Injury in Past, Escanaba Standout Plays On

January 1, 2016

By Dennis Grall
Special for Second Half

ESCANABA – Speeding down the ice chasing a puck into the corner is just a routine part of hockey.

Don't tell that to Dylan Gauthier of the Escanaba High School hockey team. He knows a lot can go wrong in just an instant as that skidding black sphere bounces along the ice.

As a freshman Feb. 7, 2013, in Chelsea, Gauthier was in hot puck pursuit when he was seriously injured in a freakish, non-contact incident that cost the three-sport athlete the rest of his hockey season. He suffered a broken right leg (tibia and fibula) and severed his right Achilles tendon when his skate hit a patch of ice and he ended up crashing into the boards.

"I was chasing a loose puck and I lost my edge and hit the boards (feet first)," Gauthier said Wednesday in his Soo Hill home shortly before the Eskymos would play Painesdale-Jeffers. "I hit the boards hard. I looked down and saw a hole in my leg. I knew something was wrong."

As he crashed into the boards, the blade on his left skate rammed into his right ankle and severed the Achilles tendon. "No one was there; I just kind of lost it," he said.

He instantly was in pain, "then I didn't feel anything. There was a lot of blood," he said, indicating he soon went into shock and his leg went numb, which was probably a blessing during an aftermath that eventually included a trip to the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor.

"I was kind of out of it at first, but I knew it was bad," he said, recalling teammates would come to him and quickly leave once they saw the damage.

The mother of one of his teammates, T.J. Myrick, came onto the ice and wrapped the completely lacerated wound in her scarf in hopes of stopping the bleeding.

His parents, Mark and Mary, were home listening to the game on the radio and they quickly hit U.S. 2 and headed downstate at 9 p.m., a trip that took 10 hours thanks to a good blizzard. They were approaching the Mackinac Bridge about the time surgery began on the Achilles. Surgery on the broken bones took place a week later, with two screws inserted that will remain in his leg.

Dylan recalls listening to the rest of the game broadcast in the hospital as he awaited surgery. The next day his teammates visited, but were allowed only in small groups and for a brief time. They gave him a hockey stick signed by each player and a team photo with the sister of a teammate, Jaylyn Dagenais, standing where he would have been.

He wasn't aware of the Achilles damage until reaching the hospital, and remembers thinking about what the athletic future held for him. "What happens next, what is the next step," he said, an indication that mentally he was in good spirits despite the major physical injuries.

After the surgery he learned the skate slice was very close to a major artery, which could have created even more serious damage.

Tim McCarthy, then in his final season as Escanaba head coach, said recently "when he went down I remember watching him on the ice, and he grabbed his leg right away. There was quite a bit of blood coming out, and we tried to get anything we could find to wrap his leg and stop the bleeding."

He said Gauthier's leg "snapped over the back of the skate and caught in there and wouldn't come out. There was nowhere to go but in (the tendon)."

McCarthy remembers that up until that injury Gauthier had exhibited typical freshman issues, noting, "Dylan was a little timid going into the corners. I had his cousin (Nick Vandermissen) pushing him to get more aggressive."

Gauthier, one of seven freshmen on that team, was on a line with Vandermissen and Levi Wunder, two of the best players in the program's 30-year history. "He was progressing well. He was starting to make strides. He always had talent, but he needed a mindset to go out and do what was asked of him and not be timid," said McCarthy.

"He is an athlete, and a good one. He is very good at what he does. He rebounded real well and works real hard."

McCarthy said it was fortunate the injury happened at the MPS Showcase, a huge midseason tournament, because it was so close to Ann Arbor. "They took care of him right away," he said.

The Eskymos handled the adversity very well, McCarthy said of winning two of the three weekend games: "We went down there to prove a point and try to get the respect we should have been getting. Nick had a tough time with it, but the team seemed more determined that weekend to do something for Dylan. They played a little harder after that."

Matt Hughes, the current Escanaba head coach, said Gauthier "has responded pretty well to that freak injury. He is not letting it overtake him mentally. Being a young athlete, his body responded well and he was able to get back. The physical part was probably easier to overcome than the mental part, but it will always be in the back of your mind."

Gauthier missed the final 13 games of what became a school-record 24-4 season. He is in his fourth season on the varsity and helped the team reach the Division 2 Semifinals in 2014-15. "The kids are working hard. They want to get back to where we were at last year," said Hughes.

Gauthier has four goals and three assists this season as the Eskymos have built a 7-3 start. They return to Chelsea Jan. 28-30.

Gauthier also plays golf and football for the Eskymos. In fact, he was playing golf 82 days after the injury while wearing a brace and basically playing off one leg. Still, he earned second-team All-Upper Peninsula honors. He has been an all-U.P. first-team all-star the past two years and received some interest from college golf teams.

Golf is his favorite sport, which makes sense because his parents and brother Mark are also excellent golfers. Mark plays at Finlandia University in Hancock.

Playing golf that soon was difficult because it was hard to pivot on his right foot at first. He did not start running until shortly before football practice began, then returned as a running back for the junior varsity and scored three touchdowns against Gladstone.

He played on the varsity the last two years and noted that making cuts on the gridiron was the hardest part of his athletic recovery.

His mother has been pleased with how Dylan handled the injury and rehabilitation. "He has a laid-back attitude. That is why it didn't bother him," she said. "The whole thing affected us more than it did him."

He said, "mentally I was fine. I never thought about it out there (while playing any sport), but it was a little weird at first. I just blew it away. The chance of it happening again is kind of slim."

A fund-raiser directed by Bill LaMarch helped raise money for the team to purchase Kevlar socks, which go up to the knee and should prevent a skate from penetrating to the leg.

After the injury, Gauthier wore a long-leg cast with a window left open for the Achilles and was on crutches for a month, then had a boot cast. He did his rehab at Northwood Rehabilitation in Escanaba under the direction of physical therapist Marge Haslow. "She helped a lot, she got me through it all," he said. "She made you do your stuff. There were no easy days in there."

As his high school career begins winding down, Gauthier realizes he was very fortunate to come through such a freakish and serious injury with missing just over one month of his three-sport career.

"I've accomplished a lot. I know I could not have played at all," he said, relief obvious in his voice.

Denny Grall retired in 2012 after 39 years at the Escanaba Daily Press and four at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, plus 15 months for WLST radio in Escanaba; he served as the Daily Press sports editor from 1970-80 and again from 1984-2012. Grall was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and serves as its executive secretary. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Upper Peninsula.

PHOTOS: (Top) Escanaba's Dylan Gauthier controls the puck during his team's game against Painesdale-Jeffers on Wednesday. (Middle) Gauthier (2) suffered a painful injury during a game at Chelsea as a freshman in 2013 that required multiple surgeries. (Top photo and head shot by Dennis Grall; middle photo by Jack Hall.)

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for

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

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.)