advantage. Midway in the second period, the Trojans took a five-minute major for boarding, but again the Redmen couldn’t cash in despite peppering Trenton goalie Joey Cormier during those power plays.

“I think the fact that we didn’t score on those advantages — I wouldn’t say demoralized us, but I wouldn’t say it helped us,” MSHS senior forward Sean O’Connor said. “I think if we could have scored in those advantages, this game would have been much closer, if not in our favor.”

For the game, each team was penalized nine minutes on three infractions.

“Early in the game when we had the 5-on-3, and later when we had the five-minute major, those are usually huge turning points either way,” Garrow said.

“It can either help you if you can score on those or their team will create a lot of energy off that because those are big penalty kills.

“That might have been the difference in that game.”

Marquette enjoyed a distinct shots-on-goal advantage until late in the game, ending the first period with a 20-8 edge and maintaining that margin after two periods 27-15.

“I don’t think we’ve given up 19 shots in the first period all season,” Trenton head coach Chad Clements said. “Give their coaches credit — they just came and came and we had no answer. Luckily we had Joey in the net.”

The game was essentially decided when Trenton’s Nolan Szczepaniak scored on a breakaway 27 seconds into the third session, followed 67 seconds later by a goal from Gregory Obrycki, extending the Trojan lead to 3-0. Trenton would add to that late, scoring with 10 seconds to go.

“I thought the first period was huge for us,” Garrow said. “Trenton did a hell of a job not allowing second and third opportunities.

“We got the first opportunity, but they’re a big, strong team and they really sag down low and protect the net so there weren’t a lot of rebounds available and the rebounds that were there were right next to (Cormier).”

Following the game, Marquette players acknowledged they had an initial speed advantage that may have surprised their opponent.

“I think we were faster and came in and showed them what we had,” O’Connor said. “The speed that we had was impressive in the first, and then it just dipped away and I think that hurt us.”

“We’ve stressed all year we want to dictate the play and I thought we dictated the play for two periods,” Garrow said. “These guys have nothing to be ashamed of when you dictate the play against a big school like that. We held our own. We took their punches and they took ours. I’m proud of these guys.”

At the final horn, Marquette’s shot advantage dwindled to 37-33. Senior goalie Tyler Bergwall played all 51 minutes and finished with 29 saves.

The Redmen, who end their season at 21-6-2 after a 2-3-1 start, made their first semifinal appearance since 2009.

“This is huge for us,” Garrow said. “At the beginning of the year, we weren’t sure really what we had, because we lost 11 seniors last year. I think these guys not only overachieved, I think they proved to people what hard work does.

“For us to get here means a lot to the program, means a lot to the school and it means lot to the city of Marquette.”

Now, back to that bus ride.

“It’s about eight hours,” Redmen senior forward Nick Leafers said. “We’re all very close and a good group of friends.

“The Redmen haven’t been to the final four since 2009 and I think losing a good group of seniors last year and coming in this year and working hard and getting down here says a lot about us.”