Performance: Hartland's Brenden Tulpa

February 1, 2018

Brenden Tulpa
Hartland junior – Hockey

Tied for third in points for one of the top-ranked teams in Michigan, Tulpa considers himself a playmaker setting up Hartland’s potent offense. But he’s driven the Eagles’ three-game winning streak as a scorer, putting in two goals versus Northville in a 3-0 win, another against top-ranked Livonia Stevenson in a 6-5 victory and Tuesday the game-winner to down Brighton 2-1 and earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

The junior left wing has nine goals and 11 assists this winter for Hartland, which sits 12-4-1 and ranked No. 4 in Division 2. This recent run has been one of the most impressive by any team in the state this season; in addition to Stevenson holding down the top spot, Northville now is ranked No. 8 in Division 1 and Brighton is No. 3. The win over the Bulldogs clinched the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold title.

Tulpa has nearly equaled his nine goals and 12 assists from last season, when he helped the Eagles reach the Division 2 Semifinals in his first season of high school hockey after making the switch from AAA travel. He hopes to play junior hockey after high school and then eventually at the college level. Tulpa is interested in studying radiology and working in the medical field – he carries a 3.8 grade-point average with math and science among his favorite subjects.

Coach Rick Gadwa said: “What's great about Brendan is that the more success he has individually, the more he compliments his teammates. There's a culture we've built at Hartland, and Brendan has done an exceptional job putting his team before himself. When you look at his individual ability, the way Brendan scores big goals in big games is something every coach prays for in their lineup. He can be straight up lethal. When you combine that with his attitude and work ethic, you have yourself a really good hockey player. Brendan came to our program last season as a sophomore and like most, there was some maturing to do. Watching him take that big step this year not only as a hockey player. but as a human being, is what excites me most. As a coach, I like to focus on the game within the game and attributes like respect, humility, discipline, etc., are all things we look for in our players. Seeing a player like Brendan mature the way he has and continue to follow the process to become the best player, student, and person possible is really what it's all about.”

Performance Point: “Those are all KLAA games, and they’re rivalry games, and we needed them to make it to the (league) championship. We went on a little cold spurt there and didn’t win in three games, and these last three we’ve been on a winning streak against top, top teams in the state, and it’s awesome finally coming together as a team.”

Surrounded by standouts: “I’ve just been trying to keep my pregame rituals the same, keep my mindset the same, and I just think I’ve been getting lucky putting the puck in the net. I guess it’s not luck; playing with Josh Albring (6 goals/23 assists), who was (all-state) Dream Team last year; he’s a Mr. Hockey contender. And Jack Behnke (17 goals/9 assists), he’s just been killing it since last year with points and goals. And Joey Larson (8 goals/12 assists) too; playing with those three guys, it’s kinda hard, honestly, not to perform well. Because they’re so good. Playing with them makes everyone else play better. When they bring energy and make good plays, it starts building up throughout the team. I love playing with them.”

Ready for another run: “Our coach Rick Gadwa pretty much built this program from the ground up, with the help of our athletic office. We really didn’t have a very high-ranked team at all. Before (the goal) was just kinda winning a Regional championship, but the past couple of years, when we don’t win the state championship, it’s a letdown because we feel like we can do it. … We’ve just learned that we can’t be comfortable. Like last year, we only lost two games all regular season. Most of us thought we’d just waltz right in and win it. This year we know we can’t get comfortable. We’ve beaten these last three teams; there’s still work to be done.”

Looking up to Luke: “(2016 graduate) Luke Cowan … he put Hartland on the map his senior year. He was unbelievable to watch, one of the best players I’ve ever seen. He was a skill guy, he got a ton of points, but he also worked his butt off all the time in corners, he was a grinder, he rarely made mistakes and he was just a great role model to play after.”

Proud to wear blue & gold: “(Playing high school hockey) was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I have enjoyed hockey so much more in these last two years than I ever have. We get to skate every day. I’ve built great relationships with kids just seeing them every day after school. And then playing in front of students at your school, the big crowd, it’s awesome.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City Central golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Hartland's Brenden Tulpa starts a rush during last season's Division 2 Semifinal against Birmingham Brother Rice. (Middle) Tulpa looks to line up a shot on goal. 

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.)