HOWELL — In the years since teams from the CAAC started playing in pre-regionals in Livingston County, they have never won a game against Brighton.
The streak continued Tuesday, despite Brighton being short four players due to illness. The Bulldogs (19-6-1) dispatched a Jackson team (20-4-1) that had gone unbeaten in the CAAC this season, and they did it via a mercy-rule beating, 8-0, in a pre-regional semifinal at Grand Oaks Ice Arena.
Howell, which hosted the pre-regional, rolled past the Eastside Stars 10-2 in the second game of the doubleheader, setting up a rematch with the Bulldogs for Thursday night.
Brighton, which reached the Division 1 championship game last year, got hat tricks from Adam Conquest and Jake Crespi, who scored twice in a 20-second span to end the game late in the third period.
The first two of Conquest’s goals were shorthanded, and the Vikings never recovered.
“They’re not expecting us to jump on them and force them down the wall like we like to,” Crespi said. “It’s good to get some loose pucks out there and put them on defense. When they have the extra man, it’s good to have some aggression on.”
Brighton showed no evidence of the slump that saw the Bulldogs go 1-4-1 in the final quarter of the regular season.
That despite the illnesses that left them with just four defensemen and forced Moggach to call up Jason Verhelle from the junior varsity.
On the other hand, Crespi said, being shorthanded is old hat for the Bulldogs.
“We’ve been down all year,” he said. “We’ve played with four D before, so it’s nothing new to us. We wanted to stick to the game plan and be as aggressive as possible. We knew what we needed to do.”
Howell, meanwhile, was mostly at full strength and simply wore down a young but outmanned Eastside Stars squad.
“We rolled three lines tonight, which helped,” Howell co-coach Eric Hirzel said. “We worked on the power play this week and moved some lines around a little bit. We had three power-play goals off the same unit, and that was nice to see.”
One line had half of the Highlanders’ goals, led by sophomore Graham Hassan, who had his first hat trick.
“Our line was clicking tonight,” Hassan said. “We just got put together a couple of days ago, and tonight was the first night we started click.”
In addition to Hassan, Russell Daavettila scored twice early in the second period to essentially put the game out of reach, and Sheldon Sturos had a pair of assists.
The preliminaries out of the way, both teams turned their attention to Thursday’s rematch. The Bulldogs won the first meeting between the teams, 8-0, on Jan. 24 at Grand Oaks.
In that contest, Brighton scored five goals late in the third period to end the game early.
“It was three goals most of the game,” Hirzel said. “At the end, once they scored on us, the sails went out. They scored five goals, and we gave up. It was a big lesson for us.”