PLYMOUTH — The Brighton hockey team had a hard time getting out of its own way in the second period of Friday’s Division 1 semifinal at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
The Bulldogs had taken the lead, 1-0, on a goal by Sam Brennan in the opening minutes, but had stagnated after that, with penalties being a big part of the reason.
Brighton would be on the power play, something assistant coach Kurt Kivisto emphasized in the locker room between periods.
“He drilled it into us that we could go out there and get a quick one and add to the lead, and that would be huge,” Brighton captain Logan Neaton said. “We knew we had the power play for 1:20 or something like that, we knew it would be a big power play, and it was.”
Mathew Kahra got things going with a power play, and the Bulldogs went on from there, taking a 5-0 victory and a berth in tonight’s Division 1 championship game with a familiar foe: Detroit Catholic Central, which beat Grandville 5-0 to earn its spot in the game.
It’s the third meeting in four years between the teams. Brighton won in 2013, Catholic Central the rematch in 2014 and again in 2016.
Game time is 6 p.m. at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
Neaton was in net last year, too, but says that experience goes only so far.
“It’s (motivated) me a little bit,” he said. “But I prepare the same way for every game. It’s just another game. We’ve got to go out and get it done.”
A repeat of the third period would go a long way toward that. After Kahra’s goal 41 seconds into the period, the Bulldogs. who never allowed Northville’s power play an inch of room, got a second wind.
“They were just really aggressive, and smart, too,” Northville’s Alex Iafrate said. “They took away our passing options and we ended up coughing the puck up.”
Brighton scored four goals in the period, from Kahra, Tim Erkkila, Kahra again and finally Spencer Gehres.
“It’s Brighton, and they’re going to play the same way since Coach Moggach has been there,” said Northville coach Clint Robert, who led his Mustangs to the semifinals for the first time. “They got some bounces, obviously. But I thought they played their game, and we couldn’t get pucks in the net.”
The Bulldogs beat Catholic Central at home in January, 2-1, but no one in the Brighton locker room saw that as anything remotely resembling an indicator of tonight’s game.
“It’s definitely a team we’ve come to know,” Neaton said, “so we’re looking for some payback. Not historically that big a rival, but we’ve been here so often the ast few years, it’s solidified the rivalry, for sure.”
Tonight, the Bulldogs will renew the rivalry, but also a remarkable string of finals appearances for a public school in Division 1.
“I think it’s about the dedication and sacrifice our players are willing to make,” Moggach said about the string. “You’ve got to sacrifice a lot to get here. This doesn’t just happen. … These are different players, but if they’re willing to sacrifice and pay the price and work hard and work together and take care of each other, it can happen.
“I think that’s the message and legacy they’ll leave,” he added. “The legacy is to work and work hard. If you stick together and look out for each other, you can win these things, or you can be here. Tomorrow, we’ll see if we win or not.”