It likely could not have been imagined at the time, but the second game of hockey’s regular season in November was a precursor to the very last game of the season — the Division 1 state finals Saturday night at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth.
Exactly like in the beginning of the season, Novi Detroit Catholic Central beat Brighton, 3-0, to capture its third straight state championship. Brighton had won the prior two state titles, in 2012 and ’13, so a near-capacity crowd turned out to watch the time-tested programs.
“You’re on top of the world right now,” said DCC’s Nick Macari, who scored the second goal of the game with 2:38 left in the second period, charging up the left side and firing a wrist shot at the net. “I’ve been on the team for three years and we were fortunate to win all three years, and it just got better and better each year. Going out on top, as a senior, there’s nothing better.”
DCC has had three different head coaches during its recent championship run. Current coach Brandon Kaleniecki graduated from at DCC in 2000, winning twice as a player.
“There’s been some differences but a lot of similarities,” said senior Brian Kearns. “They’re all preaching the same stuff. Got to play as hard as you can, got to play for the two CCs on your chest, and I think they were all different and they were all great in their own way and I think they all added a piece to this puzzle to go win three.
“There’s no better feeling than winning your last game at CC. I think it’s been such a ride for us. I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world than going out with a win.”
Neither team scored in the first period, but Brighton (22-9) had a good chance with a penalty shot opportunity at the 5:17 mark.
“We were pleased with our first period, outside of the penalty shot where we had a minor breakdown on the power play that led to a penalty shot,” Kaleniecki said. “But Alec (Calvaruso) bailed us out with a great save on that, and that could have been a huge turning point, but it kept it 0-0.”
DCC (24-7) scored from a scrum in front of the net for its first goal, as Glynn Robitaille knocked the puck in goal with 9:04 remaining in the second period. Early in the third, Cody Borke flicked in a rebound from in front of the net on a shot by Austin Roell to make it 3-0.
“I didn’t think we ever got totally into our game because Catholic Central didn’t allow us to,” said veteran Brighton coach Paul Moggach. “They played a great game on both sides of the puck … and we just didn’t find our game, find a way to get to them.”
Moggach said the regular season game with DCC had some similarities, but all the scoring came in the final seven minutes.
“We’ve been on the other side of this and know how beautiful it is on the other side,” he said about winning state titles. “It clearly is a great rivalry and I think that is what’s important. It’s really an honor to be here and to see the crowd, how the building fills up, representing our town against a rival. It’s a real honor to play Catholic Central in this kind of setting.”