After a pair of trips to the Division 1 state championship game at the end of the last decade, the Howell hockey team has had its troubles in the postseason.
The Highlanders will be trying to break that slump again tonight against an old rival/tormentor (Brighton) in a 6 p.m. pre-regional final at the Kensington Valley Ice House.
The game will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
“We’ve been preparing for this game all year,” Howell coach Mike Mantua said. “The mindset of the whole season has been to learn to play playoff hockey. So we’ll see if the preparation we’ve done all year pays off (tonight).”
“It’s the kind of game you like to be in,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “I tell our players, it’s a game you don’t forget, because it’s against a traditional rival who will always be there. It’s a great opportunity for them to bring their best.”
The teams met last year at the same point of the postseason, with Brighton winning 9-2, taking some of the luster off a 20-win season for Howell.
The Highlanders went to Monday’s Jackson-Brighton game as a team and saw the Bulldogs get off to a slow start, then rally for a 5-2 victory.
“We picked up how they moved the puck and what frustrates them,” Howell captain Thomas Wever said. “We saw what they do in certain spots, where their game is strong and weak, and we saw them in action.”
“We have to go in there knowing it’s going to be tougher and we have to play better,” Moggach said. “We can’t take shifts off. It’s all hands on deck. You have to look at the bigger picture, too. We’re going pretty good right now. I like where we’re going. We have depth, great speed, we’re healthy and we’re playing really well.
“That’s the way we go,” he added, referring to his team’s slow starts. “But I feel sorry for the team when we do get a good start. It will be awesome to see, but we have to find a way.”
The Bulldogs won the regular-season meeting between the teams, breaking a 3-3 tie with four unanswered goals in the third period.
“They’re a really good team,” Mantua said. “So it’s a matter of us working hard and competing and playing together as a team throughout the entire game. We had some good spurts in that game where we showed we had what it takes. We just have to find a way to put together three periods.”
The winner will play in Saturday’s Division 1 regional final at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Division 3 at Chelsea
Pinckney 4, Dexter 3, OT
CHELSEA — Connor Smith picked up where he left off Tuesday, scoring all four goals for the Pirates at the Arctic Coliseum.
The last game with 4:18 left in overtime.
Blake Lapum had three assists for the Pirates (9-16-1), who play Ann Arbor Richard at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Arctic Coliseum.