Preview: Something Old, Plenty New

March 10, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It's easy to look at the 12 teams playing at this weekend's MHSAA Hockey Finals at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth and immediately recognize the regulars. 

But look again, and only five are making return trips from a year ago. The Division 2 championship game is guaranteed to include a first-time finalist. 

The pairings are as follows:

Division 2 – Thursday
Hartland vs. Livonia Stevenson, 5 p.m. 
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern vs. Romeo, 7:30 p.m.

Division 3 - Friday
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood vs. Hancock, 11 a.m.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. Chelsea, 1:30 p.m.

Division 1 – Friday
Detroit U-D Jesuit vs. Detroit Catholic Central, 5 p.m. 
Brighton 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. Player statistics below are through the Regional round unless noted and were submitted by participating schools.

Division 1

22-8, No. 2
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), one runner-up finish.  
Coach: Paul Moggach, 21st season (389-137-42)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central.
Best wins: 4-1 over No.11 East Kentwood in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Regional Final, 7-3 and 3-1 (Pre-Regional) over No. 8 Howell, 5-2 over No. 13 Jackson in Pre-Regional, 6-4 over No. 9 Utica Eisenhower, 4-0 over No. 7 Rochester United, 5-0 over No. 3 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 6-3 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson.
Players to watch: Lee Pietila, sr. F (19 goals, 26 assists); Jay Keranen, sr. D (8 goals, 13 assists); Jake Crespi, jr. F (16 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: Brighton is back in the Semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons and after winning Division 1 in 2012 and 2013 and finishing runner-up in 2014. The Bulldogs have 15 wins – including their last seven – over ranked opponents. Pietila and Keranen were all-state first-team selections in 2015. Junior goalie Logan Neaton gives up only 1.95 goals per game and has four shutouts, and five players have at least 10 goals – with nine notching at least 10 assists. 

23-7, No. 1
Championship history: 12 MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), four runner-up finishes.
Coach: Brandon Kaleniecki, first season (23-7)
League finish: First in Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League North. 
Best wins: 4-1 over No. 5 Northville in Pre-Regional, 3-0 over No. 2 Brighton, 4-1 and 4-1 over No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 5-0 over No. 7 Rochester, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 3-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson
Players to watch: Joseph Mancinelli, sr. F (19 goals, 14 assists); Kyle Mulka, sr. F (8 goals, 19 assists); Alec Calvaruso, sr. G (1.60 GAA, 6 shutouts)
Outlook: The Shamrocks are back on a run with two straight Division 1 titles and three straight appearances in the championship game. This season’s slate of wins also includes a pair over Division 2 No. 6 Trenton, another over Division 2 No. 7 Grosse Pointe South and a combined four over Division 3 top-10 teams Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Warren DeLaSalle. There are 15 seniors and lots of balance; senior J.P. Lafferty was second on the team with 11 goals (and tied for second with 18 assists), but only he and Mancinelli had scored more than 10 goals after 27 games.

16-7-5, No. 3
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Rick Bennetts, 21st season (271-237-38).
League finish: First in the MIHL South. 
Best wins: 
6-2 over No. 9 Utica Eisenhower in Quarterfinal, 5-1 over No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-2 over No. 5 Northville, 2-1 over No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 6 Trenton.
Players to watch: Sam Knoblauch, sr. F (30 goals, 25 assists); Tommy Apap, sr. F (14 goals, 29 assists); Nick Gadowski, sr. F (15 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: Jesuit will play in its fourth straight Quarterfinal and drew Detroit Catholic Central, which it beat earlier this winter. Knoblauch is back as an offensive force, and eight players had at least 13 assists through last week led by junior defenseman Lorenzo D’Agostini’s 36. The Cubs also have three wins over Division 3 No. 7 Warren DeLaSalle and another over No. 15 Detroit Country Day.

23-5-1, No. 6
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2015. 
Coach: Joel Breazeale, sixth season (109-51-6).
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier II.  
Best wins: 5-2 (Quarterfinal) and 5-4 over No. 10 Rockford, 4-2 over No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, 4-1 over No. 15 Lake Orion, 5-0, 9-1 and 5-1 (Regional Final) over No. 14 Holland West Ottawa; 3-1 over No. 7 Rochester.
Players to watch: Thomas Breazeale, sr. D (6 goals, 21 assists); Noah Weigle, sr. F (26 goals, 23 assists); Jacob Baum, sr. F (15 goals, 24 assists).
Outlook: Make that five Regional titles in coach Joel Breazeale’s six seasons, and one more win will give the team its most during his tenure. Grandville is 9-0-1 over its last 10 games and also owns wins over Division 2 top-15 teams Plymouth, Salem and Grand Rapids Northern/Eastern and a pair of wins over Division 3 No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian. Thomas Breazeale has earned all-state recognition the last two seasons. Weigle and Baum are joined on the top line by another potent scorer in wing Eric Neitzel (10 goals and 12 assists).  

