Howell, Pinckney meet in clash of hockey rivals

As Hartland and Brighton did on Wednesday, the Howell and Pinckney hockey teams hope to learn a lot more about their teams after tonight’s clash at the Arctic Coliseum in Chelsea.

It’s the season opener for Pinckney, while Howell is 1-0 after an 8-2 win over Milford in the Highlanders’ opener on Tuesday.

But, Howell coach Mike Mantua said, the Highlanders are still learning.

“We haven’t gotten into our team strategies yet,” he said. “Right now, we’re working on finding each other out there. We’ll start putting X’s and O’s out there this week and we’ll see a little more of that the next couple of games.”

Pinckney, meanwhile, is playing it its season opener, a game that starts at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on The Livingston Post starting at 5:50 p.m.

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“Our kids are ready,” Pinckney coach Ted Kroll said. “We’ll have energy and excitement going in, and that will be a positive.”

Howell is coming off a 20-6 record last season, which ended in a pre-regional loss at  Brighton.

Pinckney is trying to regroup after a 5-19-1 season a year ago, one that saw goalie Nick Lefebvre see nearly 1,000 shots in 22 games. He stopped 61 of 69 shots in the last meeting between the Pirates and Highlanders, an 8-0 loss on Jan. 24.

Mantua saw things a little differently.

“(Lefebvre) played really well,” he said. “When we made mistakes, they capitalized. (Tonight) will be a good opportunity to see how we stack up and get us ready for Hartland in two games.”

The Highlanders play at Waterford on Saturday, then meet Hartland in the annual Pink Game between the schools on Dec. 1.

Pinckney, meanwhile, will play at Hartland in the Eagles’ home opener on Monday.

“We have a bear of a schedule,” Kroll said. “We have five games with one practice in the next week and a half. It’s good and bad. We’d like to have a few more practices and make some adjustments.”

Still, for a coach and team ready to go after nearly three weeks of practice, it’s time to play.

“It’s nice to open at home and be on our home ice,” Kroll said. “We don’t have a lot of home games this season. For us, Howell is a big rivalry for our guys and our school, and it’s a good way to start the season in terms of energy level and competition level.”

“We’re looking forward to (Pinckney),” Mantua said. “They’re an experienced team, and it will be a good opportunity to see how we stack up and get us ready to play Hartland. It’s a good test and a good way to start out the year.”

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