A season that saw the Brighton hockey team win the biggest award of all picked up a couple more honors on Sunday.
Jake Crespi, who played down the stretch with a shoulder injury that will need surgery while leading the Bulldogs in scoring, became the second player to be named Mr. Hockey by the coaches association on Sunday.
The award was announced at the season-ending banquet in Farmington Hills.
“I was pretty nervous,’ Crespi said, “waiting the entire time, but my coaches had given me a little hint and said it was probably between me and (teammate Logan) Neaton. I was pretty excited and relieved when I got up there.”
Neaton didn’t go home empty-handed, winning the Most Valuable Goalie award.
“It was one of my goals at the beginning of the season to win it,” Neaton said. “You look at all the people who have won it before, some of the best goalies in the state and junior hockey and college who have won it in the past and to continue that legacy for me was definitely a big thing. But it definitely wasn’t by myself. Had a lot of support throughout the whole entire year.”
It wouldn’t have surprised Brighton coach Paul Moggach if Neaton had won it.
“I think he was deserving and could have been Mr. Hockey,” Moggach said. “I think they were both deserving of that top player award. They both contributed differently, but at an extremely high level.”
Both were named to the state’s Dream Team, along with Hartland junior Josh Albring, who tied for the state lead in assists and was in the top 10 in overall scoring.
Neaton was Brighton’s captain, an unusual distinction for a goalie.
“I think coaches and programs don’t want to make their captain a goalie because there are a lot of things that can conflict with what you’re trying to do,” Moggach said. “Logan was a special person. He led our team from the end of last year right through (Sunday’s banquet). That part would stand out. But he also worked on his craft. He’s a goaltender who never feels like he’s where he needs to be, and is always working on it. He’s got that smile on his face all of the time, a great positive attitude and he’s a great lader, and that all came together for him this season.”
Neaton, for his part, says being a captain wasn’t something he set out to be.
“I always pride myself on being a goalie who’s a leader on and off the ice,” he said. “Coming into the season I didn’t care if I was a captain or not. Either way, I was going to pride myself on being a leader on and off the ice. Getting named a captain was an honor for me.”
Crespi, who was an assistant captain, injured a shoulder before the season, and it progressively got worse, popping out of its socket twice against Livonia Stevenson late in the season. He talked about sitting out the last game of the regular season against Brother Rice, but suited up and played.
“You’re not going to be that comfortable, but we were starting a playoff run,” he said. “We had to do it for hte boys, We needed to get a championship this year, and I was a key component to getting that done. I wasn’t about to sit out those games. I was ready to get it done.”
It turned out, Moggach said, to be a bit of a blessing in disguise.
“What Jake realized is how important the defensive end was, and he could provide that without hurting his shoulder more,” Moggach said. “He toned it back a little bit to play both sides of the puck a little bit better, and that gave us opportunities for other forwards to stand out.”
The Brighton defense, stingy enough during the regular season, was downright miserly in the playoffs, allowing only four goals in six games in the postseason.
Neaton, as a captain would, said his award, like the state title, was the result of a team effort.
“I wouldn’t have had the award without my defense,” he said. “They played phenomenal in front of me all year. Offense and defensemen. Our defense was phenomenal all year. I wouldn’t be in the spot I am today without them.”
“They could both see what the goal was,” Moggach said, “and they both contributed in a way that gave (Brighton) the championship. They got the recognition I think they deserve.”