Unexpected Scorer Ices Unranked Cranes' Record 19th Title Win with OT Goal

March 9, 2024

PLYMOUTH — On one of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood’s least likely championship hockey teams, one of the least likely players was the hero.

Junior defenseman David Schmitt’s fourth goal of the season 3:34 into the third overtime gave the Cranes their 19th MHSAA Finals championship with a 3-2 victory over East Grand Rapids in the Division 3 title game Saturday at USA Hockey Arena.

Schmitt scored from the right point off a faceoff win. It was his second goal of the game and third in two games over the weekend.

“I just went blank,” he said. “Did I do that? It was pretty crazy.”

Prior to the MHSAA Semifinals, Schmitt had only one goal and four assists in 28 games.

The Cranes’ Nick Timko (12) brings the puck up the ice with EGR’s Charlie Hoekstra in pursuit.“Coaches were telling me to get pucks off quick on net and see what’ll happen,” Schmitt said. “I did. I saw a lane, shot it and it went in.

“It’s incredible, but it’s not just me. It’s the team, everybody, the coach, our goalie. Everybody put in equally as much work. I can’t say enough about these guys. It’s an incredible team.”

Cranbrook-Kingswood came into the MHSAA playoffs unranked and completely under the radar, which was understandable given its 11-13-1 regular-season record. And it had been three years since the Cranes’ last Finals championship, their record 18th.

Players and coaches believe the team finally began to gel about a month ago.

“I think it starts at the top with leadership on the team,” Cranes senior Michael Horton said. “I remember coach (John) LaFontaine saying at the beginning of the year and throughout the year (that we’ll struggle) if the leadership on this team cannot come together, because the younger guys will see that and they’ll just be like, ‘Oh, our seniors, our leaders, our whatevers, they don’t trust each other, so how are we supposed to trust them? How are we supposed to trust this process?’ Before every overtime, before every play, we’d go up to each other and say, ‘I trust you. I trust you with everything I have.’”

The championship doesn’t happen without the stellar goaltending of junior Garrett Dudlar, who joined the team around Christmas and made 53 saves Saturday, the second-most in an MHSAA Final. The record of 58 was set by Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Ryan Morley-Stockton in an eight-overtime 1-1 tie with Marquette in the 2008 Division 1 title game.

Cranbrook captains Thomas Kiemel (4), Roman Cicco and Michael Horton (13) celebrate the title.Dudlar stopped the final 39 shots he faced.

“It was definitely different,” Dudlar said of playing triple overtime. “We played a solid game so far, so nothing changed; keep it the same.”

East Grand Rapids senior Glenn Green opened the game by scoring the fastest goal to start a Final, just 12 seconds after the opening faceoff. The previous record of 18 seconds was set by East Kentwood’s Jason Bravata against Trenton in the 1990 Class A Final.

Kyle Braunscheidel responded for the Cranes by the 4:14 mark. The Pioneers took a 2-1 lead into the intermission after James Albers scored on the power play at 15:39 of the first.

Schmitt scored the only goal of the second period just three seconds into a two-man advantage at 8:28.

For the Pioneers, it was the second year in a row they lost in gut-wrenching fashion in the championship game. Last season, they lost 3-2 to Flint Powers Catholic when Mason Czarnecki scored on a breakaway with 4.6 seconds left for the latest winning goal in regulation time in Finals history.

“There’s, what, 142 teams in the state,” East Grand Rapids coach Christopher Newton said. “Not many people are trying to win, trying to get through a season and set high goals. We had that group. It doesn’t come around very much, so it’s really disappointing.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Cranbrook goalie Garrett Dudlar (1) gets in position to stop a shot from East Grand Rapids’ Ian MacKeigan. (Middle) The Cranes’ Nick Timko (12) brings the puck up the ice with EGR’s Charlie Hoekstra in pursuit. (Below) Cranbrook captains Thomas Kiemel (4), Roman Cicco and Michael Horton (13) celebrate the title. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)