EAST LANSING — At the onset, it should be pointed out that Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach is thrilled to have his team in the Division 1 semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons.
“You have to earn your way to get there,” he said after his Bulldogs downed East Kentwood, 4-1, in a Division 1 quarterfinal at MSU’s Munn Arena. “I’m happy for the boys. They’ve sacrificed a lot to get there. We just want to make it happen now.”
The Bulldogs (21-8) will meet Grandville (22-5-1) in a Division 1 semifinal Friday at around 7:30 p.m. U-D Jesuit and Detroit Catholic Central will meet in a semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday’s winners play for the state championship a 6 p.m. Saturday.
The semifinals and finals will be played at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
While Moggach was happy his team is in the Division 1 final four, he wasn’t as enamored with how it got there.
“I think there’s room for improvement,” he said. “I thought (East Kentwood) hung in there until we got those two goals at the end of the (second) period. We have to play better than that, and I don’t think you win a state championship playing at the level we did. It’s a good win against a good team, but I didn’t think we were playing to our potential.”
One player who did was Brighton’s Jake Crespi, who scored both of those goals in the second period. He added a third in the third period and got an assist when Nick Foran banged in a rebound off a Crespi shot in the first period for a power-play goal.
The Bulldogs led 1-0 for the rest of the first period and most of the second as well before East Kentwood’s Alex Randall scored with 3:19 left in the period.
But Crespi broke the tie with a goal that came with 52 seconds left, and scored again on a shot that caromed in off the goalpost with six seconds left in the period.
“We couldn’t get anything to go, but Crespi found the net,” said senior Jay Keranen, who had three assists.
Crespi finished the scoring with an unassisted goal early in the third period.
The Bulldogs spent much of the third period killing off penalties, to their coach’s dismay.
“I think we got a little cute,” Moggach said, “especially when we went up 3-1. We didn’t finish the way we should have. And we took too many penalties. We were outshot 10-3 in the third period. You can’t have a finish like that. Part of it was because they were on the power play, but, still, you have to stay out of the box.”
Logan Neaton, who faced only eight shots in the first two periods, was up to the challenge in the third.
“He makes key saves when he has to,” Moggach said. “Logan was tough.”
In the end, the Bulldogs are back where they feel they belong: In position to play for a state championship.
“We lost in the regional championship last year,” Keranen said. “I never stopped thinking about that. It’s great to be back.”
“It’s exciting,” Crespi said. “Friday, we’ll be flying and hopefully we can get to Saturday. We’ve got our eyes set on it all.