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Eight Livingston County hockey players make first-team all-state

Hartland defenseman Braden Pietila, right, made the all-state hockey Dream Team for the second time.
Hartland defenseman Braden Pietila, right, made the all-state hockey Dream Team for the second time.

Hartland regularly churns out all-state hockey players, but senior defenseman Braden Pietila is in a class of his own.

Pietila is the only Eagle to be named to the exclusive all-state Dream Team twice by the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association.

Braden Pietila
Braden Pietila

He is also only the second Livingston County player to make two Dream Teams, joining Brighton defenseman Tim Erkkila (2018 and 2019).

The Dream Team is comprised of the top three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender, regardless of division.

“The first time I saw Braden skate, I knew there was something special in him,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said. “Witnessing Braden grow as a player and, more importantly, as a person, has been an absolute pleasure.

“He’s developed so much, and as a coach, that’s all you hope for, that your players get better, become great people; and that’s exactly what Braden did.”

Pietila, a rare four-year varsity player at Hartland, made an impact on both ends of the rink.

In addition to being a dominant force in his own end, Pietila contributed 14 goals and 15 assists in 29 games. That included four goals and eight assists in four state tournament games. Over the past two seasons, Pietila had 28 goals and 36 assists in 59 games after having limited production his first two seasons.

Pietila is one of four players from Hartland and eight from Livingston County who made first-team all-state in Division 1.

Hartland’s other first-team selections are senior forwards Jack L’Esperance and Ben Pouliot and senior defenseman Isaac Frantti.

Brighton’s first-team picks are junior forwards Cameron Duffany and Lane Petit, senior defenseman Mattix McMullen and junior goalie Levi Pennala.

Pietila, L’Esperance, Pouliot, Duffany, McMullen and Pennala are repeat first-team selections.

L’Esperance is the first player in Livingston County history to make first-team all-state as a defenseman and a forward. He played defense last season before moving to forward early this season.

He became more comfortable up front as the season went on, scoring 15 goals in his last nine games to finish as Hartland’s top scorer with 29 goals and 26 assists in 29 games.

Pouliot had a seven-game multi-point streak early in the season, finishing with 15 goals and 20 assists in 29 games.

Frantti more than tripled his scoring output from the back end this season, scoring three goals and 22 assists in 28 games after collecting four goals and four assists in 28 games as a junior.

Brighton junior Levi Pennala is only the third Livingston County goalie to make first-team all-state twice.
Brighton junior Levi Pennala is only the third Livingston County goalie to make first-team all-state twice.

Duffany scored one of the biggest goals of the season, completing a hat trick in double overtime to beat Livonia Stevenson in the state quarterfinals. He had 29 goals and 29 assists in 30 games, giving him 48 goals and 57 assists in 58 games during his career.

Petit, a second-team selection last season, had 30 goals and 17 assists in 29 games. He has 53 goals and 39 assists in 58 career games.

McMullen made all-state in each of his two seasons at Brighton. He scored three goals and 26 assists in 30 games this season, making the all-tournament team at the Division 1 finals for the second time.

Pennala has backstopped Brighton to two state championship games. He joins Brighton’s Logan Neaton (2016, 2017) and Hartland’s Brett Tome (2018, 2019) as the county’s only two-time first-team all-state goalies. Pennala was 14-5 with a 2.29 goals against average and .914 save percentage this season.

Earning second-team all-state were forwards Hayden Sturos of Howell, Lucas Henry of Hartland and Dominic Vincent of Brighton, and defenseman Ryan Watkins of Brighton.

Howell defenseman Chad Pietila received honorable mention and is also on the inaugural all-freshman first team. Forward Jake Pietila and defenseman Eli Sturos of Hartland also made the all-freshman first team, which is comprised of six players.

Nine county players made Team Michigan for the CCM NIT Showcase April 20-23 in Plymouth, Minn.

Making the senior team were Pouliot, L’Esperance, McMullen, Frantti and Pietila. Brighton had four players make the junior team in Duffany, Petit, Pennala and forward Charlie Burchfield.

Contact Bill Khan at wkhan@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.

This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Eight Livingston County hockey players make first-team all-state