Senior goaltender helps Brighton run undefeated streak to 11 games in 1-1 tie against Livonia Stevenson
Livonia — Throughout his high school career, Brighton senior goaltender Jimmy Milletics has been on the biggest stage and has produced the biggest results in big games.
It was no surprise that Brighton coach Paul Moggach looked to Milletics to protect the Bulldogs’ net in a clash of perennial playoff teams when Brighton faced off Friday night against Livonia Stevenson on the road.
“He’s worked hard in practice to get back into his old self. We ask our kids to battle and push each other in practice so they can come out in big games and battle here,” Moggach said.
“The battle between him and Jake Price has really helped Jimmy come along.”
Milletics had arguably his finest performance of the season while turning away 38 shots to help Brighton skate to a 1-1 tie against Stevenson. The stalemate preserved an 11-game stretch in which the Bulldogs are undefeated.
Brighton (10-6-4) got off to a sluggish start on offense and was shut down for most of the first period. The Bulldogs showed some resilience and kept battling until they scored with 8:43 left in the period.
Senior forward Kevin Czajka skirted the puck around the Stevenson net and found a teammate in the slot. Junior defensemen Jay Keranen’s shot hung in the air and then darted over the right shoulder of Stevenson’s goaltender for a 1-0 lead.
Livonia Stevenson (13-5-4) had multiple scoring opportunities throughout the game, but Milletics kept his poise. He stopped several two-on-one rushes in the first and second periods, and further turned away two breakaways.
To its credit, the Brighton defense killed off a five-minute major penalty in the first period and a couple of late penalties in the third period.
“This season has helped us sharpen our focus and play better,” Moggach said. “We just had a lack of discipline that created some penalties late that didn’t give us the best chance to win.”
The Spartans found the back of the net with 10:03 remaining in the final period when senior forward Alex DeFlorio intercepted the puck in the neutral zone. He blasted a shot that tied it up.
“Milletics was outstanding" Stevenson coach David Mitchell said, "and he has the background to prove it. We couldn’t get down on ourselves, and we stayed positive. When a goaltender is playing that hot, you have to throw different things at him.
"Give DeFlorio credit. He didn’t try to go inside and crossed the blue line and let one fly, and he went low stick side.”
The Spartans had a man advantage with 3:04 left in the third period. Two Brighton penalties created a five-on-three for a stretch, then a five-on-four for the rest of the game. Milletics and the Bulldogs killed off both penalties.
“That’s us. We work on having our players block shots in practice because we pride ourselves on it more so than points. It’s a big thing for us,” Moggach said of the unselfish effort from the entire lineup.
“When we’re on the bench, our players see teammates sacrifice themselves for the shot," he added. "It really helps build confidence, and our kids continue to give all they need to kill penalties.”
Stevenson junior goaltender Cullen Barber also had a fine performance. He stopped 16 shots, including a two-on-one opportunity late in the second period.
Brighton returns to Eddie Edgar Ice Arena to face Livonia Franklin on Wednesday. Livonia Stevenson is preparing the MIHL Showcase, beginning Feb. 13 in Trenton.