EAST LANSING — Jake Crespi didn’t get onto the scoresheet until the second period of Wednesday’s 7-0 Brighton win in a Division 1 quarterfinal, but he did play a role in the game’s first two goals.
Crespi, as it turns out, was an able recruiter for the Bulldogs in the offseason. His efforts persuaded Wyatt Harmon and Spencer Gehres to play their senior seasons as Bulldogs, rather than a final year of travel.
“Jake and a couple of the guys have been waiting for me to come play with them for a year now,” Gehres said. “I always told them no, because I have a good group of friends on my old team. I don’t know. Just one day, I decided to give it a shot.”
Harmon set up the winning goal in Saturday’s overtime win in the regional final, and Gehres, who had five goals this season playing on the third line, scored the first two of the game as Brighton beat Lowell=Caledonia, 7-0, at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing.
The Bulldogs advanced to a Division 1 semifinal Friday at 5 against Northville, which beat Macomb Dakota 6-2. In the other semifinal, Grandville will meet Detroit Catholic Central.
Brighton coach Paul Moggach made no effort to hide his irritation with his team’s effort against a Lowell-Caledonia making its first trip to the quarterfinals.
“I think we thought too much of ourselves,” he said. “Too much ego, and I think it shows. I don’t think we’ll play that way on Friday. I guarantee it. Today, we weren’t at our best.”
Gehres’ first goal was a thing of beauty. Keith Wikman won a draw and Gehres one-timed it into the net.
“It was right off the draw,” he said. “It was a good win by my linemate. It was right there and I didn’t look. I just shot it and it went in.”
The goal came a little after the halfway mark of the first period. Wikman assisted on Gehres’ second goal four minutes later and the Bulldogs got going.
Bad passes and some selfish play had Brighton coaches sitting players in the second period, but Moggach said his team played better in the third.
His irritation spilled over when asked if getting to USA Hockey Arena, site of the state championships, might also be a showcase for Jake Crespi, whom many consider a Mr. Hockey candidate.
“No,” he said, curtly. “We’ll showcase our team. Jake shouldn’t be showcasing. I don’t care what (fans) think. I really believe it’s about the team right now.
“I don’t like the word ‘showcase,'” Moggach said a few seconds later. “We went to Trenton for a showcase and to the Copper Country for a showcase and didn’t do well in either of those. I think it’s really about the team. If we put the team first, we can win big games.”
While Moggach was worrying about the weekend, Lowell-Caledonia coach Todd O’Gorman, in his third year, called the game “a fantastic experience for us. … The boys are working hard, and this is the first time we’ve been this far in the playoffs. You have to take these experiences as learning experiences, and it was great to play a class act team like Brighton.”
The Bulldogs lost to Northville during the regular season, and Crespi smiled when asked if Moggach was going to remind them of that.
“He’s already reminded us,” he said, “We’ve been hearing about it even before this game. We knew who would be waiting down the road, and we’re preparing for that.”