With a trip to the Division 3, Region 24 championship game on the line, Riverview Gabriel Richard took on Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central on Wednesday night in a semifinal at Yack Arena in Wyandotte.
In what turned out to be a back-and-forth affair, the Pioneers held on for a 5-4 victory over the Falcons and advanced to face Grosse Ile on Friday in the regional title game.
Richard (13-10-1) also defeated SMCC (10-16) twice during the regular season, including a 4-2 win on Feb. 18 at Yack Arena.
It was the Falcons who struck first in the game, thanks to a goal from Bryce Iott about three minutes into the first period. Iott scored twice in the contest, assisted by William McGuire both times, and he assisted on a goal by his younger brother Garrett Iott.
Four seconds after the Bryce Iott goal, SMCC was hit with a penalty and Richard quickly capitalized.
Klamerus lit the lamp for the Pioneers 23 seconds into the power play and tied the game at 1-1, with assists going to Emery and DeSana. It was the first of three instances where two goals were scored less than one minute apart on Wednesday night.
About halfway through the second period, DeSana found the back of the net and put the Riverview group up 2-1. He was assisted by Vazquez and Nathan Palumbo.
After the first intermission, the Falcons were whistled for high sticking about a minute and a half into the second period.
Richard promptly pounced on the power-play opportunity, as Austin Harrison scored 14 seconds into the one-man advantage. Emery was credited with an assist and the hosts went up 3-1.
With exactly 8:21 left in the second period, Bryce Iott scored his second goal of the night for SMCC.
Just 32 seconds later, the teams were tied, as Garrett Iott got a shot past Pioneers goaltender Drew Adams to make it a 3-3 game. Bryce Iott and Seth Jenkins both assisted.
For the night, Adams stopped 22 of the 26 shots he faced and the Falcons’ Nathan King turned away 30 of the 35 shots fired at him.
Inside the final three minutes of the second period, Vazquez fired a shot that sailed into the SMCC net and put Richard up 4-3. Vazquez then made it a two-goal game, just 59 seconds later, when he was in front of the Falcons’ goal and flipped a puck past King.
The Monroe group made it a one-goal game again when Cameron Valente scored five minutes into the final period. Brenden Murray and Cole Zalewski each picked up an assist.
Down the stretch, the Pioneers fought off pressure from SMCC, including a dangerous scramble in front of the net that nearly resulted in a game-tying goal with about five minutes remaining.
Richard almost got on the board again, as Cam Flynn came in alone on King following a Falcons giveaway in their own zone. However, King came up with the save with exactly 2:07 on the clock.
With a minute left, SMCC opted to pull King for an extra attacker. At that point, the Pioneers kept them from setting up a scoring chance and Richard skated off with the one-goal playoff victory.
The Pioneers were set to play Grosse Ile on Friday. The winner will head to the state quarterfinals and face the champion of D3, Region 23 on March 6 at Dearborn Ice Skating Center.
To advance to Wednesday’s semifinal, Richard blanked Bedford 2-0 on Monday. The Falcons had a first-round bye.
On Wednesday, Grosse Ile knocked off Wyandotte Roosevelt 5-2 at Yack Arena, ahead of the game between the Pioneers and SMCC.