The Catholic Central-Brother Rice hockey rivalry had all the Thanksgiving eve trimmings and more Wednesday night at USA Hockey Arena.
The battle between state champions did not disappoint as the host Shamrocks, the defending MHSAA Division 1 champs, got a late goal from senior JoJo Mancinelli followed by Brian Kearns’ empty-netter in the waning seconds to upend the Division 2 champion Warriors, 3-1.
CC, which improved to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the North Division of the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League, tallied the game-winner with only 3:27 remaining on a power play to break a 1-1 deadlock just 11 seconds after Rice’s Jack Clement was sent to the penalty box for an inadvertent high stick.
Catholic Central’s Kyle Mulka then won the face-off to set up Mancinelli’s game-winner. Nick Macari and Luc Krasicky got credit for an assists.
“I think there was a scrum in the middle, we got the puck high, did a little criss-cross up top, (Luc) Krasicky pulled the ‘D’ over, passed it right back to me and I had a clear lane to shoot the puck and just got it to the net,” Mancinelli said. “I saw it the whole way.”
Getting pucks to the net was the main focus late in the game, according to CC coach Brandon Kaleniecki.
“We win the draw, we get possession of it, move it around the top and a net-front guy, Macari did a great job in front of the net and JoJo (Mancinelli) puts it on net and there you go,” the first-year coach said. “The goalie (Daniel Sendek) couldn’t see it. That’s how you score in tight games.”
The loss dropped the Warriors to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the MIHL North.
“I think we just ran out out of a little bit of steam towards that third period,” Rice coach Lou Schmidt said. “And of course we took that fluky penalty. Our defenseman turned around and hit their guy in the head with his stick. It was an accident and the next thing you’re on a penalty kill with three minutes left. They win the face-off and it’s in the net.”
The Shamrocks were on their heels during the opening period. But despite being outshot 9-4, they took a 1-0 advantage into the first intermission when sophomore Kam Ottenbreit went top shelf into the upper left corner with Jared Lee and Cody Borke drawing assists with 4:33 left in the period.
“They (Rice) came out in the first period and kind of took it to us,” Kaleniecki said. “I thought we adjusted well in the second and the third and kind of turned it around. The first period we end up 1-0 when we really didn’t deserve to be. Our goalie (Alec Calvaruso) played really well. We made one nice play at the end and we got out of there 1-0 lead when we really didn’t deserve that I think.”
Rice tied it with 11:44 remaining in the second period as Mitch Schultz intercepted a pass just outside his own blue line along the boards and streaked in unassisted to beat Calvaruso to knot the game at 1-all.
“I felt like we carried the play in the second period and the one they took advantage of the turnover on ours and it ends up in the back of our net,” Kaleniecki said. “That’s what happens when you play good hockey teams. You can give them one chance and it can go the other way. The third period, I thought, was a very even period. I thought at times we were controlling the play and at times they were. That’s what you expect in a rivalry game like that.”
Calvaruso, who finished with 16 saves, made big back-to-back stops with just under five minutes remaining against Rice’s Garrett Moore to keep it deadlocked.
“I think the game kind of boiled down to a goalie contest,” Schmidt said. “I thought both guys played outstanding. Their guy made some great saves when he had to, and of course Danny Sendek, I think, stood on his head.”
And once CC got the lead, Rice was forced to pull Sendek (19 saves) for an extra attacker with just over a minute to play.
After a timeout, the Shamrocks went over their defensive assignments.
“That’s of the nitty-gritty time when you just have to make sure on everything,” Kaleniecki said. “We weren’t designing any specific face-off play. We were just making sure where we needed to be.”
The two teams will meet again Wednesday, Jan. 20 at Oak Park Arena.
“I know when we go there in a couple of months it will be another fun hockey game,” Kaleniecki said. “They’re a good hockey team, that’s the fun part of this league (MIHL) we’re playing in. It’s going to be like that. We turn around from (Thanksgiving) break and play Trenton and Orchard Lake (St. Mary Prep) twice. Probably going to be very similar hockey games. I’m going to get older every day … ”
Meanwhile, Schmidt is looking forward to the second encounter with the Shamrocks as well.
“Again, I’m proud of the kids,” he said. “I thought they played really, really hard. I thought it was two good teams out there today. We’re going to have another battle with them later in the season.”