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.)

Moggach Honored Nationally for 25 Years of 'Sticking In, Doing Good'

By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com

March 17, 2023

When Paul Moggach began his tenure as Brighton’s hockey coach, the program was at its nadir.

“When we got into high school hockey, it wasn't very good,” he said recently. “Our league wasn't very good. Our team wasn't very good. We started with character to try to build something different, you know, a different mousetrap.”

Over the next quarter of a century, Moggach and his assistants, primarily Rick Bourbonais (whom Moggach succeeded as coach) and current coach Kurt Kivisto helped lift the program into one of the most respected, and successful, in the state. 

Moggach (pronounced MUG-uhth), along with former Detroit Catholic Central coach Gordon St. John, in February was named a co-recipient of the John Mariucci Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

They, along with Andy Weidenbach of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, are the only Michigan coaches to have received the award, named after the longtime hockey coach at Michigan Tech. 

“He brought in people that he knew could do things he may have had limitations at,” said Kivisto, who played for Moggach at Brighton two decades ago and was an assistant for 10 years before taking over as head coach in 2020. “He did a good job surrounding himself with people he trusted and knew would be good for the program while he steered the ship in the direction he wanted. And he was very good at that.”

Moggach calls the honor “very humbling.

“​​I got into hockey because there was a need,” he added, “then I ended up with Rick at the high school for those years. When you look back at it, I grew a lot. I grew a lot personally and from a coaching perspective I grew. I had to change things, and so I think it's not so much the reward as at least a recognition that I stuck it out. My grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Stick in and do good.’ She would say that when I was on the way out the door. That was her message to me, and I think (the award) just emphasizes that I did, I did stick in.”

“You can’t be happier for a guy than for a guy like Paul,” said Bourbonais, who coached with Moggach at Brighton for a total of 30 years, the last 20 as an assistant. “He took a hockey team and made it into a hockey program that is a top-five contender every year. Guys come out of the program with championships, but they also come out with life lessons and some idea of what it takes to be a great citizen and a great student as well as what it takes to be a great athlete.” 

At first, though, there were trials. The Bulldogs struggled in his first two seasons, and the program itself was in jeopardy for a short while after a bench-clearing brawl.

Once that crisis passed, Moggach and his staff, which for many years consisted of Bourbonais, Mike Brown and Jason Valente, worked to rebuild the Bulldogs from a team known for its physicality to one with a more wide-open passing style of play. 

When hockey trends went to a more defensive style, where the defense sparked the offense, Moggach adapted. 

During the first decade of his tenure, as the Bulldogs had more success and built their reputation, teams that had shunned scheduling them in the past began adding Brighton to their schedules. 

He kept looking for ways to improve his team, both on and off the ice.

Brighton was the first team to schedule a game with those in the Keweenaw Peninsula, both for the keen competition, but also as a team-bonding exercise. 

The bus rides, about 11 hours each way, helped players who in many cases didn’t know each other outside the rink to bond. So did activities outside of hockey including team dinners and curling, and the experience of being together as a team for four days.

Other teams took notice, and team bonding trips, including those far shorter than the 550 miles from Brighton to Houghton, are commonplace.

Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. Soon after, he introduced a skating coach and stricter team nutrition to the program.

“It’s not something that we had done when I was in high school," said Kivisto, who graduated in 2003. “It was something that some of the families and players weren’t overly excited about, but he knew it was good for the team and he was always looking ahead and finding ways to give his team an advantage.”   

Brighton grew to dominate its league, and winning gave Moggach the authority to introduce concepts new to players and families who grew up in travel hockey.

“I'm sure we weren't pleasing everybody,” he said, “But we thought we would do with character and live the kind of model that we would hope that the players would follow, that their families would follow. And as we did that it changed and we got in front of some things with our league, and had a good run in our league.”

Brighton won its first Division 1 championship in 2006. That was followed by back-to-back Division 1 titles in 2012 and 2013, and then 2017 and 2018, a stretch that saw the Bulldogs reach the Finals in six out of seven seasons. 

“Some of that is when you learn how to win, you win, even sometimes when you shouldn't,” he said. “I'm not saying that you know when we got to the Finals that we didn't deserve to win. We had a good recipe there that got us those five wins, but once we got it rolling, that momentum kept us going sometimes then maybe it shouldn't have.”

As the program’s success and reputation grew, players who had been in travel hockey started opting to play for the Bulldogs. 

“There are some kids on (this year’s Brighton) team who came from Triple A who are tired of that commitment, because of the travel, the time, the money,” he said. “And they found that high school hockey is different. I mean just look at the crowds. They don't get that kind of a reward for the work that they put in. 

“I think it's developed to that point now for us and we get players like that and it's made a difference, I think, and not just for our team but for all of high school hockey, " Moggach continued. “The coaches association has done a great job in promoting now and so it is a great destination for so many good reasons for kids to spend that time and grow up with their friends who are in their neighborhoods and in their community.”

Moggach is still a fixture at Brighton games, still in close touch with Kivisto when not driving to see his grandsons play or his stepson, Damon Whitten, who coaches at Lake Superior State. 

His impact will be felt in Brighton hockey for years to come.

“He left no stone unturned to try and be the best he thought we could be,” Brighton athletic director John Thompson said. “He’s one of those people who was genuinely invested in young people, and he always, always put the program first. He was a good manager of young men and developed some pretty good coaches, too.”

Moggach finished with a record of 467-172-43. St. John, who won six state titles at Catholic Central and another at Cranbrook, had a record of 229-29-18 in 10 seasons at Catholic Central.

“I was excited for (Moggach) when I heard the news,” Kivisto said, “seeing him put at a level of the guys who have won the award and the contributions they made to high school hockey. It’s neat to see him recognized at that level.”

Both men will receive their awards sometime this spring. 

“I can be recognized,” Moggach said, “and I think kids are and their families are always looking for that. But I think before you do that you have to build the program, the program has to be something that's respectful and respected and competitive, and I think we accomplished that.”


Gordon St. John led Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to a combined eight Finals championships over 16 seasons, the last seven with the Shamrocks including five straight in Class A or Division 1 from 1999-2003.

Gordon St. JohnDCC’s Class A championship in 1994 was the first of now 17 Finals titles, which rank second-most in MHSAA history. He built a 222-29-18 record (.859 winning percentage) over 10 seasons leading the Shamrocks through 2003-04, the last two seasons as co-head coach before then staying with the program as an assistant and helping the team to another Division 1 championship in 2005.

St. John’s championship at Cranbrook came in 1988 in Class B-C-D.

PHOTOS (Top) Retired Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach, far right, stands alongside his players as they await to receive their medals after winning the 2018 Division 1 championship (Middle) Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. (Middle photo by Tim Robinson; St. John photo courtesy of the American Hockey Coaches Association.)