HOCKEY: Brighton Blanks Saline, 3-0, in Regional Final
BRIGHTON - Saline's varsity boys' ice hockey season came to an end in the regional final Wednesday night in a 3-0 loss to Brighton at the Kensington Valley Ice House.
Brighton scored twice early in the first period and added a third goal midway through the third period.
"I'm just proud of the boys. They battled hard throughout the game. We knew this was going to be a tough game against a talented and well-coached team. But we gave ourselves a puncher's chance," Saline coach Kyle Zagata said.
The Hornets were bumped up to Division 1 hockey this year.
Saline goalie Tyler Schroeder was solid as a rock for the Hornets, turning in one of his best games of the season.
"That's just how he's been for us. The bigger the game, the better he plays," Zagata said.
In the other crease, Levi Pennala wasn't tested often, but when the Hornets fired shots from the wings, he held his angles. When he did give up a rebound, the Brighton defense was there to clear pucks away.
The Bulldogs were definitely the faster team and they had the puck most of the night. At 3:31 of the first period, Cameron Merrick was called for hooking. With 16 seconds left in the powerplay, Cameron Duffany scored from in front of the net, batting home a rebound.
Three seconds later, the Hornets were on the powerplay. But a turnover at the blueline led to a long breakaway for Evan Wohlart. Schroeder stayed with him and made the save. The puck followed Wohlart behind the net, and he raced around the other side and scored before anyone got back to help Schroeder.
The game was not yet five minutes old and Brighton led, 2-0 on two special teams goals.
But the Hornets didn't fold. They generated several chances but most possessions were one-and-dones. The Hornets couldn't generate second and third opportunities because the Bulldogs were so quick to the loose pucks.
The ice wasn't tilted so much against the Hornets in the second period. The Hornets were able to sustain shifts in the offensive zone but passes always seemed just a little off and loose pucks seemed to go between skates and never find the tape.
The physical game threatened to bubble over late in the second period. On one shift alone, hard-working forward Aidan Rumohr took several crosschecks in the offensive zone. The play moved down the ice and Rumohr took a hard crosscheck in the back that knocked him to the ice. Brighton was assessed a major penalty. Cullin Ellis, who came to the defense of his fallen teammate, took a minor for crosschecking.
Still, that meant the Hornets would have a three minute powerplay early in the third.
The Hornets had several solid chance but their shots from the slot were often blocked or deflected high.
Saline had a 5-on-3 powerplay for nearly a minute but couldn't get on the board.
Unfortunately for Saline, the next call went against the Hornets and Bright scored when Winston Lerch slapped a rebound past Schroeder to make it 3-0.
Coach Zagata said the Hornets had a season they should be proud of.
"Our guys won the SEC Red - the were undefeated in the conference. They won the Ann Arbor area. They finished with 20 wins. It was a good season. I'm proud of these guys," Zagata said.