Romeo had never been here.
First-time visitors to the Division 2 hockey championship, the Bulldogs did just what they had hoped they could do: Shock the state.
Playing with poise as perennial power Livonia Stevenson was hit with a game misconduct penalty in the third period, the Bulldogs joined their football team with a surprising state championship, earning an emotional, hard-hitting, come from-behind 6-4 victory over the Spartans today at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
Coach Nick Badder and the Bulldogs improved to 27-2-1 as Nick Blankenburg’s goal came true.
“We get up and get relaxed; we play our best when we’re uncomfortable,” Badder said. “Today, we were uncomfortable the whole day. Today we pulled it out somehow. Mental errors were huge. We capitalized on that. They believed in themselves and didn’t get frustrated.”
Romeo capped the victory with an empty net goal by Steven Morris with 29 seconds remaining.
Romeo was the first Macomb County team to make it to the state finals since 1983, when Fraser won in Class A.
Stevenson suffered a blow in the third period when Jake Beaune was given a five-minute major for head-butting and was ejected.
“It was explained to me that it was a head-butt by our player,” said Spartans coach David Mitchell. “It was a deliberate head-butt to them afterwards. So the referees said there was no discretion that was allowed. They had to give a five and they had to give a DQ.
“They got some pucks through and got some bounces and made some plays. Jenuwine got five points. That tells you a lot about the game.”
The Bulldogs used the man advantage to score a power-play goal by Jenuwine, his second of the game, to give Romeo a 5-4 lead.
“Our power play has been on and off all year,” Jenuwine said. “That was one of our weakest things coming into the playoffs. We just tried to move the puck faster. That shot was going wide. I’ve been trying to work to the front of the net. It was a good shot by Logan Canfield and I got my stick on it.”
The word “ouch” aptly describes the early going of this game, as both teams went at each other with hard checks along the boards and crunching hits near center ice.
Junior forward Brett Lanski scored at 7:07 to give Romeo a 1-0 lead with assists from Luke Kaczor and Jenuwine.
Stevenson tied the score at 10:56, when Joe Alcantara rushed the net and bulled his way in for the score with assists from Ben Kowalske and Shane Leonard.
Romeo took a 2-1 lead on a power play goal by Jenuwine at the 6:18 mark. Stevenson retaliated quickly with a goal by Nick Beers at 6:37 (assist from Kevin Stefanick) and a Leonard goal 43 seconds later to make it 3-2 Stevenson.
Stevenson then made it 4-2 when Nate Sudek blasted a shot from the right wing, marking three goals for the Spartans in just more than five minutes.
Romeo called a timeout to regroup. And they did.
“We were down and they had all the momentum,” Badder said. “I was telling (Adam) Krefski and the other assistants right now they have all the momentum, we’re kind of on our heels and we felt it. We were just trying to calm down the boys. Once they calmed down, and it was shift by shift, we took over. We changed our fore check up a little bit. Played those passes to the middle and everything took off from there.”
Lanski scored his second goal of the game with an assist by Jenuwine as the Bulldogs stemmed the tide at 4-3.
Romeo scored again 55 seconds later, when defenseman Logan Ganfield’s shot was deflected in by Kaczor with just 1:29 left in the period to tie it 4-4.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.