Brighton Earns Finals Revenge over DCC

March 11, 2017

Second Half reports

PLYMOUTH — Logan Neaton needed time in the midst of a wild championship celebration to process the events of an entire year.

It was 365 days earlier that Neaton and his Brighton hockey teammates were beaten by Detroit Catholic Central, 3-0, in the MHSAA Division 1 championship game.

From the moment the Bulldogs stepped off the ice at USA Hockey Arena that night, everything they did was designed to get back there and write a different ending.

Brighton completed its mission with a 5-2 victory over three-time reigning champion Catholic Central in the season’s final game Saturday night.

Neaton, normally not one to show his emotions during a game, leaned back over the crossbar and looked to the rafters of USA Hockey Arena in the final minute after Jake Crespi’s empty-netter made it apparent the Bulldogs would win their fourth MHSAA title.

When the clock hit zeroes, Neaton wound up in a pile with his teammates, got himself out, jumped against the glass to celebrate with the student section, then went to the faceoff circle and had a moment to himself face down on the ice.

"It's been a year to the day since we lost," said Neaton, who made 31 saves Saturday and allowed only four goals in six postseason games. "You just represent so much more than yourself. You're representing all the boys who came before you, who came so close and couldn't get it done. Everyone in your city, we just had so much support throughout the year. So many people instilled so much in us and put so much of their time and effort in us. To do that for them and do it for the boys last year and everyone who came before us is unbelievable."

Brighton (24-6-1) lost in the 2014 and 2016 Finals to Catholic Central after beating the Shamrocks for the 2013 title.

The Bulldogs also won in 2006 and 2012. Brighton and Catholic Central have crossed paths in four of the last five MHSAA Finals. The Bulldogs beat the Shamrocks twice this season after doing so only once in 11 previous meetings.

"They've always been the benchmark," Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. "They're the team to beat for a lot of years. We've struggled to beat them. This year we beat them twice, which we've never done before. We just keep working hard and trying to be able to compete with them. Now we're on the map, as well."

Brighton stormed out of the gates, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first 2 minutes and 23 seconds on goals by Keith Wikman and Spencer Gehres.

Junior Adam Conquest, who played for Brighton as a freshman before returning to travel hockey as a sophomore, extended the lead to 3-0 with a shorthanded goal 43 seconds into the second period.

Conquest had a goal and two assists.

“It feels amazing,” Conquest said. “I didn’t play last year, but watching them from up in the stands I regretted not playing. I could have helped them out. This year, I joined. It’s an unreal experience beating C.C.”

The Shamrocks (22-8-1) made a game of it, as Brendan West scored twice in the second period to cut the margin to 3-2 heading into the third.

“We felt like if we got the second (goal), we had a lot of faith that we were going to get the third,” Catholic Central coach Brandon Kaleniecki said. “You have to keep them off the boards. When they got their fourth, that was a killer blow for us.”

Gehres gave Brighton some insurance when he deflected in a shot by Conquest with 11:44 left in the game. An empty-netter by Crespi with 1:08 remaining left no doubt that this was Brighton’s year.

There was some doubt just a couple weeks earlier as to whether or not the Bulldogs would be celebrating with the championship trophy. Brighton went 1-4-1 in its last six regular-season games, but was missing players.

"You need adversity to understand where you're at and get you pumped up a little bit more," Moggach said. "They reacted well. We had some injuries and illness in there, too. Not for excuses, but we all realized we had the makings of a good team."

It was only the fifth time in 18 trips to the MHSAA Finals that Catholic Central took home the runner-up trophy.

“We’re just incredibly proud as a coaching staff of how they competed to the very end,” Kaleniecki said.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Brighton goalie Logan Neaton stops a Detroit Catholic Central shot Saturday evening. (Middle) Spencer Gehres dumps in a Brighton goal during the Division 1 Final. (Click to see more at

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.)