PLYMOUTH – Second chances don't come along very often in hockey, especially in the final seconds of a hard-fought state championship game.
But Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice's Alec Hamady made good on his Saturday, jamming a rebound into the net for the game-winning goal with 6.7 seconds remaining to lift the Warriors to an eventual 2-1 victory at USA Hockey Arena.
The championship was the fourth in Division 2 and fifth overall for the Warriors (15-4).
For Byron Center (17-1), it was a sudden, heart-stopping end to a memorable season.
"There's no way to describe it," Hamady said of winning Saturday after his team's 2020 championship bid was thwarted when the season ended before the Semifinals due to the coronavirus.
The winning goal came as the Warriors were swarming in front of the Byron Center goal.
"I hit (the goalie’s) blocker, and the puck slid back to me," Hamady said. "I hit it backhanded, and it slid under his blocker."
The Bulldogs then pulled goalie Carson McKenzie for an extra attacker during the final seconds, but Brother Rice shot the puck into the Byron Center end with three seconds left and began celebrating.
The first two periods were a defensive battle, led by McKenzie and Brother Rice goaltender Drake Danoo.
The spell was broken when Brother Rice's Carson Moilanen scored on a rebound with 10:56 left in the third.
But the Bulldogs responded immediately when Logan Nickolaus skated in on Danoo, then passed to Mason Breit, who tied the game just 10 seconds after Moilanen's goal.
Brother Rice coach Kenny Chaput, who won his second Finals title, said his team's response was critical.
"We could have collapsed," he said. "We told the kids it was the same game as before and to keep playing. They did a good job of that."
Byron Center was playing in its first Final after it reached the 2020 Division 1 Semifinals before the season ended early.
"We have 10 seniors who built this program from nothing," Byron Center coach Taylor Keyworth said. "I couldn't be more proud of our team. No one's had it tougher than the teams that got cut short last year at the end of the season. We go into this season thinking we had a good team, only to get cut short in November. We finally get a chance to play and our guys stayed positive and stuck with it, banded together and had a fantastic season."
After the game, several Brother Rice players, including Hamady, skated to their Byron Center counterparts.
"I used to play with those kids on the TPH Top 80 team," Hamady said. "I became really close with them. I told them they played an outstanding game, they are amazing players and not to worry. It was a battle."
PHOTOS: Brother Rice celebrates after scoring the eventual winning goal with six seconds to play in Saturday's Division 2 Final at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Brother Rice's Alec Hamady and Byron Center's Ryan Pratt line up for a face off. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
If the Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice hockey team ends up winning the Division 2 championship in March, it could be said that the journey to that title started in August with an offer he wasn't ready to accept.
That’s when senior Peter Rosa — who was coming off an all-state season last year as a junior — went to Louisiana to train for a few days with the Shreveport Mudbugs, a team in the North American Hockey League.
Rosa said at that point he was already wanting to come back to Brother Rice for his senior season, but given how he impressed the Mudbugs coaching staff during that camp, it didn’t stop Shreveport coaches from trying to change Rosa’s mind after they informed him he had a roster spot if he wanted it.
“They wanted me there,” Rosa said. “They said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to come develop here?’"
But Rosa stuck with his original intentions, saying thanks, but no thanks, so he could play one final year of high school hockey.
As a result, Rosa is already going down in the history books as one of the best to ever play for a storied Brother Rice program.
Following Tuesday’s win against Warren De La Salle Collegiate, Rosa has 22 goals and 25 assists in 17 games for the Warriors this winter.
He is No. 2 on the school’s all-time points list with 116, although he likely won’t be able to catch leader Mackenzie MacEachern, who had 154 points during his time at Brother Rice.
However, odds are good that Rosa will be able to overtake MacEachern’s record of 65 goals scored in a career, since Rosa currently is at 59.
Rosa is a versatile 5-foot-10, 175-pound offensive stalwart who can play center and both wing positions.
When Brother Rice lost to Trenton in a Division 2 Semifinal last year, Brother Rice head coach Kenny Chaput said odds were good at the time that it would be the last time he would coach Rosa.
“I was fully planning on that being his final game with us,” he said.
Rosa went to Shreveport following the season to practice and meet the team in what was his first encounter with the Mudbugs before going back in August.
But throughout the summer, Chaput, through conversations with Peter’s dad and Brother Rice assistant coach Todd Rosa, had an inkling that Peter preferred to play at Brother Rice for his senior year.
Once the official word came from Peter at the beginning of the school year that he was coming back, there was a challenge for Chaput.
Given Rosa was good enough to play at junior level, it was tempting for coaches to feel they didn’t have anything left to teach Rosa in high school.
“I had to make sure I went above to push him so he doesn’t get stale with things,” Chaput said. “It’s still a challenge because he gets things done that a lot of other kids don’t. But there’s tweaks in his game that he still needs to do, so we’ll continue to push him the best we can. Obviously, we didn’t want him to have a year where he didn’t get pushed and he didn’t progress.”
With Rosa in the fold, Brother Rice is an obvious contender to win its second Division 2 title in three years.
“I don’t think there’s anything like playing for your school and for your classmates,” said Rosa, who said he’s not sure yet if he’ll play in Shreveport or for another junior team after he finishes high school. “Having the benefit of hanging out with kids in school all day, and then coming to practice with them and playing with them, I’ve built relationships with many kids on the team that I wouldn’t trade anything for. I’ve had a great experience.”
Even worse for opponents is that after the loss to Trenton in that Semifinal, Rosa is motivated for redemption.
“That’ll leave a pretty bad taste in your mouth,” Rosa said. “I just felt like I had some unfinished business.”
If that business ends up being finished, opponents will sure wish those Shreveport coaches could’ve changed Rosa’s mind in August.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice's Peter Rosa gains steam on a rush during last season's Division 2 Semifinal against Trenton at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Rosa raises his stick in celebration after scoring Rice's first goal in the eventual 4-2 loss.