Cranbrook Kingswood Caps Comeback
March 14, 2015
By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
PLYMOUTH — No one is immune from the disappointments of playoff hockey, not even those who play for a perennial powerhouse like Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Three years ago, Cooper Stahl and Austin Alger were freshmen on a Cranes team that outshot Marysville 55-19, only to lose a 2-1 overtime shocker in the Regional Finals.
Last season, they were juniors on a Cranbrook Kingswood squad that fell 3-2 in the MHSAA Division 3 Quarterfinals to an upstart Farmington squad, which was outshot 62-15, but used that upset as a springboard to an unlikely championship.
The common theme for the 2013 and 2015 Cranbrook Kingswood teams is how they responded to adversity, bouncing back from rare early exits in the postseason to add to the school's record total of MHSAA championships.
The count is now at 17 after the Cranes' dominating performance in a 4-0 victory over Houghton in the Division 3 Final on Saturday at Compuware Arena. Trenton ranks No. 2 on the list with 14 championships.
"They're the top team in Division 3, and have been," Houghton coach Corey Markham said. "They're the measuring stick. ... They're as good as anyone in the state. They're not just a good Division 3 team, they're as good as anyone in the state, and they've proven that."
Cranbrook Kingswood has a 17-2 record in MHSAA Finals, winning in its last nine appearances, but — despite impressions to the contrary — the Cranes don't always make it to the final day of the tournament.
"It really helps motivate us," Stahl said of the two playoff losses during his four-year career. "We've seen both spectrums, the highs and lows. Throughout my four years here, every day in practice and off ice, everything we do, we had both of those feelings in our mind. We wanted the good one we experienced today."
Like his brother Alex two years earlier, forward Austin Alger spent his senior year working to go out on top after a crushing end to his junior year.
"After getting knocked out against Farmington last year, the guys were on a mission this year," Alger said. "It was easy with the seniors. There were 13 leaders on the team."
The Cranes outshot Houghton 50-13, but they know that shots alone don't win hockey games when the opposing goalie morphs into a brick wall.
Cranbrook Kingswood (25-2-4) didn't allow Houghton senior Marcus Gloss to establish control of the game, peppering him early and coming away with a 3-0 lead after one period.
Mason Schultz buried a backhanded rebound just 42 seconds into the game to open the scoring. By the middle of the first period, the Cranes had a three-goal cushion, with Cole Adaskaveg knocking home a rebound at 6:38 and Blake Rogow scoring from the blue line at 8:09.
"Getting one early just really calms the nerves for someone who hasn't played at Compuware before, like a freshman who doesn't have that much playoff experience," Stahl said. "It helps settle everyone down to get one goal early and play the rest of the game the way we usually do."
It was a shocking start for Houghton, which allowed only four goals in its five postseason games, and never more than one.
"They jumped on us quick," Gloss said. "I'm not quite sure I was as ready as I should have been. I didn't expect such a quick start. It's tough when they're on you so fast."
Houghton's big chance to get back into the game came at 15:12 of the first period when C.J. Regula of the Cranes received a five-minute major for boarding. The game was a stalemate during that extended power play, with both teams getting one shot on goal.
The Gremlins (24-5-2) wouldn't get another power play until the game was virtually out of reach at 4-0 midway through the third period.
"That was demoralizing, it really was," Markham said. "You think being down three that this is our chance, you get one, maybe two in those five minutes. When we didn't score in those five minutes, it was a little blow. We never just quite got that spark. We didn't have that spark to give us a little pep, a little jump in our step."
After allowing three goals on the first 12 shots, Gloss stopped the next 25 he faced to give Houghton a glimmer of hope for a comeback.
The Gremlins' best scoring chance of the game came early in the third period, when Reid Pietila pounced on a loose puck on a rush and nearly slipped it through the pads of goalie Spencer Applebaum, who looked behind him to see if the puck was in the net.
It was the toughest save in a 13-save shutout for Applebaum, who was also the goaltender when Cranbrook Kingswood beat Sault Ste. Marie to win the 2013 title.
"It was a two-on-two," Applebaum said. "The first guy kind of threw it toward the net. It got deflected in front. The second guy, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I slid over and he shot it five-hole. I didn't know if I had it, but it was stuck under my pad, probably less than a foot away from the goal line, so I barely got there."
"I tried to slide it under him, but he made a good save," Pietila said. "I try not to be too hard on myself, but it's kind of hard in this situation."
Not long after Applebaum's save, the Cranes essentially put the game away on a power-play goal by Regula with 13:05 left in the game.
"We got a couple of good bounces in today's game," Cranes coach Andy Weidenbach said. "The goalie gave up a couple rebounds and the bounces ended up on our stick. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don't. Today the bounces seemed to go our way, and we were able to capitalize on at least three rebounds."
Houghton is 1-4 in MHSAA Finals, its victory coming in 1982 against Flint Powers Catholic. The Cranes are 3-0 in the postseason against the Gremlins, winning 6-5 in the 1979 Class B Final and 3-2 in double overtime in the 1997 Class B Semifinals.
PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook Kingswood players celebrate during Saturday's Division 3 Final win. (Middle) The Cranes' Sean O'Leary works to move the puck ahead. (Photos by Andrew Knapik/Southgate.)
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.)