It took a while to get Friday night’s game started for the Howell hockey team, what with it being senior night and the team going through the customary pregame ceremony for its nine seniors.
But when the game finally did start, the Highlanders wasted no time getting after it.
If the group of seniors was battling nerves in its last home game, it certainly wasn’t showing it. Within six minutes of the game starting, the Highlanders had three goals. By the time the opening period ended, they had a commanding four-goal lead. And when the final buzzer sounder, Howell’s departing class had its last home victory, 6-1, over Clarkston at Grand Oaks Ice Arena.
As far as they were concerned, it was their picture-perfect ending.
“It’s sad to see the (regular) season end,” said Brendan Adams, who had a game-high three points with two scores and an assist. “But we ended it on a great note.”
The four first-period goals all came off the sticks of senior — two from Adams and another pair from senior forward Nick Pratt.
The rapid start was almost exclusively credited to the graduating class, which was both fitting and perhaps a bit surprising given the level of anxiety the nine seniors were at as they took the home ice for the final team.
Surprising to perhaps anyone but Howell coach Mike Mantua.
“The nice thing is with this group, you really don’t have to worry about that,” Mantua said. “These guys know what they’ve gotta get done. … This was the first senior night I didn’t have to worry about the kids’ focus.”
Given the start, Mantua hardly had to worry about anything.
Pratt began the first-period onslaught a mere two minutes in, sneaking the puck past Clarkston goalie Trevor Propson with assists from fellow seniors Hunter Hirzel and Aaron Eskola.
Adams netted the next one, the helpers coming from two juniors in Maxwell Dicicco and Scott Alfano. Then, it was Pratt striking again with a goal that gave freshman Shane Carsley his first career varsity point.
The first wrapped up with one more from Adams, who did his best in dueling with Pratt for first star honors in the two’s last home game. After that, the Highlanders were able to essentially put things on cruise control.
“During the ceremonially, (the emotions) definitely hit me,” Pratt said. “But after that, I got ready for the game. I was game-focused, and not really worrying about it too much. Then we had a great first period, and luckily we did because the other two periods we didn’t play our best.
The scoring slowed in the next 34 minutes as Clarkston buckled down and decided it wouldn’t be falling victim to the eight-goal mercy rule. However, that didn’t mean the scoring stopped completely.
Junior forward Nicholas Stanko got in on the action, putting the juniors on the board with passes from Adams and Matthew Ashline in the second.
Clarkston retaliated with its first goal in the closing minutes of the second with a sweet wraparound from behind the net. It was the only damage it could do against Howell goal Nicholas Carnevale, another senior.
“We came out hard in the first and we got a good lead,” Adams said. “Second, we got away from it a little bit, but we finished strong and got the win. That’s all that matters.”
In the third, Hirzel finished it off for Howell and its nine seniors.
His score made it and even six goals for the Highlanders, who closed the regular season with an impressive 19-5 record and two points shy of dethroning Hartland for the KLAA West Division title.
“This senior class is definitely special,” said Mantua, who took over Howell’s program three seasons ago and has groomed these seniors into the players they are now. “They’ve done a good job in bringing the program along. It’s the leadership from this group that’s got us here. We’ve had a lot of wins and a lot of good, tight victories and those guys played a huge role in that.”
Northville 39 Brighton 36
NORTHVILLE – Given the two teams’ records, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a three-pint game between the Brighton and Northville boys basketball teams. But the Bulldogs, led by Dylan Bennett, played a tough game to keep it close.
Colin McClelland added eight points in the near upset, as did Mike Lloyd.
The Dogs fell to 8-11 while Northville improved to 12-6.
“We played well,” Brighton coach Mike Griest said. “Northville is a really good team. They have five guys that can shoot it. It was 21-21 at the half, and we had a two-point lead going into the fourth quarter. We just couldn’t score.”
Fowlerville 67, Eaton Rapids 62
FOWLERVILLE – Gladiators senior Drew Vielbig posted a huge line of 23 points and nine rebounds to lead his team to a victory Friday night against Eaton Rapids.
The Gladiators (10-9 overall, 4-6 CAAC) had four players in double digits including Kenny Ferris (11), Connor Collins (11) and Sam MacDowell (10).
MacDowell added seven boards and three blocks while Collins chipped in five assists.
“We played great for about three quarters,” said Fowlerville coach Fred Hackett, happy with the win but not happy about surrendering a big lead. “We were great defensively in the first half, holding them to 13 points. We came out and played a great third and actually built up a 17, 18-point lead. Then they made a comeback but fortunately we were able to make enough plays down the stretch.”
Hartland 55, Walled Lake Northern 37
WALLED LAKE – The Eagles were soaring Friday night with double-digit point games from four different players.
Led by Luke Maggert, who scored 12 points, the Eagles improved to 7-11 overall. Eric Mundinger-Smith posted 11 points as did Noah Marshall. Carson Miller chipped in 10.
The Eagles return to action Tuesday at home against Linden.
Eaton Rapids 38, Fowlerville 34
FOWLERVILLE – The Fowlerville girls weren’t quite as lucky as the boys, falling to Eaton Rapids on Friday night in their season finale despite a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds from Lexa Elzerman.
The Gladiators finished the regular season at 4-16 overall.
Charyl Stockwell 45, Ypsilanti Cavalry Christian 31
HARTLAND – The Charyl Stockwell girls basketball team concluded its season in impressive fashion Friday night, defeating Ypsilanti Cavalry Christian behind Grace DeLorenzo’s big game.
DeLorenzo scored a game-high 21 points while adding seven rebounds, three assists and six steals. Emma Miko also reached double figures, contributing 10 points to the winning effort.
The Sentinels, who joined the MHSAA this year and under probationary period which disqualifies them until next season for the playoffs, ended the year at 11-7 overall.
“Great defensive effort, great rebound, and an all-around really great game,” Sentinels coach Laurie DeLorenzo said.