Preview: Hockey's Championship Chases Resume

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 24, 2021

Just over a year ago, the 2019-20 school sports year ended only hours before the puck was to drop for the first Semifinal of that hockey season’s championship weekend at USA Hockey Arena.

Like in other winter and spring sports, a number of teams that were set to play for championships last season have unfinished business because of COVID-19 – and now an opportunity.

This season’s championship weekend returns to Plymouth, with Division 2 Semifinals on Thursday, Divisions 3 and 1 on Friday and all three championship games Saturday.


DIVISION 1 - Friday, March 26 
Mid-Michigan (15-2) vs. Rockford (14-5-1), 4:30 p.m.
Detroit Catholic Central (16-1) vs. Brighton (10-4-3), 8 p.m.

DIVISION 2 - Thursday, March 25 
Byron Center (17-0) vs. Marquette (14-4), 4:30 p.m.
Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (13-4) vs. Trenton (13-7), 8 p.m.

DIVISION 3 - Friday, March 26 
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (13-4) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (14-3), 10 a.m.
Calumet (17-0-1) vs. Chelsea (17-1-1), 1:30 p.m.


Saturday, March 27 
Division 1: 7 p.m.
Division 2: 11 a.m.
Division 3: 3 p.m.

Spectator limits remain in effect, but all Semifinals and Finals will be streamed live on and viewable with subscription, with free audio broadcasts via the MHSAA Radio Network.

Below is a glance at all 12 teams contending this weekend. Click for the full program.

Division 1

10-4-3, No. 3
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2018), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Kurt Kivisto, first season (10-4-3)
League finish: Third in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold
Best wins: 3-2 (OT) over No. 10 Plymouth, 6-5 over No. 5 Saginaw Heritage, 5-4 over No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Players to watch: Chris Wozniak, sr. G (2.63 goals-against average); Nick Baker, jr. F (9 goals, 9 assists); Nick Przysiecki, sr. F (8 goals, 10 assists); Lars Erkkila, sr. F (8 goals, 11 assists).
Outlook: Kivisto, who played at Brighton and most recently served as an assistant coach, has led one of the state’s most annually-successful programs back to the Semifinals for the seventh time in nine seasons. He inherited 11 seniors including Wozniak, who made the all-state second team last season. Defense has been a key in the team’s 6-0-2 run heading into this weekend. Brighton has outscored its three postseason opponents by a combined 16-1.

16-1, No. 1
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), five runner-up finishes.
Coach: Brandon Kaleniecki, sixth season (138-24-2)
League finish: First in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North 
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 9 Salem in Quarterfinal, 2-1 over No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 5-0 over No. 4 Rockford, 5-0 over No. 3 Brighton, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 4 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: William Shields, sr. F (4 goals, 14 assists); Tommy Shea, sr. F (10 goals, 3 assists); Brenden Cwiek, sr. F (7 goals, 8 assists); Bobby Masters, jr. G (1.14 goals-against average, .940 save %).
Outlook: DCC has advanced to the Semifinals for the ninth straight season, and even got some help from the junior varsity when the varsity had to quarantine during Regional week. The only loss this season was early to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, which the Shamrocks avenged with a 3-0 win near the end of the regular season. DCC also has defeated Division 3 No. 3 Detroit Country Day (7-1), No. 5 Flint Powers Catholic (4-2), No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-1) and had another win in its season opener over the No. 4 Cranes (2-0). Masters has split time in net with junior Nick Galda, who entered this week with a 0.74 goals-against average.

15-2, unranked
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Rob Husulak, third season (42-25-1) 
League finish: First in South Central Hockey League Central
Best wins: 5-2 over No. 5 Saginaw Heritage in Quarterfinals, 6-1 over Capital City, 5-4 (OT), 7-4 and 5-4 (Regional Final) over Okemos.
Players to watch: Brock Mason, sr. D (24 goals, 12 assists); Jadon Reimer, sr. D (14 goals, 11 assists); Eli Reimer, sr. F (27 goals, 20 assists); Carson Finney, sr. F (14 goals, 40 assists).
Outlook: Mid-Michigan includes players from Holt, Eaton Rapids, Potterville, Grand Ledge and Portland, and qualifies as arguably the surprise of the tournament after its upset of Heritage in the Quarterfinal. But the Marauders have been impressive all season; their only league loss came against a team they also beat, and the other defeat was to Division 2 quarterfinalist Muskegon Mona Shores early. Senior defenseman Danny Abdouch had added another 10 goals and seven assists entering the week.

