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.)
Twenty years ago, Kwin Morris and Jeff Guy were teammates on an MHSAA Quarterfinal-qualifying hockey team.
Guy even scored the winning goal in the Regional Final for Bay Area Reps, which topped Traverse City West 2-1.
This summer’s accomplishment, though, will go deeper in the history books.
Guy and Morris teamed up with Joe Lorenz to complete a dream that started a decade ago. They crossed all five of the Great Lakes on paddle boards while raising awareness and funds for water quality.
They put their balance, endurance and stick-handling skills together for the cause.
‘After 10 years and over one hundred grand raised for the lakes, it feels amazing,” Morris said. “I think the best part is knowing my kids will grow up knowing their old man did something cool for the environment in a unique way.”
It all started at a December social event in Traverse City. Guy, a financial adviser, and Morris, a middle school science teacher, had just gotten into paddle boarding when they began to wonder if they could cross Lake Michigan.
Lorenz, a personal trainer, promptly gave assurances they could — and joined them — even though he had never been on a paddle board prior to the holiday gathering.
Morris, Guy and Lorenz successfully crossed Lake Michigan in 2015, pausing in the cold of the night to look at the Northern Lights. They finished the nearly 100-kilometer journey in just under 25 hours. That accomplishment convinced them to launch Stand Up for Great Lakes, a non-profit organization to raise money and awareness for the protection of the lakes.
The trio also is supporting the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, a non-profit housed at the University of Michigan.
“It feels amazing to have finished crossing all five lakes and complete a lifelong goal,” Guy acknowledged. “The dollars and awareness we have raised is incredible, and hopefully it continues to grow.”
Lake Huron was the toughest to cross by far, the former Reps noted. The 90-mile, 29-hour paddle brought seven hours of rain and high waves.
“Plus Joe knocked me in and Jeff fell in after catching a fish,” Morris observed.
Ontario was the team’s second-hardest challenge and the shortest paddle. Huge waves from the side all day took quite a toll on the paddlers, who were accompanied by safety boats on each crossing.
Lake Superior featured glassy water, a spectacular sunset and the paddlers pausing to conduct a ceremony over the Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The northernmost Great Lake ranks as the group’s favorite.
Guy graduated from Kalkaska High School in 2003 and went on to play hockey at Hope College. He also played football, baseball and golf for the Blazers. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Emma.
Morris graduated in 2005 from Elk Rapids High School, where he also played baseball. He went on to get a teaching degree from Western Michigan University. He and his wife, Megan, have two children, Fitz and Knox. He now works for his former school district, teaching science.
The pair played for the Reps through a co-op hosted by Traverse City St. Francis that included athletes from Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley, Lake Leelanau St Mary, Mancelona and Suttons Bay. The Reps’ first coach was Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rex Luxton. He coached through 2008.
Morris and Guy look back at their high school playing days and coach with fondness.
“We had some great teams, and I think I still have the career goal record there,” Guy recalled. “Also, our coach on the Reps Rex Luxton was highly motivational to me while playing for him and later in life.”
Morris echoed Guy.
“I loved the whole experience,” Morris said. “Playing for my high school … Friday night games … school rivalries … playing for Rex Luxton … amazing friends and teammates — almost surreal that it will have been 20 years.”
The former coaching staff of the Reps are not at all surprised Morris and Guy challenged themselves to make a difference for the Great Lakes.
The coaching staff remembers Guy as a natural scorer coming through with big goals, and Morris as a strong two-way player who scored five goals in one period in Sault Ste. Marie. The past coaches also remember all the traveling the two did for practice and games because of the geographic nature of the squad.
“I had no idea they had any interest in the water kind of stuff,” Luxton said of his former players’ feat. “When I started following their bid to raise awareness, it didn’t surprise me they would attempt something like this.
“I think it illustrates how much determination they have and how much hard work they were willing to put in,” he continued. “It is just outstanding, particularly with the cold weather in the Great Lakes.”
Cody Inglis, a senior assistant director for the MHSAA, was an assistant coach for the Reps during all of Morris and Guy’s time with the co-op. He finds himself beaming with pride and happiness knowing these former players are giving back and making it a better world.
“What Jeff and Kwin have done physically and mentally to cross all of the Great Lakes on stand-up paddle boards is remarkable in itself,” Inglis pointed out. “When you add in the fact that they have put in charitable causes and the preservation of the Great Lakes as a reason for doing it – it makes it even more special.
“It’s not surprising given my recollection and remembrances of Jeff and Kwin, as they were really good hockey players and better people.”
High school hockey is where Morris and Guy’ friendship blossomed. Spending 24 or more hours together — and with Lorenz — has forged a greater lifetime bond that already had included being a part of each other’s weddings.
But they admit they had no inkling of this type of accomplishment back in high school.
“Sports were the most important thing in my life in high school,” Guy revealed. “Working really hard to win as many games as possible was the main goal – along with getting good grades and trying to get into a good college.”
But teamwork, learned on the ice and through other high school sports, can make anything possible.
“Any sport where you have to work as a team helps push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Morris concluded. “That's where the best things in life happen.”
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PHOTOS (Top) Clockwise from top left: Jeff Guy celebrates a goal while playing for Traverse Bay Reps with Kwin Morris to his left, Guy (left) and Morris (right) take a photo after one of their paddle board trips, and Morris bringing the puck up the ice for the Reps. (Middle) Guy, Morris and Joe Lorenz take a photo together on the lake shore. (Below) Morris accepts a medal during the 2004-05 season. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Guy, Kwin and Jo Morris.)