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Stevenson reaches final against with 5-1 win over Hartland

By: Ben Szilagy, March 10, 2016, 9:03 pm



Plymouth – Livonia Stevenson didn’t waste its opportunity to head back to USA Hockey Arena, and the Division 2 finals.

The Spartans topped Hartland, 5-1, on Thursday USA Hockey Arena to reach the final for the second consecutive season.

Last season Stevenson lost to Birmingham Brother Rice, 6-3, in the final.

“We were just more opportunistic tonight,” Stevenson coach Dave Mitchell said. “We got a couple early goals that calmed us down, and showed our team that we can score on (Hartland).”

“Getting back here for a second consecutive year is not easy,” Stevenson goaltender Cullen Barber added. “Coming back is always a goal every year, but this year in particular was important. Last year we felt like we had a lot left in the tank, and we wanted an opportunity to get back and play for a championship.”

The Spartans (21-6-1) could have come out tight as Stevenson had revenge on its mind from a 4-0 loss to the Eagles on senior night just before playoffs began. But the Spartans were loose and prepared.

Stevenson forward Nate Sudek won a face off and pushed the puck behind to defensemen Zach Finzel. The senior, who recorded the first goal of the playoffs for Stevenson, opened the scoring again as he ripped a shot from the point for a 1-0 lead 5:17 into the game.

A minute later the Spartans’ top line extended the lead when Shane Leonard found Ben Kowalske in front of the net for a quick 2-0 lead.

“The last time we played each other, they got out on us early. Anytime you can get a couple early goals, and put a good team on its heels, it allows you to lead the game instead of chase it,” Mitchell said.

The Eagles (25-3-1) had to dig themselves out of a hole after Stevenson sophomore Jake Beaune gave the Spartans a 3-0 lead on a goal scored on the short side. Then, the Eagles went on the power play

“Everything that could have went wrong all game, did. We had a very good hockey team; we just didn’t show it tonight which stinks,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said. “To get the power play opportunity was huge. We were looking at a 3-0 game, and we thought if we could get one, we could make a game of it.”

Hartland captain Luke Cowan followed sophomore Josh Albring’s shot to the short side of the net. As he wrestled for the puck, Cowan got a piece of it and put away the rebound for a power play goal that cut into Stevenson’s lead, 3-1.

Stevenson added two late goals by Sudek. The first was scored late in the second period, and the last was an empty netter from over 120-feet away. This wasn’t the first time the Spartans got balance scoring in the playoffs, however.

“It’s a compliment to the work ethic of our kids, and it speaks to the culture that we’ve built. We have such a complete team atmosphere that a coach strives for. Everyone knows we look to them to contribute,” Mitchell said.

The Spartans will look to capture its first championship since 2013, and its second state championship in program history on Saturday against the winner of the Romeo-Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern game at 10 a.m.