Division 2

18-11-1, No. 15
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Tom Bissett, fifth season (70-60-9)
League finish: Third in O-K Tier II.
Best wins: 2-1 (3 OT) over No. 5 Marquette in Quarterfinal, 6-2 over Division 1 No. 11 East Kentwood, 6-2 over Division 1 No. 9 Utica Eisenhower, 1-0 over Division 1 No. 6 Grandville.
Players to watch: Chase Lebster, sr. F (28 goals, 18 assists); Nathan Nickelson, soph. F (20 goals, 9 assists); Wyatt Radakovitz, jr. F (19 goals, 21 assists).
Outlook: After a 4-7 start, Northern/Eastern has stormed back to claim its first Regional title since 2012 – and after the team also finished only 9-18 a year ago. Northern/Eastern won its three Pre-Regional/Regional games by a combined 15-3 but has won its last two games by a goal apiece as Lebster potted the game-winner against Marquette in triple overtime Tuesday. Radakovitz earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is second on the team in assists to sophomore center Ian Famulak, who had 28 entering the week.

26-2-1, No. 2
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2013 and 2014. 
Coach: Rick Gadwa, fifth season (98-40-8)
League finish: First in KLAA West, Lakes and overall.
Best wins: 5-4 (OT in Quarterfinal) and 3-1 over No. 1 Birmingham Brother Rice, 4-2 over No. 10 Plymouth, 4-0 over No. 3 Livonia Stevenson, 5-2 over No. 6 Trenton, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 2 Brighton, 10-4 over Division 1 No. 8 Howell, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Northville, 5-3 over Division 3 No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Players to watch: Luke Cowan, sr. F (35 goals, 43 assists); Josh Albring, soph. F (31 goals, 44 assists); Zach Sexton, jr. D (1 goal, 7 assists).
Outlook: Hartland has taken on and beaten most of the best. The Eagles fell to Howell but came back with a 10-4 win in a rematch, and the only other loss was to Division 3 No. 2 Hancock during a run that included wins over Division 3 No. 6 Houghton and No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie (the tie came against No. 4 Romeo). Hartland has given up one or fewer goals 12 times this winter and has a returning all-state defenseman in Sexton – plus two more players who have added at least 10 goals to the offense.

26-2-1, No. 4
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Nick Badder, second season (49-6-2)
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Best wins: 7-3 over No. 10 Plymouth, 5-3 over No. 11 Escanaba, 6-2 over No. 15 Forest Hills Northern/Eastern, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 7 Rochester United, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 9 Utica Eisenhower.
Players to watch: Logan Jenuwine, sr. F (41 goals, 42 assists); Nick Blankenburg, sr. F (33 goals, 29 assists); Brett Lanski, jr. F (17 goals, 28 assists).
Outlook: Romeo is making its first trip to the Semifinals after winning its second straight Regional title while led offensively by a first-team all-stater in Jenuwine and a second-teamer in Blankenburg. The Bulldogs also own wins over Division 3 No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie and No. 15 Detroit Country Day, and lost only to Division 2 No. 14 Midland Dow and Division 1 No. 9 Utica Eisenhower. Romeo has scored seven or more goals in 11 games; six players have at least 12 goals and eight have at least 10 assists this season.

22-6-1, No. 3
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2013.
Coach: David Mitchell, eighth season (152-52-15). 
League finish: First in KLAA Central and Kensington.
Best wins:  2-1 over No. 6 Trenton in Quarterfinal, 4-1 and 2-1 (Regional Final) over No. 8 Salem, 9-2, 3-2 and 6-1 (Pre-Regional) over No. 9 Livonia Churchill, 5-3 and 9-1 over No. 13 Livonia Franklin, 4-1 over No. 10 Plymouth, 3-0 and 3-1 over Division 1 No. 7 Rochester, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Howell, 4-2 over Division 1 No. 5 Northville.
Players to watch: Ben Kowalske, sr. F (11 goals, 20 assists); Alec Allen, sr. D (3 goals, 17 assists); Cullen Barber, sr. G (1.76 GAA, 3 shutouts).
Outlook: Stevenson is back at the Semifinals for the third time in four seasons and after navigating another loaded schedule. The losses were nearly as impressive as the wins – defeats to Brother Rice, Cranbrook Kingswood, Brighton, Detroit Catholic Central, Hartland and Indiana power Culver Academy should have the Spartans ready for anything this weekend. Allen and Barber are returning all-state first-team selections and Kowalske earned honorable mention last season. He’s surrounded on the top line by seniors Joe Alcantara (19 goals, 17 assists) and Shane Leonard (15 goals, 19 assists), two of five players with at least 10 goals and seven with at least 10 assists.

