By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — MIDLAND — Traverse City West’s “great ride” ended Wednesday night in Midland, but coach Jason Carmien hopes it’s the start of even bigger things.
Bloomfield Hills’ Ben Kileen’s perfect shot sailed into the net with exactly 4:00 left in the second overtime to the Black Hawks a 1-0 Division 1 state semifinal victory and send them into Saturday’s championship game against Ann Arbor Skyline.
“It’s been a good run,” Carmien said. “We started slow. This team came back from not scoring a goal — much less winning — in the first four games. They found their confidence. And they put hope back in our program that this can happen. This hasn’t happened in awhile. This was a team. It wasn’t any individuals.”
It was the closest the Titans have come to the state title since Casey Townsend led the 2006 squad to the Division 1 crown.
This group of 12 seniors has won three Big North Conference titles in addition to this year’s district and regional championships. Carmien also noted that 17 of the team’s 20 players have been selected to the all-state academic team.
“We gave a good account of ourselves,” Carmien said. “I’m really proud of the guys. If things would have gone our way early in the game, maybe we could have caught a goal. I thought that was really the difference. Late, they carried the play. We were able to counter and Christien (Geiger) hit the post. ... Not getting a goal (in the first 20 minutes) was probably the difference in the game.”
West came out swinging, controlling the game’s first 20-25 minutes, but unable to put one in the net.
The Black Hawks had three corners in the first 12 minutes for about their only opportunities. The third was snagged in mid-air by goaltender Justin Kraft to snuff out the scoring opportunity.
But, ultimately, neither team was able to score in regulation and the contest went to overtime.
Geiger nearly put the Titians up with 7:08 to go in the second extra session, with his blast beating Bloomfield Hill netminder Griffin Hamel, but catching the right goal post and bouncing out.
Kileen — a rangy midfielder who has done much of the Black Hawks’ scoring in the post-season — scored the game’s only goal three minutes later with a perfectly-placed shot off a long free kick that snuck in off the bottom of the crossbar. It was a goal that no goalie — even as well as Kraft was playing — could have stopped.
“Absolutely not,” Carmien said. “That was a well-taken goal. They deserved it. They had done enough to score. I thought maybe we had done enough later on.
“The kid stayed composed, and hit it well. Give credit to them. It was an even match. They maybe carried it a bit more, but we had our pockets of play. You look back to that first 20 minutes and think we could have capitalized on our momentum and when we didn’t, we left it in the balance — and it ended up not going our way.”
Kraft robbed Ethan Garcia — the Hawks’ other primary scorer this postseason — with 2:30 to keep West within a goal.
With 2:09 remaining, Alex Patten’s free kick from 25 yards out hit the crossbar, and Patten stood in disbelief with his hands on his head as the ball deflected out.
“He took it very well,” Carmien said. “It was a great shot. We were inches away from taking the lead with Christien with (seven) minutes to go. And obviously, Alex tying it up. Those are things that have gone our way on this run, and when it doesn’t work out, you’re disappointed. But looking back, what a great ride and what a good story for these kids to have as they move forward.”
The Titans end the season with a 16-7-3 record after starting 0-4.
“Everyone played very well,” Carmien said. “You can walk off the field very proud. It’s not like we came out and the nerves got the best of us. We handled the game. We did what we needed to do. We defended. We were opportunistic, but we just couldn’t capitalize.”
The teams were tied 0-0 at halftime, with West controlling much of the half, but with Bloomfield Hills coming on in the final 15 minutes. Even when the Black Hawks controlled the play, West’s back line stymied them and held Bloomfield to low-percentage shots. And then ones that did get though, Kraft was there to stop.
Early on, West’s Nico Ragel came close to scoring twice — once on a blast that went through the uprights directly above the goal in the 13th minute and another turnaround volley that hit the bar in the 15th.
Geiger and Hamel collided in mid-air in the 18th minute, cracking the plastic mask that Hamel wears to protect a nose injury.
Bloomfield Hills (16-2-5) will play in the title contest Saturday at Troy Athens against Ann Arbor Skyline, which won the other semifinal 2-1 over Plymouth Salem.
“Hopefully, we’ll be back again,” Carmien said. “We’ve got a good young nucleus coming back. I know they’ll work hard in the off-season and the club season and maybe we can make good memories again.”