BRIGHTON — After his team lost 4-3 in overtime to Birmingham Brother Rice on Wednesday night, Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach offered a full-throated defense of his team — and a prediction.
“We’ve had a rough patch the last few games, but we’ve played some rough competition and we’re still missing a player tonight,” Moggach said. “We’re going to have everyone back for the playoffs and we’re going to win six. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to take them one at a time, but we’re going to win six and win a state championship. I think we’ve got the talent to do it. We just have to play together and make sure we’re not our own worst enemy. I think we can win.”
Wednesday’s loss was the fourth in the last six games for Brighton (18-6-1), which went 1-4-1 in the stretch. The Bulldogs have been shorthanded with injuries, as they were Wednesday, when Keith Wikman didn’t play due to injury.
Jake Crespi, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, was going to sit out the game to rest an injured shoulder, but changed his mind after walking into the locker room.
“The adrenalin got the best of me,” he said as his teammates wolfed down a cake baked for the team’s Senior Night. “I got excited watching the boys get ready. It was hard to sit out and watch them play. It’s a big game.”
Brother Rice (20-4-1) came into the game ranked No. 1 in Division 2, with two losses and a tie at the hands of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, which is currently ranked No. 1 in Division 1.
The Bulldogs never led in the game, but tied it midway through the first period on the first of two goals by Adam Conquest, who also scored unassisted late in the second period.
Brother Rice led 3-2 in the third period, holding Brighton at bay until the final seconds.
Then Crespi caught a break.
Matthew Kahra fired a shot at Brother Rice goalie Ryan Hoffman.
“It was a good shot by Matt,” Crespi said. “It got to the net, was blocked on the way, hopped over a couple of sticks and I was lucky enough to tap it in.”
The Bulldogs appeared to catch another break when a delayed penalty to end the third wound up giving them a power play for the first two minutes of overtime.
But Brighton couldn’t get much of anything going, and Brother Rice’s Michael McInerney made them pay 18 seconds after the Warriors went back to full strength.
“Just couldn’t get the puck in the zone, weren’t really patient with it, and it turned out bad for us,” Conquest said. “They went back down, guy shot it on the ice and our goalie was screened. It was just unlucky, and (the puck) went in.”
“The power play wasn’t good in the overtime, and I think that was a key,” Moggach said. “If we get things going and the gears meshing, it could have been a different game. But we didn’t do very well there, and we didn’t have much momentum in the overtime.”
After the seniors skated off the ice for the last time in the regular season, the Bulldogs quickly turned their attention to next week’s start of the state tournament.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Moggach said. “For the seniors, it’s their last hockey game, and its always nice to get to the playoffs and see some sunshine outside. When we skate at 4:00, the sun comes through that window up there, and it’s a harbinger of spring. Spring is hockey playoffs, and we’re excited about that.”
“We still have momentum going,” Crespi said. “WE have a couple of games before we play St. Mary’s, and we’ve got our eyes set on the regional championship. We haven’t won in a while, so we’re hungry and ready to go.”