It was a battle of the Knights on Saturday, March 27, as the University Liggett Knights took on the Livonia Knights in the Michigan Girls High School Hockey State Championship at Arctic Edge in Canton. Ultimately, University Liggett outmuscled and outmanned Livonia Unified, winning the game 4-2 and the 2021 State Championship trophy.
Liggett captains Kendall Zinn and Gabrielle Anusbigian spoke on behalf their team and expressed their excitement for having the opportunity to win the Division 2 title freshman year and now the Division 1 title as seniors.
“It feels like we’ve come full circle and I’m excited that we had such a great group this year,” said Anusbigian.
Liggett, which posted an undefeated season, received a bye in the semifinals due to an Ann Arbor Pioneer covid . Livonia made the finals by beating the Mercy Marlins 2-1 in in five overtimes. The two teams met each other in the finals for what would be a very physical game.
“I think early on both teams were gripping their sticks a bit tight and feeling the nerves,” said University Liggett head coach Greg Paddison. “But we told the girls after the first period just to take a deep breath.
Once the girls started to relax and have confidence in their game, that’s when I thought we played our best.”
The scoring started early in the first period with a goal from Liggett’s Morgan Hamilton (assisted by Sophie Ancona). Livonia began to panic, throwing the puck away to their opponents and forcing defenseman Grace McBrien and goaltender Sophie Temkow to make some great defensive plays and saves.
Liggett held the 1-0 lead heading into the second period and scored their second goal at 13:09 from Allyson Doppke (assisted by Kendall Zinn and Giuliana Lufty). Two minutes later, Liggett scored what seemed to be a third goal that was disallowed due to goalie interference. Not taking no for answer, Liggett scored a legitimate goal moments later to extend the score to 3-0. This was Doppke’s second goal of the game (assisted by Natalia Dragovic.)
Down by three goals, the Livonia Knights realized they had everything to lose and they started matching Liggett’s physical play. “I just told them to keep skating, be physical, and don’t be intimidated by them,” said Livonia head coach Janine Martinez. “We needed to get shots, crash the net and keep skating until the whistle blew.”
The team took its coach’s advice as the second period was full of body checks, rough plays, and scuffles that lead to numerous penalties for both teams. At 9:38, Livonia’s Kirsten Martinez soared a goal from the point past Liggett goaltender Brooklyn Peshl to tighten the score to 3-1.
The second period was played evenly with both teams spending equal time in their offensive zones. Livonia creating more scoring opportunities from power plays than its opponent. But it was Liggett that capitalized on a Livonia penalty as Ava Jacob scored with one minute left to make it 4-1.
Not willing to give up scoring chances in the third, Liggett continued to play a physical gam. But a tripping penalty gave Livonia an opportunity to score one final goal from Gina Marzolo (assisted by Martha Blank and Martinez), making the final score 4-2.
“I’m very proud of the girls for making it into program history as the first-ever state finalist,” said Martinez. “Beating Mercy after five overtimes in the semifinals was a huge accomplishment for us, and I’m happy with the 4-2 score today.”
Paddison attributed his team’s win to an edge in experienced. “Most of our girls come from high-level programs,” he said. “We can play a skilled, physical game, and our girls are used to the bumping and the grinding. When teams try to chase a strategy and try and match, that tells me we’ve got them on their heels.”