Mercy's miracle finish nets state title

Author: 
Marty Budner

Hannah Roegner slaps in game winner on the power play

Call it the Mercy miracle.

The Farmington Hills Our Lady of Mercy hockey team defended its Division 1 state championship in dramatic fashion Saturday at the Novi Ice Arena.

The Marlins trailed rival Livonia Ladywood 2-0 with less than three minutes remaining in regulation time. Then, not to be denied, Mercy mustered a most improbable rally for an amazing 3-2 victory.

The game-winning goal was slapped home top-shelf by senior Hannah Roegner on a power play 1:30 into the overtime.

The victory lifted Mercy to its third consecutive Michigan Metro Girls High School Hockey League state championship. The Marlins soared to the Division 2 crown in 2015 and captured the D-1 titles each of the past two seasons by one goal. Last year, Mercy defeated Grosse Pointe South in the title game, 3-2, in regulation time.

It marked Mercy's first win over Ladywood this year in three games.

The Blazers won the first two meetings, taking the Catholic League championship game (2-1) and their regular-season encounter (5-4). It turned out the Marlins got the best of the Blazers in the most important game of all.

"We had not beaten Ladywood all year," said Mercy's first-year head coach Dave Roegner. "Ladywood had a tremendous team and a tremendous season. We just felt very fortunate to come out on the top end of the game that mattered the most.

"We were very evenly matched all the way around as you could tell by the scores of the games," he said. "And, the last one was in overtime."

Quick overtime goal

Ladywood, whose only loss this year was to Cranbrook Kingswood, began the title game with single tallies in each of the first two periods to take its 2-0 lead. It appeared as if the Blazers were en route to their first ever MMGHSHL state title before things unraveled.

Sophomore Libby Bartels scored for Mercy to cut Ladywood's lead in half. Then, with just 90 seconds left in regulation, Bartels fired in a wrister that sent the thrilling battle into overtime.

However, to add to the suspense, Hannah Roegner was assessed a penalty at the 1:20 mark of the final period. The Marlins fought that off and, with five seconds left, Ladywood was called for a penalty.

The teams played 46 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey in the extra session, then Mercy went on the power play which eventually led to Roegner's climatic game-winning goal from the slot which was assisted by Bartels.

"We were down 2-0, but I thought it was a very even game," Roegner said. "I thought territorially we had a little bit of an advantage, but their goalie was playing very good. She was making some some great stops.

"But, once we got the first goal all the momentum shifted. We just kept pumping our girls up, telling the girls that they are still in this game. We were just ready to pull the goalie when I heard screaming and I looked up and goal number two was in the net.

"In the overtime, Libby Bartels jumped on the ice after my daughter (Hannah) got out of the penalty box. Libby just went flying into the Ladywood zone, challenged the defenseman, was able to get the puck away from her and was taking it around the side and Hannah was just flying into the slot. Libby laid it right in there for her and Hannah just buried it.

"It was pandemonium after that," he said. "It was incredible. The girls just went nuts after that puck went in."

An amazing season

The state title capped an amazing season for the Marlins, a squad that consisted of eight seniors who finished with a 17-4 overall record. They sported an 11-2 league record for third place behind Ladywood (13-0) and Grosse Pointe South (12-1), and were dominant offensively having outscored their opponents by a whopping 122-53 margin.

The team was led offensively all season by Bartels (33 points), Hannah Roegner, senior Mary Reeber and freshman Sydney Takla (28 points each) and juniors Cara Hodgins, Makena Duval and Maddie Rennie and senior Mila Fons (21 points each). Freshman Zabrina LeVassuer, in just her second year as a goalie, was Mercy's starting netminder.

Mercy's other seniors were Natalie Masopust, Emily McCann, Amelia Bartels, Natalie Vaitas and Sophie VanAcker. Reeber and VanAcker, a returning first-team All-Stater who scored the game-winning goal in last year's state title game, missed this year's championship game due to injury.

Mercy won three straight games in the playoffs, kicking the tournament off with a 4-2 victory over the combined team from Plymouth-Canton-Salem. The Marlins then edged out perennial league power Grosse Pointe South in the semifinal game, 2-1, before meeting up with Ladywood for the third time in the state championship game.

"I absolutely thought this team was capable on winning the state championship again this year," Roegner said. "The biggest reason was because we had eight seniors. We had three strong lines and we ran three lines all year long. We also had an excellent group of underclassmen.

"We knew both South and Ladywood would be extremely tough opponents and they proved to be. Including us, it was very close between all three teams this year. The whole league, though, has really improved this year and the overall quality of the league is much better.

"I think that we have established ourselves as a program now," he said. "I'm hoping we can get four or five new girls to break in next year. Girls who are not only looking for the great education that Mercy provides, but girls who also have some experience playing hockey too. It will be interesting to see."