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.)

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.

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 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.)