By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A year ago, Detroit Country Day won its first MHSAA hockey championship since 1981 – and a year later, Houghton may have to go through the Yellowjackets to win its first title on the ice since 1982.
But two others will challenge the past champions recent and old. East Grand Rapids and Riverview Gabriel Richard are seeking their first Finals hockey title – making for plenty of historic opportunities in the Division 3 bracket.
This weekend’s pairings are as follows:
Division 3 – Friday
Riverview Gabriel Richard (17-10-1) vs. Houghton (22-5-1), 11 a.m.
Detroit Country Day (22-4-2) vs. East Grand Rapids (22-5-1), 1:30 p.m.
FINALS – Saturday
Division 3 - 2 p.m.
Click for a full schedule of this weekend's games plus full results as they come in. Player statistics below are through the Regional round.
DETROIT COUNTRY DAY
Record/rank: 22-4-2, No. 6
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2018, Class B-C-D champion 1981, two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Frank Novock, eighth season (154-56-10)
League finish: Second in Michigan Metro Hockey League East.
Best wins: 6-1 over No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit in Quarterfinal, 3-1 over No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in Regional Semifinal, 4-1 over No. 4 Warren DeLaSalle, 5-3 over No. 10 Grosse Pointe South, 4-1 over No. 12 Allen Park, 2-0 over No. 8 Flint Powers Catholic, 4-0 over Riverview Gabriel Richard, 4-3 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson, 4-0 over Division 1 No. 12 Utica Eisenhower.
Players to watch: Lucas Krol, soph. F (11 goals, 23 assists), Mickey VanAntwerp, sr. F (20 goals, 28 assists); Dallas Hood, jr. F (14 goals, 12 assists); Sam Evola, sr. G (1.15 goals-against average, 6 shutouts).
Outlook: Country Day is 8-1-1 over its last 10 games, and Wednesday’s big win over top-ranked Jesuit avenged one of the Yellowjackets’ few losses. Evola was Mr. Hockey last season after leading the team to its first championship in nearly four decades, and the defense is clicking again as Country Day has given up three goals total over the last seven games. Five players had at least 20 points entering the week – juniors Gino Sessa (7 goals/17 assists) and Logan Gotinsky (12 goals/15 assists) also have been among top offensive contributors.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 22-5-1, No. 11
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2002.
Coach: Christopher Newton, first season (22-5-1)
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Baum.
Best wins: 5-4 (Regional Semifinal) and 8-0 over No. 14 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2-0 over No. 12 Allen Park, 2-1 over No. 7 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 7-6 over Division 1 No. 7 Byron Center, 4-1 over Division 1 No. 9 Macomb Dakota, 5-3 over Division 2 No. 12 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern.
Players to watch: Jake Adams, sr. F (33 goals, 15 assists); Nate Milanowski, soph. F (11 goals, 24 assists); Reily O’Connor, sr. F (12 goals, eight assists); Colin Stecco, sr. F (23 goals, 29 assists).
Outlook: Newton, formerly an assistant for Farmington who helped lead that team to the 2014 Division 3 title, has East Grand Rapids headed to the Semifinals for the first time since its runner-up finish in 2002. The Pioneers won their first Regional title since 2012-13 and are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games. They scored at least five goals in 11 games this season – including all three of the MHSAA Tournament. Junior forward Ryley Sikkenga added 10 goals heading into this week, and junior defenseman Robbie Stuursma had six goals and 15 assists to round out the team’s 20-point scorers.
Record/rank: 22-5-1, No. 5
Championship history: Class B-C-D champion 1982, four runner-up finishes.
Coach: Corey Markham, 20th season (324-187-21)
League finish: Second in Great Lakes Hockey Conference.
Best wins: 4-1 over No. 9 Alpena in the Quarterfinal, 3-2 (Regional Final) and 4-2 over No. 2 Calumet, 5-1 over No. 4 Warren DeLaSalle, 3-2 over No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 4 Birmingham Brother Rice, 6-1 and 3-0 over Division 2 No. 9 Marquette, 6-0 over Division 1 No. 12 Utica Eisenhower, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Rochester United.
Players to watch: Kevin Bostwick, sr. D (5 goals, 28 assists); Brad Gauthier, sr. F (15 goals, 19 assists); PJ Donnelly, sr. F (16 goals, 22 assists); Brendan Erickson, sr. F/D (17 goals, 19 assists).
Outlook: Houghton most recently was the Division 3 runner-up in 2012 and 2015, and has prepped for this weekend against top competition from all three divisions this season. The Gremlins have won nine of their last 10 games and avenged two of their losses by beating Calumet at the Regional. Bostwick made the all-state first team last season, while Donnelly made the second and Erickson earned honorable mention. Sophomore Jimmy Pietila has done most of the work in goal and carried a 1.80 goals-against average with six shutouts into this week.
RIVERVIEW GABRIEL RICHARD
Record/rank: 17-10-1, unranked
Championship history: Two MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2003).
Coach: Rick Desana, 14th season (188-161-15)
League finishes: Tied for second in Detroit Catholic League Division II, fifth in Michigan Metro Hockey League East.
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 4-3 over Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard/Greenhills in Quarterfinal, 4-2 over Port Huron Northern.
Players to watch: Chance Desana, sr. F (18 goals, 15 assists); Nathan Vazquez, jr. F (23 goals, 19 assists); Jake Emery, jr. D (6 goals, 24 assists); Austin Harrison, jr. F (12 goals, 13 assists).
Outlook: Gabriel Richard has made the Semifinals for the second season in a row, while unranked entering the playoffs for both runs, and with many of the top contributors from a year ago leading the surge. The Pioneers are 14-2-1 over their last 17 games, and consider that three of the losses came to reigning champion Detroit Country Day and nine total against opponents ranked in the final poll. Senior forward Frank Klamerus is another key offensive contributor with 10 goals and 10 assists entering this week.
PHOTO: Houghton celebrates a 3-0 victory over Marquette this season (Photo by Cara Kamps.)
Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.
Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.
This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.
Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.
They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.
‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”
It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.
Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.
Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights. They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.
The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.
“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”
Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.
“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.
Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.
Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.
Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.
Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.
The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.
Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.
“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”
Morris echoed Guy.
“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”
The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.
The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.
“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.
“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”
Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.
“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.
“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”
High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.
But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.
“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”
But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.
“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”
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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)