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.”

Click for the full box score.

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.)

Moggach Honored Nationally for 25 Years of 'Sticking In, Doing Good'

By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com

March 17, 2023

When Paul Moggach began his tenure as Brighton’s hockey coach, the program was at its nadir.

“When we got into high school hockey, it wasn't very good,” he said recently. “Our league wasn't very good. Our team wasn't very good. We started with character to try to build something different, you know, a different mousetrap.”

Over the next quarter of a century, Moggach and his assistants, primarily Rick Bourbonais (whom Moggach succeeded as coach) and current coach Kurt Kivisto helped lift the program into one of the most respected, and successful, in the state. 

Moggach (pronounced MUG-uhth), along with former Detroit Catholic Central coach Gordon St. John, in February was named a co-recipient of the John Mariucci Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association.

They, along with Andy Weidenbach of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, are the only Michigan coaches to have received the award, named after the longtime hockey coach at Michigan Tech. 

“He brought in people that he knew could do things he may have had limitations at,” said Kivisto, who played for Moggach at Brighton two decades ago and was an assistant for 10 years before taking over as head coach in 2020. “He did a good job surrounding himself with people he trusted and knew would be good for the program while he steered the ship in the direction he wanted. And he was very good at that.”

Moggach calls the honor “very humbling.

“​​I got into hockey because there was a need,” he added, “then I ended up with Rick at the high school for those years. When you look back at it, I grew a lot. I grew a lot personally and from a coaching perspective I grew. I had to change things, and so I think it's not so much the reward as at least a recognition that I stuck it out. My grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Stick in and do good.’ She would say that when I was on the way out the door. That was her message to me, and I think (the award) just emphasizes that I did, I did stick in.”

“You can’t be happier for a guy than for a guy like Paul,” said Bourbonais, who coached with Moggach at Brighton for a total of 30 years, the last 20 as an assistant. “He took a hockey team and made it into a hockey program that is a top-five contender every year. Guys come out of the program with championships, but they also come out with life lessons and some idea of what it takes to be a great citizen and a great student as well as what it takes to be a great athlete.” 

At first, though, there were trials. The Bulldogs struggled in his first two seasons, and the program itself was in jeopardy for a short while after a bench-clearing brawl.

Once that crisis passed, Moggach and his staff, which for many years consisted of Bourbonais, Mike Brown and Jason Valente, worked to rebuild the Bulldogs from a team known for its physicality to one with a more wide-open passing style of play. 

When hockey trends went to a more defensive style, where the defense sparked the offense, Moggach adapted. 

During the first decade of his tenure, as the Bulldogs had more success and built their reputation, teams that had shunned scheduling them in the past began adding Brighton to their schedules. 

He kept looking for ways to improve his team, both on and off the ice.

Brighton was the first team to schedule a game with those in the Keweenaw Peninsula, both for the keen competition, but also as a team-bonding exercise. 

The bus rides, about 11 hours each way, helped players who in many cases didn’t know each other outside the rink to bond. So did activities outside of hockey including team dinners and curling, and the experience of being together as a team for four days.

Other teams took notice, and team bonding trips, including those far shorter than the 550 miles from Brighton to Houghton, are commonplace.

Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. Soon after, he introduced a skating coach and stricter team nutrition to the program.

“It’s not something that we had done when I was in high school," said Kivisto, who graduated in 2003. “It was something that some of the families and players weren’t overly excited about, but he knew it was good for the team and he was always looking ahead and finding ways to give his team an advantage.”   

Brighton grew to dominate its league, and winning gave Moggach the authority to introduce concepts new to players and families who grew up in travel hockey.

“I'm sure we weren't pleasing everybody,” he said, “But we thought we would do with character and live the kind of model that we would hope that the players would follow, that their families would follow. And as we did that it changed and we got in front of some things with our league, and had a good run in our league.”

Brighton won its first Division 1 championship in 2006. That was followed by back-to-back Division 1 titles in 2012 and 2013, and then 2017 and 2018, a stretch that saw the Bulldogs reach the Finals in six out of seven seasons. 

“Some of that is when you learn how to win, you win, even sometimes when you shouldn't,” he said. “I'm not saying that you know when we got to the Finals that we didn't deserve to win. We had a good recipe there that got us those five wins, but once we got it rolling, that momentum kept us going sometimes then maybe it shouldn't have.”

As the program’s success and reputation grew, players who had been in travel hockey started opting to play for the Bulldogs. 

“There are some kids on (this year’s Brighton) team who came from Triple A who are tired of that commitment, because of the travel, the time, the money,” he said. “And they found that high school hockey is different. I mean just look at the crowds. They don't get that kind of a reward for the work that they put in. 

“I think it's developed to that point now for us and we get players like that and it's made a difference, I think, and not just for our team but for all of high school hockey, " Moggach continued. “The coaches association has done a great job in promoting now and so it is a great destination for so many good reasons for kids to spend that time and grow up with their friends who are in their neighborhoods and in their community.”

Moggach is still a fixture at Brighton games, still in close touch with Kivisto when not driving to see his grandsons play or his stepson, Damon Whitten, who coaches at Lake Superior State. 

His impact will be felt in Brighton hockey for years to come.

“He left no stone unturned to try and be the best he thought we could be,” Brighton athletic director John Thompson said. “He’s one of those people who was genuinely invested in young people, and he always, always put the program first. He was a good manager of young men and developed some pretty good coaches, too.”

Moggach finished with a record of 467-172-43. St. John, who won six state titles at Catholic Central and another at Cranbrook, had a record of 229-29-18 in 10 seasons at Catholic Central.

“I was excited for (Moggach) when I heard the news,” Kivisto said, “seeing him put at a level of the guys who have won the award and the contributions they made to high school hockey. It’s neat to see him recognized at that level.”

Both men will receive their awards sometime this spring. 

“I can be recognized,” Moggach said, “and I think kids are and their families are always looking for that. But I think before you do that you have to build the program, the program has to be something that's respectful and respected and competitive, and I think we accomplished that.”


Gordon St. John led Detroit Catholic Central and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to a combined eight Finals championships over 16 seasons, the last seven with the Shamrocks including five straight in Class A or Division 1 from 1999-2003.

Gordon St. JohnDCC’s Class A championship in 1994 was the first of now 17 Finals titles, which rank second-most in MHSAA history. He built a 222-29-18 record (.859 winning percentage) over 10 seasons leading the Shamrocks through 2003-04, the last two seasons as co-head coach before then staying with the program as an assistant and helping the team to another Division 1 championship in 2005.

St. John’s championship at Cranbrook came in 1988 in Class B-C-D.

PHOTOS (Top) Retired Brighton hockey coach Paul Moggach, far right, stands alongside his players as they await to receive their medals after winning the 2018 Division 1 championship (Middle) Moggach stands with his former assistant and current Brighton head coach Kurt Kivisto. (Middle photo by Tim Robinson; St. John photo courtesy of the American Hockey Coaches Association.)