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. 

Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings

By Tom Lang
Special for

May 26, 2023

When the Michigan seasons shift from winter to spring, some high school golf teams are a little more eager than others for the hockey season to officially end.

This is especially true for the school golf programs in Brighton, Hartland and Muskegon Mona Shores – examples of boys teams that love having hockey players transition from the indoor frozen ice to play golf outdoors on the lush green grass.

“I would take a golf team full of hockey players any day,” said Hartland golf coach Nathan Oake. “I love them.”

We can tell, because his program is full of them.

Hartland and Brighton each have eight hockey players on their 16-golfer varsity and JV rosters.

Mona Shores has three hockey players this year, but usually has more. In 2023 it’s Oliver MacDonald (all-state honorable mention in hockey), Nathan McNarland and Nicholas Taylor, who was voted Division 1 all-state golf last spring, then leading his team to fifth place at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.

Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. Brighton golfer Winston Lerch was also Division 1 all-state last year in golf and an assistant captain on the hockey team this winter that finished Division 1 runner-up to Detroit Catholic Central. Here in 2023, he shot a 65 to open the season at Oakland University for medalist and has committed to Grand Valley State for golf with his 72-stroke average.

Joining Lerch in the Bulldogs boys golf program are hockey players like Levi Pennala, winner of hockey’s Wall Award sponsored by State Champs as the top high school goalie. Pennala – who recently shot 72 at the Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship tournament, his career low for high school golf – finished in the top 30 last year at the LPD1 Final. Then early this spring when he was away at a high-level junior hockey tournament, freshman hockey player Adam Forcier stepped in and shot a school record 18-hole round for a freshman at 73. Jacob Daavetilla also works into the starting lineup at times.

Forcier tied the record of Davis Codd – who, as a pro hockey player on leave from the Saginaw Spirit OHL hockey team when COVID-19 shut down the league, won the LPD1 Final in 2021 for Brighton.

Brighton golf coach Jimmy Dewling said Codd was one of the earliest to prove to others you can play both hockey and golf and excel. In fact, that June in 2021, Codd went to an NHL scouting camp in Pennsylvania before the Golf Finals, drove overnight back to Forest Akers to play the two championship rounds, won the title, then immediately returned to Pennsylvania to resume the hockey camp.

“On our team, we believe, and TBone (Codd) was a perfect example of it, if there’s any time you have the opportunity to be competitive, it is going to make you a more well-rounded competitor and therefore better at your particular sport,” Dewling said.

“We like hockey players. In the winter, they have to think to where the puck is going, be smart enough to react, and understand how that emotion is going to carry over from one play to the next. When it’s your shift you have to forget about the last shift, or take something from the last shift and put it into the next shift, to have consistent play.

“It’s the same on the golf course,” Dewling continued. “It’s one hole to the next, one shot at a time, being tough, and that’s only going to come from competition reps. We love the athletic ability more so than anything; the toughness and competitiveness all year.”

In addition to Lerch and Pennala starting on varsity golf, they are joined by traditional golfers Matt Doyle, Riley Morton and Andrew Daily, who is committed to Wayne State and finished LPD1 runner-up last spring.

Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. Going into the 2023 golf postseason, Brighton is ranked No. 2 in Division 1. The Bulldogs have won the Next Tee Invite at Oakland Hills, the North Star Invite at Plum Hollow and the KLAA Conference Championship – earning Brighton’s first conference title since 2007. The Bulldogs also were runners-up at The Meadows Invite at Grand Valley State University. The team is averaging 297 for 18 holes.

Oake admitted this is a rebuilding year for Hartland’s golf program. The varsity lineup has only two returning players with varsity golf experience – Keller King and Brady Betteley.

“So, we opted to keep a group of tough competitors with a solid combination of speed and strength – and who are not concerned about the cold conditions that we play in,” Oake quipped.

Five others rotate into the Eagles’ golf starting lineup with King and Betteley: Isaac Frantti is an all-state hockey defensemen playing his first season of golf but shot a career-low 79 at American Dunes recently. He just signed a United State Premier Hockey League tender to play in Connecticut next year. Ian Kastamo scored the winning goal in Hartland’s Division 2 hockey championship victory in 2022, and LJ Sabala is a varsity hockey player as well.

Then there are two non-hockey freshmen getting shots to start occasionally – Dallas Korponic, who finished third at his weight at the Individual Wrestling Finals, and Michael Maurin. Five more sophomores and juniors are hockey players on the JV golf team.

We hope to be competitive with (Brighton) again soon, but they have the talent to make a big splash this year,” Oake said. “I also play golf at the same club as many Brighton players, so I see them quite a bit and we are friendly. When the Brighton team walked by our team on a recent Monday and all said hello to me and our guys, one of my players looked at me and said that this was the biggest difference between hockey and golf. In hockey, the small talk would be (traded) for the ice, and it would not be very nice out there.

“Either way, I believe both sports are filled with fierce competitors and respect, but when the game is over a handshake and a golf hat tip are offered to the victor.”

This story was updated and reposted with permission of

PHOTOS (Top) Brighton takes a team photo after finishing third at last season’s LPD1 Final, and all five golfers are back this season including hockey players Levi Pennala (second from left) and Winston Lerch (second from right.) (Middle) Hartland’s Ian Kastamo (16) takes a faceoff against Brighton this winter. (Below) Mona Shores’ Nicholas Taylor fires an iron shot. (Photos courtesy of High School Sports Scene, Sapshots Photography and Mona Shores’ athletic department, respectively.)