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Byron Center stuns powerhouse Hartland in state quarterfinals

Bulldogs head to state semis for 2nd straight season
Byron Center beats Hartland in state quarterfinals
Posted at 9:56 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 22:01:11-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Across the state, not many gave the Byron Center hockey team much of a chance to beat Hartland on Tuesday night in the state quarterfinals.

While the Bulldogs entered unbeaten, the Eagles were back-to-back state champions in 2018 and 2019.

However, Byron Center came out firing, winning the shots on goal battle, 17-5 in the opening period while things remained scoreless at the intermission.

But in the second, the Bulldogs finally broke through.

A Logan Nickolaus steal deep in the Eagles zone led to him finding his older brother, Luke in front of the net who buried it to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.

And minutes later, Byron Center struck again as Trevor Davis put a wrist-shot on net and scored.

The officials would convene to talk about a high stick, but the goal would stand after determining Nik Schepers did not deflect the puck in front and the Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.

In the opening minute of the third, however, the Eagles would score to make it 2-1.

From there, sophomore Carson MacKenzie stood tall in net while the Bulldogs defense kept the puck in the Hartland zone for most of the later minutes.

The Bulldogs watched the seconds tick away and bench spilled over the boards in celebration of the 2-1 victory.

"It definitely gave us some motivation, knowing they're one of the best teams in the state, proving them wrong is a great feeling," said Logan Nickolaus after proving the doubters wrong.

It's a big win for the Byron Center hockey program, which is only a few years old.

"They've always said Hartland are the guys to beat, we never had a doubt, we were here last year, we wanted to get back here and we knew we were gonig to," said senior Mason Breit.

Third-year head coach Taylor Keyworth said the final minutes were pressure filled and hard to watch from his perspective.

"As a coach, you're telling the guys not to panic but on the bench you're sitting there panicking," he said, "it's a little hypocritical. No, we have a bunch of seniors on the ice, guys that have been through this before, we've been in tight games lately so hopefully it was nothing new."

And Keyworth says the win isn't only big for his program but big for West Michigan hockey.

"It's a big deal for us and hockey on the west side, it's great to see," he added.

The Bulldogs will now take on Marquette in the state semifinal, who beat Traverse City Central, 1-0 in their quarterfinal on Tuesday.

The semifinal game will be on Thursday at 4:30 PM at USA Arena in Plymouth.