HARTLAND — There’s no doubt the Hartland hockey team is one of the better squads in the state.
But coach Rick Gadwa wasn’t buying it, even after a 4-1 win over Howell on Monday night.
The Eagles (4-0, ranked No. 1 in Division 2) got out to a quick 3-0 lead. It was what happened after that which irked the team’s coach.
“I’m not from the school of excuses,” Gadwa said. “Some might say we had a lot of time off and we were trying to get our legs back, but now with this team, if you have speed and don’t use it, what are you? You’re useless. If you’re deep and you don’t use your depth, what are you? You’re useless.
“We did not play to our strengths tonight whatsoeverm” he said. “When you’re up 3-0 in the first and you win 4-1, the score tells you that, period by period, we progressively got worse.”
For Howell coach Mike Mantua, Monday’s loss was part of the learning process for his team.
“They’re a fast team, and our guys came out watching them, and it was the difference in the game,” he said. “It was a good test for us, and the boys came out a little shellshocked. It’s good that they bounced back and competed in the second and third (periods).”
Lars Storm got the Eagles on the board immeditately, just 19 seconds into the first period. Jake Behnke, moved to the top line due to Jed Pietila’s broken jaw, scored the next two goals for the Eagles.
Josh Farr scored 44 seconds into the second period for Howell, and Hartland’s Carter Eiden finished the scoring with a power-play goal late in the period.
“We didn’t have our energy,” Josh Albring said of the final two periods. “WE were excited that it was a rival game, but when we got those first three goals, we slowed down a bit.”
Mantua thought his team had something to do with that.
“The kids just started battling, trying to win some races, and it made a difference,” he said, referring to the second and third periods.
Gadwa, meanwhile, was looking to figure out how to get his team ready for Wednesday’s game with Brighton.
“Brighton is rolling, and in our eyes, they’re the best team in Division 1,” he said. “I don’t care about our ranking. I don’t agree without ranking. That wasn’t a top team in the state you saw tonight. You hope, you have faith the boys can turn it around, literally, in one day. “We’ll have to hit it had (in Tuesday’s practice) and get some of that pizzazz back.”