D1 Preview: Midland, Grandville Look to Scramble Frequent Final Matchup

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 10, 2022

Detroit Catholic Central ranks second in MHSAA hockey history with 15 Finals titles – five won over the last eight seasons – and we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Brighton and Grandville at USA Hockey Arena for championship weekend over the last decade as well.

They’re be joined this time by the only unranked team left in the three divisions – Midland High – with the Chemics set to take on the Shamrocks in Friday’s first Semifinal. If DCC and Brighton meet in the Final, it will be the fifth time they've decided the title over the last 10 years.

SEMIFINALS – Friday, March 11 
Midland vs. Detroit Catholic Central, 5 p.m.
Grandville vs. Brighton, 7:30 p.m.

FINALSaturday, March 11 7 p.m.

Tickets cost $13 for both Semifinals (per session) and Finals and are available exclusively from GoFan. All Semifinals and Finals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable with subscription, with free audio broadcasts via the MHSAA Radio Network.

Below is a glance at all four Division 1 contenders taking the ice this weekend. Click for the full program.

21-5-1, No. 2
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2018), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Kurt Kivisto, second season (31-10-4)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold
Best wins: 4-1 (Quarterfinal) and 3-0 over No. 3 Salem, 4-2 over No. 4 Grandville, 5-2 over No. 5 Saginaw Heritage, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 6-2 over Division 3 No. 7 Calumet.
Players to watch: Nick Baker, sr. F (27 goals, 24 assists); Lane Pettit, soph. F (22 goals, 19 assists); Cameron Duffany, soph. F (16 goals, 27 assists); Evan Wohlart, jr. F (12 goals, 13 assists).
Outlook: Brighton is a repeat semifinalist and making the trip for the eighth time over the last decade. The Bulldogs are 16-1 since mid-December, the only loss during that time to Division 2 top-ranked Hartland. Brighton has given up more than three goals in a game only three times, with sophomore goalies Levi Pennala (1.88 goals-against average) and Ryan Nickerson (1.68) both with save percentages of .910 or better. Baker also was a standout on last season’s team, and senior Jack Sexsmith (2 goals/18 assists) and junior Mattix McMullen (6/15) add offense from the defense.

24-4, No. 1
Championship history: Fifteen MHSAA titles (most recent 2021), five runner-up finishes.
Coach: Brandon Kaleniecki, seventh season (162-28-2)
League finish: First in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North 
Best wins: 4-1 over No. 10 Lake Orion in Regional Final, 3-0 over No. 2 Brighton, 5-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 2 Marquette, 6-2 over Division 2 No. 6 Trenton, 3-2 and 4-2 over Division 2 No. 4 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 1 Flint Powers Catholic.
Players to watch: Bobby Masters, sr. G (1.45 goals-against average, .917 save %); Kaden Hemme, sr. D (2 goals, 14 assists); Nick Swider, sr. F (11 goals, 7 assists); Nick Condon, sr. D (1 goal, 12 assists).
Outlook: DCC has won the last two Division 1 championships (with the 2020 Division 1 Finals canceled due to COVID-19) and will be making the trip to the Semifinals for the 10th straight season. The only in-state loss this winter was to Division 3 No. 2 Warren De La Salle Collegiate, which DCC had defeated earlier this season. Masters, Condon and Hemme all made the all-state first team in 2020-21. Sophomore Jackson Walsh and junior Landon West are tied for second on the team with 10 goals apiece, while senior Brian Apple (7 goals, 16 assists) leads seven with double-digit assists. Like last season, Masters has split time in goal with senior Nick Galda, who has a 1.09 GAA and .923 save percentage.

20-7-1, No. 4
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2015.
Coach: Joel Breazeale, 11th season (198-101-9)
League finish: Tied for first in Ottawa-Kent Conference Rue
Best wins: 4-3 (Quarterfinal) and 2-1 over No. 9 Traverse Bay Reps, 2-0 over No. 6 Howell, 8-4 over No. 5 Saginaw Heritage, 4-3 over No. 7 Rockford, 4-3 over Division 2 No. 5 Muskegon Mona Shores.
Players to watch: Gavin Rozema, sr. F (21 goals, 26 assists); Josiah Lambers, sr. D (11 goals, 15 assists); Brendan Bourne, sr. F (20 goals, 35 assists); Holden Pratt, sr. D (15 goals, 25 assists).
Outlook: Grandville is back at the Semifinals for the first time since a four-season run from 2014-17. The Bulldogs started this winter 10-1 and have closed strong with six wins over their last seven games – Division 2 No. 10 Byron Center provided the defeat during both surges. Rozema and Lambers both earned all-state honorable mentions last season. Junior Andrew Pohlmann (15 goals/13 assists) and seniors Gunnar Suidinski (12/15) and Matt Turcotte (9/15) also are among those bolstering the attack.  

19-9, unranked
Championship history: Three MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).
Coach: Steve Witt, sixth season (76-71-4)
League finish: Fifth in Saginaw Valley League 
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 6 Howell in Regional Final, 2-1 over No. 5 Saginaw Heritage in Regional Semifinal, 1-0 (Quarterfinal) and 6-1 over Capital City.
Players to watch: Matthew Witt, sr. F (22 goals, 21 assists); Brady Pinwar, sr. F (16 goals, 9 assists); Cole Carpenter, jr. F (11 goals, 14 assists); Ben Haney, jr. F (16 goals, 32 assists).
Outlook: Midland has been one of the most intriguing stories of this playoffs as the Chemics are headed to the Semifinals for the first time since 2011. They emerged from a strong SVL, avenging a pair of losses to Heritage along the way. Midland has been particularly tough defensively during the postseason, giving up a combined two goals over four games. Matthew Witt made the all-state first team last season. Seniors Harrison Blecke (7 goals, 11 assists) and Cole McMillan (12 assists) are among defensemen contributing offensively.

PHOTO Midland’s Brady Pinwar looks for an open teammate during a 4-0 win over Muskegon Reeths-Puffer this season. (Photo courtesy of the Midland High athletic department.)