Hartland and Livonia Stevenson met for the second time this season with a championship berth on the line in a Division 2 semifinal Thursday at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
Hartland, Division 2 runner-ups in 2013 and 2014, boasted confidence from a recent 4-0 victory over the Spartans for the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship. It was the most goals allowed by an opponent from the state of Michigan this season against the Stevenson defense.
But Stevenson, 2013 champion over Hartland and runner-up to Birmingham Brother Rice last year, got its revenge and then some, dominating the shots on goal, 38-18, and ending the game with a 5-1 victory.
“I just think we were a little more opportunistic tonight,” said Livonia Stevenson coach David Mitchell. “We got a couple of early goals which calmed us down. It showed that we could score on them.
“It’s such a well-coached hockey club with solid hockey players. Hats off to (Hartland coach) Rick Gadwa and his staff and to those players. It’s tough to play them, two teams from our league. But we’re happy with the win. It’s a respectful rivalry. We make each other better.”
Stevenson advanced to Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game.
“Everything went wrong pretty much all game,” said Gadwa. “It’s just the way the cards fell. We have a very good hockey team, but anyone here tonight didn’t see that. That stinks, but at the same time we wake up tomorrow and go at it again.”
The Spartans (22-6-1) made sure they wouldn’t get shut out this time as senior defenseman Zach Finzel lit the lamp at the 11:43 mark of the first period with an assist from Nate Sudek for a 1-0 lead. It was the first of two goals for Finzel.
“Last time we played them they got an early goal and we got on our heels,” said Mitchell. “Anytime you get a couple of early goals and force the opponent to chase the game a little bit. … They were chasing the game. Last time we were.”
The one-goal advantage didn’t last long as Stevenson made it 2-0 52 seconds later on a goal by Ben Kowalske with assists from Shane Leonard and Joe Alcantara.
“We try to approach every game the same way, but obviously with Hartland they are a top team,” said Kowalske. “That’s part of what our culture is about. We’re trying to match or exceed great programs in the state and Hartland is a great program. No matter the outcome or how the game looked, it’s no easy task.”
Stevenson continued to pour it on in the second period with Jake Beaune scoring an unassisted goal with 15:19 left in the period to make it 3-0.
Hartland (25-3-1) finally got on the board with a power play goal from Luke Cowan with an assist from Josh Albring to make it 3-1.
Continuing to fire away at will against goalie Christian Spangler, the Spartans made it 4-1 on a goal by Sudek with an assist from Nick Beers.
“With a lead you try to mentally stay in the game,” said Stevenson goalie Cullen Barber. “At that point it’s about the team.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be reached on Twitter @farrellperry.
Semifinals and finals
All games at USA Hockey arena, Plymouth
Thursday’s Division 2 semifinals
Livonia Stevenson 5, Hartland 1
Romeo 5, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 2
Friday’s Division 3 semifinals
Hancock vs. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook, 11 a.m.
Grand Rapids CC vs. Chelsea, 1:30 p.m.
Friday’s Division 1 semifinals
Novi Detroit Catholic Central vs. U-D Jesuit, 5
Grandville vs. Brighton, 7:30
Division 2: Livonia Stevenson vs. Romeo, 10 a.m.
Division 3, 2 p.m.
Division 1, 6
Tickets: $8 per semifinal session, $10 per finals session.