Four months ago, Livingston County hockey teams began the odyssey that is the high school hockey season,
Beginning tonight, after 25 games and countless practices, the season boils down to a two-week sprint, one night at a time, to a state championship.
“To win a regional, you have to play three times, and we’re not used to playing three games in a week,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “There might be a week you do that, but for the most part there are two games.”
Four of the five Livingston County-based teams would play three games if they got to the regional finals. Howell, which has a bye in the Division 1 pre-regional at Brighton, would play two.
Then again, looking ahead is what coaches don’t want to do. Not this week.
“We hope to be fortunate enough to play Howell and at Orchard Lake,” Moggach said, referring to the regional final at St. Mary’s. “But we have to get past Jackson first.”
The Vikings finished second in the CAAC with a 10-1-1 league mark, while Brighton (17-8) goes into tonight’s game with a four-game winning streak, including a 6-3 win over Birmingham Brother Rice on Saturday.
“It was a good tuneup for us,” Moggach said. “We’re on a pretty good roll, but I keep telling my guys that we haven’t played our best game yet. Even (Saturday), we won two periods. One of these days, we’ll play three good periods.”
The other team playing tonight is Grand Ledge-Fowlerville (9-13-2), which plays the Eastside Stars, a Haslett-Williamston co-op. Both teams play in the CAAC, where the Stars were 2-10.
Tonight’s game is at GLF’s home ice at the Summit Ice Complex in Dimondale.
Randy Montrose, in his first season as GLF’s coach, is taking nothing for granted.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “We beat them the first time, and they beat us the second time. This time, it matters which team shows up. Hopefully our team shows up and we outwork the other team.
“The league here is a lot different from the KLAA,” said Montrose, who coached at Howell for 10 seasons. “Teams aren’t as focused here. Some teams work harder than others, and I hope that team shows up for us. We have some decent players, and if they all show up with a collective effort, we should do well. If not, we could be in for a tough evening.”
Two other teams begin play on Tuesday, both on their home rinks.
Pinckney, which has in past years has frequently found itself in the postseason, begins the tournament on Tuesday against Dexter.
“It’s nice to be at our home rink,” he said. “It’s nice to not have to be hauling equipment, and it takes a little pressure off. We like hosting.”
One goal is already set: Connor Smith became the first Pinckney player to score 50 goals in a season, doing so with a hat trick in the regular-season finale at Waterford on Feb. 20.
“He wanted to get that,” Pinckney coach Ted Kroll said. “He was a big part of our team this season.”
The Pirates (8-16-1) play a Dreadnaughts team (7-15-1) that beat them 5-4 on Jan. 9.
“We have a different mindset than if we had beaten them,” Kroll said. “We want to get them back for the loss earlier in the year, and our guys are focusing on that.”
Hartland (21-2-1) begins play in its regional against Fenton (14-10), a home game for both at the Hartland Ice House.