Preview: Ice Powers Rise Again

March 12, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There’s a perception that hockey is one of those sports in Michigan highlighted by the same powerful programs each season.

Often that may be true. But not this winter.

Nine of 12 teams playing in Semifinals on Thursday and Friday didn’t make it to Plymouth’s Compuware Arena a year ago – including near-annual favorites Birmingham Brother Rice and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.

In fact, it's guaranteed that at least one of this weekend's contenders will play in an MHSAA championship game for the first time. 

The pairings are as follows:

Division 2 – Thursday
Escanaba vs. Livonia Stevenson, 5 p.m. 
Grosse Pointe South vs. Birmingham Brother Rice, 7:30 p.m.

Division 3 - Friday
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood vs. Riverview, 11 a.m.
Flint Powers Catholic vs. Houghton, 1:30 p.m.

Division 1 – Friday
Detroit U-D Jesuit vs. Detroit Catholic Central, 5 p.m. 
Bay City Central/Western vs. Grandville, 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. Players statistics below are through the Regional round and were submitted by participating schools, except for Escanaba stats, which are through Quarterfinals.

Division 1

17-10-1, unranked.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Mike Kayner, 19th season (271-167-22).
League finish: Third in Saginaw Valley Association.
Best wins: 4-3 over  No. 14 Holland West Ottawa, 3-0 over Saginaw Heritage, 4-3 over Grand Blanc in the Regional Final, 1-0 over Division 3 No. 7 Flint Powers Catholic.
Players to watch: Carson Eby, senior forward (27 goals, 28 assists), Trenton Pashak, senior forward (20 goals, 18 assists), Hunter David, junior forward (16 goals, 19 assists).
Outlook: After back-to-back Quarterfinal losses, the Wolves broke through this season for their first trip to Finals weekend. They are 9-0-1 over their last 10 games, a run that has included arguably their three best wins this season. Eby, Pashak and David make up the top line and sophomore Kyle VanOcten (10 goals, 15 assists) is part of the top defensemen pair, but the team also gets a nice dose of offense from freshman forward Tyler David (14 goals, 14 assists).

22-4-1, No. 1.
Championship history: 11 MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), four runner-up finishes.
Coach: Danny Veri, first season (22-5-1).
League finish: Second in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North.
Best wins: 4-2 over No. 7 Brighton, 5-1, 9-5, 7-1 and 8-0 (Regional Final) over No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-0 over No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 4-1 over No. 6 Grandville, 4-0 over No. 8 Northville, 7-0 over No. 13 Troy in the Quarterfinal, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 6-5 and 4-3 over Division 2 No. 5 Trenton, 5-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: Mitch Ossowski, senior forward (13 goals, 17 assists); Ryan Burnett, senior forward (11 goals, 23 assists), Spencer Wright, senior goaltender (1.39 goals-against average, .929 save %, seven shutouts).
Outlook: The Shamrocks are coming off their first MHSAA championship since 2010 and haven’t slowed a bit; their only losses were to Culver Academy of Indiana, twice, and top-ranked Division 3 teams Cranbrook Kingswood and Forest Hills Central. Ossowski and Burnett were all-state first team forwards last season and again man the top line, but junior JoJo Mancinelli has added 14 goals playing with them and senior Evan Rochowiak has scored 14 on the second line.

21-6-1, No. 2.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Rick Bennetts, 20th season (256-230-33).
League finish: First in the MIHL South.
Best wins: 
4-2 over No. 11 Salem in the Quarterfinal, 3-1 over No. 9 Plymouth, 5-2 and 3-2 over Division 2 No. 5 Trenton, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 4-1 over Division 2 No. 14 Muskegon Mona Shores, 4-2 over Division 3 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Jack Deines, senior goaltender (1.62 goals-against average, .916 save %); Christian Wirth-Karbler, senior forward (15 goals, 23 assists); Sam Knoblauch, junior forward (16 goals, 26 assists).
Outlook: Jesuit has played in Semifinals the last two seasons and nearly broke through to its first championship game last season before falling in overtime to Brighton. The Cubs are loaded offensively, with 10 players scoring at least 11 goals this season – leading goal scorer Matt Morgan has 19 goals and 21 assists as a defenseman. Deines is the team’s returning all-stater and remains a force in the crease.

