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.
Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings
By Tom Lang
Special for MHSAA.com
May 26, 2023
When the Michigan seasons shift from winter to spring, some high school golf teams are a little more eager than others for the hockey season to officially end.
This is especially true for the school golf programs in Brighton, Hartland and Muskegon Mona Shores – examples of boys teams that love having hockey players transition from the indoor frozen ice to play golf outdoors on the lush green grass.
“I would take a golf team full of hockey players any day,” said Hartland golf coach Nathan Oake. “I love them.”
We can tell, because his program is full of them.
Hartland and Brighton each have eight hockey players on their 16-golfer varsity and JV rosters.
Mona Shores has three hockey players this year, but usually has more. In 2023 it’s Oliver MacDonald (all-state honorable mention in hockey), Nathan McNarland and Nicholas Taylor, who was voted Division 1 all-state golf last spring, then leading his team to fifth place at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.
Brighton golfer Winston Lerch was also Division 1 all-state last year in golf and an assistant captain on the hockey team this winter that finished Division 1 runner-up to Detroit Catholic Central. Here in 2023, he shot a 65 to open the season at Oakland University for medalist and has committed to Grand Valley State for golf with his 72-stroke average.
Joining Lerch in the Bulldogs boys golf program are hockey players like Levi Pennala, winner of hockey’s Wall Award sponsored by State Champs as the top high school goalie. Pennala – who recently shot 72 at the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship tournament, his career low for high school golf – finished in the top 30 last year at the LPD1 Final. Then early this spring when he was away at a high-level junior hockey tournament, freshman hockey player Adam Forcier stepped in and shot a school record 18-hole round for a freshman at 73. Jacob Daavetilla also works into the starting lineup at times.
Forcier tied the record of Davis Codd – who, as a pro hockey player on leave from the Saginaw Spirit OHL hockey team when COVID-19 shut down the league, won the LPD1 Final in 2021 for Brighton.
Brighton golf coach Jimmy Dewling said Codd was one of the earliest to prove to others you can play both hockey and golf and excel. In fact, that June in 2021, Codd went to an NHL scouting camp in Pennsylvania before the Golf Finals, drove overnight back to Forest Akers to play the two championship rounds, won the title, then immediately returned to Pennsylvania to resume the hockey camp.
“On our team, we believe, and TBone (Codd) was a perfect example of it, if there’s any time you have the opportunity to be competitive, it is going to make you a more well-rounded competitor and therefore better at your particular sport,” Dewling said.
“We like hockey players. In the winter, they have to think to where the puck is going, be smart enough to react, and understand how that emotion is going to carry over from one play to the next. When it’s your shift you have to forget about the last shift, or take something from the last shift and put it into the next shift, to have consistent play.
“It’s the same on the golf course,” Dewling continued. “It’s one hole to the next, one shot at a time, being tough, and that’s only going to come from competition reps. We love the athletic ability more so than anything; the toughness and competitiveness all year.”
In addition to Lerch and Pennala starting on varsity golf, they are joined by traditional golfers Matt Doyle, Riley Morton and Andrew Daily, who is committed to Wayne State and finished LPD1 runner-up last spring.
Going into the 2023 golf postseason, Brighton is ranked No. 2 in Division 1. The Bulldogs have won the Next Tee Invite at Oakland Hills, the North Star Invite at Plum Hollow and the KLAA Conference Championship – earning Brighton’s first conference title since 2007. The Bulldogs also were runners-up at The Meadows Invite at Grand Valley State University. The team is averaging 297 for 18 holes.
Oake admitted this is a rebuilding year for Hartland’s golf program. The varsity lineup has only two returning players with varsity golf experience – Keller King and Brady Betteley.
“So, we opted to keep a group of tough competitors with a solid combination of speed and strength – and who are not concerned about the cold conditions that we play in,” Oake quipped.
Five others rotate into the Eagles’ golf starting lineup with King and Betteley: Isaac Frantti is an all-state hockey defensemen playing his first season of golf but shot a career-low 79 at American Dunes recently. He just signed a United State Premier Hockey League tender to play in Connecticut next year. Ian Kastamo scored the winning goal in Hartland’s Division 2 hockey championship victory in 2022, and LJ Sabala is a varsity hockey player as well.
Then there are two non-hockey freshmen getting shots to start occasionally – Dallas Korponic, who finished third at his weight at the Individual Wrestling Finals, and Michael Maurin. Five more sophomores and juniors are hockey players on the JV golf team.
“We hope to be competitive with (Brighton) again soon, but they have the talent to make a big splash this year,” Oake said. “I also play golf at the same club as many Brighton players, so I see them quite a bit and we are friendly. When the Brighton team walked by our team on a recent Monday and all said hello to me and our guys, one of my players looked at me and said that this was the biggest difference between hockey and golf. In hockey, the small talk would be (traded) for the ice, and it would not be very nice out there.
“Either way, I believe both sports are filled with fierce competitors and respect, but when the game is over a handshake and a golf hat tip are offered to the victor.”
This story was updated and reposted with permission of MIGolfJournal.com.
PHOTOS (Top) Brighton takes a team photo after finishing third at last season’s LPD1 Final, and all five golfers are back this season including hockey players Levi Pennala (second from left) and Winston Lerch (second from right.) (Middle) Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. (Below) Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. (Photos courtesy of High School Sports Scene, Sapshots Photography and Mona Shores’ athletic department, respectively.)