Division 3

20-9-1, No. 3
Championship history: 17 MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), two runner-up finishes.  
Coach: Andy Weidenbach, 23rd season (459-158-39).
League finish: Third in MIHL North.  
Best wins: 3-2 over No. 4 Calumet, 3-0 and 8-3 (Regional Final) over No. 7 Warren DeLaSalle, 2-1 over No. 15 Detroit County Day in Quarterfinal, 4-3 and 5-4 over Division 1 No. 4 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 4-3 and 5-3 over Division 1 No. 3 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 4-3 over Division 1 No. 7 Rochester United, 5-4 over Division 2 No. 8 Salem, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 10 Plymouth, 6-1 over Division 2 No. 7 Grosse Pointe South.
Players to watch: C.J. Regula, sr. F (21 goals, 22 assists); Alex Lycett, jr. F (14 goals, 22 assists). Joe Dumas, jr. F (12 goals, 18 assists).
Outlook: Cranbrook Kingswood is seeking its third championship in four seasons and again has prepped by facing many of the best from all three divisions. The Cranes have gotten a significant boost from a seven-member sophomore class that includes starting right win Case Kantgias and starting defenseman Alec Regula. Seven players have at least 10 goals and nine had 11 or more assists through 28 games.

24-3-2, No. 9
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Coach: Don Wright, 16th season (267-130-32)
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Best wins: 2-1 over Gibraltar Carlson in Quarterfinal, 4-0 over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard in Regional Final, 5-0 over No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Derek Schaedig, sr. G (1.36 GAA, 8 shutouts); Sean Cox, sr. F (18 goals, 30 assists); Alec Daman, sr. F (35 goals, 26 assists).
Outlook: Chelsea won its fourth Regional title in seven seasons but first since 2013, and ninth straight league championship. The 6-foot-4 Schaedig made the all-state second team last season and remains tough to beat in net. The Bulldogs also have their share of scorers – Cox and Daman are joined on the top line by senior Jack Miller (15 goals, 24 assists) and total five players have at least 12 goals and seven have at least 14 assists.

26-3-1, No. 5. 
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2011, two runner-up finishes. 
Coach: Mike Slobodnik, sixth season (118-47-9)
League finish: First in O-K Tier I. 
Best wins: 6-1 over No. 1 Saginaw Heritage in Quarterfinal, 3-2 over No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie, 3-1 over No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian, 5-3 over Division 1 No. 6 Grandville, 2-0 over Division 1 No. 15 Lake Orion, 7-2 and 6-1 over Division 1 No. 11 East Kentwood, 4-3 and 8-1 over Division 1 No. 10 Rockford, 5-4 over Division 2 No. 14 Midland Dow, 4-2 over Division 2 No. 15 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern.
Players to watch: Campbell Balk, sr. F (35 goals, 29 assists); Brian Pattison, sr. F (13 goals, 30 assists); Riley Richards, sr. D (6 goals, 27 assists).
Outlook: GRCC showed it more than belonged in beating top-ranked Heritage on Tuesday, but also has dominated Grand Rapids-area competition all season – its only losses were to East Grand Rapids, Division 1 top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central and Division 2 No. 3 Livonia Stevenson. The top two lines are loaded with scorers. Balk and Pattison are joined on the top line by senior wing Chase Madden (11 goals, 14 assists), while senior Josh Stella (19 goals, 18 assists) centers junior Will Kortz (14/16) and sophomore Jack Pendery (11/16) on the second line. Junior goalie Jacob McClelland is giving up only 1.66 goals per game.

23-6, No. 2 
Championship history: Class B-C-D champion 1999, two runner-up finishes. 
Coach: Dan Rouleau, 12th season (205-106-9)
League finish: First in Great Lakes Conference. 
Best wins: 5-2 over No. 11 Sault Ste. Marie in Quarterfinal, 4-1 (Regional Final), 1-0, and 6-2 over No. 4 Houghton, 3-2 and 6-3 over No. 4 Calumet, 3-1 over Division 1 No. 2 Brighton, 5-3 over Division 2 No. 2 Hartland, 3-2 over Division 2 No. 10 Plymouth, 5-2 and 3-2 over Division 2 No. 11 Escanaba.
Players to watch: Teddy Randell, soph. F (24 goals, 33 assists); Alex Nordstrom, fr. F (29 goals, 25 assists); Dawson Kero, soph. G (1.19 GAA, 4 shutouts).
Outlook: Hancock has played and beaten some of the best in all three divisions on the way to its first Semifinals since 2006 and first 20-win season since 2009. Kero earned all-state honorable mention in goal last season and senior defensemen Dylan Paavola and Jack Fenton earned all-state recognition in front of him. The Bulldogs have won 18 over their last 20 games and can fill up the net – senior Cory Tourtillott added 19 goals and 18 assists through 27 games, and eight players had at least 12 assists.

PHOTO: Livonia Stevenson faced Escanaba in last season's Semifinal and will return to USA Hockey Arena this weekend. 

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.)