24-3-2, No. 6.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Joel Breazeale, fifth season (87-46-5).
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 2. 
Best wins: 9-1 over No. 14 Holland West Ottawa in the Pre-Regional, 4-0 over No. 12 Traverse City West in the Quarterfinal, 6-4 over Division 2 No. 9 Traverse City Central, 4-2 over Bay City Central/Western.
Players to watch: Brandon Rozema, senior forward (26 goals, 26 assists), Mitchell Parsons, senior forward (22 goals, 40 assists); Thomas Breazeale, junior defenseman (3 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: Grandville has won four Regional titles in Joel Breazeale’s five seasons, but this team has six more wins than any of the other three previous champs and will play in a Semifinal for the second straight winter. The Bulldogs are loaded with scorers; seniors Gianni Vitali (24 goals, 39 assists) and Jacob Baum (25/31) and juniors Noah Weigle (14/19) and Ryan Wolfe (12/12) are among those also keeping the offense humming. Rozema made the all-state second team last season, and Thomas Breazeale earned an honorable mention.

Division 2

22-6, No. 1.
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Lou Schmidt, 12th season (214-101-18).
League finish: Third in MIHL North.
Best wins: 4-3 over No. 2 Livonia Stevenson, 3-1 and 5-4 over No. 5 Trenton, 8-0 and 4-3, 4 OT (Quarterfinal) over No. 4 Hartland, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 7 Brighton, 3-1 over Division 1 No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 7-0 and 7-3 over Division 1 No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 2-1 over Division 1 No. 8 Northville.  
Players to watch: Nick Rosa, senior forward (20 goals, 26 assists), Joey Vassallo, senior forward (19 goals, 24 assists), Matthew Manning, senior forward (7 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: Brother Rice is back in Division 2 after two seasons in Division 1, but has beaten most of the best from both – and with some incredible goal totals. The Warriors have scored five or more goals in 12 games and had four players with at least 10 goals this season at of the end of the Regional. Manning was a second-team all-state selection last season and teams with Rosa and Vassallo on Brother Rice’s top line.

18-10-1, No. 12.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Matt Hughes, second season (34-18-4).
League finish: Fifth in Great Lakes Conference.
Best wins: 4-1 and 4-2 over No. 8 Marquette, 6-3 over No. 13 Berkley, 7-3 over No. 9 Traverse City Central in the Quarterfinal, 4-2 over Bay City Central/Western.
Players to watch: Levi Wunder, senior forward (45 goals, 46 assists), Nicholas Aird, junior forward (12 goals, 28 assists), Chris LeMire, sophomore forward (19 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: The Eskymos are making their first trip to the MHSAA Semifinals and after coming back from a rough streak that included eight losses in 11 games through mid-January and early February. Wunder is a dangerous scorer and was a first-team all-state selection last season – and also is the only senior on the team. Junior defenseman Calvin Pinar adds size at 6-foot-3 and additional scoring with 14 goals and 23 assists this season.

21-4-1, No. 7.
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2007, two runner-up finishes.
Coach: Bobby McKillop, third season (56-19-3).
League finish: First in Michigan Metro League East.
Best wins: 8-2 over No. 3 Romeo in the Quarterfinal, 5-0 over No. 10 Port Huron Northern, 5-2 and 2-0 over Division 3 No. 6 Detroit Country Day, 4-1 and 4-2 over Division 3 No. 4 Wyandotte Roosevelt, 3-1 over Division 3 No. 14 Dearborn Divine Child.
Players to watch: Adam Pitters, sophomore forward (16 goals, 17 assists); Ian Corbett, senior defenseman (12 goals, 15 assists); Jonathan Theros, junior forward (9 goals, 17 assists)
Outlook: South carries a 10-game winning streak into the Semifinals and has won at least 20 games two seasons in a row. Corbett made the all-state second team as a junior and helps keep order in front of senior goaltender Andy Jakub, who has stopped nearly 93 percent of shots he’s faced and tallied five shutouts.

18-5-5, No. 2.
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2013.
Coach: David Mitchell, seventh season (130-45-15).
League finish: Tied for third in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central.
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 4 Hartland, 4-2 over No. 9 Traverse City Central, 8-5 and 4-3 (Regional Final) over No. 5 Trenton, 5-2 and 5-1 (Quarterfinal) over No. 6 Novi, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 7 Brighton, 5-1 over Division 1 No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 3-1 over Division 1 No. 9 Plymouth, 5-2 over Division 1 No. 12 Traverse City West, 4-1 over Division 1 No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit. 
Players to watch: Andrew Rozenbaum, senior goaltender (1.74 goals-against average, .918 save %); Alex DeFlorio, senior forward (14 goals, 10 assists); Mick Sinclair, senior forward (9 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: Stevenson made a big splash in 2013 with the first MHSAA title in Livonia’s illustrious hockey history, but fell to eventual champion Trenton during last season’s Regional. The Spartans have beaten most of the state’s best on the way back to the Semifinals, despite finishing third in the loaded KLAA Central. Junior Ben Kowalske and senior Vince Glenn both have scored 12 goals to give the second and third lines some added punch, and Rozenbaum made the all-state first team in 2014.

