BRIGHTON — One would think that the second week of a 17-week season might be a little early to talk about key games in a team’s season.
But that’s where the Brighton hockey team sits going into today’s annual Thanksgiving Eve contest with Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at the Kensington Valley Ice House. That game is followed by two more in another annual trip to Cranbrook for games Friday and Saturday.
“This weekend is big,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “We’ve got three games in four days. This is going to be a big test for us.”
Both teams are 1-0 going into tonight’s contest, which will be broadcast live on The Livingston Post at around 7 p.m.; the game is the second of a doubleheader between the schools with the JV teams playing at 5 p.m.
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Brighton breezed past Canton in its opener last week, 8-2, while St. Mary’s rallied for three goals in the third to edge Shadyside Academy 5-4 last Saturday.
“They’re always good, but I think they’ll be better this year,” Moggach said. “They had a big junior class last year, and if they all come bac, they should be as powerful, I would think.”
Brighton comes back with a strong defensive corps that aims to get a little more involved on offense this year; Tim Erkkila got that going with two goals and three assists against Canton.
But it’s early to be drawing many conclusions, but it’s safe to say a large crowd will be on hand.
“That’s what we’ve been harping on these guys about,” Moggach said. “You’ve got to be ready for that crowd. They’re going to have to come out in front of a big crowd and do their best.”
The teams met twice last season and Brighton won both, winning the second 2-1 in overtime in a regional final before the same kind of crowd they’ll play in front of tonight.
Bulldogs players who have been around for this rivalry are looking forward to playing.
“It’s always been a tight game, exciting, fun to play,” senior Mathew Kahra said.
Asked why this matchup is special, senior Brody White said: “Just seeing how they come together and seeing how we come together. They’ve been working hard and we’ve been working hard, too. It should be a great game.”
As for the crowd, while Moggach exhorts his younger players to be ready for it, White, a fourth-year player, takes it more in stride.
“It’s awesome to see the kids there at first and during warmups,” he said. “But once the puck drops you’ve got to let it go. Get it out of your head.”