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February 25, 2013

Brother Rice downs St. Mary's in opening round

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Rice's Blake Bazzi gets ready to fire a shot on goal during the Feb. 25 playoff opener. The Warriors beat St. Mary's 3-2 to advance in the D-1 tournament.

FARMINGTON HILLS — Four tries, four wins, and now, the Birmingham Brother Rice hockey team is one step closer to consecutive state championships.

The Warriors kicked off the Division 1 state tournament Monday night with a 3-2 victory against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in one of the most highly anticipated playoff openers in recent history.

The MIHL foes were playing each other for the fourth time since Jan. 5, and were just nine days removed from facing off in the Catholic League finals at Joe Louis Arena.

“I’m so proud of the effort from our guys tonight,” Rice coach Lou Schmidt Jr. said afterward. His team won all four meetings this winter against the Eaglets. “We came out with that intensity you have to have. They had the fire in their eyes, and when that’s the case, we’re a tough team to beat.”

“You have to tip your hat to Rice,” St. Mary’s coach Brian Klanow said. “That’s a fantastic team. Our guys played their butts off, and I think we took control late in the game. … (Rice) is just one of the best team’s in the state.”

Playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena, St. Mary’s struck first in the Monday night affair.

Anthony Scarsella gave the Eaglets the 1-0 lead five minutes into regulation on the power play.

Rice had the answer roughly eight minutes later when Bobby Cross scored on a power-play tally of his own.

The Warriors scored the only goal in the second period, a shorthanded shot by Ross Haffey, and led 2-1 entering the final 17 minutes of regulation.

The Eaglets had to lean heavily on their penalty kill to start the third, though, namely after a five-minute boarding call was assessed when Rice’s Matt Riggleman went down awkwardly and remained down on the ice for some time.

Klanow said that seemed to swing the game.

“I guess I’m just disappointed when (officials) put you down a man for that long in a 17-minute period,” he said. “I mean, it was a shoulder-to-shoulder check. It was clean. … I’m not saying that’s why we lost, but it makes it so tough to bounce back after you spend that much time killing penalties.”

Rice went up 3-1 on Blake Bazzi’s goal, scored just seconds after the five-minute major expired.

St. Mary’s pulled within one with 4:42 remaining on a Cooper Marody goal, but the Eaglets were unable to capitalize on the power play or with the goalie pulled in the game’s final minutes.

Rice (21-3-1) advances to take on Farmington Hills Unified at 6:55 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena.

The Flyers (15-11-0) beat Birmingham Unified 6-4 in an earlier pre-regional.

“We have to find a way to slow them down,” Unified coach Ken Anderson said. “They are a big, physical and fast team. We have to be sound defensively to have a chance.”

St. Mary’s finishes the season 13-12-1.

In other hockey playoff action

In other D-1 action, Macomb Dakota beat Rochester United 4-3 in overtime, setting up a third game against Utica Eisenhower at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27.

Troy High beat Sterling Heights Stevenson 3-2 in a pre-regional, while Troy Athens knocked off Chippewa Valley 4-1.

Troy and Athens will meet in a regional semifinal at 7:15 p.m. Feb. 27.

In a Division 2 pre-regional Royal Oak High beat Bloomfield Hills Unified 3-2 in overtime.

The Ravens now face Warren Mott at 7 p.m. Feb. 27, while the other half of the bracket features West Bloomfield taking on Waterford Mott at 7 p.m. Feb. 28. The Lakers beat Waterford Kettering 6-3 in the opener.

Warren De La Salle is set to take on Grosse Pointe South at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 after the Pilots beat Fraser High 8-0 in an opener.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood got the Division 3 tournament going with a 10-0, two-period victory against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.

The Cranes advance to a regional semifinal against Auburn Hills Avondale at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Wallace Ice Arena.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.