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Inspired by Ryan Fischer, Grandville’s seniors left a lasting legacy after leading Bulldogs to first ever D-1 Final

By: Jeff Dullack, March 14, 2015, 9:42 pm

Plymouth – Leave a Legacy.

That has been the message that the Grandville hockey team stood by all season long as the Bulldogs played in honor of teammate Ryan Fischer, the captain of the Grandville hockey team, who passed away suddenly the night before last year’s Division 1 hockey state semifinals.

As the Bulldogs advanced to their first state championship game, where they faced Detroit Catholic Central, the same team Grandville had faced in last year’s semifinals as the two teams would come together at the end of the game in Fischer’s memory, it had already accomplished more than any other team in the program’s history.

And while the Bulldogs came up just short in their quest for a state championship, the Grandville hockey team certainly left a legacy in the 2014-2015 season.

“This is a very special senior class and the junior class as well,” Grandville coach Joel Breazeale said. “They were the first players to come and do a cross-ice environment in the entire state and what you see here is that competitive spirit. They’ve been a blessed and special group from the get-go, what they’re doing is setting a tone for what’s expected and how you handle yourself and when you’re a Bulldog, you battle to the very end and you wear that maroon and white with great pride. It’s not about the individual, it’s about our community and it’s about leaving a legacy.”

A team made up of nine seniors and nine juniors, Grandville entered this season with high expectations, while also wanting to honor their friend and teammate.

Senior Zach VanderWel, who tallied an assist on Saturday, said that he felt he and his teammates were able to leave what will be a lasting legacy at Grandville, by making it to Compuware for the state semifinals in two straight years.

“The theme of our program is ‘Leave a Legacy’, which was left by Ryan Fischer,” he said. “And I think we did a pretty good job of that by making it to Compuware back-to-back seasons.”

In the second period, with Grandville facing a 3-0 defict, the Bulldogs fired back with two goals in a span of 14 seconds, coming by way of junior Jacob Baum and senior Gianni Vitali to get Grandville back in the game with under three minutes left in the second period.

But not long after Catholic Central would capitalize on a power play to push the lead to 4-2 as the game headed to second intermission.

Brandon Rozema, a senior captain for Grandville, said that this year’s state championship game appearance sets the tone for future Grandville teams by keeping expectations high and it will also serve as motivation for next year’s team.

“It keeps the expectations high for the kids that are coming back,” he said. “I know they want to go one step further, so it’s good for them and I think it’ll be a good motivator for them as well.”
Grandville finished the season with a 24-4-2 record.

Breazeale said that all season long his team has played for one another and Fischer has always been with his team and someone who helped carry the Bulldogs every step of the way and also added that Fischer’s younger brother, Connor being a part of this year’s team was another special part of this season’s run for Grandville.

“The sentiment has always been that Ryan travels with us,” he said. “There’s a guiding hand there. One of his first great actions was us coming together with DCC (Catholic Central) at that moment at the end of the game, but these boys play for each other and they wanted to do this for themselves, for this program and make no mistake, Ryan was that catalyst that carried these young men throughout all of this and it was something that they could all go back and lean upon in their own individual way. Having Connor on the team is one more wonderful message to be a part of.”