By Matt Mackinder -
Brighton’s return engagement to the MHSAA Division 1 state finals started out strong and finished strong as the Bulldogs retained their championship with a 2-1 win over Detroit Catholic Central in front of a standing room-only crowd at Compuware Arena.
Jimmy Milletics stopped 37 shots for the win and was deemed the “difference-maker” by Brighton coach Paul Moggach.
“You always need good goaltending and Jimmy was there for us,” said Moggach. “We got the goals we needed and had good goaltending. If you only give up one goal a game, you’re going to be a tough team to beat. Yesterday (beating Detroit U-D Jesuit) and today, we didn’t dominate, but we didn’t give. We bent, but we didn’t break.”
“(Brighton) played a great game, blocked a lot of shots and really had a formula for success,” added Catholic Central coach Todd Johnson. “We didn’t like being in the position of being down 2-0 for what felt like an eternity. Once we got one, we figured that was the formula and the next one would happen and we had some chances.”
The game was scoreless until the 15:07 mark of the first when Michael Yuhasz gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead on a broken play in front of Catholic Central goalie Derek Moore. The puck was loose in the crease, but Yuhasz swooped in and backhanded a soft shot under a sliding Moore.
Yuhasz then had a breakaway with 40 seconds left in the period, but was hooked by CC’s Carson Gatt, giving Brighton a power play that would carry over into the second period, but to no avail.
A senior in his first season playing for Brighton after spending last season with the Little Caesars AAA organization, Yuhasz said he was initially undecided about playing for the Bulldogs until late in the summer.
“I went to all the summer workouts, even though I hadn’t committed to play here yet,” explained Yuhasz. “A few of the guys told me I should come and play here and that made the decision a little easier for me.”
“When you’re putting a team together and you get a guy like Michael, he’s sort of the piece that fills the puzzle,” said Moggach. “He’s a good academic student, a leader and just a real important piece of what we were trying to get.”
Brighton took a 2-0 lead when Lucas Morgan re-directed a Yuhasz pass upstairs over Moore 8:03 into the second period.
Catholic Central appeared to score with 3:11 to go in the second and the red light went on, but the referee had already blown the whistle. Shamrocks’ captain Michael Babcock even asked the goal judge if it was a good goal and the goal judge acknowledged that it was.
At the end of all that, the score remained 2-0 Brighton through two periods.
The Shamrocks finally penetrated Milletics on a power play at 9:58 of the third when Gatt fought through a check in the slot and went high on Milletics.
“After you get about 20 shots, you really get into a groove,” said Milletics. “My teammates helped me with the shots and the rebounds and then once I got beyond the 20 shots, I really felt like I was on top of my game.”
Moore was pulled with just under a minute to go in regulation, but the Shamrocks couldn’t find the equalizer.
After the game, Moggach was asked to compare last season’s state title with this year’s championship.
“I don’t really have a perspective on it right now,” Moggach said. “In 2006, when we won the first one, it was unbelievable and then last year, we put together a great team and won the second one and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, that first one wasn’t a fluke.’ I’m just happy for the guys because for some of them, this isn’t their back-to-back, so I don’t know. I don’t have a perspective on it, but maybe in a couple days.”
Editor’s note: MiHockey will be holding a social media contest to determine which high school team is on the next cover of MiHockeyMag. Please keep an eye on our social media channels throughout the next few days.