Division 2: This time, it's Brother Rice

March 10, 2012

PLYMOUTH – Mackenzie MacEachern and Thomas Ebbing have known each other since they were 2 or 3. They’ve played hockey on the same teams for five years.

And there was no way they were going to end their final high school game together for Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice with another Division 2 Final loss.

Saturday’s 4-1 championship game win over Grosse Pointe South at Compuware Arena landed the Warriors their first MHSAA title since 2005. And it took root exactly one year ago, when Brother Rice fell to Wyandotte Roosevelt in the Division 2 Final by the same score.

“We weren’t about to face that again this year,” Ebbing said. “So we came out strong, and we won. And that’s all that matters.”

Ranked No. 1 entering the postseason, Brother Rice finished 25-4-1. Two of those wins came over Wyandotte Roosevelt. And all four of those losses came to opponents from the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League, without question the most competitive in the state featuring many of the top-ranked teams in all three MHSAA divisions – and four of eight Division 1 and 2 Semifinalists this weekend.

The Warriors finished MIHL runner-up to Division 1 Detroit Catholic Central and along the way picked up the patience, puck possession skills and defensive tenacity that paid off through a six-game tournament run during which they outscored opponents 36-5.

“There weren’t a lot of guys in that locker room who remembered last year, but there were five,” said Brother Rice coach Lou Schmidt, Jr., referring in part to captains Ebbing, MacEachern and senior Chris Wilberding. “They said it wasn’t going to happen again.”

Senior Eric Dibble got Brother Rice on the board 1 minute, 50 seconds in off a pass from junior T.J. Petzold. But Grosse Pointe South (22-6-1) evened the score with a power play goal by junior Jake Cordon with 26 seconds remaining in the first period.

“To have an ever score after the first period was great," Grosse Pointe South coach James Bufalino said. "But we wouldn’t say there was any five minutes where we outplayed them tonight. We lost to a great team."

The Warriors outshot Grosse Pointe South 16-2 in the second period, with junior Russell Cicerone and MacEachern both scoring. Cicerone added another goal with 15 seconds to play.

Total, Brother Rice outshot Grosse Pointe South 38-17. Blue Devils senior Christopher Schebil had 34 saves, including 27 over the first two periods.

"We played a lot of great teams like Trenton and (Grosse Pointe) North," Schebil said. "It seemed like every single one of (Rice's players) was fast, like every single one of them had a fast shot, so it was tough. The shots were coming from everywhere."

MacEachern, a senior who has committed to join Michigan State after a year or two of juniors, finished arguably the best offensive run in the state this season with 42 goals and 48 assists. Ebbing, a junior, added 27 goals and 40 assists.

“We’ve always told the guys, we just want you to continue doing what you’re doing, but do it at a faster level, a higher level,” Schmidt said. “Every practice this year, that’s what we did. We continued working on foot speed, continued working on individual skills so that they were passing the puck into the offensive zone instead of just getting rid of it. In that regard, they got better every game as the season progressed, and we’ve never lost our focus.”

Click for the Division 2 Final box score.

PHOTOS courtesy of Hockey Weekly.
(Top) Brother Rice captains Mackenzie MacEachern (left), Chris Wilberding (center) and Thomas Ebbing hoist the championship trophy after Saturday's win.
(Middle) MacEachern (19) splits Grosse Pointe South defenders Saturday. He scored his 42nd goal of the season in the Final.

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.)