The MHSAA Hockey finals are set.
Thursday provided some sights that we didn’t expect on the road to USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, MI. And Friday also provided the same. Two teams are left in each division, and let's find out how they got there.
Division 2: Hartland vs Trenton
The first game on Saturday was the first game on Saturday last year. Hartland is looking to repeat as state champs. In doing so, the Eagles eclipsed the 26 win mark, a school best.
“A wealth of talent has come through our program,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa told the Livingston Daily.
“That’s most important. All the credit to our kids and the work they put in to do this. It’s all on them. We’ll direct. I’ll yell every now and then. Most importantly, those kids get the job done.”
The Eagles received goals from Mr. Hockey candidate Joey Larson, Benny Tervo scored at 13:04, Gabe Anderson at 14:38 and Dakota Kott. Grant Briggs and Adam Pietila.
Brett Tome stopped 27 shots.
Trenton, on the opposite side of the bracket, has been playing well down the stretch and it continued on Thursday as the Trojans beat Marquette 4-0.
The blond hairs didn’t start out hot, being outshot 20-8. The team got going from there. Alex Perrin, Nolan Szczepaniak, Gregory Obrycki, and Zach Teichart all scored.
But this is a rematch, and one with revenge in two folds. Hartland lost to Trenton in the MIHL Showcase in early February, and Trenton is looking to add its 15th state title in program history, first under Coach Chad Clements.
“I’m super excited,” captain Nolan Szczepaniak told the News Herald. “Last year we came out a little flat. But we are ready for them this year. I’m excited to finish off our unfinished business from last year.”
This one will be a fun one, and is sure to be an excellent representation of Michigan high school hockey.
Division 3: Houghton vs Detroit Country Day
Country Day looked like a team on a mission on Friday night. You wouldn’t have known had this team won a state title last year.
The YellowJackets peppered East Grand Rapids’ junior goaltender Tate Potteiger, with 38 shots. The team’s leading scorer Mickey VanAntwerp chipped in with two goals.
“We just want to come out every single game looking to prove ourselves,” VanAntwerp said.
“The guys before us set an example, and this group didn’t want to be a weak link,” coach Frank Novock added. “I don’t want to call it a legacy, because it’s not the right word. It’s just being proud of being a part of Country Day. Proud of where we come from.
“We don’t want to let the guy before you or after you down.”
The YellowJackets admit they’re not a great scoring team. But don’t let that fool you, this team works hard and practices against Sam Evola every day. They know how create opportunities.
Logan Gotinski added an empty net goal late in the third for a 3-1 win.
Meanwhile, Houghton is back in the finals for the first time since 2015, and has a great goaltender of its own in Jimmy Pietila.
Friday also showed that Houghton can score too beating Riverview Gabriel Richard 8-0. Three of those goals came on the power play.
This team is also as battle tested as you can imagine. A who’s who of Michigan teams traveled to the UP to face the Gremlins, and it’s prepared them for this moment.
“Our schedule is the toughest we’ve played,” coach Cory Markham said. “It was a who’s who of hockey powers came up to play us. Those teams playing us in our backyard prepared us for this weekend. If you don’t get that competition, you don’t understand what it takes to play in the playoffs.
“We know what it takes to win now.”
“It’s great to get out of the UP. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. We have a great room of guys. We’re all selfless and its always team first with us. We really want to win this state title and bring it back to Houghton,” Kevin Bostwick added.
Division 1: Detroit Catholic Central vs Saginaw Heritage
Catholic Central’s game on Friday was, for lack of a better term, weird. The Shamrocks out shot Rochester United, 55-10. And only won by two goals, and the game was even tied at 2-2 as well.
CC won 4-2.
“I’m just glad we pulled it out,” coach Brandon Kaleniecki said. “We outshot them in the neighborhood of 40 to eight. But we’ve been in a lot close games in the regular season and in the playoffs too. But our guys always stepped up.”
Two in particular were Mitch Morris and Carter Korpi who separated the Shamrocks from United. Korpi missed the post season last year with an injury and he’s not counting his chickens before they hatch.
“(The goal) was surreal, but we haven’t done anything yet,” he said.
And that’s the way Catholic Central thinks. They know how special it is to win a title, the program has won 13, but hasn’t won one in three seasons.
Last year the Shamrocks hadn’t lost a game entering the semifinals and lost to Brighton. This year, it’s a similar story. CC hasn’t lost to an in state opponent this year either.
It’s been over 365 days since they felt that sting. So while its nice to back in the finals, they definitely are playing like they a team that has experienced a multiple year drought.
Saginaw Heritage isn’t a slouch either, and wants a title just as bad beating the Bay Reps 5-2.
The Hawks entered the playoffs with nine straight wins including a win over Hartland before the playoffs began two weeks ago.
“I told the guys, that I wasn’t going to lie to them. Last year we were just satisfied being here,” Coach J.J. Bamberger admitted. “Now that we’ve been there, we want to finish the job. We need to be ready for a tough game on Saturday if we want to avoid that feeling again.”
The Hawks started fast and crashed the net against the Bay Reps on Friday. They look to keep things simple and just put pucks on net.
“In playoffs you score goals by going hard to the net. You need to get goals via second chances by driving the net. We work really hard on far pad shots. It allows us to drive the net for rebounds and create chances,” Bamberger said.
“But we know what CC brings. You can tell they’re on a mission. They’re balanced, and roll four lines and all of them have weapons out there.”