TRAVERSE CITY -- Not only are the stakes higher, so are the tolls.
On the same day that the Mackinaw Bridge tolls increase, Traverse City West travels across the bridge to play in the regional finals for the second straight year.
The Titans lost to Marquette in the regional finals last year in Sault Ste. Marie. With the same match-up on tap today, the Titans are hoping to get their money's worth this time around.
"We've got to be ready, because they are ready every year," West coach Jeremy Rintala said. "Marquette is known as a playoff team. We've had our eye out for them from the beginning of the year, because's they're season enders."
The No. 8-ranked Titans (19-7-0) have already faced the No. 5 Redmen (17-5-3) once this season -- a 4-3 overtime win on Jan. 4 -- something they didn't last year prior to facing the perennial hockey powerhouse in last year's final.
"It was an even game," Rintala said. "We tied it with a minute left and won in overtime."
In Division 2, No. 8-ranked Traverse City Central goes to Alpena to play 23-2-0 Midland.
The Trojans (19-6-1) and Chemics haven't played this year, but the Bay Reps dropped a 3-0 decision to Midland on Jan. 4. Central coach Chris Givens went to Reps coach Rex Luxton for some insight on the Chemics.
"He said they've got some very, very good forwards," Givens said. "It's going to be tough to go into a game like that not knowing much about them. To go against somebody that went through a schedule like that, they're going to be good. Everybody is good when you get this far."
Midland's record is impressive, but not necessarily their schedule. That is likely the main reason it is not ranked, and Central hasn't lost to an unranked team all year.
The Chemics have only played two teams ranked in the top 10 in any division, although they won both of those (Division 1 No. 10 Macomb Dakota 5-1 and Division 3 No. 9 Flint Powers 5-3). On the other hand, Central has faced a very difficult that featured 16 opponents that were ranked, with an 9-6-1 mark in those games.
Midland's two losses are to Saginaw Heritage (2-1 in their season opener) and Petoskey (5-4 in overtime in the second day of back-to-back games). The Chemics mercied Heritage 8-0 in the first round of regionals on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Trojans are hoping to avoid a letdown after an emotional overtime win over Alpena on Wednesday. After Central's emotional win over TC West on Jan. 30, it turned around two days later and lost 5-2 to the Wildcats.
"We talked about where we go from here," Givens said of the Alpena win. "It was a huge win emotionally. But at this point, you have to take it for what it is -- an opportunity to play another day."
Cadillac (12-13-0) plays in a Division 3 final at Gaylord.
The Vikings, who topped Big Rapids 3-2 on Jimmy Morris' goal just nine seconds into overtime, will face a Sault Ste. Marie (14-11-0) team that is coming off the longest game in state playoff history.
The Blue Devils downed Petoskey 2-1 late in the sixth overtime after playing 92:34 of hockey -- the equivalent of more than two full regulation games -- on Wednesday night.