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HOCKEY: Cranbrook and Sault Ste. Marie set to play for D3 state title WITH VIDEO

Cranbrook sophomore Sam Miletic lets a shot rip during his team's 7-0 win over Riverview on Friday. The Cranes advanced to play in Saturday's Division 3 championship game, where they'll face Sault Ste Marie. (Special to The Oakland Press/JOSE JUAREZ)

Cranbrook goalie Spencer Applebaum stopped all 12 shots he faced Friday to pick up the shutout in goal. (Special to The Oakland Press/JOSE JUAREZ)

PLYMOUTH — Sault Ste. Marie and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood have both taken the last steps in the quest to reach the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 finals.

After a two-week gauntlet, the Cranes and the Blue Devils are the only ones left standing after beating their semifinal opponents, 7-0 and 4-3 in double overtime, respectfully.

All playoffs long the Cranes have been incredibly hard to slow down. Cranbrook has out scored its opponents 43-2 in its quest to return to the finals for the first time in three years.

That can be seen as a result of playing in one of the toughest conferences the state has to offer.

Throughout the year, the Cranes have seen both Birmingham Brother Rice and Novi Detroit Catholic Central, as well as Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, and handled their business all but once, when Catholic Central got the better of Cranbrook early in the season, 4-2.

“We play what we feel is the best competition in the state,” senior defenseman Jeff Martin said. “We even schedule our games to reflect a playoff schedule.”

The Cranes also get help not only its schedule, but its roster as well.

On Friday, Cranbrook showed off its depth when senior Andrew DeClerck, a player who is more of a glue guy than scorer, recorded a hat trick. Through the year the Alex and Austin Alger have anchored the first line with very much success, recording over 50 goals between the two.

Junior forward Christopher Brown and his linemates Sam Miletic and Michael Romund have added more depth in the second line as well.

“We’ve had a significant contribution from everyone this season,” Cranes head coach Andy Weidenbach said. “That’s what makes this team special.”

The Blue Devils are no strangers to playing in the Finals in their own right, and have played extremely well to get there, outscoring their opponents 28-4.

“There isn’t many times you’re able to say you’re playing No. 1,” Blue Devil head coach John Ferroni said. “It’s a challenge you only get a couple times in your life.

“How many times do you get to play the best? You just have to show up.”

Ferroni is used to coaching skilled players through his career, though this is just his second season with the program. This year’s team has much of the same mental makeup to get the job done in junior defensemen Ben LaCross and Justin Delisle.

“Ben has gotten better an better the past two seasons,” he said. “And, even though it’s Justin’s first year playing defense, they’ve both helped shore up our defense that has been huge this whole season.

“Will Gautheir was our leading scorer last year, and up front Eric Hillock can put the puck in the net. I’ve got guys that can do a whole bunch of things, and they do them pretty well.”

According to Ferroni, the key for the Blue Devils will be to keep the speed of the game fast. While they aren’t the biggest team, they know they’ll have to skate well to stay in the game and force the play to the outside boards, and protect the middle.

Sault Ste. Marie last won a state title in 1989 and last made an appearance in 2001, when it lost to Gross Point North.

Cranbrook, who has more state titles than any program with 15, hasn’t won since 2010, when it beat Flint Powers.

The game is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.

Last Updated: 3/8/2013 9:02:10 PM EST

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