Brother Rice wins its fourth state title with a 6-3 victory over Livonia Stevenson in D2 final
Plymouth – Birmingham Brother Rice did what was expected, winning the Division 2 hockey championship on Saturday.
But just because the Warriors were heavy favorites all season doesn’t mean that their road to the title was a cakewalk.
Far from it.
Brother Rice survived with 4-3 victories in the earlier rounds against Berkley and Hartland, the latter game taking four overtimes to secure in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday.
And even though the Warriors’ fourth state title was achieved by a 6-3 score over Livonia Stevenson at Compuware Arena, there were some tense moments for Brother Rice against a team just two years removed from a state championship of its own.
Outplayed early, Stevenson bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the second period. After falling behind by two goals again, the Spartans were within a goal for much of the third period before Brother Rice re-established a two-goal lead with 8:58 remaining and tacked on an empty-net goal with 20.3 seconds to go.
"It’s a grind," Brother Rice coach Lou Schmidt said. "Playoffs are tough. We said to our guys, ‘You’re going to face adversity throughout the playoffs,’ and we did. … We were pretty battle-tested when we got in here. To play a team like Stevenson adds a little more to the game. We know them, they know us. No. 1 and 2 is a very special matchup; you don’t see it very often."
It was the second state championship for senior Nick Rosa, but the first in which he played an integral part. Rosa was added to the roster for the playoffs as a freshman and saw little playing time when Brother Rice beat Grosse Pointe South 4-1 to take the 2012 championship. He had a key insurance goal and added two assists to help the Warriors win their latest title.
"I got pulled up my freshman year and got to witness them winning a state championship," Rosa said. "I saw what a great feeling it was, how special it was for the seniors. Right there, that moment, I made it my goal to win a state championship by my senior year. It was such a journey. Every day our team worked so hard. I’m really proud of them."
Another Warrior who committed himself to winning a state title that day was senior Matt Manning, who was in the stands cheering on his classmates as a scrawny freshman. He’s only 5-foot-6 as a senior, but is one of the top players in the state. He had only one assist against Stevenson, but it was his goal just 25 seconds into the fourth overtime that enabled Brother Rice to escape the Hartland game.
"I played on a travel team in Farmington so I could get better and stronger," Manning said. "As a freshman, I couldn’t have played and it wouldn’t have helped my game. I came on my sophomore year. This is just great. Ever since I saw them win my freshman year, I wanted to win a state championship in front of thousands of people and bring it back to our school."
Brother Rice dominated right from the opening faceoff, outshooting Stevenson 10-2 in the first period and taking a 2-0 lead just 53 seconds into the second period on a goal by Joey Vassallo.
The Warriors swarmed the Spartans’ net after that in search of a knockout blow, only to be thwarted by junior goalie Cullen Barber.
After going without a shot on its first two power plays, Stevenson injected some life into the building when Alex Allen scored on the power play at 8:41 of the second period. The Spartans quickly tied it when Joe Alcantara scored at the 10:36 mark.
"I’m so proud of our guys," Stevenson coach David Mitchell said. "I think everybody saw it had the potential to get away when it was 2-0 and they were still carrying the play. But like we did all year, we answered back and made a game of it, which was great not only for us, but for the game of high school hockey. That second period was exciting. It’s good that it was a good, solid hockey game that I hope did high school hockey proud."
Brother Rice regrouped and regained its two-goal lead on goals by Brendan Pyc at the 12:58 and 16:19 marks of the second.
"It was a big momentum shift when they scored their first one," Rosa said. "When they got the second one, we knew we had to get the next one; that was big."
Stevenson got back within striking distance when Vince Glenn scored on the power play 44 seconds into the third. Rosa’s team-leading 25th goal of the year with 8:58 remaining in the game re-established Brother Rice’s two-goal cushion.
Stevenson failed to click on two late power plays before the Warriors put an exclamation point on the championship with an empty-net goal by Jack Dansbury with 20.3 seconds to go.
Brother Rice was 3-for-4 on the power play; Stevenson was 2-for-6.
"It was a special teams kind of day," Schmidt said. "We played well when we had to. We made it interesting there in the second — maybe for the fans, but not so much for the coaches."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Highlights from this game can bee seen on Sunday on Fox Sports Detroit at 9:00 AM