Boys Varsity Hockey · Hockey Finishes Banner Season in Semifinals

Article and photos courtesy of MIPrepzone
By Timothy Arrick

PLYMOUTH — Detroit Catholic Central proved to be too much for Rochester United, defeating United, 4-2, Friday evening to advance to the Division 1 championship for the third time in the past four years under head coach Brandon Kaleniecki.

Mitch Morris scored what would prove to be the game-winner with 10:20 remaining in game, chipping a shot on the short side for a power-play goal and a 3-2 Shamrock lead. Carter Korpi added an insurance goal with 1:53 remaining to put the game out of reach.

The Shamrocks dominated from the opening faceoff, at one point generating 24 consecutive shots on goal in the first period. But Rochester United goalie Domenico Munaco was hot, stopping shot after shot en route to 28-save first period. Catholic Central would pepper the Rochester United net all game long, but Munaco kept turning away shots while under siege for long stretches, finishing with 51 saves.  “We knew there were going to be a lot of shots in this game. The biggest difference was trying to eliminate scoring chances,” United head coach Bryan Kowalski said. “If they’re shooting form outside the dots, I’m confident in our goaltender. He’s going to make that first save no matter what.”

Munaco also got plenty of help from his defense as the United defensemen consistently won battles in front of Munaco to clear rebounds.  “I pretty much saw every shot. They were clearing bodies,” Munaco said. “Honestly, every time I have a game, or in this case a big game, I just think to myself that it’s just another day. I know what I have to do. And at the end of it, I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to play this sport.”

The Shamrocks finally opened the scoring with 8:17 remaining in the first period when Justin Roe snapped home a wrist shot on a three-on-two break. That was the only goal Catholic Central could manage in the first period.  “Traditionally, the first periods, as the boys know, haven’t been our best periods, but we knew that we get stronger as the game goes on, and we know that CC, their first period is always their best period. They go out there, and they’re a great program, and they can push you around quick,” Kowalski said. “We knew that if we kept it close in the first period that it was going to be close all game.”

United would play much better in the second period, tying the game 1-1 on a power-play goal by Jack Myers who tipped in Cole Ferguson‘s point shot 4:59 into the second period.

Luke Collins put Catholic Central back in front with 7:20 remaining in the second period, blasting one from just above the left circle that hit a player in front and deflected in through a crowd for a 2-1 Shamrocks lead as Catholic Central continued to maintain a wide edge in shots on goal behind a relentless forecheck.

“Move your feet. It all starts with moving your feet. If the first guy is moving his feet, you’ve got a chance to put them under pressure and then the second and third guys making good reads, that’s a key part,” Kaleniecki said. “As long as guys are bought in and doing that, you might be able to create those situations.”

Rochester United kept fighting, however, and tied the game again at 2-2 with 12:28 to play in the third when Myers banged in a rebound that was loose in the crease for a second power-play goal.  “I’m glad we pulled it out obviously. That’s a tough spot to be in,” Kaleniecki said. “I don’t know what the shots were at the time, 40-8 or something around there and you find yourself in a 2-2 hockey game, but they had a lot of close games all year.” He added that, “Fortunately for this team, we’ve had guys that step up; and Carter (Korpi) and Mitch (Morris) came up with two big goals tonight, and hey, we live to fight another day.”

Catholic Central improves to 28-1-1 on the year. The Shamrocks have won every game they have played against a Michigan high school this year. Detroit Catholic Central advances to the state championship game after bowing out in the semifinals last year.

“What happened last year was really upsetting. It’s sad to see a bunch of seniors end like that,” Morris said. “But returning I feel like there are shoes to fill on that end, and it’s always bad to lose. Our quote in our locker room is remember that feeling. It’s something that sticks in your head your whole year, and it’s something that we’ve got to take advantage of next game.”

The loss snaps an 18-game winning streak for Rochester United who finish the year 26-4.

“We always got knocked out of the playoffs my sophomore and junior years right in the first round, and now we’re here making it to the semifinals. I couldn’t ask for anything else. It’s just a blessing to be honest to finish our season losing to the best team out there,” senior defenseman Niko Mantzios said.