BRIGHTON — Asked about his team’s upcoming 16th annual trip to the Upper Peninsula, Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach laughed.
“I’m glad you keep count,” he said. “I’m glad you count for me.”
The Bulldogs leave Thursday morning for games Friday and Saturday at Hancock and Calumet, respectively.
“The competition is always good up there,” Moggach said. “You don’t usually go up there and snowball anybody. We’ve had years of great success and we’ve had years where we didn’t have any.”
Should the Bulldogs have success, they will have earned it. While the Bulldogs (9-1) go into the weekend ranked No. 1 in Division 1, Hancock (9-1) is second in Division 3 and Calumet (4-5-1) is No. 10 in Division 3.
For many Brighton players, it’s an opportunity to play against relatives from more than 500 miles away – and the stakes are not insignificant.
“I think there’s a bigger rivalry there,” said senior Ben Peterson, who will face cousins on both teams this weekend. “You want to beat them and have bragging rights.”
Brighton is the third Livingston County team to make the trip north this season. Hartland swept Hancock and Houghton during the first weekend of the season in November, while Howell lost to Hancock and Calumet last week.
The team will spend about 60 hours in Houghton, arriving in the early evening Thursday and returning home well before sunrise on Sunday.
It’s a trip the players have come to look forward to over the years.
Asked what he thought was a highlight, Peterson said, “Just being on the road. We’re not used to that, always being with the team the day of the game. You eat lunch together. It’s always good.”
“Just relax,” goalie Logan Neaton said. “Don’t get too lazy, keep the legs moving. Just enjoy it. live up every moment. You don’t get that many opportunities to have fun with your team. I’m going to enjoy it.”
Also on the informal itinerary for Moggach is a breakfast with former players who are attending college in the area, many of whom go home with leftovers from the team dinners.
“I think from the very first trip to this most recent one, it’s always the excitement of going someplace different,” he said. “It’s the excitement of knowing we’ll be together for four days and we’ll have to get along. The excitement of playing teams we don’t see around here, although there’s lots of competition here. And it’s the adventure of the travel.”