BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Andy Weidenbach knew his team was in for a challenge.
Sure, his Cranbrook hockey team had won 25 times already this winter.
Yes, the Cranes were ranked No. 1 entering the playoffs and were expected by almost everyone to repeat as state champs in Division 3.
But come postseason time, anything can happen.
So when Cranbrook and Grosse Pointe University Liggett collided this past weekend in a regional final between the past two state champs, the hype was understood.
And the game lived up to it.
“This was a great high school hockey game,” Weidenbach said after his team won 3-0. “Liggett did some things to really mix it up and keep us off balance.”
But the Cranes did enough to find a way to the next round.
The 2013 D-3 champs battled through a scoreless first period, and then started the second with a bang when Chris Brown found the back of the net just 35 seconds into the frame for a 1-0 lead.
Austin Alger made it 2-0 with 9:54 remaining in the third on a perfect pass from Sam Miletic, and then added an empty-net goal with 26.1 seconds to play to officially put things out of reach.
“The second goal was key because it gave us a little cushion,” Weidenbach said. “But the first goal was big, too. It gives you that confidence boost you need in a game like this.”
Brown’s goal was more than enough for Cranrbook goalie Spencer Applebaum, who finished the game with 25 saves.
Cranbrook (26-1-0) is now set to face Farmington High in a quarterfinal showdown at 7:15 p.m. March 5 at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena.
“Whoever we face, we know it’s going to be a good team,” Weidenbach said of the quarterfinal before learning Farmington was the opponent. Farmington (18-10-0) beat Divine Child 3-1 in its regional final. “Both teams are on a nice roll right now. So we’re in for another tough one. We know that.”
Cranbrook, which won last year’s title with a 28-2-1 record, is seeking its ninth state title since 2000.