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HOCKEY: Bucs make it to "Final Four" with quarterfinal win (PHOTOS AND VIDEO)
The Riverview hockey teams celebrates its Division 3 quarterfinal victory over Chelsea in Allen Park Wednesday night. Photo by Larry Caruso.
The Bucs captured their first-ever 20-victory season and first-ever trip to the state semifinal at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. Photos by Larry Caruso.
In a game at Allen Park’s Civic Arena that was Chelsea’s and then Riverview’s and then Chelsea’s again, the Pirates prevailed in the end, winning 5-3.
“This was our goal,” Riverview Coach Al Taurence said after the win. “Everything after this is just a bonus.
“Certainly we don’t want to lose, but we’ve accomplished our goal and now we’re gonna see what we can accomplish next.”
The game belonged to Chelsea through the first 17 minutes as the Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead in the opening period.
With 5:25 to play in the first, after a huge scramble in front of the Riverview net and several loose pucks that defensemen stopped, Chelsea finally scored. Alex Daman shot one from the point and it was deflected in front of Zach Wolcott, and went it short side along the ice, and the Bulldogs were on the board. Tyler Fullerton had the assist.
Two minutes later Chelsea took a two-goal lead when Connor Carry found a rebound and snapped one in. Jacob Ryan and Joey Olmsted had the assists.
Despite being down two goals, Taurence said he was never worried about his team.
“No, not really,” he said. “Our team, we score five goals a game and let up two goals a game.
“As far as the two, I wasn’t really concerned about that because I knew we were gonna score. I just didn’t want to give up any more. (But) we scored our five.”
The Bucs jumped out of the gate in the second period and scored a quick goal at the 1:36 mark.
Riverview’s goal-scoring whiz Brian Backnak got the scoring started when he slapped one in, assisted by Timmy Lyons.
Both teams kept banging away throughout the remainder of the middle period, but it was the Bucs who scored next and tied the game.
Jay Helstowski tied the game on a goal with assists from Chriss Hass and Bachnak.
Riverview took its first lead early in the third period. With traffic in front of the net, Kyle Agius picked up a rebound and shot one in. He was assisted by David Laurain and Hass.
The lead did not last long. Chelsea responded with a goal of its own 30 seconds later.
Ryan had some nice stick work coming down the ice and flipped one over Wolcott’s pads to tie the game at three. Olmsted drew the lone assist.
The game remained tied for two and a half minutes and then Riverview took a lead and never let it go.
Hass got the game-winning goal with 9:05 to play. He was assisted by Helstowski and Bachnak.
The Bucs had their lead, but the excitement was not over because with about six minutes to play, Chelsea was awarded a penalty shot, but Wolcott came up with a save to keep his team in front.
Chelsea took a timeout with 1:46 to go, but when Riverview’s Brandon Mulligan netted an empty-net insurance goal with 28.3 seconds left, the deal was sealed.
Taurence was more than pleased with his team’s win and advancement to the semifinals.
“I’m so proud of the kids and happy for the school district,” Taurence said.
Chelsea had two overtime playoff wins in its march to the quarterfinals, so Taurence was pleased his team did not allow the Bulldogs back in the game.
“We knew they came back three times in a row,” Taurence said. “So we knew what they were capable of. (It was) certainly relief.”
Chelsea Coach Don Wright was disappointed with the loss and thought it came down to mistakes on his team’s part.
“Obviously we got off to a great start,” Wright said. “I thought we did a really great job early.
“In the second period, I thought we just made some mental mistakes that cost us some penalties and some things.”
The Bulldogs had a chance to score late in the first period and increase their lead to three, but with the puck on the goal line, could not get it in.
“If that had happened and we’d been up by three, it could have changed the game,” Wright said. “It could have changed the game but that’s the way it goes. Riverview definitely did a great job.”
The Bulldogs have gone to the state semifinals two of the last three years and when they graduated 11 seniors last season, many did not think they would do well this year.
“We graduated 11 so nobody was giving us much of a chance,” Wright said. “But we won our league (and) won our region so these players had a great year.”
Chelsea finished the year 20-7-2.
Riverview had to overcome some adversity to get their victory.
Helstowski took a stick to the back on the first shift and tweaked his back.
“I just told him, Jay you’re a senior. You gotta suck it up,” Taurence said. “Besides playing hurt, you’re gonna play a lot.
“And he played well. And Tyler Rhode is just a suburb defenseman. He’s just grown and he doesn’t make any bad outlet passes. He’s just a very good player.”
Despite not scoring until the second period, Taurence was never worried about his team.
“When you’re got people like Brian and Timmy Lyons and Agius and people like that on your team, you’re gonna score so I wasn’t really worried,” Taurence said. “They’re gonna get some goals so don’t worry about it. And it happened.”
The Bucs are now 20-8, the first 20 win season in school history.
With the win, they face Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook in the state semifinals Friday.
“Cranbrook is obviously probably the best team in the state,” Taurence said. “We want to compete with them. We want to make sure we got out and if not win the game, we want to make sure that they know that we’re here.
“With some luck, anything can happen. We want to compete and we want to keep it close and make some things happen.”
The Bucs and Cranes play at noon on Friday at Compuware Arena.
Last Updated: 3/12/2013 2:45:44 PM EST