2017-03-15 / Sports

Brighton’s persistence pays off with D1 hockey championship title

BY CHRIS WALL
STAFF WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER

The seniors on the Brighton hockey team vowed to win this year’s D1 hockey championship game after dropping the title game to Catholic Central last year. The Bulldogs came through big time on Saturday with a 5-2 victory over the Shamrocks.

Brighton stunned Catholic Central just 52 seconds into the title game as senior Keith Wikman scored, giving the Bulldogs a quick 1-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, senior Spencer Gehres slammed home a rebound to give Brighton a 2-0 margin. The two quick goals gave the Bulldogs a huge lift against the three-time defending D1 title holders from Catholic Central.

The defense in front of senior goalie Logan Neaton stood tall all night long, holding the Shamrocks to just two goals. Neaton stopped all seven Shamrock shots in the first period as Brighton led 2-0.

Brighton’s persistence on the penalty kill paid off at the start of the second period. Adam Conquest stole a Shamrock pass and scored a short-handed goal just 43 seconds into the period to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 margin. Brody White and Joey Martini got the assists to send the Brighton crowd into a frenzy.

Catholic Central’s power play goal by Brenda West gave the Shamrocks some life at the 6:01 mark to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Trailing 3-1 heading into to the third period, Catholic Central scored quickly to make it 3-2 just 43 seconds into the third period. Senior goalie Logan Neaton (31 saves) and the high-flying defense slammed the door the rest of the way for the 5-2 victory. “The defense in front of me stepped up so much tonight and all during the playoffs,” said Neaton. “They made my life easy.”

Gehres scored his second goal of the game Jared Lee with the slap shot for Catholic Central on Saturday, March 11 in the Shamrocks’ 5-2 loss to Brighton in the D1 MHSAA hockey title game at the USA Arena in Plymouth. with 11:44 left for a 4-2 margin. Senior forward Jake Crespi capped his career for Brighton with an empty net goal with just eight seconds left.

“I just came long for the ride,” said a smiling Coach Paul Moggach after winning his fourth championship in 22 seasons as head coach. “The players win games and championships. They made the sacrifices and put the work in to win state championships. Catholic Central’s program has always been the benchmark. This year we beat them twice, which we’ve never done before.”

Catholic Central made another strong push after winning the championship the last three years, including a 3-0 win over the Bulldogs last March. “Those first two goals put us on our heels,” said Catholic Central Coach Brandon Kaleniecki. “I’m incredibly proud of our team’s effort after being down 2-0 right away. We kept coming. We are very proud as a coaching staff of how they competed to the end.”

Brighton (24-6-1) and Catholic Central (23-8-1) have dominated the Division 1 playoffs. The last six championships have been won either by Catholic Central or Brighton.

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