BRIGHTON — After a spring of celebrating and a summer and fall full of hockey, the Brighton High School hockey team was open for business on Monday.
Nine players from last year’s team are gone, thanks to graduation.
Monday began the process of replacing them and beginning the long road back to Plymouth and, perhaps, another berth in the state finals.
“I expect us to go as far as last year,” said senior defenseman Brody White, one of two four-year varsity players on the Bulldogs. “We lost some good players but I think we replaced them with good players as well.”
The biggest task is finding a goalie to replace Logan Neaton, voted the state’s top goalie last season. Neaton was a team captain on last year’s state championship team.
“It’s always a big spot to fill,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said.
Monday was about auditions. Assistant Kurt Kivisto ran the tryout, while Moggach and junior varsity coach Dave Cappellani, among others, observed from the stands.
“I told them before they took the ice that they had to distinguish themselves some way,” Moggach said. “If you blend in, it’s hard to pick you out. Show us what your best suit is and hopefully we’re paying attention.”
The main tryouts end on Tuesday, with some players called back for another look on Wednesday, when final cuts are made. Moggach says 18 players will make up his roster, including, possibly, three goalies.
“We pretty much know our top-end guys,” he said Monday. “So it’s who plays those roles, who’s on the bubble, with the JV and varsity. It’s trying to figure out who fits where. … We pretty much know. We follow these kids as they’ve grown up. We know our JV had a real good season last year, and worked hard in the offseason, so we have some spots there.
Defenseman Sam Brennan, who recently made a verbal commitment to play hockey at the Air Force Academy, says that as a senior, part of his role is to lead the new players through an on-ice orientation.
“I just want to show the team the importance of working hard,” he said. “Every practice means something. Every tryout means something, too. Every little thing counts. That’s what (Moggach) stresses is the little tings. Every little thing counts.”
White and Brennan have played key roles as the Bulldogs continue the best stretch in the school’s hockey history. Brighton has gotten to the Division 1 final five times in the past six seasons, winning three titles in that span.
Another title, the school’s fifth overall (Brighton won in 2006, 2011-12, and last year) would be the capstone of their high school careers.
“I expect us to go as far as last year,” White said. “We lost some good players, but I think we replaced them with some good players as well.”