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Hartland goes to overtime to beat Brother Rice

Hockey   | Ben Szilagy

Hartland goes to overtime to beat Brother Rice

Novi — It wouldn’t be a Birmingham Brother Rice-Hartland game without an overtime period. But this time around, the ending was different.

After losing last season’s Division 2 quarterfinal game, Hartland beat Brother Rice, 5-4, at the Novi Ice Arena thanks to Luke Cowan’s game winning overtime goal.

Hartland will face Livonia Stevenson in a semifinal at 5 p.m. at USA Hockey Arena on Thursday night.

“The refs let us play, and it was a very back and forth game. You’ll get better hockey games because of it,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said.  “It was great to see the kind of up and down hockey we had tonight at the high school level. Brother Rice is a very good team. We’re lucky to move on, but we’ll take it.”

Brother Rice (21-7-1) peppered Hartland goaltender Christian Spangler for most of the first period with 14 shots on goal. When Spangler lost sight of the puck, Junior Matt Kesto jumped on the rebound and gave Rice an early 1-0 lead 8:29 into the first period.

After Rice struck early in the second period when senior Nick Bowman gave the Warriors a 2-0 lead, Hartland could have panicked. Instead Gadwa surveyed the ice and knew his team would break through.

“What stinks is I’ve seen it in spurts all year. The game plan we decided to go with all year would have mercied any other team. One of my coaches told me ‘this isn’t good’ they’re swarming us all game. I said ‘this is the perfect storm,’” he said.

“We’ll take a little luck and a good bounce, and that’s what you need to win in the playoffs sometimes.”

The good bounces found came to Hartland (24-2-1), and sophomore Josh Albring that helped the Eagles get back in it.

“We had to do something to spark the guys. We had to battle through it so much just to get here,” Albring said. “The goals weren’t going to be pretty. We just had to find a way to get the shot on net, and get to the rebound.”

All three of the sophomore’s natural hat trick came off of a rebound. Whether it was Cowan or another player blasting a shot, Albring was there to collected the rebound and move into a position where he could get a wide open look.

Within five minutes of play, Albring not only got the Eagles back in it, but he gave Hartland the lead, 3-2, before Cowan scored his first goal of the game from the point.

The Warriors wouldn’t go quietly in the second period thanks to the play of Bowman.

“Nick Bowman is easily the best player in high school hockey,” Brother Rice coach Lou Schmidt said. “He showed that today. When you have a horse like that, you ride him.”

The biggest goal, and one that completed a hat trick for Bowman, came on a breakaway midway through the third period. Sophomore Jack Clement chipped the puck a head to Bowman who slipped behind the defense and made his break away count to tie the game, 4-4.

Hartland’s Christian Spangler turned all the pressure Brother Rice could muster away from then on. The senior stopped 43 of 47 shots including a heavy third period rush.

Spangler, Cowan and Albring have led the Eagles all season, and it took all three to help Hartland get through its lulls and advance to the semifinals in overtime.

“Our leadership is phenomenal. On a team that has a couple of great players, each one of them are going to try and create an opportunity for the other,” Gadwa said.

With 1:53 left in overtime, Albring created a turnover in the neutral zone. As he fell to the ice after he got past the blue line, he shielded the puck from a Rice defender, and passed it to Cowan who trailed the play.

Cowan, who didn’t play in last year’s game, collected the puck and moved to his right, and buried the game winner.

“I was hoping it’d go in,” he said. “I was pretty gassed in overtime. Luckily Josh made a heckuva play sneaking past a defenseman, and got the puck to me.”