• Michigan

Brighton defeats Heritage, 5-2, and repeats as Division 1 champs

By: Ben Szilagy, March 10, 2018, 11:06 pm

Plymouth — Recently, you can pencil in Brighton and/or Detroit Catholic Central in the state finals.

Before this season, the two programs have each won three state titles in the last six seasons.

It may be old hat to us, but make no mistakes, there are no guarantees.

“No, it doesn’t get old. Every one of them is a little bit different, but these don’t get old,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “We came together as a team the second half of the year. We’re tight and close, and our energy just picked up because of that. Losses didn’t affect us as much and it felt like a family.

“They all have a different tone and personality to them. I’m really proud of these guys. Back-to-back is very, very difficult. We had to knock off Orchard Lake (St. Mary’s), and C.C. just to get here. That’s a task in itself. I’m proud of these guys, and the energy they put out. It’s a special group.”

The road to Plymouth is often full of potholes. Even though Brighton was the defending champions, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 3 in Division 1 and had to eliminate No. 2 St. Mary’s in the regional final, and No. 1 C.C. just for the chance to defend their title.

On Saturday, Moggach won his fifth state title and Brighton repeated as state champions with a 5-2 victory over Saginaw Heritage.

“This is going to be the greatest thing I’m going to experience. The feeling doesn’t get old,” senior Sam Brennan said.

“It’s amazing. I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else,” senior Brody White added as he tapped Brennan’s kneepad. “It’s been the best four years of my hockey career.”

Brighton (23-6-1) seemed to be in control from the onset of the first period, even getting a 5-on-3 midway through after failing on its first power play attempt. But Senior Matthew Kahra slammed a one-timer for a powerplay goal from a nice stretch pass from Brennan for a 1-0 lead.

Kahra assisted on a goal by Will Jentz three minutes later for a 2-0 lead, but then Heritage awoke and started to apply pressure.

“We have three seniors on our team and a bunch of guys that will come at you in waves. We don’t quit,” Heritage coach J.J. Bamberger said.

In the closing three minutes of the first period, the Hawks (21-5-3) pulled within one, 2-1, on a power goal a nice pass from sophomore Brady Rappuhn to senior David Helpap.

“They were really good in the face-off circle. When you’re not winning face-offs, you’re chasing the first twenty seconds of the shift. Their power play was really good. We didn’t get a good look at it, so we were going in blind on it,” Brighton assistant coach Kurt Kivisto said.

With the pressure mounting, Brighton began to feel the momentum slip through its fingers as the Hawks started to out skate and play with a team that nobody expected them to.

“After the game, I reflected back on this and thought that for anyone who said that it was a shame that Brighton and C.C. weren’t playing in the championship, I hope they watched what our boys did,” Bamberger said. Our guys played their hearts out the entire time down to the very end.

“We took the play to them from the beginning. The shots weren’t too uneven, got some powerplay chances…I say we’re the underdog because we haven’t been here before. But as the game went on, we punched them in the face and forced them to give us everything they had”

With Brighton reeling, it took a freshman to step in and get things back on track in the third period. Brennan chipped the puck ahead to Nate Przysiecki 2:31 into the period, and the freshman ripped a shot that was saved. Przysiecki chased his own rebound and put it away for a 3-1 lead.

Heritage pulled back within one, 3-2, on the power play again three minutes later when John Michael Watson crashed the net and deflected a shot for a goal. A fortunate poke check deep in the Hawks end by Evan McDonald for a 4-2 lead.

With over 2:30 left in the third period, Jack Jesko was recalled to the bench for an extra attacker. That’s when Jentz earned his second goal with an unimpeded shot to the net for a 5-2 lead.

Brighton has cemented itself as one of the state’s premier programs, and even though Moggach has won multiple titles (four), and helped mentor an incredible seven-year run. He says this isn’t close to calling this a dynasty.