Brighton Completes Impressive Repeat
March 10, 2018
Second Half reports
PLYMOUTH — Harrison Fleming pictured himself in this moment, throwing his gloves in the air as the final buzzer sounded, getting mobbed by teammates in a wild celebration on the ice at USA Hockey Arena.
He envisioned this even when his status on Brighton’s hockey team rarely had him in the crease on game nights.
“Honestly, I kind of did,” Fleming said. “I told myself I wanted that. I didn’t want to ride the bench any more. So, I did whatever I could to start. I’m just glad it came out that way. Hard work pays off.”
It paid off for Fleming and his Brighton teammates in the form of a fourth MHSAA Division 1 championship in the past seven seasons. The Bulldogs repeated as Division 1 champs with a 5-2 victory over Saginaw Heritage Saturday night.
Fleming started only two of Brighton’s first 16 games until starter Robert Pegrum, last year’s varsity backup, got injured. Fleming, the junior varsity goalie last season, played well enough to earn the No. 1 spot for the playoffs, even when Pegrum returned.
Fleming allowed more than two goals only once in 13 starts, a statistic that is even more impressive considering nine of those starts were against state-ranked teams.
The 6-foot-2 junior turned aside 21 of 22 shots in a 2-1 victory over top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central in the Semifinals before stopping 23 of 25 shots against seventh-ranked Heritage.
“It’s unreal, but I couldn’t have done it without all them,” Fleming said of his teammates. “They played their butts off for me. That’s all I can ask for. Great outcome.”
Fleming went 6-0 in the playoffs with a 1.20 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.
Fleming’s first big start of the season came Jan. 30 against Hartland. The Bulldogs lost, 2-1, but he played well enough to open the eyes of the coaching staff.
That Hartland team, which is Brighton’s biggest rival in Livingston County, won the Division 2 championship eight hours earlier. The quality of hockey in the county is a source of pride.
“I played with a lot of people on the Hartland team,” Brighton defenseman Brody White said. “Jake Gallaher, (Josh) Albring. I’m happy for them, just as happy as for us.”
“I’ve got a lot of friends on that team,” Brighton defenseman Sam Brennan said.
White and Brennan are rare four-year varsity players, coming in together as freshmen in 2014-15 and leaving together with two MHSAA championships and a runner-up finish as sophomores.
“It’s amazing,” White said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else, that’s for sure. It’s definitely been the best four years of my hockey career.”
Heritage did its best to dispel the notion that the Semifinal game between perennial powers Brighton and Catholic Central was the de facto championship game. After surviving a 3-2 overtime Semifinal against Traverse City West, the Hawks had plenty in the tank to push Brighton for the full 51 minutes.
“It went down right to the end,” Heritage coach J.J. Bamberger said. “After the game, for a few minutes, I reflected. For anyone who said it was a shame Brighton and C.C. weren’t playing in the championship game, I hope they watched what our boys did, because our boys played their hearts out and were in that game the entire time.”
The Hawks (22-5-3) were only the second team from Saginaw to reach an MHSAA Final. Saginaw Nouvel lost 6-0 to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in the 1990 Class B-C-D title game.
It was a one-goal game until Evan MacDonald poked the puck into the net while breaking up a pass in front of the Heritage goal with 5:07 left in the third period.
“He was coming up the middle,” MacDonald said. “He was going to make a pass to the guy on the stretch side. I just put my stick down and it ended up bouncing in.”
Will Jentz put his second goal of the game into an empty net with 57.7 seconds left.
“They’re a quality team,” Brighton senior Adam Conquest said of the Hawks. “We were not expecting it. We knew they had skill. We knew they could score. They had us the first two periods, but we pulled it out. It was a really good hockey game. I give them all the credit in the world.”
Brighton (24-6-1) jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the 12:22 mark of the first period on goals by Mathew Kahra and Jentz. Heritage cut the deficit to one goal on a power-play goal by David Helpap with 2:47 remaining in the period.
Following a scoreless second period, freshman Nate Przysiecki temporarily gave Brighton some breathing room by scoring with 15:49 left in the third. The Hawks kept pushing, getting back within a goal on John Michael Watson’s power-play score with 12:27 left.
PHOTOS: (Top) Brighton players celebrate their second straight Division 1 title. (Middle) Brighton and Heritage players work for position in front of the Hawks’ net.
Moggach Honored Nationally for 25 Years of 'Sticking In, Doing Good'
By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com
March 17, 2023
When Paul Moggach began his tenure as Brighton’s hockey coach, the program was at its nadir.
“When we got into high school hockey, it wasn't very good,” he said recently. “Our league wasn't very good. Our team wasn't very good. We started with character to try to build something different, you know, a different mousetrap.”
Over the next quarter of a century, Moggach and his assistants, primarily Rick Bourbonais (whom Moggach succeeded as coach) and current coach Kurt Kivisto helped lift the program into one of the most respected, and successful, in the state.
Moggach (pronounced MUG-uhth), along with former Detroit Catholic Central coach Gordon St. John, in February was named a co-recipient of the John Mariucci Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association.
They, along with Andy Weidenbach of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, are the only Michigan coaches to have received the award, named after the longtime hockey coach at Michigan Tech.
“He brought in people that he knew could do things he may have had limitations at,” said Kivisto, who played for Moggach at Brighton two decades ago and was an assistant for 10 years before taking over as head coach in 2020. “He did a good job surrounding himself with people he trusted and knew would be good for the program while he steered the ship in the direction he wanted. And he was very good at that.”
Moggach calls the honor “very humbling.
