BRIGHTON — Bulldogs hockey coach Paul Moggach is anything but blasé about his team’s latest run to the Division 1 quarterfinals.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been there, but there’s nothing better to know you have three games in front of you and you’ve earned the right to be in a quarterfinal,” he said Monday. “It’s pretty special.”
Brighton (20-8) is in the quarterfinals for the third time in four years tonight, when the Bulldogs take on East Kentwood (15-12) at Munn Arena in East Lansing.
The game, set to start at 7:30, is the second game of a doubleheader at the Michigan State hockey team’s home. Grand Rapids Catholic and Saginaw Heritage will play in a Division 3 quarterfinal at 5:30 p.m.
It will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
Moggach, who said he knew little about East Kentwood, was quick to dismiss talk of the Falcons’ record.
“At this time of year, it’s a one-game elimination,” Moggach said. “If your goaltender’s good and you play good defense in front of him and get a goal or two, anything can happen. You can’t take anyone lightly.”
And so, at Monday’s practice, the Bulldogs worked on their breakout, on which they struggled at times in Saturday’s win at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
“We didn’t handle the pressure on our end as well as we should,” Moggach said. “We’re working to relieve the pressure.”
Of the players on the roster, Joey Clifford is the only current Bulldog to have played on a state champion, back in 2012-13, but he says the experience of going deep in the playoffs never becomes routine.
“I think this might be the most exciting because it’s my senior year,” Clifford said.
The Bulldogs were last in the quarterfinals two years ago, en route to a championship game loss to Detroit Catholic Central.
As for experience, Moggach says going through previous playoff berths with assistant Kurt Kivisto will help, but Clifford says a more pressing need is more important.
“Experience is a big factor, but the most important thing is coming out ready to go,” Clifford said. “We haven’t been able to do that in each game, and if we do that, we think we can beat these guys.”
Moggach, who has been involved with the Brighton program for a quarter-century, can’t remember ever playing at Munn. Kivisto is very familiar, having played for Michigan State while in college.
But Moggach says playing there shouldn’t be a factor for or against his team.
“We get a 15-minute warmup, and after that we should be as comfortable as East Kentwood,” he said. “It’s not their home rink. Saturday night was a different story, where (St. Mary’s) was playing in their home rink. It should be a little more neutral, I think.”