NFHS Network Touts Hockey Powers

January 21, 2015

By John Gillis 
Courtesy of NFHS Huddle Up

This Friday, two talented Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League (MIHL) teams will take to the ice in what promises to be a highly competitive contest that will be broadcast live on the NFHS Network and is being featured this week on the NFHS website. 

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (11-1-1-1), ranked No. 1 in Division 3, will host Division 2 No. 3 Detroit U-D Jesuit (11-3) at Wallace Ice Arena. (Click here to watch the broadcast.)

Last season, Cranbrook Kingswood went 26-2 overall, placed first in the MIHL North Division at 12-1, and advanced to the MHSAA Quarterfinals where it fell to the eventual champion.

According to longtime Cranes coach Andy Weidenbach, his team and U-D Jesuit's Cubs likely will engage in a spirited game.

“This will be another tough battle in the MIHL – you can’t take a game off and be competitive in this league,” Weidenbach said. “U of D Jesuit and Cranbrook enjoy a friendly rivalry, and each game between them is generally highlighted by close checking, tough defense and low scoring.

“Experience has to be one of our stronger points. There are 13 seniors on the roster, including two senior goalies and four senior defensemen.

“Among our top players is 6-foot, 165-pound senior forward Austin Alger, who centers the No. 1 line, is our “go-to” player, and is committed to Miami (Ohio) University. Five-nine, 165-pound senior defenseman Cooper Stahl plays his position well, handles the puck well, and has great awareness on the ice. Both are team captains who have made significant contributions to the success of the program during their four years at Cranbrook.

“Spencer Applebaum – who is a senior goalie – has an outstanding record in MIHL play, was in net for the state championship game as a sophomore, and the team has confidence with him in the nets.

“As a high school hockey program, Cranbrook is honored that the game with U of D-Jesuit was selected to be highlighted by the NFHS Network. Our school, our students, our fans and the MIHL share in this honor.”

U-D Jesuit coach Rick Bennetts fosters great respect for Cranbrook and concurs with Weidenbach regarding the upcoming game.

“Cranbrook is always one of the best teams in the state, if not the best team in the state each year, and this year is no different,” Bennetts said “They are such a well-coached team that they rarely beat themselves. We have been able to beat them only three times in our 20-year history, so we will have to bring our ‘A Game.’

“We really don’t have top players – we have 10 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders who all work to get the job done. Our leading scorers are Christian Wirth-Karbler and Teddy Apap with 13 points each, followed closely by Sam Knoblauch at 11 points. Our goalies – Jack Deines and Jake Robinson – are also top players for us. As they go, we go.

“We are truly humbled and honored to be a part of this webcast – it’s something we have never had the opportunity to do as a featured game in our 20-year history. We are the only high school in the city of Detroit to have high school hockey ,and our school has stayed in the city of Detroit for almost 140 years educating young men for the Greater Glory of God. One hundred percent of our students go on to college every year, and we currently have 10 former hockey players playing junior and/or college hockey, as well as one playing professionally.”

Huddle Up is published on the National Federation of State High School Associations website and covers everything from legends of the past to the inspiring stories of the present and the record breakers of the future. Click to read more. 

PHOTO: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood players huddle up before last week's game against Orchard Lake St. Mary's. 

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.)