Pilots Add Hockey Title to Recent Success
March 11, 2017
Second Half reports
PLYMOUTH — Thomas Hernandez was ready to give up hockey, a sport he’d been playing for 13 years.
“I’ve been thinking about playing college lacrosse,” the Warren DeLaSalle senior said. “I wasn’t even going to play (hockey) my senior year.”
Peer pressure, it turns out, can sometimes be a good thing.
“All my friends were telling me to come play,” Hernandez said.
After playing AAA-level travel hockey, Hernandez played his only season of high school hockey as a senior, a move that helped bring the Pilots their first MHSAA championship.
Hernandez scored a hat trick in DeLaSalle’s 6-3 victory over Calumet in the MHSAA Division 3 championship game Saturday at USA Hockey Arena.
When the buzzer sounded, the Pilots jumped on each other in a huge mob, then got up and jumped into the glass that separated them from their enthusiastic student section. This was an experience Hernandez never had, even when he and current teammate Gregory Pine won a state championship on the Oakland Grizzlies travel team.
“It’s unreal, playing in front of students,” Hernandez said. “It’s unbelievable. In travel, it’s just your parents up in the stands and scouts.
“This has been my favorite year by far, ever. I’ve been playing hockey for 14 years, and it’s been my best year yet.”
It wasn’t a year without challenges, however.
Hernandez fractured his foot and tore ligaments on both sides of his ankle in January. Even after returning Feb. 15, he didn’t feel quite right.
“The first two games were really rough,” he said. “I didn’t feel I was OK to keep playing. I was talking with the trainers and our coaches. They said to take a couple practices off. I took a week off after my first game back. It felt good after that.”
Hernandez’s best year of hockey was also the best for DeLaSalle, which was playing in its first MHSAA Final after Semifinal losses in 2010 and 2014. During their time at DeLaSalle, the seniors have seen the football team win the 2014 Division 2 championship and the baseball team win the 2016 Division 1 title.
“Watching those other teams win, it’s so cool being in the student section and being part of that, because it really is like a championship for the whole school, which it is,” senior Matthew Pelto said. “To be part of the actual team that wins it is absolutely another level.”
“It’s an unreal feeling to be part of the legacy DeLaSalle has made and join the other sports in their state championships,” Pine said.
It was the second hat trick of the season for Hernandez, who had four goals in a 7-2 victory over Traverse City West on Nov. 25. Those two performances accounted for seven of his 24 goals this season.
“I just thought about it being my last game and just wanting to give it my all,” Hernandez said. “The puck happened to be in my favor tonight. It just went in for me.”
Calumet (23-7-1) took out reigning champion and fourth-ranked Hancock, eighth-ranked Houghton and top-ranked Flint Powers Catholic during the postseason, but couldn’t overcome a slow start against fifth-ranked DeLaSalle (20-9-1).
“It’s everybody’s dream to make it this far,” Calumet senior forward Rory Anderson said. “We had a great season this year. To make it this far was a great accomplishment for us.”
DeLaSalle bombarded Calumet early, jumping out to a 4-0 lead by the 14:04 mark of the first period.
Hernandez got it started on a breakaway at the 4:49 mark after taking a long lead pass from Austin Scott.
Scott made it 2-0 when he banged in a Greg Pine pass from the edge of the crease just 34 seconds later.
Hernandez’s second goal at 8:19 and James Corbett’s goal at 14:04 gave DeLaSalle four goals on only seven shots on net. At that point, Calumet switched goalies.
The Copper Kings got a goal they desperately needed to stop the bleeding, getting within 4-1 on Brent Loukus’ goal with 2:03 left in the first. They then received a five-minute power play on a boarding major, but couldn’t capitalize.
“We made it 4-1 and had some opportunities there, and I thought we generated some good shots and had some good opportunities,” Calumet coach Dan Giachino said. “The goaltender made some nice stops on us. That was the opportunity to get ourselves back in the game if we could have got a couple there on the five-minute power play.”
The bounce of the puck went the Copper Kings’ way to get them within 4-2, as a shot off the back boards by Izaak Avery went in off of goalie Andrew Grewette with 3:10 left in the second period.
Calumet didn’t get a chance to build off of that momentum, falling behind 5-2 when Hernandez knocked in a rebound on the power play with 1:33 to go in the second.
Ed Beiring gave Calumet some hope when he scored with 6:52 left in the game, but Pine’s empty-netter with 1:32 to go clinched the Pilots’ first title.
“We came in as coaches from day one and said we wanted to win a championship,” first-year DeLaSalle coach Craig Staskowski said. “You take a position as a coach at DeLaSalle, and that’s going to be the goal – you want to win championships. The guys bought in, put the work in and made sure it happened.”
PHOTOS: Warren DeLaSalle players, including Max VanderDonck (12), celebrate during Saturday’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Calumet’s Ed Beiring (9) moves the puck down the ice. (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.)