HARTLAND — Without a doubt, last year’s Division 2 quarterfinal between Hartland and Birmingham Brother Rice was unforgettable.
The teams battled for three hours before Brother Rice won in the fourth overtime, 4-3, en route to winning the state championship,
“I remember it was a hard battle,” Hartland senior defenseman Kyle Mazur said. “They had 60-some shots and we blocked 20 more as players to battle through four overtimes.”
Hartland coach Rick Gadwa is of mixed opinions when asked about the game.
“I’m going to try and forget about it and at the same time use it as fuel,” he said Monday. “We know they’re coming. We’ve seen a lot of them this year, and they’re getting better and better. It’s going to take an A-plus effort from our guys to get this done.”
The game begins at 7:30 at the Novi Ice Arena and will be broadcast on The Livingston Post at 7:25 as the second half of a basketball-hockey doubleheader. It follows the Howell-Farmington Hills Mercy regional game, which starts at 5 p.m.
As for the Eagles (23-2-1), they got a measure of revenge, beating Brother Rice 3-1 in late December.
Gadwa and his coaches also saw the Warriors (21-6-1) play twice at the MIHL Showcase in Trenton a month ago.
“But there’s a time when you put pencil and paper away and you start playing,” he said. “I think we match up well with them, It comes down to men being men and playing the game to the best of their ability.”
Gadwa expects the Warriors to put a lot of shots on net again tonight, but the prospect does not concern him.
“We’re not going to be intimidated if they get 50 shots,” he said. “We have a good goaltender (Christian Spengler), and his job is to stop pucks. We want to limit shots from good scoring areas. If we can keep (shots) to the outside and from the point, we’ll take that.”
It’s Hartland’s fifth consecutive trip to the quarterfinals, something Gadwa says works in his team’s favor.
“We’ve been here before,” he said. “We have a lot of guys in the locker room who have experience in that game. There are guys who don’t, but they have those experiences at other levels.”
Mazur, a captain this year, is playing in his third quarterfinals.
“It helps me lead the team with the younger guys,” he said. “They haven’t been through this before, and I have.
‘The nerves are kicking in,” Mazur admitted, “but we’ll work them out and be ready to go.”
After six months of fall workouts and a full season, there isn’t much left to say.
“One thing we preach is limiting mistakes,” Gadwa said. “The team that makes the most mistakes is usually the team that loses these kinds of games. We want to limit those, be safe with the puck and get the puck to their net with traffic in front.”
The winner will take on either Livonia Stevenson or Trenton at 5 p.m. Thursday at USA Hockey Arena (formerly Compuware Arena) in Plymouth. The state championship game will be played at 10 a.m. Saturday.