Brighton knocks off CC, OLSM, Heritage to win D1
PLYMOUTH — No two hockey teams are the same, even those who accomplish the same ultimate goal.
Brighton coach Paul Moggach couldn’t choose one championship that stands out over the others after the Bulldogs beat Saginaw Heritage, 5-2, to win their fifth Division 1 title since 2006 on March 10 at USA Hockey Arena.
“They all have a different tone to them, thinking back,” Moggach said. “Today it’s in this moment. I’m not comparing them.
“I’m really proud of these guys. Back-to-back is really difficult. We had to knock off Orchard Lake (St. Mary’s) and CC to get here, which is a task in itself.”
Brighton collected its championship hardware after beating Heritage. But it wouldn’t have been in the position to do so without shocking the high school hockey world with a 2-1 victory over Detroit Catholic Central the previous night in the state semifinals.
The top-ranked Shamrocks were 23-0 against Michigan teams and had outscored their previous six opponents, 50-0. The Shamrocks also had a 3-0 victory over Brighton on Dec. 16 on its resume.
But Brighton knows what it takes to beat Catholic Central better than any other team. The Bulldogs are 3-1 against the Shamrocks the past three seasons.
“The pressure was on them,” Moggach said. “We wanted to make them wonder, ‘What in the heck is happening?’ I thought we did that.”
It was Catholic Central’s first semifinal loss since 1975, ending an 18-game winning streak in that round.
The challenge for the Bulldogs was to put aside the euphoria of that incredible victory less than 24 hours later against a Heritage team that put up a tougher battle than some expected.
“Just a short memory,” was Brighton defenseman Sam Brennan’s explanation of how the Bulldogs tried to quickly turn the page. “You enjoy that win last night for five minutes, then it’s on to the next game. We knew what we had to do.”
With a fourth state championship in seven years, Brighton joined legendary Michigan programs like Catholic Central, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Calumet and Trenton as the only schools to accomplish that feat. It’s the second time Brighton has repeated, the other time coming in 2012 and 2013.
“It feels good to just get the back-to-back,” four-year defenseman Brody White said. “The first one was amazing. The second is just unbelievable.”
The seventh-ranked Hawks (22-5-3) were fueled by the perception that it was just a mere formality that the Brighton-CC winner would skate off with the championship trophy the next night. Heritage needed to get through a 3-2 overtime game against Traverse City West in the semifinals, but it had enough jump to keep the pressure on the favored Bulldogs from start to finish.
It was the first state final for Heritage and only the second for a Saginaw school. Saginaw Nouvel lost 6-0 to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in the 1990 Class B championship game.
“It went down right to the end,” Heritage coach J.J. Bamberger said. “After the game, for a few minutes I reflected. For anyone who said it was a shame Brighton and CC weren’t playing in the championship game, I hope they watched what our boys did, because our boys played their hearts out and were in that game the entire time.”
It was a one-goal margin until Evan MacDonald poked the puck into the net while breaking up a pass in front of the Heritage goal with 5:07 left in the game.
Will Jentz ended the drama by burying his second goal of the game into an empty net with 57.7 seconds left.
“They’re a quality team,” senior Bulldog forward Adam Conquest said of the Hawks. “We were not expecting it. We knew they had skill. We knew they could score. They had us the first two periods, but we pulled it out. It was a really good hockey game. I give them all the credit in the world.”
Brighton (24-6-1) grabbed a 2-0 lead by the 12:22 mark of the first period on goals by Mathew Kahra and Jentz. Heritage cut the deficit to one goal on a power-play goal by David Helpap with 2:47 remaining in the period.
Following a scoreless second, freshman Nate Przysiecki temporarily gave Brighton some breathing room by scoring with 15:49 left in the third. The Hawks fought to within a goal on John Michael Watson’s power-play goal with 12:27 left.
Brighton was the second Livingston County team in eight hours to win a state championship. Hartland beat another perennial high school power, Trenton, 4-2, in the Division 2 final for its first state title.
The Bulldogs were swept in the regular season by Hartland, 2-1 and 4-2. They weren’t able to watch Hartland play in person, but did catch some of the Eagles’ game on a live stream before heading to USA Hockey Arena.
“I played with a lot of people on the Hartland team,” the Brighton defenseman White said. “Jake Gallaher, (Josh) Albring. I’m happy for them, just as happy as for us.”
The Brighton Bulldogs are Preston Carleton, Jake Demski, Sam Brennan, Brady MacDonald, Tim Erkkila, Caleb Seiter, Will Jentz, Noah Stanko,Kyle Cogan, Jason Verhelle, Evan MacDonald, Brody White,Adam Conquest, Drew Daavettila, Harry Newton, Nate Przysiecki, Mathew Kahra, Cade Groman, Robert Pegrum and Harrison Fleming.