Plymouth — Call it the Year of the Bulldog. Romeo won its first state championship in football over a perennial power in Detroit Cass Tech this past fall. Saturday at a packed USA Hockey Arena, it captured its first Division 2 state championship in hockey with a 6-4 victory over a Livonia Stevenson squad that is typically in the mix for state titles.
With the game tied 4-4 entering the third period, Romeo benefitted from a costly mistake by Stevenson sophomore Jake Beaune, who took exception to Romeo’s Luke Kaczor skating in on his goalie and pulling up just before crashing into Cullen Barber. Beaune, right in front of the referee, head-butted Kaczor. That resulted in a 5-minute major and ejection, which led to a power-play goal from Luke Jenuwine, his second of the day.
Stevenson, which lost last year’s state final to Birmingham Brother Rice, made it hard on itself to mount a comeback, picking up two more penalties in the final frame. It was able to force two late faceoffs in the Romeo zone, but Romeo cleared the puck with ease, Nolan Kare made a fantastic glove save late and it was game over.
In the up-and-down second period, the momentum shifted mightily on three occasions, with Romeo striking first for a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal from Jenuwine. Things quickly shifted as Stevenson struck twice in the next minute, first on a goal from Nick Beers just 19 seconds after the Romeo goal and again 44 seconds later on a deflection from Shane Leonard that ended up in the back of the net, giving Stevenson a 3-2 lead. All-in-all, three goals were scored in a span of 1 minute, 3 seconds.
Stevenson continued to fling pucks at the net. And as the chances piled up, they struck again to take a 4-2 lead on a goal from Nick Sudek.
“They had all the momentum; we were on our heels,” Romeo coach Nick Badder said. “We had never experienced anything like that. But we kept our focus, dug deep and pulled it out in the end.”
Romeo was hardly ready to throw in the towel. Stevenson had piled up the chances and the shots, but Romeo found momentum and struck twice before the end of the second period, getting a second goal from Brett Lanski and a deflected goal of its own from Kaczor to close out a wild middle period.
“It’s always hard when you’re up 4-2 and they get a goal on you,” Stevenson captain Ben Kowalske said. “The doubt will creep in. You try to ignore it and do everything you can, but when you play a good team they’ll capitalize on your mistakes and get it done.”
For Romeo, it’s been quite a year athletically. On top of its two championships, its girls volleyball team also made an appearance in a state final.
“I think there’s just something special about Romeo,” Kare said. “You can see it. The whole town’s out here for us, just like football and volleyball. We have the whole community behind our backs. We’re just unbelievably blessed.”
Hancock 4, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 2: Hancock got three goals in the first period and went on to win the title. Jack Fenton, Alex Nordstrom and Danny Hill scored in the opening period and Cory Tourtillott scored into the empty net for Hancock. Ethan Telleir and Chase Madden scored for Catholc Central in the second period, but C.C. could never get the tying goal.