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December 19, 2013

Cranes stay unbeaten, beat Brother Rice 4-3 in game played at Comerica Park

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Cranes stay unbeaten, beat Brother Rice 4-3 in game played at Comerica Park
Rice's Joey Vassalo (26) skates away from Cranbrook's Mason Schultz during Thursday's game at Comerica Park. The Cranes stayed perfect on the season with a 4-3 victory.

DETROIT — With stadium lights beaming,and a city skyline emerging from the dark, the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood and Birmingham Brother Rice hockey team did what they’ve done countless times before.

Only this was unlike anything they’ve ever known.

“This was pretty cool,” Cranbrook coach Andy Weidenbach said after his team beat Rice 4-3 Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park in a Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League showdown. “The backdrop of the city behind us, to be on the field at Comerica Park, it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

“Just fantastic,” Rice coach Lou Schmidt Jr. said. “Who knows if you ever get a chance to do something like this again.”

Rice and C-K were part of a series of games being held all week at Comerica, leading up to the Hockeytown Winter Festival, which starts Dec. 27.

But the greatest show this night was a Cranes team that has yet to lose this winter.

“You know, we’ve heard they’re the best team in the state,” Schmidt said with a smile. “They sure are good.”

Noah Gilreath started the scoring, giving the Cranes a 1-0 lead less than four minutes into the first period.

An early goal in the opening minutes of the second by Rice’s Nick Bowman tied the game momentarily, but C-K stuck right back — twice.

CJ Regula gave the Cranes a 2-1 lead with 9:24 remaining in the second, and then Austin Alger made it 3-1 with 4:29 to play in the frame.

Rice closed the gap to 3-2 early in the third when Brendan Pyc scored 1:56 into the period, but a wrist shot from the left wing by Sam Miletic put Cranbrook up by two again with 7:53 remaining, and seemed to deflate any comeback hopes for Rice.

“That was big for us,” Weidenbach said of the two-goal leads. “Against a good team, to have that cushion makes things just a little easier. But when they pulled their goalie, we knew anything could happen.”

Rice pulled within one when Nick Rosa scored with just 24 seconds remaining in regulation, but the Warriors never seriously threatened again.

“This was two good teams that I thought played a pretty good game,” Schmidt said. “The difference was our mistakes. We made a few too many of them, and Cranbrook is so skilled that when you do that, they pounce on them. … Falling behind by two goals twice was really tough. Especially the fourth goal, that’s one we’d like to have back.”

Rice out-shot C-K 27-23, but Austin Movinski was up to the task, finishing with 24 saves while running his record to 4-0-0 on the year.

The weather was perfect, and the ice was bad,” Schmidt said with a laugh. “But it was equally bad for both teams. It was something I think we all adjusted to.”

Cranbrook, the defending Division 3 state champ, is now 10-0-0 on the season and 4-0-0 in North Division play.

Rice, 4-3-0, falls to 2-2-0 in the North.

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