“I got into hockey because there was a need,” he added, “then I ended up with Rick at the high school for those years. When you look back at it, I grew a lot. I grew a lot personally and from a coaching perspective I grew. I had to change things, and so I think it's not so much the reward as at least a recognition that I stuck it out. My grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Stick in and do good.’ She would say that when I was on the way out the door. That was her message to me, and I think (the award) just emphasizes that I did, I did stick in.”
“You can’t be happier for a guy than for a guy like Paul,” said Bourbonais, who coached with Moggach at Brighton for a total of 30 years, the last 20 as an assistant. “He took a hockey team and made it into a hockey program that is a top-five contender every year. Guys come out of the program with championships, but they also come out with life lessons and some idea of what it takes to be a great citizen and a great student as well as what it takes to be a great athlete.”
At first, though, there were trials. The Bulldogs struggled in his first two seasons, and the program itself was in jeopardy for a short while after a bench-clearing brawl.
Once that crisis passed, Moggach and his staff, which for many years consisted of Bourbonais, Mike Brown and Jason Valente, worked to rebuild the Bulldogs from a team known for its physicality to one with a more wide-open passing style of play.
When hockey trends went to a more defensive style, where the defense sparked the offense, Moggach adapted.
During the first decade of his tenure, as the Bulldogs had more success and built their reputation, teams that had shunned scheduling them in the past began adding Brighton to their schedules.
He kept looking for ways to improve his team, both on and off the ice.
Brighton was the first team to schedule a game with those in the Keweenaw Peninsula, both for the keen competition, but also as a team-bonding exercise.
The bus rides, about 11 hours each way, helped players who in many cases didn’t know each other outside the rink to bond. So did activities outside of hockey including team dinners and curling, and the experience of being together as a team for four days.
Other teams took notice, and team bonding trips, including those far shorter than the 550 miles from Brighton to Houghton, are commonplace.
Soon after, he introduced a skating coach and stricter team nutrition to the program.
“It’s not something that we had done when I was in high school," said Kivisto, who graduated in 2003. “It was something that some of the families and players weren’t overly excited about, but he knew it was good for the team and he was always looking ahead and finding ways to give his team an advantage.”
Brighton grew to dominate its league, and winning gave Moggach the authority to introduce concepts new to players and families who grew up in travel hockey.
“I'm sure we weren't pleasing everybody,” he said, “But we thought we would do with character and live the kind of model that we would hope that the players would follow, that their families would follow. And as we did that it changed and we got in front of some things with our league, and had a good run in our league.”
Brighton won its first Division 1 championship in 2006. That was followed by back-to-back Division 1 titles in 2012 and 2013, and then 2017 and 2018, a stretch that saw the Bulldogs reach the Finals in six out of seven seasons.
“Some of that is when you learn how to win, you win, even sometimes when you shouldn't,” he said. “I'm not saying that you know when we got to the Finals that we didn't deserve to win. We had a good recipe there that got us those five wins, but once we got it rolling, that momentum kept us going sometimes then maybe it shouldn't have.”
As the program’s success and reputation grew, players who had been in travel hockey started opting to play for the Bulldogs.
“There are some kids on (this year’s Brighton) team who came from Triple A who are tired of that commitment, because of the travel, the time, the money,” he said. “And they found that high school hockey is different. I mean just look at the crowds. They don't get that kind of a reward for the work that they put in.
“I think it's developed to that point now for us and we get players like that and it's made a difference, I think, and not just for our team but for all of high school hockey, " Moggach continued. “The coaches association has done a great job in promoting now and so it is a great destination for so many good reasons for kids to spend that time and grow up with their friends who are in their neighborhoods and in their community.”
Moggach is still a fixture at Brighton games, still in close touch with Kivisto when not driving to see his grandsons play or his stepson, Damon Whitten, who coaches at Lake Superior State.
His impact will be felt in Brighton hockey for years to come.
“He left no stone unturned to try and be the best he thought we could be,” Brighton athletic director John Thompson said. “He’s one of those people who was genuinely invested in young people, and he always, always put the program first. He was a good manager of young men and developed some pretty good coaches, too.”
Moggach finished with a record of 467-172-43. St. John, who won six state titles at Catholic Central and another at Cranbrook, had a record of 229-29-18 in 10 seasons at Catholic Central.
“I was excited for (Moggach) when I heard the news,” Kivisto said, “seeing him put at a level of the guys who have won the award and the contributions they made to high school hockey. It’s neat to see him recognized at that level.”
Both men will receive their awards sometime this spring.
“I can be recognized,” Moggach said, “and I think kids are and their families are always looking for that. But I think before you do that you have to build the program, the program has to be something that's respectful and respected and competitive, and I think we accomplished that.”
Gordon St. John led Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to a combined eight Finals championships over 16 seasons, the last seven with the Shamrocks including five straight in Class A or Division 1 from 1999-2003.
DCC’s Class A championship in 1994 was the first of now 17 Finals titles, which rank second-most in MHSAA history. He built a 222-29-18 record (.859 winning percentage) over 10 seasons leading the Shamrocks through 2003-04, the last two seasons as co-head coach before then staying with the program as an assistant and helping the team to another Division 1 championship in 2005.
St. John’s championship at Cranbrook came in 1988 in Class B-C-D.
PHOTOS (Top) Retired Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach, far right, stands alongside his players as they await to receive their medals after winning the 2018 Division 1 championship (Middle) Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. (Middle photo by Tim Robinson; St. John photo courtesy of the American Hockey Coaches Association.)