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Romeo chops down Forest Hills PHOTO GALLERY

  • Frank Ruffino (11) of Romeo scores a goal. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Brett Lanski (5) of Romeo and Matt Pakkala of Forest hills battle for control of the puck during the match between Romeo and Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Nick Blankenburg (26) of Romeo scores a goal. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Nick Blankenburg (26) of Romeo scores a goal. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Nick Blankenburg (26) of Romeo scores a goal. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Nick Blankenburg (26) of Romeo scores a goal. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Nick Blankenburg (26) of Romeo scores a goal. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)
  • Hockey Romeo vs Forest Hills on March 10, 2016. (MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)

Bulldogs heading to state finals

PLYMOUTH >> Quick starts have been the norm during Romeo’s boys hockey state tournament run.

And Thursday night was no exception.

The Bulldogs got a pair of goals 34 seconds apart early in the first period to build a 2-0 lead that helped them skate away with a 5-2 win over Forest Hills Northern/Eastern in a Division 2 state semifinal at USA Hockey Arena.

“That’s been the story of our playoffs, coming out of the gate strong,” Romeo coach Nick Badder said. “First goals are huge for us. We thrive on confidence and that’s kind of what happened today.”

Romeo has now outscored its last three opponents by a combined 11-0 after the first 17 minutes and its last four opponents by a combined score of 28-8.

The Bulldogs got goals from Nick Blankenburg (assist), Frank Ruffino, Blake Gabler (assist), Logan Jenuwine (assist) and Brett Lanski (assist), while Jake Petri, Logan Ganfield, Luke Kaczor and Harrison Hunt had assists. Goalie Nolan Kare made 20 saves.

But the big story of the game wasn’t the Bulldogs’ offense, but their penalty kill.

That unit had to deal with three five-minute majors, one coming in each period, to reach the Division 2 state championship game on Saturday at 10 a.m.

“We were on the kill forever,” Badder said. “We focused and blocked a lot of shots. That was a big deal.”

FHNE scored both its goals on the non-release majors, but none of which really changed the momentum to its favor.

“What can you do, you can’t do anything,” Badder said. “You can’t change a ref’s call. I don’t agree with all of them, but when does a coach agree with all the calls that go against them?

“We showed resiliency, we showed we can fight through adversity,” Badder continued. “The biggest thing I thought was we just laid it out there. I’ve never seen a team block shots like that, NHL and all the way down. I’ve never seen a team sacrifice like that. It’s hard for these young kids to give up their body like that, take one off the shin, off the stomach, off the face and they’re out there doing it.”

Both of the FHNE power play goals cut three-goal deficits to two only to have the Bulldogs build it right back up.

“We were just timing out shifts on the penalty kill which was huge,” Blankenburg said. “We were going 25 to 45 seconds, get the puck, get it out, get a change and then going right back out. We were playing on the penalty kill like we were down by three (goals).

“We were blocking every shot we could, no matter where it was, whether it was in the head, leg or foot,” Blankenburg continued. “I know the penalty kill wanted to win this game and everyone devoted themselves for that win.”

Romeo will face third-ranked Livonia Stevenson for the Division 2 championship, Saturday at 10 a.m. The Spartans skated past second-ranked Hartland, 5-1, earlier on Thursday.

The Spartans, who beat Trenton in a quarterfinal 2-1 to advance to the semis, lost in last year’s final to Brother Rice, 6-3, and won it in 2013, 5-4 over Hartland.

“We can’t get comfortable on Saturday,” Badder said. “That’s the best team in the state we’re playing. We have a tall task on Saturday.”

Romeo is looking to become just the fourth team from Macomb County to win a boys state hockey title. Fraser (Class A) in 1983 was the last. Lakeview won Tier I titles in 1978 and 1975.

Blankenburg and Ruffino had the two goals to open the scoring for the Bulldogs.

Blankenburg got a shot to sneak in from the point, while Ruffino battled down low for his tally.

FHNE’s Brad Smithson nearly gave his squad a lead 34 seconds in, but clanked a shot from the point off the post to the left of Kare.

Moments later, Romeo’s Kaczor was stopped by FHNE’s goalie Ty Kitchen on a breakaway.

Seven minutes into the second period, FHNE’s Nathan Nickelson had a clear-cut breakaway he lifted high over the net. That was followed by a point-blank shot from Trey Dyer that Kare got his blocker on.

Romeo quickly shifted the momentum back in its favor with the goal from Gabler with 7:11 left in the second period to make it 3-0.

FHNE lost its starting goalie, Kitchen, with 2:42 left in the second period after a collision with Romeo’s Logan Jenuwine and was replaced by Tyler Koth.

Last Updated: 3/10/2016 11:17:45 PM EST