14-5-1, No. 4
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: C.J. Pobur, fifth season (75-53-4)
League finish: Tied for second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Rue 
Best wins: 4-3 (Quarterfinal) and 4-1 over No. 6 Grandville, 4-3 over No. 8 Traverse City West in Regional Final, 6-4 (Regional Semifinal) and 2-1 over No. 7 Traverse Bay Reps, 6-3 over Division 2 No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores.
Players to watch: Carson Korte, sr. F (27 goals, 16 assists); Owen Devries, sr. F (13 goals, 22 assists); Braeden Fouchea, sr. F (3 goals, 19 assists); Will Haggerty, jr. F (13 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: Pobur has led the Rams to three Regional titles over his five seasons, and this will be the program’s first Semifinal appearance after finishing at the Quarterfinal round seven times over the last two decades. Rockford has had one of the toughest playoff roads in any division the last two weeks and was able to avenge one of its losses – the Rams avenged another during the regular season, with the other three coming either to DCC or Division 2 top-ranked Byron Center (twice). Senior Dayton Perroud entered this week with 11 assists from his blueliner spot.

Division 2

17-0, No. 1 
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Taylor Keyworth, third season (57-16-2)
League finish: First in O-K Rue
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 2 Hartland in Semifinal, 3-2 over No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores in Regional Final, 4-2 and 8-3 over Division 1 No. 4 Rockford, 4-0 over Division 1 No. 7 Traverse Bay Reps, 4-3 and 5-4 over Division 1 No. 6 Grandville. 
Players to watch: Logan Nickolaus, sr. F (23 goals, 25 assists); Luke Nickolaus, sr. F (10 goals, 18 assists), Trevor Davis, sr. D (7 goals, 24 assists); Josh Froysland, sr. D (1 goal, 11 assists). 
Outlook: A roster with 11 seniors has elevated Byron Center to the Semifinals for the second time – and for the first time they’ll get to play as last year’s run was halted by COVID-19 after the Quarterfinals. The Bulldogs are averaging 5.8 goals per game – even more impressive considering seven of 17 games were against teams ranked in Divisions 1 or 2 at the end of the regular season. Davis made the all-state first team last year, while Froysland made the second and Luke Nickolaus earned an honorable mention. Seven players total had scored at least seven goals heading into this week, with senior forward Mason Breit adding 16 more (with nine assists) to those mentioned above. 

13-4, No. 3
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Kenny Chaput, fifth season (89-34-8)
League finish: Second in MIHL North 
Best wins: 6-0 (Quarterfinal) and 7-2 over No. 8 Port Huron Northern, 3-2 over No. 2 Hartland, 5-1 over Division 1 No. 6 Grandville, 4-1 and 4-3 over Division 1 No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Saginaw Heritage, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 3 Brighton, 1-0 over Division 3 No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Players to watch: Andrew Marone, soph. F (11 goals, 10 assists); Ryan Marone, sr. F (6 goals, 15 assists); Peter Rosa, soph. F (8 goals, 9 assists); Brett Harris, sr. F (8 goals, 12 assists).
Outlook: Brother Rice has reached the Semifinals all four seasons since its most recent championship in 2017. The Warriors enter this weekend with four shutouts over their last five games, with senior Drake Danou handling most of the time in net this season and posting a 1.77 goals-against average and .923 save percentage entering this week. Senior Alec Hamady (7 goals, 8 assists) adds more scoring punch, and junior Matthew Herb had 13 assists from the blue line coming into Tuesday.  

14-4, No. 6
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), four runner-up finishes.
Coach: Doug Garrow, eighth season (139-60-12) 
League finish: Third in Great Lakes Hockey Conference 
Best wins: 1-0 over No. 9 Traverse City Central in Quarterfinal, 6-3 over Division 3 No. 7 Hancock, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 6 Houghton.
Players to watch: Ansel Frost, sr. F (4 goals, 12 assists); Jackson Potulny, fr. F (15 goals, 12 assists); Dylan Baldwin, sr. F (12 goals, 8 assists); Brennan Hakkola, sr. G (1.50 goals-against average, .915 save %, 5 shutouts).
Outlook: Marquette earned its third-straight Semifinal berth after prepping against all of the best from the Upper Peninsula including twice against Division 3 semifinalist Calumet. Frost earned an all-state honorable mention last season and he’s one of 10 on his team with at least 13 points. Senior Evan Kroll is another with 10 goals and six assists, and sophomore Jacob Garrow had five goals and 14 assists entering the week. Sophomore Joe DeMattia had added two goals and 15 assists from the blue line prior to the Quarterfinal.  

13-7, No. 10
Championship history: 14 MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), eight runner-up finishes.
Coach: Chad Clements, seventh season (126-61-7)
League finish: Second in MIHL South 
Best wins: 3-1 over No. 5 Novi in Quarterfinal, 2-1 over No. 9 Port Huron Northern, 9-4 over Ann Arbor Pioneer in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Caleb Kneiding, sr. D (5 goals, 17 assists); Nickolas Fields, jr. F/D (12 goals, 14 assists); Brad Nemeth, sr. F (11 goals, 18 assists); Collin Preston, sr. F (12 goals, 24 assists).
Outlook: Trenton finished Division 2 runner-up in 2018 and 2019 and had reached the Semifinals again last winter before the run was cut short by COVID. Kneiding earned an all-state honorable mention last season and helps pace a lineup that has replaced four others who received some level of all-state recognition. Trenton has won seven straight and outscored its four postseason opponents by a combined 30-6. Senior defenseman/forward Ryan Stanley had added nine goals and 10 assists entering the week, and senior Brendan Shaw was among assists leaders with 15.

