Grandville makes history, a year after tragedy, as the Bulldogs down Bay City, 3-2, in D1 semifinals
Plymouth – The Grandville community has been through a whirlwind of emotions in a little over a year. A journey that started off in tragedy came full circle on Friday as Grandville returned to Compuware Arena in hopes of taking one more step.
“We told these boys a while ago this would be the only 53-week year that they’ll ever live through in their life,” Grandville coach Joe Breazeale said.
It’s been 53 weeks to the day that Grandville played in the Division 1 semifinals since the Bulldogs lost one of its own in Ryan Fischer. The morning the team was supposed to drive two and a half hours to play in the semifinals Fisher was found in his room unresponsive by his dad.
The team played through heavy hearts in a loss to Catholic Central, but vowed to make it back to Compuware not only for them by for the Fischer family.
Grandville took that next step against Bay City in a 3-2 win to set up not only a rematch with Detroit Catholic Central, but secured the Bulldogs’ first trip to the state championship in program history.
“We felt very strongly about the team that was returning that reaching the state semifinals was a reasonable opportunity for us,” Breazeale said. “Ryan has been with us this whole season. We’re here to honor him, and our community.”
The Bulldogs (25-3-1) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead behind the stick of Ryan’s younger brother, Connor, with 11:24 left in the second period. The puck came off the boards and Fischer got enough of it to make sure it’d go in.
It was a goal that Breazeale said was a Fischer-like goal because they never were awarded style points.
“I got lucky with it,” Fischer said. “There are three guys who could have been credited with that goal. I just got enough of my stick and it went it. I can’t explain it.”
Grandville would get another goal in similar fashion with 9:25 left in the second when Noah Weigle passed the puck to junior Ryan Wolfe. Wolfe brought the puck through the left circle, and released a shot as he spun to the ice for a 2-0 lead.
With a 1:58 left in the second, Grandville struck again after Bay City received a goal from junior Hunter David.
Senior Brandon Rozema pushed the puck ahead to fellow senior Gianni Vitali who offered a shot from the lower right circle. The puck glanced off the goaltender’s pad during a kick save, and into the net for a 3-1 lead.
Bay City (17-11-1) chipped into lead behind the stick of David who collected his second goal 5:51 into the third period for a 3-2 goal.
“We’re proud of the kids in that locker room, and the effort they gave,” Bay City coach Mike Kayner said. “Hunter made a nice play a couple of times, and was in the right spot for us tonight. He had a good game along with several others who played hard.”
Grandville and Catholic Central played each other on Feb. 7 and the Shamrocks won 4-1 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. Despite losing to Catholic Central twice, Rozema believes his team can win.
“It’s going to take hard work, and everyone playing for each other,” he said. “I know the guys to my left and right will play with everything they have. It’s just one game. All it takes is one shot in a one game playoff, and we want to win."