By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There will be plenty of familiarity to the Division 2 bracket this weekend at USA Hockey Arena.
Three of four teams are returning from a year ago, which concluded with Hartland downing Trenton 4-2 to earn its first MHSAA Finals championship on the ice.
Those two and Birmingham Brother Rice are back, Trenton with a win over Hartland this season and tie against the Warriors. Hartland also has a win over Brother Rice. The unfamiliar foe will be Marquette, which will be playing in the Semifinals for the first time in a decade but is plenty familiar with success at this level having most recently won Division 1 championships in 2004 and 2008.
This weekend’s pairings are as follows:
Division 2 – Thursday
Hartland (25-4) vs Birmingham Brother Rice (16-8-4), 5 p.m.
Marquette (21-5-2) vs. Trenton (24-4-1), 7:30 p.m.
FINALS – Saturday
Division 2 - 10 a.m.
Click for a full schedule of this weekend's games plus full results as they come in. Player statistics below are through the Regional round for Marquette and Trenton and Quarterfinals for Brother Rice and Hartland.
BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE
Record/rank: 16-8-4, No. 4
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Kenny Chaput, third season (56-24-6)
League finish: Second in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North.
Best wins: 6-1 over No. 11 White Lake Lakeland in Regional Final, 10-4 over No. 8 Plymouth, 4-0 over No. 3 Livonia Stevenson, 3-2 over Division 3 No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 3-0 over Division 1 No. 2 Saginaw Heritage, 6-3 over Division 1 No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Players to watch: Ethan Nystrom, sr. D (7 goals, 22 assists); Nick Marone, jr. F (15 goals, 19 assists); DJ Dixon, jr. D (16 goals, 21 assists); Chris Andoni, sr. F (7 goals, 15 assists).
Outlook: Brother Rice has ridden an 8-0-1 run to its third straight Semifinals, with six of those wins over ranked opponents. In addition to those listed above, the Warriors also have beaten Division 3 No. 2 Calumet, No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, No. 6 Detroit Country Day and No. 10 Grosse Pointe South. Nystrom made the all-state first team last season and Andoni earned honorable mention. Eight players total have at least 20 points and five have scored at least 11 goals, with seniors Keaton Vogel (14 goals/11 assists) and Brendan Danou (13 goals/9 assists) also among leaders. Senior Matteo Vitale is carrying a 1.92 goals-against average and has been in net for 12 of the team’s wins.
Record/rank: 25-4, No. 1
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2018, runner-up 2013 and 2014.
Coach: Rick Gadwa, eighth season (170-53-10)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West.
Best wins: 6-0 over No. 12 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern in Quarterfinal, 8-0 over No. 7 Davison in Regional Final, 7-1 and 4-3 over No. 8 Plymouth, 7-1 over No. 10 Howell, 7-0 over No. 6 Saline, 5-1 over No. 4 Birmingham Brother Rice, 2-1 over Division 3 No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 2 Saginaw Heritage, 8-4 over Division 1 No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-0 over Division 1 No. 4 Brighton.
Players to watch: Joey Larson, sr. F (25 goals, 20 assists), Gabe Anderson, sr. F (17 goals, 16 assists), Owen Pietila, sr. D (18 goals, 10 assists), Brett Tome, sr. G (1.48 goals-against average, five shutouts).
Outlook: Hartland is making its sixth Semifinal trip in seven seasons and broke through last year with its first title. The Eagles have outscored their four playoff opponents by a combined 31-1 and won 10 of their last 11 games. Larson and Tome are returning all-state first teamers, and senior wing Brenden Tulpa has been a main scorer for multiple seasons, contributing 10 goals and 22 assists this winter. Nine players total have scored at least 10 goals. Hartland also has wins over Division 3 No. 2 Calumet and No. 5 Houghton.
Record/rank: 21-5-2, No. 9
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Doug Garrow, fifth season (102-52-12)
League finish: Third in Great Lakes Hockey Conference.
Best wins: 5-3 over No. 7 Davison, 1-0 over Division 1 No. 11 Traverse City Bay Reps, 1-0 over Division 3 No. 9 Alpena, 3-0 over Division 3 No. 10 Grosse Pointe South.
Players to watch: Gaetanno Cammarata, jr. F (12 goals, 22 assists); Tanner Phillips, sr. F (14 goals, 14 assists); Sean O’Connor, sr. F (17 goals, 16 assists); Tyler Bergwall, sr. G (1.46 goals-against average, eight shutouts).
Outlook: Marquette is returning to the Semifinals for the first time since 2009 with a combined 15-1 scoring edge over three postseason opponents. The Redmen prepped against a league schedule that included Division 3 No. 2 Calumet and No. 5 Houghton, and in addition to the wins above earned ties with Division 1 No. 6 Salem and No. 12 Utica Eisenhower. Junior Ryan Baldwin has added 14 goals and sophomore Ansel Frost 12. Phillips and Bergwall both earned all-state honorable mentions last season.
Record/rank: 24-4-1, No. 2
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), seven runner-up finishes.
Coach: Chad Clements, fifth season (65-42-5)
League finish: First in MIHL South.
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 3 Livonia Stevenson in Quarterfinal, 5-1 (Regional Final) and 6-2 over No. 5 Brownstown Woodhaven, 5-0 over No. 6 Saline in Regional Semifinal, 2-0 over No. 1 Hartland, 4-0 over No. 12 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 5-2 over Division 1 No. 6 Salem, 3-0 over Division 1 No. 3 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Players to watch: Nolan Szczepaniak, sr. F (16 goals, 15 assists); Cam Blanton, sr. D (10 goals, 16 assists); Joey Cormier, jr. G (1.36 GAA, 7 shutouts); Brandon Clark, jr. F (17 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: Trenton came within a win of claiming a 15th MHSAA championship last winter, and a number of top contributors are back including all-state first-teamer Blanton, second-teamer Cormier and honorable mention Szczepaniak. Junior center Ethan Holt leads the team with 37 points (14 goals/23 assists), while senior Devin Dunn (10 goals/20 assists) is again among the leading scorers and sophomore Hunter Allen (12 goals/12 assists) also among eight players with at least 20 points. Trenton also has two wins apiece over Cranbrook Kingswood and Grosse Pointe South and one each over Division 3 No. 12 Allen Park and No. 4 Warren DeLaSalle.
PHOTO: Marquette’s Tyler Bergwall comes up with a huge save on Grant Wickham’s shot during the second period of last week’s Regional Final win over Escanaba. (Photo by Cara Kamps).