Country Day Caps 22-Win Streak on Top

March 10, 2018

Second Half reports

PLYMOUTH — Carter Elrod’s contributions in the final seconds of the MHSAA Division 3 championship hockey game won’t show up in the box score.

What will show up in the records from here on out is that Detroit Country Day is the 2017-18 Division 3 champion because Elrod sacrificed his body for the cause.

The senior forward blocked two shots in the final seconds, including a prime opportunity just before the buzzer, to preserve Country Day’s 2-1 victory over Livonia Churchill on Saturday at USA Hockey Arena.

It’s a dirty, often dangerous job, which Elrod does unflinchingly.

“Earlier in the season, I broke my hand blocking a shot,” Elrod said. “It’s a thing Coach stresses every day that we have to do to win games. Every time we go out there, we don’t think, we just go out there and block the shot.”

If shots get to the net, Country Day has one of the best goaltenders in the state to clean up the mess. Junior Sam Evola stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced, but appreciated not having to face a 32nd shot when Churchill’s Conor Burnette had a glorious chance in the high slot in the final seconds.

“A lot of it is guys like him blocking shots out of nowhere,” said Evola, who had a 1.00 goals-against average and .953 save percentage during the regular season. “I think they might have scored if he hadn’t blocked that one shot; I didn’t see it.”

Churchill was trying to become the second team this weekend to force overtime after trailing 2-0. Traverse City West did it against Saginaw Heritage in the Division 1 Semifinals, only to lose, 3-2.

Seth Kucharczyk’s goal with 7:53 left in the game got the Chargers within a goal. They kept pressing with their goaltender pulled at the end, but couldn’t get a puck past Evola — or Elrod.

“This guy could definitely have more points, but he does so much,” Country Day coach Frank Novock said. “People who know hockey know how important he is out there, blocking shots, winning face-offs, penalty killing, getting pucks. In the first period, he was probably our only forward going, how hard he was working. It kind of caught on a little bit. Night in and night out, his work ethic and determination were amazing.”

After losing in the Quarterfinals the last two seasons, Country Day won its first MHSAA hockey championship since 1981 by holding six postseason opponents to a combined five goals.

It was the longest stretch between championships among past MHSAA title winners, eclipsing the 22 years between Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s 1990 and 2012 titles.

The Yellowjackets (28-2-1) won their last 22 games after losing 3-0 to Liggett on Dec. 16. Upset with his team’s effort that night, Novock had a no-pucks practice two days later.

“We weren’t very good,” he said. “I put 51 minutes on the clock and said, ‘You guys owe me another game, because we didn’t play one Saturday.’ That was the last game we lost all season. The guys didn’t complain; they took their medicine. It was three 17-minute periods they owed me. They just went through it like they did these last 22, so I consider that a win, also.”

The championship game nearly went two full periods without a goal, as Churchill’s Chris Sergison stopped the first 14 shots he faced to do his part in keeping the game scoreless.

Country Day got the break it needed when Mickey VanAntwerp took a pass from Jacob Thomas, split the defense at the blue line and went in on a breakaway. He scored, then crashed into the net, with 38.1 seconds left in the second period.

Tim Stebbins deflected a shot by defenseman Jacob Thomas past Sergison on the power play with 10:53 left in the game to give Country Day a 2-0 lead.

Churchill cut that in half, but couldn’t get the equalizer.

It was the first Finals appearance for the Chargers, who lost in the Quarterfinals after each of their previous six Regional championships.

“The overall experience has really been incredible,” Churchill coach Jason Reynolds said. “The atmosphere has certainly been electric. This is something we’ve been looking forward to. We had an opportunity to kind of embrace it and get our bearings about us (Friday) when we played the game. We were successful there. It was important for us not just to get here, but to get to Saturday.”

Churchill (16-12-3) was 11-11-3 during the regular season, but plays in the tough Kensington Lakes Activities Association. The KLAA had teams in all three championship games, with Brighton playing in Division 1 and Hartland in Division 2.

“I cannot deny how strong our KLAA schedule is year in and year out,” Reynolds said. “A lot of guys are focused on our .500 record, but that .500 record has also been against state-ranked teams over the course of the year. Even if we weren’t coming out guns blazing in November and December, the strength of our schedule has allowed us to build and develop and get better, so hopefully when we’re healthy by playoff time, we’re able to go on a run.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day seniors Carter Elrod (left) and Tim Stebbins celebrate the team’s first MHSAA title since 1981. (Middle) Country Day junior Mickey VanAntwerp (25) slides a shot into the net Saturday.

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.)