Hartland Adds 3rd Title to Growing Championship Tradition

March 12, 2022

PLYMOUTH — For decades, young hockey players in Trenton have grown up dreaming of playing for the high school team.

That dynamic is playing out these days in Hartland, which has become an elite hockey community during coach Rick Gadwa’s 11 seasons at the helm.

Hartland took the ice for the MHSAA Division 2 championship game Saturday at USA Hockey Arena with a couple dozen youth hockey players hanging over the railing near the tunnel cheering on their heroes.

The Eagles left the ice once again as champions, winning their third MHSAA title in the past five seasons with a 3-2 overtime victory over Trenton.

Hartland has won three championships and been runner-up twice over the past 10 seasons. The Eagles also reached the Semifinals two years ago when COVID-19 restrictions shut down winter tournaments including hockey before its conclusion.

“We’ve had a ton of success,” Gadwa said. “What’s impressive about this group is none of these guys have been to USA Hockey Arena. We had quite a bit of returners who were with us last year when we lost to a very good Byron Center team (in the Quarterfinal).

“So, there’s a tradition of excellence right now. To see them get here this year and fight the way they had to fight and get it done just makes our tradition so much stronger. It’s something for guys coming in next year to try to get to.”

Freshman Ian Kastamo was one of the young Hartland kids who watched the Eagles during their annual visits to USA Hockey Arena. He was particularly riveted to the team in 2019 when his brother Sam was on the championship winner.

Trenton hockey“I watched games my whole life,” Kastamo said. “I’ve seen the big crowd, the energy, how fun it looks. This is my dream come true to play for this team, much less win the state championship.”

Kastamo not only won a state championship, but he experienced one of the greatest moments in a hockey player’s life by delivering it with an overtime goal. Kastamo scored 3:22 into overtime when he knocked in the rebound of a shot from the left point by Jorden Haydu.

“The puck was in their zone, and I went straight to the net,” Kastamo said. “Shot from the point, rebound and I just lunged and banged it home. It’s what you dream about on the backyard rinks, acting like you scored the overtime winner.”

The Eagles had to rebound mentally after allowing the game-tying goal late in the third period.

Having taken a 2-1 lead on Ashton Trombley’s goal at 16:08 of the second period, Hartland was two minutes away from winning in regulation time.

A penalty with 1:57 remaining put Trenton on the power play. Moments after Hartland’s Ben Pouliot missed an empty net by inches on a shot from deep in the Eagles’ zone, Trenton tied it on a goal by Hayden Oboza with 1:32 left in the third.

Trenton almost didn’t make it to overtime, but sophomore goalie Noah Miklos came up with an enormous save when Lucas Henry got the puck alone in front of the net in the final minute. Miklos finished with 31 saves.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Trenton coach Chad Clements said. “One of our D got caught up ice. There was a turnover. He’s all alone with a minute left. For him to make that save was unbelievable. Obviously, it allowed us a chance to go into overtime and allowed us a chance to try to win the game.

“In the playoffs, he’s been unbelievable. We have two young goaltenders who split time this year. For Noah to step forward and play well for us in the playoffs was really nice.”

Trenton opened the scoring on a power play goal by Carter Allen at 13:52 of the first period, but Henry tied it 28 seconds later.

Hartland goalie Kameron Ragon made 17 saves, finishing his senior season with a 21-0 record. Hartland lost five games, none with Ragon in net.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Hartland’s bench empties after the Eagles clinch the Division 2 championship Saturday. (Middle) Trenton goalie Noah Miklos and defenseman Xaver Gradinscak wall off a Hartland attack in front of their net. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)