Trenton advances to the Division 2 semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Livonia Stevenson
Ann Arbor - Transcribed on the ice surface at Yost Ice Arena is legendary Michigan hockey coach and player Red Berenson’s signature signifying the mark he’s left in Ann Arbor.
U-M is now under the watchful eye of longtime assistant Mel Pearson who learned what it means to be a Michigan coach, and to help Michigan regain its place in the college hockey world.
The parallels between U-M and Trenton High are similar.
The last time Trenton played a game in Plymouth, at the state semifinals, the Trojans did so for the final time under legendary coach Mike Turner who retired after the program’s 14th state title. Current coach Chad Clements was there on the bench learning how to be a head coach under Turner’s watchful eye.
Now, after a 3-1 win over Livonia Stevenson on Tuesday night in a Division 2 quarterfinal, Clements is taking Trenton back to a championship stage.
“It’s always special when you get to USA Hockey Arena. It’s exciting for all the kids because none of them have played in that setting. I’m just happy for the kids because they’ve worked so hard to get there,” Clements said.
Trenton (18-8-2) has been waiting for a chance to get on back at rival Stevenson. Since Clements took over the program Stevenson (22-6) has gotten the better of the Trojans.
That energy and fervor were on full display from the opening faceoff, and Trenton stole the momentum midway through the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Junior forward Nik Moody moved the puck through the neutral zone and passed it along the far side boards to senior Patrick Baznor. Baznor centered the puck to junior Sean Stanley who roofed a shot, stick side, to give Trenton a 1-0 lead.
“We just tried to skate with them. (Stevenson) is a very skilled and fast team, but we gave them a different look with our forecheck. We just wanted to bottle them up and make it tough every time they touched the puck,” Clements said.
“Blue Line is a line we formed here in the last two weeks of the season, and they’ve been rolling, and Stanley’s was a big one. It gave our kids confidence knowing that we can skate with them. You’re playing the number one team in the state, and everyone is telling you ‘you’re going to lose’. The odds were against us, and to score first was big.”
Trenton had chances to build off its lead but Mr. Hockey candidate Will Tragge rebounded after a shaky first period. The senior goaltender made countless point-blank saves and kept the Spartans in it well into the second period.
Stevenson senior Brendan Preiss has really come on of late for the Spartans and it was only right he was the one to tie the game.
“I’ve been sick for the longest time throughout the season,” Preiss recalled. “When I came back I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to. But with (Julian) Decina and Kevin (Stefanick) hurt, something inside me wanted to help this team and help them fight back.”
Senior Vinnie Decina controlled the puck from the end line and fired a perfect pass to Preiss in the slot. Preiss then sent a one-timer in to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:09 left in the second.
The game-winning goal came with some controversy, however, as there was a scrum between Decina and a Trenton player in the neutral zone. The play continued as no whistle sounded and Baznor snuck into the offensive zone for a 2-1 lead.
“I picked it up in the neutral zone, and I think everyone was watching what was happening behind the play. I just took the puck wide, and didn’t get anything on it, but it squeaked through. Even though it wasn’t pretty, it still counts,” he said.
Late in the third, junior Nolan Szczepaniak scored an empty net power play goal for a 3-1 lead.
Baznor is one of six seniors on this young Trenton squad. But he and his fellow upperclassmen know the weight the Trenton tradition carries.
“We want to write our own story, but we know the tradition this program carries with us. Us seniors take a lot of pride in it. We took the younger guys under our wing and showed them how to play Trenton hockey. They’ve caught on, and now we can still play for a championship,” he said.
And the Trojans will play once again in Plymouth looking to write their own signature on the Division 2 playoffs.