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PLYMOUTH — Late-game pressure had become a staple of these playoffs, a defining calling card for a team that caught fire when the spotlight was the brightest.
For two weeks, the Farmington High hockey team had found ways to, more than anything else, survive.
If it wasn’t rough, it wasn’t right.
But this was something else, an opportunity the program had never known on a stage the Falcons had never ventured.
And in the end, pressure gave way to elation.
An underdog most of the journey, Farmington now sits as the top dog in Division 3, with the trophy to prove it.
“It’s such a relief, such joy right now,” Farmington coach Bill Newton said moments after Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Sault Ste. Marie in the D-3 state championship at Compuware Arena. “I’m so happy for our kids and our players. To accomplish something like this is pretty special.”
In five playoff games entering the final, the Falcons had scored first every time.
Going six for six would take all of 38 seconds against the Blue Devils.
Jason Petras scored his first of two, first-period goals before most of the 2,000 or so fans inside Compuware had time to find their seats.
A sophomore who lost his mother a month ago to colon cancer, Petras had become the inspiration for Farmington, their calming influence whose personal struggles and strengths seemed to put the ups and downs of hockey into perspective.
Roughly 13 minutes after his first goal, Petras notched his second, giving the Falcons a 2-0 lead late in the first.
“We knew we had to get off to a good start,” Petras said. “When you get pucks to the net, good things happen.”
“For us, scoring first is huge,” Newton added. “We aren’t a team that scores a ton, and with (goalie John Lethemon) in there, we’re much better playing with the lead.
The two-goal advantage was all Lethemon would need.
The senior, who is sure to be in the running for Mr. Hockey votes after his playoff performance, was brilliant yet again.
His 59-save game in the quarterfinal helped the Falcons upset Cranbrook.
His 34 saves Friday in the semifinal earned the Falcons their first appear in a championship game.
And on Saturday, he was beat just once, 18 seconds into the second period.
He finished the game with 29 saves, the loudest roar during the postgame presentation, and if there was a playoff MVP, the award would have been his.
“It’s a great feeling,” Lethemon said of the state title and the fan support. His name was chanted most of the game, and a chorus of “MVP” chants broke out afterward. “But you can’t call me the MVP, because all these guys have been great.”
As for Petras, who also scored the game-winning goal in Friday’s 2-1 victory against Grand Rapids Catholic Central, the state title was a dedication to his mother.
“She was my No. 1 fan,” he said with a smile. “I know she’s watching over me. I know she had something to do with this.”
Farmington, which last reached Compuware in 2008 and lost in the D-2 semifinal, ends the year 21-10-0.
Sault Ste. Marie, also the 2013 runner-up in D-3, closes the season 25-3-2.