Preview: Hopefuls Eye Chance for 1st Title

March 9, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Seven of 12 teams playing in this weekend's Ice Hockey Semifinals find themselves a mere two victories from the first MHSAA championship in their programs' histories. 

If pre-tournament rankings continue to play out, at least one of those hopefuls will celebrate Saturday at Plymouth's USA Hockey Arena. 

The pairings are as follows:

Division 2 – Thursday
Saline vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 5 p.m. 
Birmingham Brother Rice vs. Hartland, 7:30 p.m.

Division 3 - Friday
Flint Powers Catholic vs. Calumet, 11 a.m.
Warren DeLaSalle vs. Dearborn Divine Child, 1:30 p.m.

Division 1 – Friday
Northville vs. Brighton, 5 p.m. 
Grandville vs. Detroit Catholic Central  7:30 p.m.

FINALS – Saturday
Division 2 - 10 a.m.
Division 3 - 2 p.m.
Division 1 - 6 p.m.

All Semifinals and Finals will be streamed live per subscription basis on, with live audio available on

Click for a full schedule of this weekend's games plus full results as they come in. Player statistics below are through the Regional round except for Grandville's, which include the Quarterfinal.

Division 1

22-6-1, No. 3
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.  
Coach: Paul Moggach, 22nd season (411-144-43) 
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central and Kensington Conference.
Best wins: 2-1 (Regional Final) and 5-3 over No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 2-1 over No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central, 7-2 over No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 1-0 and 1-0 over Division 2 No. 4 Livonia Stevenson, 4-3 over Division No. 5 Livonia Churchill, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 7 Plymouth.
Players to watch: Jake Crespi, senior F (28 goals, 26 assists); Adam Conquest, jr. F (15 goals, 18 assists); Ben Peterson, sr. F (11 goals, 19 assists); Logan Neaton, sr. G (1.55 goals-against average, 5 shutouts).
Outlook: Make it five Semifinal appearances in six seasons as the Bulldogs are back after finishing runner-up a year ago. Brighton has beaten the best, including top-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary’s a second time to get here, and done so after going 1-3-1 to finish the regular season. Neaton made the all-state first team last season, and Brighton has given up only two goals over four playoff games.

21-7-1, No. 2
Championship history: 13 MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), four runner-up finishes.
Coach: Brandon Kaleniecki, second season (42-14-1) 
League finish: Second in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North. 
Best wins: 5-2 over No. 8 Utica Eisenhower in the Regional Final, 2-0 over No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-0 and 5-1 over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 4-0 over Grandville, 4-1 and 4-1 over Division 2 No. 6 Trenton, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 3 Grosse Pointe South, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 4 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: Brendan West, jr. F (12 goals, 22 assists); Michael Considine sr. F (15 goals, 9 assists); Zach Sprys-Tellner, sr. F (17 goals, 9 assists); Sean Finstrom, sr. G (1.71 goals-against average, 6 shutouts).
Outlook: The Shamrocks ran their championship streak to three last season and have won 10 of their last 11 games as they pursue a fourth straight title. DCC has given up four goals total over four postseason games, and for the season Finstrom and senior Joe Pernecky have combined to give up only 49 goals with nine shutouts. Although DCC graduated an experienced core last spring, this team also is loaded with upperclassmen and balance, as 10 players had at least 14 points entering this week.

19-10, unranked
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2015. 
Coach: Joel Breazeale, seventh season (126-61-6).
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier I.  
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 8 Utica Eisenhower, 4-1 over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 3-2 over Division 3 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Trevor Gelfius, jr. F (16 goals, 18 assists); Zach Tykocki, jr. F (18 goals, 14 assists); David Breazeale, jr. D (9 goals, 18 assists); Shane Haggerty, jr. F (15 goals, 6 assists).
Outlook: Grandville has won six Regional titles over Joel Breazeale’s seven seasons as coach, and this one after entering the final stretch .500 before rattling off nine straight wins. After a 5-7 start, it’s been a great comeback for a team with only six seniors, not counting two more in net. The Bulldogs have scored 26 goals over their four tournament games and boast 11 players with at least 10 points, including seven of nine players on their top three lines.

22-6-1, No. 4
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Clint Robert, eighth season (147-57-15)
League finish: Second in KLAA Central. 
Best wins: 
3-2 over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in the Regional Final, 3-2 over No. 3 Brighton, 3-1 over No. 7 Lake Orion, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 4 Livonia Stevenson, 5-2 over Division 2 No. 5 Livonia Churchill, 4-1 over Division 2 No. 7 Plymouth.
Players to watch: Bret Miller, sr. G (2.06 goals-against average, 2 shutouts); Nick Bonofiglio, sr. F (20 goals, 14 assists); Alex Iafrate, sr. F (9 goals, 16 assists); Nick Williams, jr. D (2 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: Northville finished second to Brighton in their league, but will play in its first Semifinal since 2004 after making its first Quarterfinal since 2007. Miller made the all-state second team and Williams earned honorable mention last season, giving the Mustangs some headliners defensively to go with an offense featuring seven players with at least 20 points entering the week. Senior Daniel McKee (12 goals) and juniors Danny Scorzo (15) and Devin Laba (13) are also among top scorers, with senior Ty Kilar (four goals, 20 assists) centering the top line and junior Jack Sargent (seven goals, 17 assists) partnering with Williams.

