Third Time’s A Charm For Brighton and Hartland

Tell me why this isn’t the best rivalry in Michigan high school hockey right now

Craig Peterson

January 18, 2024

Photo by Tim Arrick | The Livingston Daily
Photo by Tim Arrick | The Livingston Daily

There are some stellar rivalries in the game today. Plenty that go back years, if not decades. Detroit Catholic Central and Brother Rice. Houghton and Hancock. The War of the Woods. But you’d be hard pressed to find a better rivalry in Michigan high school hockey right now than Brighton and Hartland.

It’s a 2-2-0 stalemate over the past two seasons. Two titans of the sport behind both benches in Hartland’s Rick Gadwa and Kurt Kivisto of Brighton. Together, the two programs combined for seven state championships in the past decade. A passionate, heated rivalry pitting friends, cousins and former teammates against one another in front of raucous crowds. They grew up playing together in the Kensington Valley Hockey Association, sharing the very 200-by-85-foot sheet of ice they now fight over.

What better way to highlight the games of the week?

Petey: 64-37-3
Public: 67-32-4

Byron Center vs. De La Salle
Friday, 5pm @ Southside Ice Arena

On a five-game unbeaten streak, and an 8-1-1 record in their last 10. The Pilots travel to the Westside for a pair of games against ranked opponents. Senior A.J. Zaccagni is leading the charge offensively for DLS, with points in 13 of 14 games this season. Dylan Blackwood — the team’s leading goal scorer — has been tough to stop too with six points in the past four games. Byron Center has been seeing everyone’s best punch, i.e., Traverse City Central and Bay Reps most recently. I expect that trend to continue here, especially with it being the first game of the road trip for the Pilots. But I think the Bulldogs’ depth presents a real problem in this matchup, and BC rolls in this one.

Petey’s Pick: Byron Center

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Hudsonville vs. Ann Arbor Huron
Friday, 6pm @ Griff’s Georgetown Ice Arena

A pair of one-win teams face off, and someone’s gonna come away victorious. I’m particularly intrigued by this matchup after seeing Hudsonville last weekend, and knowing some of the contributors Ann Arbor Huron has on its roster. For the Eagles to win, Ryan Siler is going to need a big performance in net; maybe even having to be perfect. That’s a lot of pressure to carry knowing that just one goal against could be the difference in this one. River Rat forwards Karsen Kucharski, Xavier Kayfesh and Caleb Patterson should certainly put Hudsonville’s goaltending skills to the test. I like that trio to break through at least a few times.

Petey’s Pick: Ann Arbor Huron

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Sparta vs. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard
Friday, 6:30pm @ Griff’s Icehouse at Belknap

Sparta may be one of the best ‘turn-around’ stories of the season. From 10-15-0 last winter to 12-3-0 already in ‘23-24, Caden Gleason, Trevor Serba and company have got to be feeling pretty good about what they’ve done so far. Job’s not done though, and I’d argue their three biggest games thus far have all resulted in losses. This is a huge spot for the Spartans, as they get Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard to come to their place this weekend in Sparta’s biggest game of the season. The Irish are well coached, and have achieved a ton of success during the Clint Robert era. Can Sparta take the next step in its development as a program and beat a perennial power in Michigan high school hockey? I don’t think they’re ready…yet.

Petey’s Pick: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard

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Brighton vs. Hartland III
Friday, 7pm @ Kensington Valley Ice House

Tell me why this isn’t the best rivalry in Michigan high school hockey right now. And, we as a hockey community have been spoiled being treated to it for a third time this season. There’s a chance they could clash a fourth time, come playoffs as well! Despite the score, Game 1 was heavily in Brighton’s favor, while Game 2 clearly slanted Hartland’s way. The third matchup rightfully serves as the rubber match, but this rivalry is never over. The Eagles dominated last time out, winning 5-0 and outshooting the Bulldogs 35-13. Being on home ice and having a strong crowd behind them, I expect Brighton to fire back pretty good in this meeting. But Hartland still weathers the storm and comes away with a 4-2 type of win.

Petey’s Pick: Hartland

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Big Rapids vs. St. Clair Shores Unified
Saturday, 1pm @ Ewigleben Sports Complex

The Lakers come into this matchup on a seven-game heater, but all of those games have come in the friendly confines of Michigan’s east side. The St. Clair Shores Unified has only played two games outside the Macomb/St. Clair County area, and lost both. This is a nice test for them going across the state against a beatable opponent. Will Brennen Lenk and Gavin McKee take care of business? Or can Big Rapids play the role of spoiler like it did last week against Lake Orion, and against Grosse Pointe South earlier in the season? A 216-mile road trip is tough for one game. I think bus legs play a factor and the Cardinals enjoy some home cooking.

Petey’s Pick: Big Rapids

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Riverview Gabriel Richard vs. Gibraltar Carlson
Saturday, 1:30pm @ Yack Arena

Gibraltar Carlson hasn’t beaten Riverview Gabriel Richard since 2016, and is 0-5 against the Pioneers in that span. That just may change on Saturday. The Marauders suffered two one-goal losses to tough KLAA opponents Canton and Northville, and played Trenton to a 2-0 game. Spots like this against the Pioneers are where that strength of schedule can pay off. They’re 4-2-0 in their last six, and going up against an RGR squad that has some vulnerabilities. I’ll take Justin Genzel and that solid defensive group to get it done against Gabriel Richard.

Petey’s Pick: Gibraltar Carlson

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Lenawee United vs. Ann Arbor Skyline
Saturday, 3:15pm @ Arctic Coliseum

I haven’t talked about either of these teams since the season started, and I need to. Lenawee United is 11-3-1 this season, and only one loss since Thanksgiving. They beat Ann Arbor Pioneer 4-2; a team that thumped Ann Arbor Skyline 5-0 just a few days later. So it’s an interesting matchup, considering MyHockeyRankings slots these two teams consecutively at 88 and 89 in the state rankings. It’s also intriguing because the Eagles’ Graham Newton will be the best player on the ice in this matchup. Lenawee won’t be able to counter him with anybody one-for-one, but its depth may be just a bit better. Adam Bartlett, Rhett Micallef and crew get it done for Lenawee, as they continue to have a monster season in the SEC.

Petey’s Pick: Lenawee United

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