BRIGHTON — Wyatt Harmon, who started the play, had the best view of the end on Saturday night as Brighton won a Division 1 regional hockey title in overtime.
“They were making a change and I got the puck in front of their bench,” he said. “I skated down, looked at the net, saw a (defender) to my left, decided to shoot, rebound came right back to me, sent it back off (the goalie’s) pads, and then the boys banged it home.
“I was right behind the net and saw it go in,” he added. “It was awesome.”
Will Jentz banged the second rebound home with 1:22 left in overtime as Harmon watched, lifting Brighton to a 2-1 victory over Orchard Lake St. Mary inside a packed Kensington Valley Ice House.
“Our coach came in (between the third period and overtime) and said, ‘We’re going to get a goal from a rebound,” Jentz said. “So we kind of knew.”
Brighton coach Paul Moggach smiled when it was mentioned that Jentz, a freshman, wasn’t a big scorer.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “We were talking to them about getting shots on the net and going to the net. Will followed instructions and there he was, banging it into the net. But I thought it was a team victory, from our goaltender to our defense to our forward. I thought everyone played together. I thought we had a lot of heart, and I’m happy for them for the result.”
Brighton (21-6-1) advanced to a Division 1 quarterfinal on Wednesday to face Lowell-Caledonia, which beat Grand Ledge-Fowlerville Saturday, 2-1, in double overtime at Kentwood.
The Bulldogs, who saw four varsity players miss both games in Howell due to illness, had three of them back on Saturday, just in time for a physical contest with St. Mary’s.
The Eaglets came into the game having gone 12-1-1 down the stretch and ranked No. 1 in Division 1 at the end of the season.
St, Mary’s got the first goal early, when Ryan Kerchoff scored with 10:09 remaining in the first period.
“We started off really slow,” Brighton’s Jake Crespi said. “That first shift, I got hurt, (Mathew) Kahra got hurt, Ben (Peterson) came off hurt. They came out physical and beat the crap out of us. But once we got used to the speed, we were hanging in there.”
Crespi tied the game with a power play goal with 3:55 left in the first. While he and his linemates had skated off in pain early in the period, they returned and didn’t miss a shift.
At this point, Crespi said, it’s not about pain.
“I’ve been battling it all through playoffs,” he said of an upper-body injury, “and at this point it’s all about heart. Whomever has the most heart is going to win championships. We’re going to keep it going.”
Moggach, for his part, was confident in his team’s chances.
“Kurt (assistant Kurt Kivisto) and I felt confident the whole game, like this was our game for some reason. We didn’t worry,” he said. “In the first two games of the pre-regionals, we were nervous about some things. But today, I think the way we worked and how we prepared for this, we were very confident.”
That confidence paid off.
“It felt like a while to put it in the net,” Jentz said of the time between Harmon’s second shot and his game-winner. “But once it went in there, it felt great. I was glad I got it, but I was really glad for the team so we could go on to the next round.”
“It’s what you waited all year for,” Harmon said. “It’s all those three-hour practices, the workouts upstairs (at the Ice House). Everything is boiling down to this moment of performing and executing well.”
And for Harmon, a senior, a chance to extend his career for a few more days.
“Three more games,” he said. “Let’s keep going.”