Division 2

23-4-1, No. 1
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Kenny Chaput, first season (23-4-1)
League finish: First in MIHL North. 
Best wins: 6-3 over No. 3 Grosse Pointe South in the Regional Final, 7-2 over No. 7 Plymouth, 7-5 and 7-1 over No. 6 Trenton, 4-0 over No. 2 Hartland, 5-2 over No. 10 Marquette, 5-2 over Division 1 No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 5-1 and 4-3 over Division 1 No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 3 Brighton, 5-0 over Division 1 No. 4 Northville, 7-1 and 5-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 6 Rochester, 8-0 over Division 1 No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 5-2 over Division 3 No. 1 Flint Powers Catholic.  
Players to watch: Blake Tosto, sr. F (27 goals, 23 assists); Jack Clement, sr. D (17 goals, 28 assists); Mitchell Shults, sr. F (6 goals, 27 assists); Michael McInerney, sr. F (14 goals, 29 assists).
Outlook: Brother Rice has earned the reputation this season as best team in Michigan regardless of division, with wins over the top six ranked teams in Division 1 in addition to a solid win over Division 2 No. 2 Hartland, and the Grosse Pointe win last week avenged one of the Warriors’ four losses. Shults and Clement earned all-state honorable mention last season but are among many cogs in a loaded lineup – six Brother Rice players had at least 11 goals entering the week, and nine had totaled 13 or more assists.

19-8-2, unranked
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Tom Bissett, sixth season (88-68-11) 
League finish: Second in O-K Conference Tier 2.
Best wins: 4-1 (Pre-Regional) and 7-2 over No. 9 Grand Rapids Christian, 3-1 over No. 6 Trenton, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Utica Eisenhower.
Players to watch: Nathan Nickelson, jr. F (24 goals, 25 assists); Wyatt Radakovitz, sr. F (26 goals, 33 assists); Ian Famulak, jr. F (16 goals, 29 assists); Joel Brandinger, jr. F (13 goals, 27 assists).
Outlook: Northern/Eastern is back in the Semifinals for the second straight season led by two high-scoring lines but also an offensively potent defense; junior Josh Boverhof had 10 goals and 31 assists as part of the top pair entering the week. Radakovitz made the all-state second team last season after earning honorable mention as a sophomore, and Famulak and Nickelson also were offensive leaders a year ago. Northern/Eastern is 7-0-1 after a midseason stretch with four losses over six games.

25-2-1, No. 2
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2013 and 2014. 
Coach: Rick Gadwa, sixth season (121-42-9) 
League finish: First in KLAA West, Lakes Conference and overall.
Best wins: 
3-0 (Quarterfinal) and 3-0 over No. 4 Livonia Stevenson, 5-3 over No. 5 Livonia Churchill, 4-2 over No. 7 Plymouth, 6-5 over No. 9 Grand Rapids Christian, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 3 Brighton, 3-0 over Division 1 No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Players to watch: Josh Albring, jr. F (22 goals, 50 assists); Jed Pietila, sr. F (19 goals, 34 assists); Jacob Behnke, jr. F (22 goals, 20 assists); Blake Heier, sr. F (21 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: Like Brother Rice, Hartland also has wins over the top three ranked teams from Division 1, and its only in-state loss was to the Warriors. The Eagles haven’t given up a goal during the postseason – junior goaltender Andrew Heuwagen had eight shutouts total this winter heading into the week. Senior Zach Sexton was an all-state defenseman as a sophomore, and Albring made the all-state first team last season. Sophomore wing Joey Larson adds more firepower with 15 goals and 10 assists after the Regional round.

22-5-1, unranked
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2006. 
Coach: Paul Fassbender, first season (22-5-1) 
League finish: First in Metro League West and Southeastern Conference Red.
Best wins: 5-4 over No. 5 Livonia Churchill in the Quarterfinal, 6-2 over Division 1 No. 10 Troy.
Players to watch: Brendan Murphy, soph. D (25 goals, 25 assists); Mikhail Lozovyy, soph. F (15 goals, 25 assists); Logan Dejanovich, soph. F (15 goals, 20 assists); Collin Clark, soph. F (15 goals, 20 assists).  
Outlook: Saline may not have a list of ranked opponents as long as the other three semifinalists, but it proved it belonged with the Quarterfinal win and has to be scary to the rest of Division 1 with no seniors – but five sophomores – among its top seven scorers this season. In fact, the team has only three seniors: two defensemen and a goalie. Fassbender formerly served as coach at Plymouth, Ann Arbor Pioneer and with the Eastern Michigan University club team.

