Sports reporter Bill Khan of the Livingston Daily Press & Argus previews the state high school hockey semifinal match-up between Hartland and Birmingham Brother Rice, the top two teams in the final state Division 2 rankings.
Hartland will look to avenge a 4-0 loss to Brother Rice on Dec. 13.
HARTLAND VS. BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE
What: State Division 2 semifinal
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Rankings: Hartland, No. 2, Brother Rice No. 1
Records: Hartland 25-2-1, Brother Rice 23-4-1
Last meeting: Brother Rice 4, Hartland 0, Dec. 13
Leading scorers: Hartland: Josh Albring 23 goals, 51 assists; Jed Pietila 20 goals, 35 assists; Jake Behnke 22 goals, 20 assists; Blake Heier 21 goals, 17 assists; Joey Larson 16 goals, 10 assists; Carter Eiden 8 goals, 18 assists. Brother Rice: Blake Tosto 28 goals, 24 assists; Jack Clement 17 goals, 29 assists; Michael McInerney 15 goals, 29 assists; Mitch Shults 6 goals, 28 assists; Jack Reinhart 15 goals, 14 assists.
Goaltenders: Hartland: Andrew Heuwagen 16-1-0, 1.14 GAA, .935 save pct., 9 shutouts. Brother Rice: Ryan Hoffmann 21-4-0, 1.81 GAA, .923 save pct., 2 shutouts.
Biggest wins: Hartland: 3-2 (OT) and 4-3 over #3 (D1) Brighton, 3-2 over #1 (D1) Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-2 over #2 (D1) Detroit Catholic Central, 3-0 (twice) over #4 (D2) Livonia Stevenson. Brother Rice: 5-1 and 4-3 over #2 (D1) Detroit Catholic Central, 5-2 over #1 (D1) Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-0 over #2 (D2) Hartland, 5-2 over #1 (D3) Flint Powers Catholic, 4-3 (OT) over #3 (D1) Brighton, 6-3 over #3 (D2) Grosse Pointe South.
Analysis: This is your state championship game. The top four teams in the state were all on the same side of the bracket, with No. 1 Brother Rice ousting No. 3 Grosse Pointe South in the regional final and No. 2 Hartland taking out No. 4 Livonia Stevenson in the quarterfinals. This has quickly become a major rivalry, with Rice winning 4-3 in four overtimes in the 2015 quarterfinal and Hartland rallying to win 5-4 in overtime in the 2016 quarterfinal. These are two battle-tested teams with resumes filled with victories over the best teams in the state. Brother Rice is the only team to make Hartland look ordinary all season, beating the Eagles 4-0 on Dec. 13 at Oak Park Arena. These teams are much more evenly matched than that score indicates. Limiting the opportunities for the lethal Brother Rice power play will be crucial for Hartland, which allowed three power-play goals in that loss.
Hartland coach Rick Gadwa: “They’re gonna say they won’t take us lightly, but maybe they do. We’ll see.”
Prediction: Brother Rice 3, Hartland 2 (OT)
— Bill Khan
Contact Bill Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BillKhan.