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CC Celebrates 5-Peat Hockey State Championships

 

This past weekend, the MHSAA Division 1 Frozen Four took place at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. The two semi-final matches were #1 Detroit Catholic Central versus #4 Muskegon Reeths-Puffer and #2 Brighton versus #3 Clarkston.  

On Friday, March 8th at 5PM, the first state semi-final match took place between Detroit Catholic Central and Muskegon Reeths-Puffer. The Shamrocks came out swinging and took care of business in two periods. 

Goals by Andrew Atala, Tyler O’Brien (2), Colin Dell, Sam Masek, Nolan Galda, Cael Rogowski, and Jackson Walsh flew into the net. The final score was an 8-0 mercy over Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, and the Shamrocks booked their ticket to the MHSAA Division 1 State Championship. 

Later that night, the Shamrocks learned they would play the Brighton Bulldogs, who earned their spot in the State Finals by securing a 4-3 (OT) victory over Clarkston. This would be a repeat of the Finals from 2022 and 2023, both of which were claimed by the Shamrocks. 

The State Championship game was played on Saturday, March 9th with a 7PM start time at USA Hockey in a packed venue, standing room only. You could tell the game would be chippy from puck drop, and the Brighton Bulldogs came out swinging early on. 

The Shamrocks had a slow start. Senior Goalie Mathieu Chernauckas came up with a few big saves, including a shot that rang off the crossbar. The Shamrocks weathered the storm and the score remained 0-0. 

Finally, the Shamrocks got going and started to fly down the ice. The second half of the first period was spent in the Bulldog’s defensive zone. A shot from Senior Captain Joe Curtin put the Shamrocks up 1-0 with 5:55 left in the first period. 

The Shamrocks wouldn’t find their security goal until the third period, when Cael Rogowski had an initial shot blocked but continued and scored the rebound with 13:45 remaining. From there, Catholic Central practiced some game management and let the clock wind down. 

The final score of 2-0 secured yet another shutout for Chernauckas, who won the MHSAA Ron Baum Division 1 tournament MVP with back-to-back shutouts to claim the State Title. 

Championships Recognized During School-Wide Assembly

On Monday, March 11, Catholic Central held a pep assembly to celebrate the hockey team’s five-peat State Championship performance. 

“To Brighton’s credit, we knew they were going to come out and make their push early on. We had confidence in our depth, and as the game wore on, we slowly took over,” stated Assistant Hockey Coach, Michael Oakleaf ’05.  

Oakleaf credits the seniors for a victorious game and season, stating, “This was an incredible group of seniors. Too often, people want to talk about other team’s top players in the senior class, forgetting how strong ours was. [During Saturday’s game], Senior Goalie Matthieu Chernauckas came up big when we needed him, which kept us in it.” 

When asked about his team’s five-peat performance, Head Hockey Coach Brandon Kaleniecki ’00 stated, "Honestly, I haven't spent much time thinking about the five state championships in a row. Obviously as a program, we take great pride in the run of state championships as it does sound great when you hear it, but I'm just trying to enjoy this season for what this current team accomplished. This team and seniors deserve to have their moment for winning and in time I'll be able to reflect on all of that, but right now we are just trying to enjoy this moment and this title with our current group of guys."

Overall, the hockey program just secured their 22nd State Championship and the team was undefeated in the state for the second year in a row. 

During the regular season, the hockey team beat the State Champions of Ohio and Illinois, who went on to win the playoff tournaments in their respective states. Head Coach Brandon Kalenecki was also named this year’s D1 Hockey Coach of the Year. 

"I know a lot of former guys are proud of the run we have been on. I have heard from a lot of them and know they enjoy seeing the team continue to succeed," stated Coach Kaleniecki. 

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