Unbeatable Goalie, Unrelenting Effort Earn Dow Memorable 1st Title

March 12, 2022

PLYMOUTH — When Collin Lemanski plays the way he did on the biggest of stages, his hockey coach is well within his rights to promote him to the fullest.

While identifying his players in a postgame press conference, Midland Dow coach Dick Blasy introduced the player seated to his left in full goaltending equipment as “best goalie in the state, Collin Lemanski.”

Care to elaborate?

“You can’t do this without goaltending,” Blasy said after Dow won its first MHSAA hockey championship with a 2-0 victory over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the Division 3 Final on Saturday at USA Hockey Arena.

“How many shots did they have today? 32? How many goals did they get? I think that speaks for itself. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s brought it. I don’t think it takes a rocket hockey fan to know they took it to us more than we took it to them.”

It was the seventh shutout of the season for Lemanski, who finished with an 18-3-3 record, a 1.29 goals against average and a .950 save percentage.

“I think it’s less about the shutout and more about the team just winning it, our first win,” Lemanski said. “It was great.”

Lemanski said he didn’t treat the championship game any differently than another game, going through his usual pregame routine.

One of the staples of his pregame ritual is this: “Just don’t talk to me,” he said.

Midland Dow hockeyWith Lemanski putting up an impenetrable barrier in front of the Dow net, the Chargers hung around throughout the game until they got the break they needed.

Caden Chritz, who was robbed earlier in the period, broke to the net and took a shot that was stopped by Eaglets goalie Aidan Klingbeil. Nolan Sanders pounced on the rebound to score with 2:29 left in the third period.

“We knew we were gonna get our chances,” Sanders said. “They had their chances. My line took it into the zone, put it on net, got it in front and just tapped it home.”

With so little time on the clock, the Chargers couldn’t get caught up in thinking they had just won the championship.

“We’ve got to keep our composure, got to stay simple until the final buzzer,” Sanders said. “Just let things roll out.”

Dow couldn’t breathe easily until Ryan Pomranky banked a pool shot from his own end off the left boards and into an empty net with 17.7 seconds remaining.

Dow is the first of Midland’s two hockey teams to win an MHSAA championship. Midland High was a runner-up in 1994, 2008 and 2010. Dow reached the Semifinals three times without getting to the championship game, including in 2020 when MHSAA tournaments were shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It just doesn’t seem real, to be honest with you,” Blasy said. “I checked the scoreboard about 50 times; it’s still there. It’s still 2-0. It’s unbelievable, but it’s always about the boys. That’s all I really truly care about is the fact that they did this. Whether we won or we lost, it doesn’t really change things. I would’ve been just as proud of these boys if we would’ve come out on the other end, because they just worked so hard.”

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s reached the championship game by running a gauntlet that included defeating 2021 Division 3 champion Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in the Regional Final and second-ranked Warren De La Salle Collegiate in overtime in Friday’s Semifinal.

The Eaglets were playing in Division 3 for the first time since winning that division in 2005. They reached three Division 1 Finals, winning two, before choosing to make the switch.

“We made the decision to change, just because we felt that Division 3 was probably the strongest route,” St. Mary’s coach Brian Klanow said. “Certainly, we’re not a team that runs away or hides from competition; we encourage it. It just makes us better for this time of year. Division 3 this year, we think it’s the deepest division.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Midland Dow’s Nolan Sanders celebrates after sending a rebound into the net for what would be the game-winning goal of the Division 3 Final. (Middle) Sanders’ chip in made it just over an outstretched goalie’s glove. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)