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Liggett upsets Cranbrook, wins state championship

Liggett players celebrate seconds after beating Cranbrook-Kingswood in the Michigan Metro Girls High School Hockey League Division 1 state championship game. photo by John McTaggart.

March 13, 2014
Host University Liggett girls' hockey team overcame a two-goal third period deficit to pull off a stunning 4-3 overtime upset win over defending state champ Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood in the Michigan Metro Girls High School Hockey League Division 1 state championship game last weekend.

Junior Jenalyn Pangborn scooped up a loose puck and buried it in the back of the net to score the winning goal just 1:33 into overtime.

"I saw the puck at my teammate's feet and went for it," Pangborn said. "I saw the puck go into the net and couldn't believe we just won the state championship. This is something I will always remember and we did it as a team."

"If anybody could beat a great Cranbrook team, we could do it because we play as a team," Liggett head coach Cassie Jaeckle said. "We did it before (making a comeback) and we would have to do it again to win this game.

"I knew we could play better and the girls did a great job in the third period and overtime. They still had a lot of energy and it paid off. This is an amazing feeling and something we have strived for when I came here as head coach three years ago."

Pangborn's shot which eluded Cranes senior goalie Annie Chen and capped off a mad scramble in front of the net. Senior Hannah Hodges had a golden chance to score, but Chen saved her shot.

Cranbrook-Kingswood had a couple of shots on Liggett sophomore goalie Olivia Portillo to open the overtime, but the Knights carried the puck down ice and sent several shots at Chen.

She made the first few saves, but couldn't see the loose puck. Fortunate for the Knights, Pangborn had the puck in her sights, skated into the zone, grabbed the puck and poked it to the back of the net.

The official pointed at the puck, signaling it's a good goal, and the Knights began the celebration in front of standing-room only crowd at McCann Ice Arena. Liggett won each of its three playoff games by one goal and two of the three in overtime.

The Cranes, the No. 1 seed with a 19-1-1 record entering the game, led 1-0 with a power-play goal at the 3:08 mark of the first period.

They made it 2-0 with another power-play goal at the 8:11 mark of the second period, but the Knights cut the deficit to 2-1, scoring a power-play goal at the 7:35 mark when sophomore Allison Stapleton tallied, assisted by Pangborn.

The Cranes scored, what seemed to be an insurance goal, with only 42.8 seconds left in the second stanza. The power-play goal, their third of the game, made it a 3-1 game and the Cranes had total control of the championship game.

The Knights gained more momentum in the third period and had more energy compared to the tiring Cranbrook players. Cranbrook head coach Terry Brooks had his best three forwards on the ice all the time and they looked to tire in the second half of the third period.

Every time either sophomore Lucy DeClerk, the league's leading scorer; junior Lucy Dembeck or senior Leah Israel would get possession of the puck, they would try to go end-to-end and not set up any type of play. These solo acts played right into Liggett's hands.

The home team drew within a goal at 3-2 when senior Danielle Lorant scored at the 9:57 mark and senior Ania Dow faked out Chen on a break-away, scoring at the 3:14 mark to tie the game 3-3.

Both goalies made big saves down the stretch to send the game to overtime.

Pangborn's heroics capped the comeback and won Liggett its first girls' state championship.

Liggett ended its best-ever season 21-4 overall.

Liggett advanced to its first state championship game after a fingernail biting 2-1 win over Ann Arbor Pioneer in the semifinals.

Cranbrook-Kingswood earned its finals berth with a 5-3 win over Port Huron in the first semifinal, setting the stage for another tight battle between Liggett and Pioneer.

Liggett defeated Pioneer by a goal during the two regular season games, winning 2-1 on the road and 3-2 in overtime on home ice.

This semifinal proved to beat just as exciting as a packed house watched a great hockey game.

The Knights scored at the 2:17 mark of the first period when Pangborn tallied, with senior Hannah Hodges drawing the lone assist.

Later in the second period, Lorant scored a short-handed goal, with sophomore Molly Murphy netting an assist.

Pioneer came back and made it a game, scoring its short-handed goal with only 43 seconds left in the second period as senior Mercedes Reyes lit the lamp.

Pioneer had all the momentum in the third period, including enjoying its second 5-on-3 advantage midway through the final stanza.

However, Portillo made a couple of solid saves and the defense did the rest, keeping Pioneer off the board and keep it a 2-1 game.

Portillo made the save of the game midway through the third period, stopping the puck with a skate save when a Pioneer forward was wide open on the right side of the net. It looked to be a sure game-tying goal, but somehow Portillo quickly moved to her left and made the kick save to preserve the one-goal advantage.

Pioneer had two chances in the final 10 seconds, but both times the Knights' defense was able to gather the puck and send it down the ice as the final horn sounded.

This was jubilation and the first time in Liggett history it made the state championship game.

"Special teams was the key tonight and our girls did a great on the penalty kill for a second straight game," Jaeckle said. "The girls killed off not one, but two 5-on-3 chances and they believed in each other to beat a good Ann Arbor team.

"This is a true "team," and they realize it takes an entire team to win championships."

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