Shamrocks Complete Long-Awaited Repeat Run
By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com
March 27, 2021
PLYMOUTH – It took two years, but Detroit Catholic Central finally was able to conclude its repeat hockey championship run Saturday.
The Shamrocks (18-1) did so by beating first-time finalist Rockford 5-1 at USA Hockey Arena.
"This was truly a program win," said coach Brandon Kaleniecki, who led DCC to a title for the third time in his six years as Shamrocks coach. "We found a way through."
He wasn't just blowing smoke. The Catholic Central varsity was sidelined last week due to the coronavirus, but the junior varsity stepped up to the challenge beating Berkley and Troy before the varsity was cleared to return for the Quarterfinal.
The Shamrocks also swallowed the bitterness of the sudden end of last season due to the virus.
"We wanted to win it for last year's seniors," co-captain Brenden Cwiek said.
"I was on the team that won in 2019, and it was the most fun team I ever played on in hockey," co-captain Nick Borchardt said. "This year is like the end of the perfect story."
The ending got off to a good start, with DCC scoring twice on special teams
Brennan Sass got the scoring started with a power-play goal at the 7:43 mark. A little over a minute and a half later, William Shields stole a puck during a Rockford power play and scored a shorthanded goal to make it 2-0.
The Shamrocks scored two more in the second period, by Bret Beale and Ryan Wartuck to make it 4-0. Rockford's Carson Korte scored early in the third period to get the Rams back in range, but Kaden Hemme scored late in the third to put it away.
"I think we got a little too comfortable," Kaleniecki said of Korte's goal. "It was a good reminder of how we need to play.”
Rockford (15-6-1) became only the third school from the west side of the Lower Peninsula to reach the Division 1 Final, following Grandville (2015) and East Kentwood (2005).
"They're deep," Rockford coach C.J Pobur said. "There's not many public schools, if any, that can go four lines deep. We thought that 5-on-5 our group was ready to go, but their execution on special teams was exceptional tonight."
The Rams' run to Plymouth was fueled in part by a core of teammates who grew up playing together. Some of the players have been together nearly a decade. That cohesion, along with the addition of Korte and Owen DeVries this year from travel hockey, lifted Rockford to the best finish in school history.
Rockford and Division 2 runner-up Byron Center represented the west side of the state.
"I think it's a great area,” said Pobur, who like Kaleniecki is a Detroit Catholic Central graduate. "I think there's great hockey over there, but it's just not as big. You don't have as many big players. You might have two or three strong programs (on the west side), but they have 10 or 15 on the east side."
While they didn't get the result they hoped for, the Rams went home with heads held high.
"It wasn't a great result," DeVries said. " I think everyone in our locker room can say we gave it (our) all, and that's really all we ask for."
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Catholic Central celebrates its Division 1 championship Saturday at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) DCC's Bret Beale (28) and Rockford's Owen DeVries work for possession. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
Hockey Players Transferring Winter Puck Skills to Spring Golf Swings
By Tom Lang
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
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.
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 MIGolfJournal.com.
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.)