Second Half reports
PLYMOUTH — Nobody could have known it at the time, but Houghton’s hockey team reached its quota of goals Saturday after only 56 seconds of play.
Sam Evola of Detroit Country Day might give up one goal, but that’s going to be it when he plays at USA Hockey Arena.
Evola closed the door the rest of the way, backstopping the Yellowjackets to their second straight MHSAA Division 3 championship with a 4-1 victory over Houghton.
Named the state’s Mr. Hockey as a junior last season, Evola is one of the most clutch high school goaltenders to come out of Michigan.
When the pressure is at its greatest, Evola has been at his best, stopping 91 of 95 shots for a .958 save percentage in four Semifinal and championship games the last two seasons in Plymouth. He gave up only one goal in each of the four games.
Over 11 games during the two postseason runs, he gave up only nine goals.
So, it doesn’t matter when the goals have come – there usually isn’t going to be another one against Evola.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but you’ve got to stay focused and keep your eye on the puck and keep your head in the game,” Evola said. “You can’t get distracted by what’s on the outside. You’ve got to keep your focus on what’s inside the rink.”
Evola finished with 25 saves after allowing a goal by Seth Francois 56 seconds into the game.
“One of my mottos is you shouldn’t give up a goal in the first minute or last minute of a period,” Evola said. “I didn’t do that. You’ve got to learn from your mistake, correct it and just keep it up. You can’t keep thinking about that goal. It’s going to egg on you and make you worse; you’ve got to bounce back.”
Country Day (24-4-2) has won back-to-back MHSAA championships after ending a 37-year drought last season. After winning only one Regional in 26 years, the Yellowjackets have become a force in Division 3, winning four straight Regionals.
To hear eighth-year coach Frank Novock describe the evolution of his program, the current players are the beneficiaries of what was built by players from his earlier teams.
“The guys who came before these guys, the captains, we didn’t have the greatest win-loss records, but the bar was set to a high standard,” Novock said. “It’s on cruise control with the leaders and seniors I have, and the same thing with the years past. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, but when you put that sweater on here, you’re going to have to be part of it or you’re going to be gone. These guys have continued to carry the torch. I can’t thank the guys enough that came before to set the example. We’re building in the right direction.”
The Yellowjackets regrouped after Houghton took its quick lead, tying the game 1-1 on a goal by Lucas Krol with 1:37 left in the opening period.
Dallas Hood scored what proved to be the winning goal, skating left to right across the slot and putting a shot inside the far post with 1:20 left in the second period to make it a 2-1 game.
The Gremlins (23-6-1) had a five-on-three power play for the first 1 minute, 26 seconds of the third period. Not only did they fail to capitalize on the two-man advantage, but they allowed a goal at the 2:01 mark to Mickey VanAntwerp.
“The biggest turning point in the game was we didn’t score on the five-on-three,” Houghton coach Corey Markham said. “We had a couple good looks and just missed. Very shortly after, they scored to make it 3-1. That was a huge point in the game. We didn’t quite recover and get enough offensive push after that point.”
Krol sent his second goal of the game into an empty net with 52.7 seconds remaining to end the scoring.
Houghton was attempting to win its first MHSAA championship since 1982. The Gremlins have lost four times in the championship game since then.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Houghton senior defenseman Kevin Bostwick said. “Our community is just so special. They’re always behind us. It hurts really bad not to bring this one home to them.”
Houghton goalie Jimmy Pietila made 23 saves.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day players celebrate during Saturday’s Division 3 championship win at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Houghton’s Milo Schaefer (7) and Ty Halonen (10) do their best to lock down Country Day’s Dallas Hood.
Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.
Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.
This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.
Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.
They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.
‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”
It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.
Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.
Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights. They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.
The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.
“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”
Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.
“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.
Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.
Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.
Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.
Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.
The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.
Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.
“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”
Morris echoed Guy.
“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”
The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.
The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.
“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.
“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”
Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.
“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.
“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”
High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.
But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.
“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”
But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.
“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”
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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)