PLYMOUTH — The motivation began with last year’s loss to Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 championship game.
“I remember looking out last year and watching CC celebrate,” Brighton captain Logan Neaton said. “That’s what motivated me this season. It stuck in my head for 365 days.”
Neaton said this after leading the Bulldogs to their fourth state title and third in six years on Saturday. Brighton, which lost to Catholic Central 3-0 last year, won 5-2 in the rematch.
The Bulldogs (24-6-1) got out to a fast start. Keith Wikman scored 52 seconds into the game, and Spencer Gehres scored 90 seconds later to make it 2-0.
“No one was expecting it, putting those goals up early,” said their linemate, Adam Conquest. “They gave us momentum and we carried it through the rest of the first.”
Conquest scored himself in the first minute of the second period to make it 3-0.
After that, Catholic Central (22-8-1) increased the pressure, outshooting Brighton 13-0 to end the second period.
The Shamrocks’ Brendan West scored with 10:59 left in the second period, and while Catholic Central kept the pressure up the rest of the period, the Shamrocks were held in check the rest of the period.
West got on the scoreboard again 44 seconds into the third period with a goal that cut the Brighton lead to 3-2.
“We knew they were going to have a push, coming from two goals down in the third,” Neaton said. “I think they caught us a little flat-footed there. But as soon as they turned it into a one-goal game, we picked it up.”
The heavy lifting came from the same line a few minutes later. Conquest took a pass from Wikman, skated to the left of the goal and fired the puck at the net.
Gehres redirected the puck off the goalpost, and the Bulldogs never looked back.
The Shamrocks threatened, but could not solve Neaton, and after pulling goalie Sean Finstrom late in the game, Jake Crespi put the game out of reach with an empty-net goal with 1:08 remaining.
“It was a relief, knowing we got the job done and there’s no way they can come back,” said Crespi, who had been fighting a shoulder injury through the postseason. “It’s just the best feeling in the world. We did what we had to do and worked so hard throughout the season. We practiced every day, and it was totally worth it.”
Asked if winning this year felt as good as losing felt as bad last year, Crespi said, “I would say even better. It’s incredible to beat them again. WE both said in our postgame interviews (last year) that we’d be back in this exact spot. We promised everyone we’d be back, and here we are. We’re on the other side, and it’s huge.”
The Bulldogs swept the Shamrocks this year after having won one of 11 previous meetings, which came in the 2013 state title game.
“They’ve always been the benchmark,” Moggach said. “They were the team to beat, and for a lot of years, we had trouble beating them. We kept working hard and trying to compete with them, and now we’re on the map as well.”
And in the history books.