Division 3

13-4, No. 4
Championship history: Seventeen MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), two runner-up finishes
Coach: John LaFontaine, second season (28-13-3) 
League finish: Tied for second in MIHL North
Best wins: 1-0 over No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit in Quarterfinal, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-0 over Division 1 No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 6-1 over Division 1 No. 7 Traverse Bay Reps, 2-0 and 5-3 over Division 2 No. 10 Trenton, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice.
Players to watch: Leyton Stenman, sr. D (4 goals, 12 assists); Jack Wineman, sr. F (5 goals, 17 assists); Alex Ceritano, sr. F (9 goals, 9 assists); Isaac Cheli, sr. F (10 goals, 12 assists).
Outlook: Cranbrook might have the most impressive list of wins of any team playing this weekend as the best came against larger-division teams including the only defeat handed to DCC. This will be the Cranes’ first Semifinal appearance since 2016. They had two shutouts during the regular season, but haven’t given up a goal over three playoff games outscoring those opponents by a combined 20-0. Stenman made the all-state second team last season, and Wineman earned an honorable mention.  

17-0-1, No. 1
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), five runner-up finishes.
Coach: Dan Giachino, sixth season (108-40-8)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Hockey Conference 
Best wins: 3-1 (Regional Final) and 3-1 over No. 6 Houghton, 4-1 and 4-2 over No. 7 Hancock, 5-3 and 2-1 over Division 2 No. 6 Marquette.
Players to watch: Dean Loukus, sr. F (25 goals, 43 assists), Nolan Sturos, jr. F (10 goals, 17 assists); Noah Jukuri, sr. F (9 goals, 17 assists); Jackson Rilei, jr. F (20 goals, 23 assists).
Outlook: The Copper Kings also would have played in last season’s Semifinals had they not been canceled, and they last played in a championship game in 2017. Only an early 3-3 tie against Houghton has kept Calumet from a perfect run so far this winter, and it avenged that loss twice. Loukus went over 200 career points this season and became the program’s all-time leader, and he made the all-state first team in 2020. Junior defenseman Tom Erkkila (4 goals, 18 assists) is another contributor to the offense, and sophomore Aksel Loukus (1.70 goals-against average) has stepped in well for a graduated all-state goalie.

17-1-1, No. 9
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Nick Vetter, third season (39-32-3)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White 
Best wins: 4-1 (Quarterfinal) and 2-1 over Riverview Gabriel Richard, 1-0 over Ann Arbor Skyline.
Players to watch: Tyler Valik, sr. F (17 goals, 30 assists); Devin McIntyre, soph. F (25 goals, 13 assists); Jack Capper, sr. F/D (10 goals, 18 assists); Byron Bayer, jr. G (1.33 goals-against average, .940 save %).
Outlook: Chelsea has reached at least the Quarterfinals eight of the last 12 seasons, and this will be its first Semifinal since 2016. The only loss came in the season opener to Jackson Lumen Christi, which finished the regular season No. 8 in Division 3. Valik made the all-state second team last season and is one of only six seniors on a team that should continue to impress next winter. Corbin Steele is another of those six; the defenseman had added nine goals and 11 assists entering the week.

14-3, No. 5
Championship history: Seven runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).
Coach: Travis Perry, 15th season (294-93-19) 
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League 
Best wins: 3-1 over Grand Rapids Catholic Central in Quarterfinal, 5-1 over Division 2 No. 8 Port Huron Northern, 5-0 over Division 1 No. 5 Saginaw Heritage.
Players to watch: Nick Kurtiak, soph. G (1.17 goals-against average, .939 save %, 5 shutouts); Kyle Barbour, soph. D (1 goal, 12 assists); Tyler Lawrence, sr. F (10 goals, 22 assists), Mason Czarnecki, soph. F (16 goals, 13 assists).
Outlook: With only two seniors, this could be the start of another run for the Chargers, who will play in their first Semifinal since 2017. Barbour earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and he has reliable netminding behind him and lots of scoring in front. In addition to him, Lawrence and Czarnecki, three more players had at least 10 assists heading into this week. Junior forward Jacques Lavrack was the second-leading goal scorer with 12 heading into the Quarterfinal to go with his 10 assists. The team’s only losses came to Division 1 top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central, Division 2 No. 4 Livonia Stevenson and Division 3 No. 3 Detroit Country Day.

PHOTO: Calumet's Jackson Rilei, left, gets past an Alpena player during Wednesday’s 6-0 Division 3 Quarterfinal win. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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

By Tim Robinson
Special for

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.)