HAZEL PARK, Mich. - The tone around the locker room wasn't necessarily one of defeat following De La Salle Collegiate's 4-3 loss to the University of Detroit Jesuit Wednesday afternoon in the Catholic League quarterfinals at Viking Arena in Hazel Park.
In fact, it was one of renewed optimism for hockey head coach Nick Badder and his team.
"Today, they acted like they wanted to be here," said Badder, whose team was coming off a pair of tough losses prior to the Thanksgiving break. "That's the biggest thing. I just felt like our game wasn't there the past couple times out. Even in practices, I'd been a little disappointed. But I'm proud of them for not giving up (today)."
Jesuit - ranked No. 3 in Division 3 - broke open a scoreless game with two quick goals late in the first period. The first was scored on the power play, as junior Jimmy Gormley scored off a rebound of senior Brendan Zemke's shot to make it 1-0. The Cubs struck again just 55 seconds later on a pretty pass from junior Max Marquette to junior Xavier Villaire, who was waiting in the slot.
The Pilots could have folded. But they didn't.
De La Salle would get right back into the game in the second, as sophomore defenseman Jack Rivera scored off a wrist shot to cut the Cubs' lead in half, less than seven minutes in. The goal seemed to rejuvenate the team, which had been close to putting things together leading up to Rivera's goal.
Less than a minute later, senior forward Thomas Bechtell evened things up - off a pass from freshman Johnathan Miller.
"We dominated that second period," said Badder, whose team did surrender a goal and trailed 3-2 at the end of two. "If we'd have had an ounce of "good" hands, we'd have had five goals there. We had a few pucks bounce over our sticks. But I was very encouraged by our effort today."
The two teams would each score a goal in the third, as Gormley scored his second power play goal of the game to give the Cubs a 4-2 cushion with 8:43 left in the game.
De La Salle would again trim the lead to one on an unassisted goal by senior Matthew Rodgers with 6:41 to play. But that's as close as the Pilots (1-3 overall) would get.
"(Jesuit), that was a good team we played," Badder said. "(Coach) Rick Bennetts has a good team every year. They compete. And this big ice is such an advantage for them because they're used to it.
"This was (our) best game of the year. In our first win of the year (against Lake Orion), the bounces were just there for us. Today, we just worked hard and created our bounces. It was nice for the boys in the locker room to believe in what I'm saying. Today's game did that."
Junior Connor Pullen made 25 saves in goal for De La Salle, which will return to Hazel Park Thursday afternoon to face Dearborn Divine Child.