HARTLAND — If the Hartland hockey team wins the Division 2 state tournament this weekend, no one can say the Eagles backed their way in.
Hartland (24-2-1) beat 2015 champion Birmingham Brother Rice 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday, and will face 2015 runner-up Livonia Stevenson tonight in the Division 2 semifinals at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
The game, which begins at 5 p.m., will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said. “I feel we’re well-prepared. We were really tested (Tuesday) by Brother Rice, and we want to use that confidence to ride into the Stevenson game.”
Gadwa wasn’t on the bench for the previous meeting between the teams this season, which Hartland won 4-0 to earn its first KLAA league title, due to the birth of his daughter.
“We’ve battled them and we’ve only beaten them once, and that was this year,” he said. “We know they’re a well-coached, good hockey team. We know they’ll be coming hard at us. We’ll have to hope for the best.”
The first time the schools met was in the 2013 Division 2 title game, which Stevenson won 5-4.
“We just have to be ready for them,” Hartland captain Kyle Mazur said. “They have an experienced team, they have an experienced coach, and we have to give it everything we’ve got.”
After Tuesday’s dramatic overtime win, Mazur said there was plenty of excitement at Hartland High School on Wednesday.
“For sure,” he said. “Everyone. Students, teachers, even. So it was pretty cool to see that. I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited. But now we have to get ready for (Stevenson).”
Stevenson got to the semifinals by edging Trenton, 2-1, Tuesday night at Yost Arena.
Mazur believes that the Eagles can use the same winning formula tonight as they did in last month’s KLAA title game
“We know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “We’ve seen their goalie. He’s a good goalie. We know where to put the puck on him, so, yeah, I think it’s good that we’ve played them.”
Gadwa, on the other hand, is more circumspect.
“You work hard, you close your eyes and cross your fingers, right?,” he said. They’re well prepared and we’re prepared as well. You take the two teams, put them on the ice, drop the puck and see what happens.”