Division 3

22-6-1, No. 3
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), four runner-up finishes.  
Coach: Dan Giachino, second season (37-14-4)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Hockey Conference.  
Best wins: 2-1 (Pre-Regional) and 5-2 over No. 4 Hancock, 4-0 (Regional Final), 3-2 and 7-1 over No. 8 Houghton, 3-0 and 6-1 over Division 2 No. 10 Marquette, 4-1 over Division 1 No. 3 Brighton, 7-2 and 2-1 over Division 1 No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 6 Rochester.
Players to watch: 
Rory Anderson, sr. F (24 goals, 34 assists); Trevor Johnson, sr. D (5 goals, 22 assists); Brent Loukus, soph. F (29 goals, 29 assists); Ed Beiring, sr. F (17 goals, 20 assists).
After opening 0-4 with doubleheader sweeps by reigning Division 3 champion Hancock and Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Calumet went on a tear proving it can play with teams in any division. The Copper Kings not only came back to beat Hancock twice but also three of the top 10 in Division 1. Anderson and Johnson both were first-team all-staters last season, and Loukus is an exciting sophomore; they are three of seven players who had at least 20 points entering the week.

12-15-2, unranked
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2002, runner-up 2001. 
Coach: Dominic Scala, second season (21-31-3)
League finish: Fourth in Metro League East.
Best wins: 5-1 over Division 2 No. 5 Livonia Churchill, 4-3 over Division 2 No. 3 Grosse Pointe South.
Players to watch: Vincenzo DiDomenico, sr. F (9 goals, 13 assists); Jose Sanchez, sr. F (14 goals, 10 assists); Ian Juszczyk, jr. F (15 goals, 16 assists); Josh Lucas, sr. G (2.31 goals-against average, 1 shutout).
Divine Child is one of the surprises of the tournament, avenging an earlier loss to Chelsea by downing the 2016 semifinalist 4-3 in this week’s Quarterfinal. The Falcons have scored 19 goals over four playoff games, more than a quarter of their goals for this entire season. Scala, in his second as head coach, was an assistant four seasons and formerly a defenseman at Detroit Catholic Central during its 2005 Division 1 title run.

28-1, No. 1 
Championship history: Seven runner-up finishes (most recent 2010). 
Coach: Travis Perry, 11th season (232-64-13)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League. 
Best wins: 3-2 OT (Quarterfinal) and 2-1 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 5-1 over Dearborn Divine Child, 5-0 (Pre-Regional) and 4-2 over No. 9 Saginaw Heritage, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 7 Lake Orion, 4-0 over Division 1 No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 2-0 over Division 2 No. 4 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: 
Brendan Smith, sr. F (35 goals, 39 assists); Jake Polakowski, sr. D (2 goals, 38 assists); Conor Witherspoon, sr. F (31 goals, 48 assists); Mason Weiss, soph. F (9 goals, 27 assists).
The story of Powers’ season has been if this is the team to finally earn the program its first MHSAA championship. Witherspoon was an all-state honorable mention last winter as the team didn’t win a Regional title for the only time over the last decade; he and the Chargers have stormed back, and he and Smith lead an offense that’s played with the best with six players scoring at least 10 goals entering the week and 12 tallying at least 10 assists. Sophomore goalie Parker Rey had seven shutouts in nine games entering this week, and total the team has given up only 27 goals.

18-9-1, No. 5
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Craig Staskowski, first season (18-9-1)
League finish: First in MIHL South. 
Best wins: 4-1 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Utica Eisenhower, 6-5 and 3-1 over Division 1 No. 9 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 2-1 over Dearborn Divine Child.
Players to watch: 
Greg Pine, sr. F (22 goals, 25 assists); Thomas Hernandez, sr. F (19 goals, 21 assists); Matthew Pelto, sr. F (12 goals, 17 assists); Austin Scott, sr. F (8 goals, 12 assists).
Staskowski has led DeLaSalle to its second Semifinals in four seasons after a successful five-season run coaching Rochester and stops as well at Utica and with Warren Sterling United. DeLaSalle has cruised through the playoffs with three shutouts over unranked teams, but showed it can play with the best as well with significant wins over teams from Divisions 1 and 2. Ten players had at least 10 points entering the week, and there’s a nice blend of seniors and players who should be back next winter. While the top two lines are senior-heavy, there are only two among the top six defensemen and starting goalie.

PHOTO: Northville's Alex Iafrate (4) and Danny Scorzo (20) battle for the puck during a December win over Livonia Stevenson. (Click for more from

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.)