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Brighton defeats St. Mary’s, 2-1, in overtime, reaches the quarterfinal again

By: Ben Szilagy, March 4, 2017, 8:00 pm

Brighton – The last game of the season at the Kensington Valley Ice Center will be one Brighton will never forget in front of comfortable surroundings.

The Bulldogs had to face a familiar opponent in Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and won the Division 1 regional final, 2-1, in overtime on Saturday.

“We felt confident the whole game. We had a feeling that this was our game for some reason,” Brighton coach G. Paul Moggach said. “We didn’t worry at all. At the start of the playoffs there was nervous energy on our bench, but tonight we were comfortable.

“I think it was because we were in front of our home crowd, on our home ice. We didn’t let anything rattle us and it led to one of the best hockey games you’ll see this season.”

The game didn’t start out so peacefully and so confidently for Brighton (21-6-1).

Throughout the first period St. Mary’s (18-7-2) was determined to apply the pressure physically as the Eaglets delivered hit after hit. The biggest hit, though, was to the scoreboard with 6:51 into the first period.

Senior defender Joel Maloney cycled the puck to junior Hunter Baudino inside the slot. At the last moment, Baudino slid the puck to junior Dane Pelkey who fired the puck to the near side for a 1-0 lead.

Quickly, Brighton looked to its power play to even the score off senior Jake Crespi’s stick.

“Games like this are a blast,” Crespi said. “You have to stick to your game plan not matter what. We had to get the tempo down and we’d get our chances.”

While on the power play, sophomore Tim Erikkila pushed the puck forward to Crespi who walked the puck into the right circle before earning his 28th goal of the season and the score was tied 1-1.

The game remained even as both goalies Tanner Beals (St. Mary’s) and Logan Neaton, made save after save to keep the other team off the scoreboard. Neaton stopped 31 shots; Beals 28.

“He played the most incredible game. He’s a captain, but he’s more of a servant type captain,” Moggach said. “He’s the last one out of the locker room, and he makes sure everyone is tended to. He played exceptionally well tonight and we owe this win to him.”

After the game went into overtime, Brighton still believed it could get a goal when it needed to. And with 1:22 left in the extra period the Bulldogs delivered.

“You always look for secondary scoring from players that step up, and (Will Jentz) did a great job stepping into the net,” Crespsi said.

Brighton junior Wyatt Harmon fired a shot and the puck flipped up and hung in the air. Jentz said it seemed like an eternity. As the puck fell to the ice Jentz was there to score the game-winning goal off the rebound for a 2-1 win.

“That’s the biggest goal I’ve ever had,” Jentz said with a huge smile. “I couldn’t believe the puck squirted up towards me, and I’m glad I was at the right place at the right time and help us get the win.”

Brighton will face the winner of Lowell and Grand Ledge in a quarterfinal on Wednesday at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing for the chance to return to the semifinals at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth and earn a shot at a state title that eluded the Bulldogs a season ago. 

Brighton lost to Detroit Catholic Central, 3-0, in the final last season.