Brighton 'Connects' For Repeat Run

April 12, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

In the moment, Brighton’s run last month to its latest Division 1 ice hockey championship felt a lot like the successful title chases in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

But now that the most recent victory has had some time to marinate, there’s no question – what the Bulldogs accomplished to close this winter was just a little different.

One team generally isn’t a measuring stick for the rest. But most aren’t the Detroit Catholic Central hockey program. The Shamrocks entered the Division 1 Semifinals on March 9 at USA Hockey Arena perfect against in-state competition this winter and riding a six-game shutout streak that began with an 8-0 win over eventual Division 2 champion Hartland. DCC had won 10 of the last 18 Division 1 titles and finished runner-up in 2017 to Brighton, the last Michigan high school team to topple the Shamrocks.

DCC wasn’t expected to have trouble this time – many of its scores against other top Michigan teams this season were jaw dropping. And Brighton, although the reigning champion, had lost twice to Hartland this winter, and the Eagles clearly had their troubles with the Shamrocks.

Yet the Bulldogs believed, and they pulled it off – avenging an earlier 3-0 loss and stunning the top-ranked Shamrocks 2-1 in a Semifinal. Emotionally running toward empty, the MHSAA/Applebee’s March “Team of the Month” then came back the next day and defeated Saginaw Heritage 5-2 to repeat as Division 1 champion.

“Catholic Central always has been the team. Just look at what they’ve accomplished,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “That’s the bar. You can get over it once in a while. But we’re starting to feel like we are at that level … that maybe we can be that team. The belief in yourself maybe has arrived, that we’re good enough to do this on a regular basis.”

Brighton, which entered the postseason ranked No. 3 in Division 1, finished 25-6-1 this winter. Its lone losses were to DCC on Dec. 16, twice to league rival Hartland, and once apiece to Northville, Livonia Stevenson and Cleveland St. Ignatius.

The Bulldogs are used to facing Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and then DCC during the Division 1 tournament – they previously beat DCC in the 2013 and 2017 championship games and finished runners-up to the Shamrocks in 2014 and 2016. This time, Brighton beat No. 2 St. Mary’s 3-1 in a Regional Final and got DCC one game earlier than usual.

Boasting 10 seniors – including four who had goals or assists in the 2017 Final – Brighton took on the underdog “mask,” as Moggach put it, but despite the expected nerves also had “an incredible level of confidence in ourselves and to give to each other.”

Seniors Adam Conquest and Mathew Kahra scored Brighton’s goals in the Semifinal, both on power plays, and Kahra scored again in the championship game. Sophomore Will Jentz had two goals in the Final, and junior Evan MacDonald and freshman Nate Przysiecki both added one. Junior goalie Harrison Fleming had a combined 44 saves on 47 shots over the weekend.

With time to reflect the last few weeks, Moggach has begun to notice a few things about this run that maybe didn’t pop out entirely at the time – like Brighton’s incredible 17-2 record in road or neutral-site games. He also is able to look back fondly on the “connection” among members of this team – something built on the ice, sure, and during trips like the one to the Upper Peninsula featured on Second Half in January. But he found it created most during off-ice strength and conditioning workouts where a culture of togetherness was emphasized and formed – and that surely paid off in last month’s repeat rise.

“That’s the difference maker,” said Moggach, who has led the program 23 seasons. “I’ve been around the game a long time. I think early in my coaching career, and in most coaching careers, you’re figuring out how to get the Xs and Os done, figuring out power plays and penalty kills and things. And then, how to beat teams (that are more) talented.

“But how to bring it together, it’s a maturation of ideas. … The last couple of years, we’ve really built to a point; we put the work in, we enjoy each other, we complement each other, and I think that brings connections. Then we do things like the trip to the U.P. – we’re not celebrating ourselves, but each other. You start giving more to each other, it comes back in spades, and we’re realizing that as a group and as a program.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2017-18
February: Marquette girls and boys skiing - Report
Sterling Heights Stevenson competitive cheer - Report
Cadillac boys bowling - Report
November: Ottawa Lake Whiteford football - Report
Beaverton volleyball - Report
Shepherd girls golf - Report

PHOTO: Brighton co-captain Sam Brennan (5) presents the championship trophy to his teammates after last month’s Division 1 Final at USA Hockey Arena.

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for

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.

Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. 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.

Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. 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

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.)