A go-ahead, breakaway goal by Berkley senior Joakim Ericson with just 2:04 remaining could have — should have — ended Hartland’s return to the state semifinals.
But Hartland’s seniors — playing in their third consecutive quarterfinal — had just a fraction more left in the tank at Yost Arena Tuesday.
Ericson came in off the bench undetected, got behind the Hartland defense and scored on a breakaway goal past Hartland goalie Brent Pietila to give Berkley a 2-1 edge and what looked like its first-ever trip to Compuware Arena for Thursday’s Division 2 semifinals.
But 44 seconds later, senior Austin Flores scored a rebound goal after two stops by Berkley goalie Stephen Wroe, to tie the game at 2.
Overtime seemed imminent before Hartland senior Chris McRae got the puck near the right-side boards, chipped the puck slightly ahead as one defenseman stumbled, and quickly found himself also in a breakaway situation. It too ended in a goal — with just 10 seconds remaining in regulation for a 3-2 Hartland victory.
“I was just blessed that the defenseman fell,” McRae said. “Then I look up and see the other defenseman fell and I’m like, alright, there it is. To go in one-on-one against the goalie with just 10 seconds left, that was awesome. I am speechless right now.
“Everyone on the ice were seniors at the end, and we said, ‘this is it.’ We weren’t nervous. We’ve been doing this.”
And in doing so, are giving their coach Rick Gadwa more grey hairs in the process.
“They are a pretty panic-free group,” Gadwa said. “I’m screaming and trying to get them going and they’re as calm as could be. I’m proud of them the way they went and got it done.
“But we can’t wait that late. It’s a playoff hockey game, so the bounces are crazy. It’s a roller-coaster ride. Our entire season’s been that way. But good teams find a way to get it done and we did.”
Berkley (20-7-2) got on the board first, just 6:54 into the game on a goal by senior Curtis Carne in front of the net, assisted by Jacob Murphy and James Bala. McRae then tied it up in the second period. John Nagel took a medium-range shot that McRae was able to redirect into the net, with 10:35 left in the period.
Hartland is 19-9-1 while carrying the hopes of going one better than last year’s state runner-up finish to Livonia Stevenson.