Plymouth — Hartland had Trenton on the ropes from the opening faceoff in the Division 2 state hockey final on Saturday morning, and then Owen Pietila delivered the knockout punches.
A game isn't often decided in the first 17 minutes, but Hartland's two goals in eight seconds near the end of the opening period provided all the momentum all it needed, beating Trenton, 4-0, to capture its second straight Division 2 title at USA Hockey Arena.
"I was pretty fired up," Pietila said. "We had to keep going, and we had to finish strong."
Hartland (27-4) controlled the pace the entire game, beating a familiar foe in the state finals for the second year in a row.
When you outshoot a team 44-13, a few pucks are bound to find the back of the net. There was no break in Hartland's aggressiveness, shutting down any hope for a Trenton comeback.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said. "To see this team execute the way they did through the downs that we had toward the (middle) and the end of the season, just to watch a whole group effort.
"The leadership of the group to put the team and put them on their backs and just execute was unbelievable. Really proud of this leadership group, and what they've done."
Familiarity with Trenton helped Hartland's cause in the final. as it seemed to have an answer for everything that was thrown its way.
Adam Pietila and Gabe Anderson also scored for Hartland.
The two teams met about a month ago, but they've also now faced off in three of the last six state finals. This was the first back-to-back run in school history.
"Players do their homework and coaches do, too," Gadwa said. "Trenton's just a great team, a great program. You get into these games and anything can happen."
While the story of the game was Hartland's offensive attack, Trenton goaltender Joey Cormier quietly had a strong game, saving 40 shots.
"I'm very confident that we have a chance to win every single game when he's in the net," said Trenton coach Chad Clements, whose team finished 25-5-1. "That's how high our coaching staff's (confidence) level is in him. He's a phenomenal goaltender. He's an absolute competitor."
Trenton beat Hartland, 2-0, in the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League Prep Hockey Showcase a month ago, but Clements was hoping his team saved that revenge for the game that mattered most.
"It was in the game plan that they score in bunches," Clements said. "We were prepared, we were as prepared as we could be. We just didn't execute."
Hartland becomes just the third Division 2 program to win back-to-back hockey titles. It was accomplished last by Trenton, which won three straight from 2008-10.
"We set our sights on (back-to-back) early and this was our goal," Gadwa said. "This was our goal. Ever word you can imagine, that's what this means to us."
Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer.