BRIGHTON — It wasn’t the result the Brighton hockey team wanted on the night it unfurled its state championship banner. But it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
The Bulldogs poured 41 shots on net and held Northville to 11, but the Mustangs won the only category that counted, taking home a 3-1 victory.
Brighton (6-2-1) lost its second in a row overall, but also dropped to 2-1-1 in the KLAA Gold, putting their division title hopes at risk going into Friday’s game at Livonia Stevenson.
“We’ve only scored one goal in two games,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “We’re a lot better than that, but you don’t score many goals if you don’t put pucks on the net. As good as their goaltender was, we would have been better if we hit the net. That was the difference, in my mind.”
The 41 shots, by the way, didn’t include those that hit crossbars or posts or went over the goal by inches.
And Northville goalie Nick Williams was very good, the beneficiary of a defense that allowed him good looks at shots throughout the night.
But a strategy employed by Northville coach Clint Robert, a former Brighton assistant, played a key role.
“We wanted to keep them (shooting) outside the dots, keep them on the perimeter,” Robert said. “We were boxing everyone in, blocking shots. If that pucks coming from deep, he’s going to be able to track it and stop it.”
Many times, Williams didn’t have to, as his teammates went all-out to block shots.
“We told the kids before the game and said in order to know we had a good game, you’re going to have to hurt in bed tonight when you go to sleep,” Robert said. “I think a lot of guys will be hurting.”
But, as in Saturday’s loss to Catholic Central, defensive mistakes led to a pair of goals.
“Two bad defensive plays by myself, and it leads to two goals,” defenseman Sam Brennan said. “I feel personally responsible for this one because I hung Robert (goalie Robert Pegrum) out to dry.”
Northville spent much of the second half of the game killing off penalties, eight in all, but the Bulldogs could take advantage only once, when Adam Conquest scored late in the second period.
“We go and practice (today) and try to be positive,” Moggach said. “We know what we can improve on. We have to get shots on net and have to be better defensively.”
Stevenson, ranked No. 1 in Division 2 and in first place in the KLAA Black, will be another tough opponent as the Bulldogs end 2017.
“Just a couple of bad plays,” Brennan said. “We’ve got to find a way to win these kind of games. We hit at least a half-dozen posts. We have to find a way to win these tight games.”