Published March 7, 2014
Farmington High hockey in its first state title ever
By Mike Moore firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Mike on Twitter.
PLYMOUTH — From start to finish, they chanted his name.
A raucous crowd roaring for every save.
And they had plenty to cheer about.
Just two days after making 59 saves to eliminate Cranbrook, Farmington High goaltender John Lethemon was back at it Friday afternoon in the Division 3 state semifinal against Grand Rapids Catholic Central, turning away 34 shots as the Falcons held on for a 2-1 victory and a spot in the finals for the first time in program history.
“He’s incredible,” Farmington coach Bill Newton said of Lethemon. “If he’s not Mr. Hockey ... I can’t say enough about him. He’s as good a kid as he is player.”
It was his play Friday that made the difference.
The Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but then seemed to play on their heels the rest of the game as GRCC found its legs and came to life.
The Cougars pulled within one 6:36 into the third period on a short-handed goal, and then peppered Lethemon with pucks until the final buzzer.
The “Johnny, Johnny” chants only grew louder after the game ended.
“It’s huge,” Lethemon said of playing for a state title, deflecting all attention geared toward him. “It’s a first for our program. It’s awesome.”
Farmington, which upset Cranbrook 3-2 Wednesday night in the quarterfinals, took the early lead on a Cam Noseworthy goal 5:28 into the first period.
In five playoff games so far, Farmington has scored first in each one.
Jason Petras made it 2-0 roughly five minutes later.
“We knew a good start would be crucial for us,” Newton said. “(GRCC) found their legs as the game went on, but we were able to hold on.”
Catholic Central was slow to start, and it may have had to do with its previous two games.
On Wednesday night, the Cougars needed six overtimes to eliminate Flint Powers Catholic 2-1 in a quarterfinal, four days after needing two overtimes to win a regional title against Forest Hills Central 4-3.
“We had a slow start,” GRCC coach Mike Slobodnik said simply. “We didn’t play our game in the first 10 minutes. … Maybe the overtimes had something to do with it, but these are (young) kids. I felt as the game went on we got better. Quite frankly, we deserved a better fate.”
There was also a bit of history in the game.
Shortly after GRCC got on the board in the third, Farmington’s Nick Kozoro appeared to have notched a power-play tally.
The officials ruled the goal good, but later reviewed it with instant replay and determined the puck never crossed the line.
John Johnson, the MHSAA communications director, said he believes it’s the first time instant replay has been used to reverse a call on the ice.
“They told me it hit the crossbar and dropped straight down,” Newton said of the on-ice officials. “Hopefully someone saw it. I’m just glad we won and it didn’t become a controversy.”
With the game officially back to a 2-1 score, GRCC flooded the Farmington zone with pressure, and Lethemon with shots in the final nine minutes, all of which he turned away.
“He’s a very good goaltender,” Slobodnik said.
Farmington, now 20-10-0, moves on to Saturday’s 2 p.m. final to take on a 25-2-2 Sault Ste. Marie team that beat Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 6-2 in the other semifinal.
The Blue Devils lost to Cranbrook in last year’s state final.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central closes the year 18-5-6.