A heartbreaking 4-3 loss in the regional finals last year has a young Hartland High School hockey team filled with high expectations for the 2010 season.
Last year's leading scorers, Zack Bodziak and Nick Manley, will serve as captain and co-captain, respectively, and will lead a high-powered Eagles' offense.
Bodziak, a senior winger, finished last season with 32 points.
"We're a much younger team this year and we're willing to work hard to achieve our goals. We're quick on our feet and we have a lot of drive," Bodziak said. "We don't want to feel the same disappointment we felt last season."
"A lot of people say we're gonna be contenders, and some doubters think will be nothing," he added. "We have a new athletic director (Jason Reck) this year who has high exceptions for us, and a lot of people at school think we'll be good so we're looking forward to it."
Manley, the second-line center, led the team in total points with 38. He had 16 goals and 22 assists.
"We see the ice much better this year, all of us can handle the puck, and we're gonna hit a lot more this year," Manley said. "I'm working on passing the puck more this season, I won't hesitate to give it up as I may get it back."
Hartland's mighty offense typically works on circling the puck around the defensive zone and waiting for a good shot.
Eagles' head coach Howard Copeland, in his ninth year with the team, feels confident about this season.
"We've got some good returning players, who are now seniors, and some nice young players to complement them. We've got a good well-rounded team and we're blessed with speed and good hands, we'll just have to be physical enough. We need to be well-disciplined, we had a tremendous amount of talent and speed; as long as we can put all those things together and stay consistent we'll be fine," Copeland said.
Hartland is returning 11 players from last year's squad and Copeland says this is by far the strongest team he's ever had, all-around, adding that each player has a good feel for the game and is unselfish.
The Eagles have been working out with former NHL defenseman Chris Tamer at HyperFit USA in Ann Arbor. Tamer, a Michigan native, was drafted 68th overall by Pittsburgh back in 1994 and ended his 10-year career in the NHL with the Atlanta Thrashers.
"We've worked off-ice and on-ice with him (Tamer)," Copeland said. "We stay busy there and we are all in great shape. He's been a big help."
Hartland opens the regular season Thursday against Pinckney at 6 p.m. at the Arctic Coliseum in Chelsea.
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