Brother Rice reaches state final for second time in three seasons with a 5-2 victory over Hartland
Plymouth – Sure, it’s the weather that left many Michiganders without power this week but it was Birmingham Brother Rice that stole Hartland’s power on Thursday at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
The Warriors dominated the first and third periods to advance to its second Division 2 final in three seasons as they defeated the Eagles, 5-2.
Brother Rice will face Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern on Saturday for the state title at 10 a.m.
“The game was as tough as we thought it would be. The score at the end wasn’t really indicative of the style of game that it was. Hartland is a very good team, and battled us tough,” Brother Rice coach Kenny Chaput said.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys and how they’ve been locked in the last month of the season. The last five, six games we’ve been methodical, stick to the game plan and we get key contributions.”
Brother Rice (24-4-1) looked to Blake Tosto to get momentum on its side throughout the first period. After a power play expired, Tosto scored from the near side when he shoved the loose puck for a 1-0 lead.
His second goal of the period came on the power play when Tosto walked a Mitch Shults pass to the slot and sniped the short side top-corner for a 2-0 lead.
“It’s always nice to get that first goal, get the pressure off the team and build momentum,” Tosto said. “You just try to keep shooting the puck when you get opportunities, and luckily I found the back of the net twice.”
On the defensive side fellow senior Ryan Hoffmann was a nuisance all night long. The 6-2 senior stopped 33 shots including an odd man rush, and a wrap-around attempt in the early periods. Until the third period, Hoffmann was unblemished standing his ground in net.
“My teammates kept my job easy, and kept Hartland on the outside so I could see pucks all the way in. I felt good the whole way through,” Hoffmann said.
“I really don’t get caught up in numbers like saves or goals. I just try to play steady the entire time. I was always told by my goalie coach to never go above the seven or below the five, but just stay in a solid position where you’re comfortable and confident.”
Hartland (25-3-1) finally solved Hoffmann early in the third when junior Jake Gallaher cut into Rice’s lead, 2-1. Rice would quickly build its lead to 4-2 on goals by Jack Clement and Jack Reinhart 2:29 apart.
Reinhart had two goals and two assists on the night.
“Tonight was a good all round team effort. On my goal, I just got a nice crisp pass from Mitch (Shults) and was able to bury the puck,” Reinhart said. “On my two assists, I just found the open man when he’d call for the puck and the rest is history.”
The pace of play was otherwise jerked around throughout the game as a combined 14 penalties were called between both teams.
Hartland was able to capitalize on the power play (one-for-eight) with 5:15 remaining when Jake Behnke scored from the slot to cut back into the lead, 4-2.
Brother Rice ended any hopes of a late rally with 1:02 left in the game when Reinhart put in an empty net goal from center ice.
“We really need to clean up our penalties because Forest Hills’ power play is clicking,” Chaput said. “We’ll be ready for Saturday, and get a few things cleaned up before then because Forest Hills is a very good opponent.”