Seniors Earn Spot in Trenton Title History

March 8, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

PLYMOUTH – Trenton senior Andrew Sawyer remembers attending every Trojans home hockey game growing up. He said his parents didn’t miss one for 15 years.

And he and the rest of Trenton’s seniors had contributed their share of memorable moments to one of the most storied programs in MHSAA history – including helping longtime coach Michael Turner become the state’s winningest at the high school level a few weeks ago.

But until Saturday, they had never been part of an MHSAA Finals championship.

Sawyer and six of his classmates closed their careers by helping Trenton to an 8-3 victory over Hartland in the Division 2 Final at Compuware Arena – and in doing so, became the 14th Trojans team to win the highest title and first since 2010.

“I grew up every day of my childhood, … looked up to every single player,” Sawyer said. “It feels amazing to finally be one of the guys I was looking up to at one point in my life.”

Turner, who upped his career record to 628-126-52 over 28 seasons, took his team in front of Trenton’s championship banners earlier this week to give them one last reminder of Saturday’s opportunity.

The Trojans (26-4-1) also received messages from past players wishing them luck with hopes they might enjoy what those past champions once experienced. Trenton trailed only Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (16) in all-time hockey titles.

“It’s my best moment ever in hockey. It will be my best memory no matter what happens, whether I go on or whatever I do,” senior goaltender Nick Ramirez said. “It was amazing. And it was great to celebrate with my teammates.”

Trenton opened the weekend with a 7-0 Semifinal win over Warren DeLaSalle, then watched as Hartland – last season’s Division 2 runner-up as well – got on the board first in the Final with a goal 4:17 into the game.

But if the Trojans were worried at all, that was the last time during the 2013-14 season.

Trenton scored the next six goals, with three from senior Justin Dunn and two within 12 seconds from senior Mitchell Galea to start the third period. Turner preached to his team all tournament to attack the goal, and Saturday the Trojans took 52 shots as Hartland goalie Nick Wineka made 42 saves, fourth most in MHSAA Finals history.

The Eagles finished 20-10-1 after giving coach Rick Gadwa his third Regional title in three seasons leading the program. They fell to Trenton 5-3 earlier as part of a 1-8 skid to finish the regular season. But they battled back with four one-goal wins during the MHSAA tournament.

Wineka was one of six seniors who were part of all three Regional title teams. They led a lineup that rebuilt this winter with a young defensive corps, and leave having helped build Hartland into an elite program.

“They pulled off some things this year that flashed through my head, and I can’t believe it,” Gadwa said. “To come back this year, you’ve got high hopes, you’ve got a target on your back, and we didn’t have all that we’ve had. … Unbelievable.”

Dunn – whose older brother Cory starred for Turner and dad had him as a teacher – also had two assists for Trenton. Galea added an assist on Dunn’s first goal, and junior Philip Pugliese had one of each. 

Trenton opened this season 3-3 before winning its next two games by a combined score of 22-2. Turner watched Ramirez raise his game and knew he could have another contender – a point reinforced when the Trojans finished the regular season on a 9-1 run after going 5-5 over the same stretch a year ago.

Six games later, they stamped their place in Trenton hockey history. 

“It’s a tradition. It’s a family atmosphere down here,” Turner said. “They can now take their mark. This is one of 14, and they certainly are going to have that memory for a long, long time.”

Click for a complete box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Trenton celebrates an 8-3 win and its 14th MHSAA championship. (Middle) Trenton's Nickolas Bondy (10) looks to move the puck around Hartland senior Austin Flores (77).

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Hartland’s first goal by Josh Ruthig. (2) Trenton’s Justin Dunn completes his hat trick with 1 second left in the second period. (3) Mitchell Galea of Trenton completes his hat trick – all three goals came in the third period.

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.)