'Team 43' Delivers 1st Livonia Title

March 9, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

PLYMOUTH — Livonia is one of the great hockey communities in Michigan, but had never been home to an MHSAA Finals champion.

Until now.

Livonia Stevenson brought a championship to the birthplace of former NHL star Mike Modano, beating Hartland 5-4 in the Division 2 title game Saturday at Compuware Arena.

Prior to this weekend, Livonia's three hockey-playing schools had combined for only eight regional championships during the 39-year history of the MHSAA tournament and just one semifinal appearance (Stevenson in 1987). It doesn't help that the Livonia schools often encounter some of the state's perennial powerhouses early in the postseason. Stevenson has been eliminated 10 times by Detroit Catholic Central and five times by Trenton in regional play.

"I couldn't be happier for the Stevenson administration, the alumni and the whole Livonia community," fifth-year Stevenson coach David Mitchell said. "We're in the 43rd year of high school hockey in Livonia.
We're the 43rd team in Stevenson history. This is the first chance a Livonia school has had to play in a state final. To get it done, this is not just for Stevenson, but for all of Livonia high school hockey. We've had some great teams and some great kids go through our program. To do it is very special. Hopefully, the whole community can enjoy this."

To win its first championship, Stevenson denied Hartland the same opportunity. The Eagles had won 11 regional titles before this season, reaching the semifinals only twice until playing in their first final on Saturday.

Hartland coach Rick Gadwa praised captains Nick Pleshakov, Justin Bailey and Ned O'Boyle for laying the foundation for Hartland's first march to the championship game.

"These three guys changed Hartland hockey," Gadwa said. "It was their leadership on and off the ice. We put Hartland on the map. That's something that hopefully stays."

Junior Dominic Lutz was the star in Stevenson's historic season, scoring 42 goals with 32 assists in 31 games to easily lead the Spartans in scoring. It was fitting that the 6-foot, 185-pound forward scored the team's biggest goals in the championship game, popping in two in a 2:37 span of the second period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 advantage. Stevenson never surrendered the lead.

"We've been preaching Team 43," Lutz said. "It's just great to see it all come together in the end. We've got it. It's unbelievable. We're like a family. This is the closest team I've ever played on."

Stevenson senior Travis Harvey, who scored two goals and had two assists in the semifinal on Friday, opened the scoring off a faceoff win at 4:55 of the first period. Hartland junior Austin Flores tied it off a
feed from Chris McRae at 6:26 of the first.

Despite being outplayed in the first period, Hartland found itself on top by a 2-1 count when McRae scored just 54 seconds into the second period.

The pace picked up considerably after that, as the teams combined for five goals during an 8:18 span. Stevenson took the lead for good on two goals by Lutz at 4:30 and 7:07 and Harvey's second goal of the game at

O'Boyle brought Hartland within 4-3 at the 9:56 mark, only to have Stevenson regain a two-goal advantage at 12:48 on a goal by Ray Chartier.

"We would rather not play that way," Mitchell said. "We'd rather play a little more defensive and shut things down. These guys, when they see opportunities, they tend to go. We saw a few opportunities and
took some. Give Hartland credit. We were starting to look for goals and they caught us and they turned around and buried some of their own. They played an outstanding game."

"It was just go, go, go," O'Boyle said. "It was incredible emotionally."

Hartland didn't take long to trim the lead once the puck dropped in the third period, making it a 5-4 game on a goal by McRae at the 14-second mark.

The Eagles had eight more shots on net the rest of the game, but couldn't get another puck past Stevenson goalie Connor Humitz. Hartland called timeout with 2:21 left and pulled goalie Nick Wineka in the final minute, but couldn't generate a shot in that time against an aggressive Stevenson forecheck.

"We just want to keep it deep in their zone as much as we can," Lutz said. "Just gain the red line, get it deep and forecheck. We didn't want anything in our zone. We wanted everything down there, just keep
all the pressure off Connor. It seemed like it worked out."

Stevenson finished with a 23-7-1 record, while Hartland ended 19-9-2.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Livonia Stevenson players celebrate a goal during Saturday's Division 2 Final in front of their fan section at Compuware Arena. (Middle) Hartland goaltender Nick Wineka makes one of his 35 saves Saturday. (Photos by 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.

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 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.)