Cranbrook Makes Championship Dream Come True

By Tim Robinson
Special for

March 27, 2021

PLYMOUTH -- Six years is a long time, by any standard.

For Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, six years between hockey championships felt like an eternity.

The drought ended Saturday, when the Cranes ended Calumet's bid for an unbeaten season with a 4-1 victory in the Division 3 Final at USA Hockey Arena. 

"We did this for ourselves and for the seniors in past years who couldn't get here," senior Alex Ceritano said. "This was for them."

Cranes coach John LaFontaine won his first title in his second season as head coach, but deferred credit to his four captains -- Ceritano, Leyton Stenman, Jack Wineman and Isaac Cheli. 

"This was a group of outstanding leaders," LaFontaine said. "I'll be honest. I had to do nothing. These guys took care of everything."

The Cranes took care of Calumet, too, allowing the Copper Kings only 10 shots for the game, including just one in the third period.

'They boxed them out, a lot of times," Cranbrook goalie Julian Zyvagin said. "They blocked a lot of shots before they got to me, and they made them dump the puck."

Division 3 Hockey Final

Meanwhile, the Cranbrook offense got going in the second half of the first period.

Nathan Hooker got things started with a power-play goal with 4:44 left in the period. Wineman scored on a breakaway with exactly two minutes left in the period to give Cranbrook a 2-0 lead over the stunned Copper Kings (17-1-1), who rarely trailed in a game this season.

"We were only behind in one game this year, for about 10 minutes," Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino said. "But we kept working. That's all you can do."

Cheli essentially put the game out of reach with a goal early in the second period. Tom Erkkila scored for the Copper Kings, but Ty Esterlione tacked on an insurance goal midway through the third period to seal the victory.  

It was Cranbrook's ninth Division 3 crown.

It was Calumet's first trip to the Finals since 2018. The Copper Kings were among teams affected when last year's tournament was cancelled, turning back after having completed most of the 12-hour journey from Copper Country.

That they made the trip this year was a tribute to the work ethic by a team that lost 11 seniors last season.

"We have two-thirds of a new team this year," Giachino said. "Getting here was a tribute to our 10 seniors."

The chemistry which lifted Calumet back to the Finals also was evident on a Cranbrook team that lost in the Regional Finals last season.

"Our JV players from last year came in and impressed everyone," Ceritano said, "We came together so well. There were no problems at all this season."

Wineman, along with his teammates, savored the accomplishment afterward. 

"It's been my dream since my freshman year," he said. "I came here (weighing) 90 pounds and I was 5-foot (tall). I've had great company, great teammates these last four years. 

"We've been building toward this the last four years. I'm so happy my dream came true."

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook Kingswood players celebrate after clinching the Division 3 title Saturday at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Calumet goalie Aksel Loukus works to keep the puck out of his net during a scramble. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)

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.)