Even though the rivalry has, as Howell hockey coach Mike Mantua put it, “been one-sided for a while now,” that doesn’t lessen the anticipation by both teams as Brighton and Howell meet tonight at Grand Oaks Ice Arena.
It has been one-sided — Howell hasn’t won a regular-season game between the teams since Dec. 3, 2014 — but it’s a rivalry nonetheless between kids who grew up playing together in many instances.
“It’s a traditional rival that is a rival in other sports,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “Kids in school realize that Howell’s a rival in every sport. They’re our neighbors. We’re in a community with them. You don’t have to drive to Novi to have a rivalry.”
Game time is 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Livingston Post.
Brihgton (14-2) and Howell (11-6) are in different conferences, but it’s possible they could play again before the pre-regional at Brighton at the end of February.
The Bulldogs clinched a spot in the KLAA championship game on Friday with a win over Salem, and Howell could do the same if it beats Hartland at Grand Oaks on Feb. 10.
“That was one of our goals, to play in that game,” Mantua said. “We scheduled it for that night so it would be a championship game.”
If the Highlanders win the Lakes Conference, the teams would meet for the KLAA title later in February.
But that’s a ways off. The Highlanders are coming off a loss at Lakeland which saw them fall behind early, then rally before losing 5-4.
“It was a good lesson for our guys moving forward,” Mantua said. “We can’t have that kind of effort if we want to compete against a Brighton or a Hartland.”
Brighton, meanwhile, faces two of its biggest rivals during exam week, which presents its own challenges.
“They’ve got enough going on to take things one game at a time,” Moggach said. “Getting enough rest, making sure they’re eating right and hydrating right. There’s a lot of things that are going on this week. We’ll take care of Howell, hopefully, then take care of exams and hopefully have the opportunity to play Catholic Central.”