Manning Up for Brother Rice Title Run
March 14, 2015
By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
PLYMOUTH — For Matt Manning, there were no hard feelings.
From his standpoint, it was a clean hockey play, even though a penalty was called on his opponent.
He just happened to be on the wrong end of a devastating hit that nearly deprived him of his senior season at Birmingham Brother Rice and the opportunity to lead his team to an MHSAA championship.
In a scrimmage on Nov. 17, two days before the season opener against Livonia Stevenson, Manning was forechecking on a penalty kill when he got the puck and slipped it behind a defender. With his head down as he was chasing the puck, Manning never saw what was coming.
"This kid just came from my blind side," the 5-foot-6 Manning recalls. "He got me in the right spot. He was a lot bigger than me. He won that battle."
But Manning and his teammates were the ultimate winners Saturday. He was in the stands as a freshman when Brother Rice won its last MHSAA title, in 2012, but was a key reason why the Warriors won their fourth with a 6-3 victory over Livonia Stevenson at Compuware Ice Arena.
Manning didn't immediately realize he was injured back in November, but he felt sharp pain when he tried to move his left arm on his way back to the bench. His left collarbone had been broken in half, an injury that required a plate and seven screws to repair.
Manning experienced some dark days in the immediate aftermath of the injury.
"It killed my confidence, basically, because we were just starting the season," he said. "We hadn't played our first game. It was the first scrimmage, the third shift. I was getting down about it. After that, and getting through the therapy, realizing it was going to get better with all the sessions we had, it just got much better a lot quicker."
Manning was back in the lineup on Jan. 7, adding a high-end talent to a team already ranked No. 1 in Division 2.
Manning had only one assist Saturday, but makes an impact as a tenacious, high-energy forechecker that isn't always quantified on the scoresheet. Stevenson coach David Mitchell agreed that Manning's presence was a huge plus for Brother Rice, which beat Stevenson 4-3 in the teams' season opener on Nov. 19 in Livonia.
"You saw some things around the net today where he made plays that were special hockey plays," Mitchell said. "It's tough playing an opponent like him, but I'm thrilled he's in high school hockey and he's helping high school hockey grow. Having a player like that in our game makes our game better and makes the level of competition better for everybody and more enjoyable for people to watch."
Brother Rice coach Lou Schmidt, in his 12th year with the Warriors, said Manning's comeback from a major injury was remarkable.
"I've never in my years seen anybody come back like he did," Schmidt said. "Usually, there's this very cautionary period where you don't want to get hit. He started skating five weeks after the injury; you never would've known he was out. He was a huge addition to our team. He made us deeper, he made us better."
Brother Rice wouldn't have had the opportunity to play for the title on Saturday had Manning not scored on a backhander 25 seconds into the fourth overtime to give the Warriors a 4-3 victory over Hartland in the Quarterfinals on Tuesday. It was one of two one-goal victories for the Warriors on their march to the championship.
Although Brother Rice won by three goals, the Warriors found themselves in another tough battle against a Stevenson team that was two years removed from an MHSAA championship.
Brother Rice dominated the early going, outshooting Stevenson 10-2 in the first period and taking a 2-0 lead just 53 seconds into the second period on a goal by Joey Vassallo.
The Warriors swarmed the Spartans' net after that in search of a knockout blow, only to be thwarted by junior goalie Cullen Barber.
After going without a shot on its first two power plays, Stevenson injected some life into the building when Alex Allen scored on the power play at 8:41 of the second period. The Spartans quickly tied it when Joe Alcantara scored at the 10:36 mark.
"I'm so proud of our guys," Mitchell said. "I think everybody saw it had the potential to get away when it was 2-0 and they were still carrying the play. But like we did all year, we answered back and made a game of it, which was great not only for us, but for the game of high school hockey. That second period was exciting. It's good that it was a good, solid hockey game that I hope did high school hockey proud."
Brother Rice regrouped and regained its two-goal lead on goals by Brendan Pyc at the 12:58 and 16:19 marks of the second.
"It was a big momentum shift when they scored their first one," said Brother Rice senior Nick Rosa, the only player remaining from the 2012 championship team. "When they got the second one, we knew we had to get the next one; that was big."
Stevenson got back within striking distance when Vince Glenn scored on the power play 44 seconds into the third period. Rosa's team-leading 25th goal of the year with 8:58 remaining in the game re-established Brother Rice's two-goal cushion.
Stevenson failed to click on two late power plays before the Warriors put an exclamation point on the championship with an empty-net goal by Jack Dansbury with 20.3 seconds to go.
"It's the longest journey ever," Rosa said. "Nine months ago, we started working out in the summer five days a week. We never stopped. This was our ultimate goal. We achieved it. Every day we came to practice and tried our best. I'm really proud of the boys."
Brother Rice was 3 for 4 on the power play, while Stevenson was 2 for 6.
"It was a special teams kind of day," Schmidt said. "We played well when we had to. We made it interesting there in the second — maybe for the fans, but not so much for the coaches."
PHOTOS: (Top) Brother Rice celebrates one of six goals Saturday against Livonia Stevenson. (Middle) Stevenson’s Nate Sudek drives into the Warriors’ zone during the Division 2 Final. (Photos by Andrew Knapik/Southgate).
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.)