HOUGHTON — It was, it was agreed, one of the faster trips to the Copper Country in memory for the Brighton hockey team on Thursday.
The Bulldogs’ chartered bus arrrived shortly after 6 p.m. after about nine hours on the road, plus a couple of stops along the way.
There was more time than usual for players to hang out together in the hotel, which is part of the bonding that Brighton coach Paul Moggach hopes to foster on this trip, and more time for parents to hang out in the lobby to play cards.
But the reason for the trip begins tonight, when the Bulldogs take on Hancock, also called the Bulldogs, at the Houghton County Arena.
The game will be broadcast on The Livingston Post starting at 6:50 p.m.
In some respects, the Copper Country games are like those Brighton plays at the Trenton Showcase, in that they are, for the most part, unfamiliar to the coaches and most of the players. The key word, Brighton coach Paul Moggach indicated, is “most.”
“Some of our kids know the kids up here,” he said. “You know the kind of hockey (the U.P. teams) play and you know how the officiating is going to be, so you can kind of prepare for that. But it’s a unique kind of setting in that you have these (extended) families with kids playing against each other you don’t get downstate.”
Several Bulldogs have relative on one and sometimes both of the teams Brighton will play this weekend.
“The (Brighton) families come up here, so there’s bragging rights, and the bragging rights are huge up here,” Moggach said. “It doesn’t end today. They’ll get it all year, and it’s important to them and their families.”
On top of that, both of Brighton’s opponents this weekend are ranked. Hancock (6-4) is ranked No. 8 in Division 3, while Calumet (8-3-2) is No 3 in the same division. Brighton (7-4) is No. 2 in Division 1.
“We haven’t seen them play,” Brighton captain Nick Foran said of Hancock. “But we know they (Hancock) are good and we know (Calumet) is good, so it should be a good game.”
After Thursday’s bus ride, the team practiced Friday morning at the Calumet Colosseum (the former Armory), but the scheduled curling match was postponed because it was too warm.
Temperatures in the 30s were the culprit, although a light snow fell throughout the morning.
So there was more time for the Bulldogs to hang out, as they ate lunch and waited for the bus back to Houghton.
“It never really gets old,” senior Joey Clifford said of the trip. “The fourth trip here sounds like a long one, but when I got on the bus, it didn’t seem old at all. You know it’s going to be a long ride, so you’re excited.”
“We just want to get our legs going,” Foran said. “Get some hits and get into the game. (After) driving all the way up here, you want to be ready. You don’t want to ruin this opportunity.”