HARTLAND – Hartland hockey coach Rick Gadwa was willing to let his team celebrate its fourth consecutive regional title on Saturday night, but, like most coaches, he also worried about what might have been.
“We took too many penalties,” he said. “You’d think we would have learned from what happened to Brighton. We can’t continue to do that as we go farther into the tournament.”
But, unlike Brighton, Hartland did advance, beating Walled Lake Northern 6-3 in a battle of special teams. Each team had three power-play goals, while Hartland added two at even strength and one short-handed.
“It’s good to keep going,” said Hartland’s Daniel Smith, who scored twice, both on special teams.
Hartland goalie Christian Spengler stood tall against a Northern attack that featured two lines. He made several spectacular saves.
“He kept us in it late,” Gadwa said. “That was good for the guys, and they fed off that.”
Northern (18-8-2) got on the board first, when Myles Jackson scored 1:32 into the contest to give the Knights the early lead.
It stayed that way until the Eagles got going late in the period. Philip Caris scored with 4:32 left and Smith scored less than a minute later, on separate power plays, to give Hartland a lead it would not relinquish.
As the game went on, the Eagles worked more and more players into the lineup, while Northern stuck with its top two lines. It worked at first; the Knights outshot Hartland 16-11 in the first period.
But the Knights’ forward soon began laboring, while Gadwa used playing time for his third and fourth lines as both a reward for those player and a chance for his top two lines to rest.
“We had guys on our fourth line playing as well as our first-line guys,” Gadwa said. “They earned their spots.”
Alexander Magnant and Nick Snyder each scored unassisted goals to give Hartland a 4-1 lead, but Northern scored twice more on the power play to cut the margin to 5-3 in the final period.
It stayed that way until a little past the midpoint of the third period, when Kyle Mazur spotted Shane Kelly streaking up the ice. He hit him in stride with a pass, and Kelly effectively put the game out of reach.
Afterward, Gadwa, who recently turned 30, was huffing and puffing like a grumpy old coach about the penalties.
“The only thing good about this is that we won,” he growled.
Hartland finished the night outshooting Northern 40-36.
The Eagles will be off today before preparing for Tuesday’s Division 2 quarterfinal against either Birmingham Brother Rice or Rochester Stoney Creek in Troy. Game time is at 6:45 p.m.
“At this time of year, the most important things are repetition and rest,” Gadwa said as players and fans milled about on the ice at the Hartland Sports Center. “We’re going to be off (today) and hit things hard on Monday for 80 minutes and get ready for Tuesday.”
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