Brighton, the 2012 and 2013 Division 1 champion, was facing a Grandville team that also was no stranger to the big stage Friday at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
Two years ago, Grandville’s leader, Ryan Fischer, died on the eve of the semifinal game against Novi Detroit Catholic Central, and the Bulldogs lost the semifinal. Last year, they made it to the championship game and lost to CC. Ryan’s brother, Connor, is a junior on this team.
Now Brighton stood in the way of a second straight trip to the finals for Grandville.
The battle of the Bulldogs went to Brighton (22-8), which advanced to its fourth title game in five years and a date with 2014-15 champ CC after a 4-1 victory.
“This is our fourth time in five years, and I think the experience of the coaching staff helps,” said coach Paul Moggach, in his 21st season at Brighton. “How can this get old? Each year is different with a new team. I thought we played real well defensively. I thought our guys were doing the right things. We were keeping everything in front of us and didn’t give them a lot of good opportunities.”
Joey Clifford got the Bulldogs on the board in a hurry, scoring at 14:18 with an assist from Nick Foran.
Brighton made it 2-0 in the second period when junior forward Jake Crespi beat goalie Will Ignatovich at 13:55 with an assists from Foran.
Grandville fell further behind on a goal by junior forward Ben Peterson with assists from Lee Pietila and Drew Daavettila at 5:47 to make it 3-0. Pietila added a goal at 9:24 with assists from Crespi and Sam Brennan.
Grandville (22-6-1) averted the shutout when David Breazeale scored with 7:20 left on an assist from Adam Underwood.
Brighton junior goalie Logan Neaton was great in net, stopping 24.
“They did the little things right and made my job easy,” Neaton said of his defense. “Coach has been talking about it all year, keeping things to the outside. I made the stops I was supposed to stop.
“We had a game plan right off the bat as far as this season. We had to stick to the little things. We knew we had the skill on the team. It was just following the plan and sticking to it.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.
Semifinals and finals
All games at USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Thursday’s Division 2 semifinals
Friday’s Division 3 semifinals
Friday’s Division 1 semifinals
Brighton 4, Grandville 1
Division 2: Livonia Stevenson vs. Romeo, 10 a.m.
Division 3: Hancock vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2 p.m.
Division 1: Novi Detroit Catholic Central vs. Brighton, 6