Wednesday’s Division 3, Region 24 final featured two-time reigning champion Riverview Gabriel Richard against a talented Riverview team that beat the Pioneers twice in the regular season.
The two in-city rivals were scoreless after one period at Wyandotte’s Yack Arena. However, regional host Richard netted three goals in each of the next two periods and came away with a 6-0 victory.
With the win, the Pioneers (16-9) advanced to play in a D3 state quarterfinal for the third time in as many seasons. The squad was set to face Chelsea on Saturday at Dearborn Ice Skating Center and with a win would earn its third consecutive state semifinal appearance.
Riverview wrapped up its season with an overall record of 21-6-1 and it claimed the 2019-20 Huron League championship.
In late December, the Bucs knocked off Richard 3-2, at Yack Arena, in the finals of the Pioneers’ own Christmas tournament. Richard faced Riverview again about three weeks later and fell by the same score.
“I think we’ve improved,” said Pioneers coach Rick DeSana. “Our tough schedule kind of prepares us for when it comes down to one-and-down time, that’s for sure.”
Richard has only dropped four games since losing to the Bucs in mid-January. Along the way the Pioneers shut down the likes of Allen Park (13-11), Ann Arbor Pioneer (21-3-2) and Houghton (17-9-1).
To advance to Wednesday’s regional final, Richard knocked off Monroe SMCC 4-0 in a first-round game and then handed Gibraltar Carlson a 6-0 defeat in the semifinals.
Riverview held off Bedford 2-1 in the regional opener and edged Grosse Ile 4-3 in the semis. The Bucs’ impressive season then ended on Wednesday in the championship game.
“Not the result we wanted,” said Riverview coach Anthony Schooley. “We came out on the right side of two games earlier this year. (Richard) played well. They’re well coached, they were ready to go, they didn’t want to lose to us three times in one year, especially on their own home ice, for the regional (title). Hats off to them and hats off to our kids for a good season.”
In Wednesday’s regional championship game, senior Austin Harrison and freshman Jimmy Monks each scored twice for the Pioneers while senior Nathan Palumbo and sophomore Sebastian Potter both lit the lamp once. Seniors Jake Emery and Nathan Vazquez each picked up two assists and Palumbo had one.
“I have to commend the seniors for stepping it up and I really have to commend the younger players,” he said. “Without them and without them doing their job we don’t get the results we’ve gotten the last three games.”
In goal, Richard’s Drew Adams stopped all 22 shots he faced against Riverview.
Bucs goaltender Josiah Dembrosky turned away 29 of the 33 shots fired at him. Two of the Pioneer goals came with an empty net.
In the first period, Dembrosky stopped Richard’s Brenden Paden on a breakaway. The sophomore also made a nice save on a shot that was re-directed in front on the net and kept the game scoreless at the time.
About three minutes into the second period, Monks skated into the Riverview zone and netted a goal to put the Pioneers up 1-0. Late in the period, Richard scored twice in less than a minute and grabbed a commanding 3-0 lead, thanks to goals from Harrison and Potter.
Harrison lit the lamp less than three minutes into the final period while Palumbo and Monks each added an empty-net goal.
Despite the tough loss on Wednesday, Riverview emerged as one of the best teams in the area this year, following four consecutive losing seasons.
Overall, the Bucs featured a strong nucleus, with nine seniors on the roster and total of 14 players who had skated together for at least the past three seasons.
Looking ahead, Riverview has several talented players due back, including two of the state’s most prolific scorers in juniors Gavin Holmes (42 goals, 24 assists) and Ryan Herzog (22 goals, 38 assists). In addition, Dembrosky was among the state leaders in goaltender victories (21).
Richard was set to face Chelsea at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday in a D3 quarterfinal at Dearborn Ice Skating Center. The winner will play either Midland Dow or Grand Rapids Catholic on March 13 in a state semifinal at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth