Hartland rally sets up rematch with Trenton in semifinals
In the March 2019 D2 final, Hartland overpowered Trenton for the title. (Hockey Weekly photo/Rena Laverty)
It took a third-period rally to set up a rematch between the best two teams in Division 2 for the last three seasons.
Hartland scored three goals in less than 10 minutes in the third period for a 3-1 comeback win over Rockford in a state quarterfinal in Dimondale on Saturday.
The two-time defending Division 2 state champion will face Trenton in the Division 2 semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
The fourth-ranked Eagles (19-6-2) defeated the Trojans the last two seasons in the Division 2 championship game.
Trenton, No. 3 in Division 2, defeated top-ranked Livonia Stevenson 5-1 on Saturday.
“Our boys are doing what they need to do,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa told the Livingston Daily. “What we want is to take a two-goal lead into the third period and not be down one or two.
“There’s room for improvement. With that said, they’re resilient. When you get to this point, you throw all the other stuff out the window. A win, and you play for a state championship. Lose, and you’re going home.”
Chad L’Esperance tied the game 1-1 with 9:10 left. Adam Pietila scored the game-winner with 3:43 left in the game, and Kieran Carlile added an empty-net goal with 53 seconds left to clinch the victory.
Hartland outshot Rockford, 34-11.
“We always talk about the constant climb with our guys,” Gadwa said. “As a coach, you just hope your team’s grasping on to the concept that if you’re down, you’re not out. Having that confidence is important, knowing you can come back and win games late. If you’re in a situation like that again, we know we can get it done.”
In a Dec. 20 matchup, Hartland and Trenton skated to a 3-3 tie in Hartland. The Trojans led 3-0 before the Eagles rallied for the tie.
“It was one of those games Hartland loves playing where we do a good job keeping it exciting for everybody,” Gadwa said. “They really started on time. They scored two in the first. It was one of those gradual climbs by our team.
“It was a turning point for us. That’s when your team grows up. You have 25 learning lessons in a season; that was one we liked.”