Cranes Land 16th MHSAA Finals Win
March 9, 2013
By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
PLYMOUTH — Sometimes it seems like a given that a hockey player at Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood will win at least one MHSAA championship during his career.
When a program has won nine titles in the last 17 seasons and 16 in the last 35, championships are an expectation for the Cranes.
But it's not always as easy as it may look to outsiders.
Alex Alger took the ice for the final game of his brilliant three-year career with Cranbrook-Kingswood still searching for his first MHSAA championship. He made sure he wouldn't leave the program empty-handed, scoring back-to-back second-period goals in the Cranes' 4-2 victory over Sault Ste. Marie in the Division 3 Final on Saturday at Compuware Arena.
Alger wasn't on the team his freshman year when the Cranes won their last title in 2010. He experienced a 3-1 semifinal loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central as a sophomore and a 2-1 overtime loss in the regional final to unheralded Marysville as a junior when he made second-team all-state.
"I felt like if we didn't go out on top — you can't say it was a failure, necessarily — but it's just we're always expected to do so well," Alger said. "For me to go three years without a title, I just wouldn't feel comfortable with myself, knowing that with such a strong team we couldn't pull together and make it happen."
Alger not only went out as a champion, but was a standout on a team that is arguably one of the greatest in Cranbrook-Kingswood's rich history.
The Cranes set a school record for victories, finishing 28-2-1. Ten of Cranbrook-Kingswood's previous 15 championship teams lost at least seven games. Only the 1982-83 team (24-2-1) had as few losses, while only the 2006-07 squad (25-4-1) may challenge this one as the greatest in coach Andy Weidenbach's 20-year tenure.
"If it isn't (the best), it's pretty close," Weidenbach said. "I've had two very special teams with really highly skilled players. This is definitely one of our most highly skilled teams."
Sault Ste. Marie gave the Cranes their closest game of the postseason, getting outshot 38-10 in the process. Cranbrook-Kingswood outscored six playoff opponents by a combined score of 47-4.
"At the end of the day, you've got the two best teams in the state here," Sault Ste. Marie coach John Ferroni said. "I've seen most of the D3 teams in the state this year. I feel we're the next-best team.
They're obviously the best team in the state. To be honest with you, I think they're better than Division 2. They obviously can play with the Division 1 teams. They're a wonderful-looking hockey team, just so
poised and mature out there with the puck."
A goal by Austin Alger at 8:11 of the first period and Kevin Shand at 7:23 of the second gave the Cranes a 2-0 lead. Sault Ste. Marie got back in the game at 8:51 of the second on a goal by Alex Teneyck, but
Alex Alger quickly turned the momentum back in Cranbrook-Kingswood's favor with goals at 10:10 and 11:26 to make it a 4-1 game.
Sault Ste. Marie (22-9) added the only goal of the third period when Chase Gamelin scored with 11:26 remaining, but it was the only shot on goal by the Blue Devils during the entire period.
"We had our spurts in the game, but just not enough of them to create offense," Ferroni said. "When you get it close like that, you think maybe we'll get lucky with another shot and score a goal and put some pressure on them, even though the shots on goal were a vast difference. I knew we were going to give up between 30-35 shots. I thought if we could keep the penalties down, that would keep the shots
on goal down. That didn't happen too well for us."
Cranbrook-Kingswood was 1-for-7 on the power play, while Sault Ste. Marie was 0-for-2.
The Cranes have a 16-2 record in MHSAA finals, emerging victorious in their last eight appearances.
PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook-Kingswood senior Billy Young (19) charges up ice during Saturday's Division 3 Final at Compuware Arena. (Middle) The Cranes celebrate their first championship since 2010. (Photos by Andrew Knapik.)
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.)