Division 3

23-3-4, No. 1.
Championship history: 16 MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.  
Coach: Andy Weidenbach, 22nd season (438-149-38).
League finish: First in MIHL North.  
Best wins: 9-4 over No. 4 Wyandotte Roosevelt in the Quarterfinal, 4-0 over No. 5 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 5-2 over No. 7 Flint Powers Catholic, 4-1 over No. 6 Detroit Country Day in the Regional Final, 5-4 over Division 1 No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 4-2 over Division 2 Birmingham Brother Rice, 2-1 over Division 2 No. 2 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: Spencer Applebaum, senior goaltender (1.77 goals-against average, .918 save %); Cooper Stahl, senior defenseman (7 goals, 19 assists); Jack Blumberg, senior defenseman (15 goals, 11 assists); Austin Alger, senior forward (24 goals, 31 assists).
Outlook: After being stunned in the Quarterfinal last season by eventual champion Farmington, the Cranes are back at Finals weekend and have beaten the favorites in both Divisions 1 and 2. The slate of teams Cranbrook Kingswood has defeated as a whole is simply incredible; the Cranes also own wins over Division 1 No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Division 2 No. 5 Trenton (twice). Applebaum, Blumberg and Stahl all made the all-state first team last season and lead the defensive effort, while Alger also made the first team and centers the top line.  

20-8, No. 7.
Championship history: Seven MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2010).
Coach: Travis Perry, ninth season (184-58-12).
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley Association.
Best wins: 3-2 OT over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in the Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 6 Detroit Country Day, 3-0 over No. 12 Chelsea, 5-1 over Division 1 No. 15 Farmington.
Players to watch: Mike Forman, senior forward (30 goals, 33 assists); Jeff Polakowski, senior forward (16 goals, 37 assists); Austin Kane, senior goaltender (2.09 goals-against average, .906 save %, seven shutouts).
Outlook: Powers has won seven straight Regional titles under Perry and finished MHSAA runner-up in both 2010 and 2008 under his leadership. The Chargers have caught fire over their last five games; in addition to upsetting Forest Hills Central in the Quarterfinal, they’ve outscored their last five opponents by a combined 38-4.

23-4-2, No. 3.
Championship history: Class B-C-D champion 1982, three runner-up finishes.
Coach: Corey Markham, 16th season (253-151-7).
League finish: First in Great Lakes Conference.
Best wins: 4-1 over No. 15 Sault Ste. Marie in the Quarterfinal, 4-3 over No. 8 Hancock, 6-3 and 4-0 over Division 2 No. 6 Escanaba, 5-0 over Division 2 No. 8 Marquette, 7-2 over Division 1 No. 15 Farmington.
Players to watch: Tristan Foltz, senior defenseman (4 goals, 15 assists); Jon Bostwick, senior forward (15 goals, 23 assists); Reid Pietila, junior forward (26 goals, 22 assists); Cale Markham, senior forward (19 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: Houghton is 93-19-2 over the last four seasons with four league and Regional titles and was Division 3 runner-up in 2012. The Gremlins are tested both against most of the best of the Upper Peninsula and also against some of the elite from downstate (lost 2-1 OT to Brighton and 4-2 to Trenton, and tied Traverse City Central). Junior Wyatt Liston and senior Spencer Donnelly both add 12 goals from the second line to pump up the offense, and Foltz earned an all-state honorable mention last winter.

24-5, No. 10.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Coach: Al Taurence, fifth season (80-54).
League finish: First in Huron League Division 3.
Best wins: 4-3 over Okemos in the Quarterfinal, 1-0 over No. 12 Chelsea, 2-0 over No. 14 Dearborn Divine Child.
Players to watch: John Clemente, junior forward (22 goals 31 assists); Dalton Sutherland, senior forward (37 goals, 44 assists), Jacob St. Andre, senior forward (25 goals, 47 assists).
Outlook: Riverview came back from a 3-0 deficit to Okemos on Tuesday to make its second MHSAA Semifinal in three seasons and continue a 12-game winning streak. Sutherland, Clemente and St. Andre man the top line, but senior Noah Vowell has added 18 goals centering the second line, and senior goaltender Thomas Proudlock has a .941 save percentage and six shutouts.  

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central goalie Spencer Wright prepares to stop a shot by Brighton during last season’s Division 1 Final; he’s expected to be in net again this weekend for the Shamrocks. 

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.)