Latest Leaders Carry Rice to D2 Title
March 11, 2017
Second Half reports
PLYMOUTH — They provided the depth for the 2015 Birmingham Brother Rice hockey team, earning MHSAA championship medals right along with the big-name seniors on that squad.
But this was their team and their moment to shine. For the four seniors who are holdovers from that team, there was a deeper sense of accomplishment after beating Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 7-0, to win the MHSAA Division 2 championship Saturday at USA Hockey Arena.
It was the fourth MHSAA championship for the Warriors (25-4-1), who won titles in 1992, 2012 and 2015. Jack Clement, Alec DeLuca, Michael McInerney and Mitch Shults are the holdovers from Brother Rice’s 2015 Division 2 championship team. They join 2015 graduate Nick Rosa as the only Warriors to play for two MHSAA title winners.
Shults had 14 points, Clement 13, DeLuca 12 and McInerney nine as sophomores. They all scored at least 30 as seniors.
“It definitely feels different,” said Clement, who had a goal and an assist Saturday. “As seniors, we helped lead this team. As sophomores, we were kind of behind the scenes a little bit more. Now to lead the way for these guys is really special.”
Shults had a goal and set up two others after dishing out three assists in a 5-2 Semifinal victory over No. 2 Hartland, the team that came from behind to oust Brother Rice, 5-4, in overtime last season.
“Those seniors our sophomore year really showed us what it takes to win a state championship,” Shults said. “Coming off what happened last year, obviously we had a bad taste in our mouth. We came back with the mentality of nothing less than a state championship.”
And it was time for the 2014-15 sophomores to be the leaders in 2016-17.
“We knew after last year that all the guys would be looking toward us,” DeLuca said. “We knew what to do. We knew what it took. It was really special being seniors. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Northern/Eastern (20-9-2) was playing in its first Final, having lost in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Semifinals. A 5-2 loss to eventual champion Romeo in last year’s Semifinals fueled this year’s run to the championship game.
“That gave us motivation to go into the summer,” Northern/Eastern senior Wyatt Radakovitz said. “The two of us (Radakovitz and Matt Pakkala) got the whole team together. We started workouts right when summer started, getting out there at 6 a.m., hitting the weight room and everything. Everyone had that gut and passion to get back to the Finals.”
Brother Rice was ranked No. 1 across all three divisions by Michigan High School Hockey Hub, while Northern/Eastern was unranked, but the first period ended scoreless.
After dominating the shot board with a 10-4 advantage, the Warriors established control on the scoreboard with three goals during the first 5:41 of the second period.
Clement got it started 60 seconds into the period, pinching from his position on defense to backhand a shot past Brenden Bogema.
Brother Rice created some distance when Shults scored off a faceoff at 4:31 of the second and Will Duncan converted a pass from across the crease by Shults 1:10 later to make it 3-0.
“It’s contagious for them,” first-year Brother Rice head coach Kenny Chaput said. “Once they get into that mode, it’s very tough to stop them.”
Radakovitz had a chance to get Northern/Eastern back in the game while killing a penalty, but he fired wide right on a breakaway with 14:58 left in the game.
“That gets it to 3-1 and you never know what happens,” Northern/Eastern coach Tom Bissett said.
From there, the Warriors turned it into a rout with four goals in a 6:27 span.
Garrett Moore scored two goals, Jack Reinhart scored while Brother Rice was down two men and DeLuca also had a shorthanded goal.
Ryan Hoffmann made 25 saves for the shutout, the fifth in a Division 2 Final and first since 2008.
“To be honest, and no disrespect to any team we played this year, but I knew with the cast of characters we had that if we went out and played our game, we would be the best team on the ice,” Chaput said. “I had that feeling from day one, and I never lost it. I understood the talent level we had, but I also understood the competitive nature.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Brother Rice skaters surround Northern/Eastern goalie Brenden Bogema during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Brother Rice’s Mitch Shults (9) celebrates a goal. (Photos by Andrew Knapik Photography.)
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.
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.
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.)