Friday, March 15, 2013

Hounds open MWJHL playoffs March 22

The Hartland Hounds are on a mission.

After a 47-0-1-0 regular season in the Midwest Junior Hockey League with the lone blemish an overtime loss to the Michigan Ice Dogs, most are looking at the Hounds as a shoo-in to win the inaugural Veteran’s Memorial Cup as postseason champs.

Not so fast, say a couple players.

“It’s great winning 47 out of 48 games, but playoffs is a different season,” said Hartland captain Jake Henrikson. “If we play our game, I think we will do just fine.”

“Winning almost every game in regular season gives you a good vibe throughout the year, but that means absolutely nothing now,” added forward Jared Vincek. “We're 0-0, but if we play each game the right way and one at a time, then it'll be smooth sailing.”

And while most point to the team’s top scorers, goaltender Andrew Brownlee in net or P.J. Krystyniak on defense as key reasons the Hounds had a historical season, forward Thomas Kerr said it wasn’t any type of statistic that helped with success in Hartland.

“Winning 47 of 48 games certainly gave us confidence, but I think that one loss might seem devastating, it was actually much-needed in preparing us for the playoffs,” said Kerr. “I think the guys have a done a good job, but we haven’t won anything yet and this is where the hard work begins.

“We've had a lot of great highlights through the season, almost too many to pick from, but I would have to say the Bloomington road trip earlier in the season brought a lot of the guys together and we played good hockey from that point forward.”

Finlandia University, an NCAA Division III school in Hancock, Mich., also took note of the Hounds and signed Henrikson, Brownlee, Kerr and forward Cam Miglia for this coming fall.

Expect more college and higher-level junior commitments as well in the coming weeks.

That said, Hartland is poised and focused on bringing some hardware to the city with an eye on playing for the AAU/UHU national championship the first week in April in Las Vegas.

”For the Bloomington series, we’re preparing for that right now and I think it’s going very well,” said Kerr. “We just have to come out intense and pumped up and playing our game and we will have no problems ending out the series early and focusing on the finals and nationals.”

The Hounds and Bloomington play a best-of-three opening-round series March 22-24 (Friday-Sunday) at the Kensington Valley Ice House in Brighton. Game times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a 1 p.m. start time for Sunday’s game, if needed.

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