HOCKEY MAR 11, 6:28pm | Jeff Dullack
Plymouth – Before his first season as head coach at Warren De La Salle, Craig Staskowski, who came to the Pilots after five seasons with Rochester United, said that he felt he had a team that strived for the same type of recent success that De La Salle had in other sports, as the Pilots have claimed state titles in baseball and football in recent years.
And on Saturday afternoon, as the Pilots appeared in their first ever hockey state championship game, they wasted little time finding success of their own.
De La Salle netted three goals in the first eight minutes of the Division 3 final against Calumet to take a 4-1 lead after one period as the Pilots would go on for a 6-3 win and their first title.
“There were maybe six or seven guys at my first meeting at Mount Clemens in the Coaches room, we were sitting around and just talking and it was almost just a look in the guys’ eyes and there was just a hunger,” Staskowski recalled. “They wanted something more, they wanted De La Salle Hockey to be on a state level or on the same playing field as the baseball program or the football program or the basketball program and all of the other programs that have had so much success over the years at De La Salle. We came in as coaches from day one, that was what we wanted to do, we wanted to come here and we wanted to win championships.”
After the Pilots would jump out to an early 3-0 lead just past the halfway point of the first period with the help of two goals from senior Tommy Hernandez and another from Austin Scott, De La Salle would add to its lead as James Corbett found the back of the net to make it 4-0 with less than three minutes left in the period.
Calumet would respond shortly after on a goal by Brent Loukus and the Copper Kings would cut the deficit to just two in the later stages of the second period on an Izaak Avery goal that ricochetedoff the boards and went off the back of the De La Salle goaltender and into the net to make it 4-2.
But just before the end of the period, Hernandez would net his third goal of the game, giving the senior the hat trick and fourth goal of the weekend to put the Pilots on top, 5-2 after two periods.
“I thought about how this could be my last game and I just wanted to give it my all,” Hernandez said. “The puck just happened to be in my favor today and it just went in for me.”
Calumet coach Dan Giachino said that while he felt his team played well throughout the second period, De La Salle’s goal right before the end of the second period took some of the momentum away from his team.
“I felt like we were gaining momentum throughout that second period, we had a lot of scoring chances,” he said. “I thought we took it to them pretty well and we mentioned, us coaches, before the period, we needed a cheap one and we got one and that kind of sparked us going a little bit more. But we took a penalty and they’re a good team and they have some very good players and they were able to take advantage and that was kind of the needle in the balloon.”
Calumet would again cut the deficit back down to just two goals in the third period on a goal from Ed Beiring with about seven minutes left, but an empty net goal for De La Salle coming from Gregory Pine sealed the win for the Pilots, making it 6-3.
Staskowski noted that between the offseason work his team put in before the season, to the tough regular season schedule his team had, everything lined up for the Pilots to be able to make a successful postseason run.
“Everything hasn’t hit yet, but it’s amazing,” he said. “These guys are absolutely amazing with the work that they’ve put in, the offseason stuff, we played a really tough schedule over the summer and in the fall to prepare us for the season. We play in the MIHL, we play a very tough non-league schedule. Everything is set up to be successful here for the playoffs.”