Instead of folding against the tradition-rich Mona Shores Sailors, the Bucs provided one last jolt of excitement in a furious finish.
The Bucs scored two goals with under five minutes remaining, but their chance of an equalizer with an empty net behind them was denied by the Sailors in an exciting 4-3 final.
“We battled back hard. I’m proud of the guys,” said Grand Haven senior defenseman Will VerDuin, a four-year varsity player and team captain. “We did everything we could. It just wasn’t our night.”
Mona Shores advances to Saturday’s regional final at Patterson Ice Arena in Grand Rapids to face either Portage Central or Forest Hills Eastern while Grand Haven’s season ends with a 17-7-2 mark.
Like its past playoff failures against the Sailors, Grand Haven got off to a slow start, allowing a Shores’ goal from junior Reed Hrynewich a little more than a minute into the contest. Freshman Nathan O’Neill’s power play score 10 minutes later pushed the Sailors’ advantage to 2-0 and put Grand Haven into a position where it didn’t want to be — fighting from behind.
“I didn’t think we played bad in that first period. We played OK in all three periods,” said Grand Haven coach Dan Gadbois. “The difference was that goal right off the bat. We gotta get those. That’s been our Achilles’ heel all season. That puts the pressure on you right away.
“The guys never quit, though,” he added. “They could have blown us out of the rink right away, but they didn’t. I told the guys after the first and second periods that we were in good shape. Anything can happen in high school hockey with 2-3 goals.”
To read more of this story, see today's print E-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.