Title Time Differs Among Hockey States

July 12, 2019

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

Next season’s three-week playoff format for the MHSAA Ice Hockey Tournament will fall more closely in line with similar postseasons for state associations around the country which sponsor the sport.

According to 2017-18 National Federation of State High School Associations participation statistics, 18 states sponsor boys ice hockey.

Michigan ranked third in number of schools involved with 240, behind Minnesota (282) and Massachusetts (278). In terms of overall participants, the MHSAA was fourth with 3,353, trailing Massachusetts (7,377), Minnesota (5,751) and New Jersey (3,492) and just ahead of New York (3,088). Wisconsin and Ohio boast more than 2,000 participants annually.

So, how do the tournaments compare among those states similar to Michigan? Most use longer tournament calendars than the two-week span previously employed by the MHSAA.

The timeframe for the season just past in the Minnesota tournament had most play beginning Feb. 21 and ending the same day as the MHSAA Finals, March 9. Some teams started on Feb. 19. The MHSAA dropped the puck for its first games on Monday, Feb. 25. It should be noted that Minnesota crowns just two champions annually, compared to the MHSAA’s three divisions.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin and Ohio, just one school takes the statewide title each year, so it stands to reason that the postseason is spread out even further. Both states began the 2019 playoffs on Monday, Feb. 11.

Wisconsin’s tourney culminated on March 2 at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Madison as teams played the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Final over three consecutive days.

Ohio, meanwhile, took a week-long break following District Finals on March 1 or 2, then played the Semifinals and Final at Nationwide Arena in Columbus during March 8-9. This is similar to the rest period the MHSAA will enjoy moving forward from its Quarterfinals to the Semifinals and Finals in 2020.

Just as the season was reaching its pinnacle in Wisconsin, the postseason title chase was merely beginning in Massachusetts, where this year it opened Feb. 25.

Massachusetts is tied for the most divisions of the states studied here with four, but the top division is created with a different twist.

“The top division is often called the ‘Super 8’ or 1A. This tournament is set up differently than the other divisions,” said Massachusetts Ice Hockey Coaches Association President Dan Connolly. “The Super 8 is a double-elimination tournament. The seedlings for this tournament are done by power seeding via a committee using strength of schedule, record, team vs. teams under consideration and win-loss record down the stretch.”

Connolly said just 10 teams are chosen for the Super 8, and seed Nos. 7 through 10 must face off in a play-in game to join the top six. The two teams losing the play-in game return to their respective pre-assigned state divisions and can still win those tournaments. Such was the case in 2019, when Duxbury High lost in its bid to join the Super 8 field, but then won the Division 1 Final.

Like Michigan, those three divisions are based on enrollment, but unlike Michigan, the divisions are seeded based on winning percentage.

The Finals take place on a Sunday at the TD Garden in Boston, a celebration of hockey that features six games (four boys and two girls finals). This year’s event took place March 17, and nearly went into March 18. The Division 1 Final began at 9:59 p.m. as the previous contest, the Super 8 Final, went to four overtimes.

As mentioned, Minnesota’s tournament ended the same day as the MHSAA’s in 2019, and featured one overtime game among its two Finals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul as Edina took the top class over Eden Prairie, 3-2.

The Sunday finales in Boston might seem foreign to followers of MHSAA tournaments, but New York also features a Sunday as the stage for its two state Finals, following Semifinals on Saturday. This year’s playoffs went from Feb. 20-March 10, culminating at the Harborcenter in Buffalo.

Neighboring New Jersey comes closest in length to the old MHSAA format with four divisions – three public and one non-public – taking just 14 days to determine winners at the Prudential Center in Newark. The 2019 titles were determined on Monday, March 4, with Semifinals the Wednesday prior.

PHOTO: Duxbury celebrated Massachusetts’ Division 1 championship this past season after missing out on making the “Super 8” bracket.

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.)