Unbeatable D Nets Brighton D1 Repeat

March 9, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

PLYMOUTH — James Milletics had the toughest seat in the house last season during Brighton's march to the MHSAA Division 1 hockey title.

After being the Bulldogs' starting goaltender as a freshman most of the winter, Milletics sat the bench while senior Christian Michalik backstopped the championship run.

"He didn't lose the position," Brighton coach Paul Moggach explained. "We just started a senior. He was a freshman. We just took the pressure off so he would get the experience he did watching this."

Milletics didn't complain, returning this season to provide rock-solid netminding for Brighton, which repeated as Division 1 champion with a 2-1 victory over Detroit Catholic Central on Saturday at Compuware Arena.

Milletics stopped 37 of 38 shots, including a potential game-tying backhander by Michael Babcock from close range with 6.8 seconds left in the game. The Bulldogs were outshot 38-16 after getting outshot 28-19 in a 4-1 semifinal victory over Detroit U-D Jesuit the previous night.

"Obviously, he was the difference-maker today, and he was the difference-maker (Friday)," Moggach said. "You need good goaltending. Jimmy was there for us. When you give up a goal a game, you can be a tough team to beat."

Milletics said it's the best game he's ever played.

"After you get above 20 shots, you really get into a groove," he said. "It really helped me. My teammates helped me with all my shots and all the rebounds. After 20 shots, I found out I was at the top of my game."

The Bulldogs finished 28-2-1, ending the season with a 12-game winning streak during which they allowed only 12 goals.

Including Milletics, three players who didn't participate in last year's MHSAA Final made enormous contributions for the Bulldogs.

Senior forward Michael Yuhasz came out for the high school team after spending most of his youth career in the Triple-A travel ranks. Lucas Morgan gave up Triple-A hockey sooner, joining Brighton's team this season as a freshman.

Yuhasz scored the game's first goal with 1:53 left in the first period, then set up Morgan to give Brighton a 2-0 lead at 8:03 of the second. Morgan had an assist on Yuhasz's goal.

Despite their age difference, the two have formed a bond on and off the ice.

"We didn't really know each other," Yuhasz said. "At the workouts we would do in the summer, he would always come and talk to me. I wasn't committed to play for Brighton in the summer, even though I worked out with them. He kept telling me to play. When I decided to play, I knew we would become good friends. It just carried over from there."

On the first goal, the puck came across the front of the net to Yuhasz, who scored on a backhander from the back side.

"I don't really know how it got to me," he said. "It must've bounced over someone's stick. It was really lucky. I just tried to get whatever I could on the puck and get it towards the net. It was a huge
difference-maker, getting the first goal of the game and getting momentum started."

On the second goal, Yuhasz sped down the right side with the puck and passed it in front of Morgan, who charged to the net and tipped a shot under the crossbar.

"That was a great pass," Morgan said. "He just got it across from the wing and I crashed the net. It was a great play."

Yuhasz nearly made it a 3-0 game during a penalty kill when he slipped in behind the defense, but his backhand shot was stopped by Derek Moore with 2:02 left in the second period to keep the Shamrocks in the game.

Catholic Central (22-8) finally cashed in while on the power play when Carson Gatt scored from the edge of the crease with 7:02 left in the game. It was the Shamrocks' 33rd shot of the game.

Moore again made a huge save to give the Shamrocks a chance when he got a glove on a shot by Aaron Sturos during a two-on-one break with 3:37 remaining.

Catholic Central's best chance to tie came when Babcock got a backhander off from close range. Milletics made the stop, rolled back in his crease and kept the puck out of the net, forcing a faceoff to
his right with 6.8 seconds left.

"They got it to the front of the net, he got a shot off and I just spun my leg out there hoping I could get it," Milletics said. "It worked out pretty well."

The ensuing faceoff went into the corner, but the puck got to the front of the net in the final second. The Shamrocks couldn't direct it to the net and the buzzer sounded.

"We didn't like the position of being down 2-0 for it felt like an eternity," Catholic Central coach Todd Johnson said. "We made it 2-1, and we figured the next one would happen. You have to give Jimmy
credit and their team credit. They sacrificed, and they know what it takes to win championships. We know what it takes to win championships. They got it done tonight."

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Brighton players skate their trophy toward the crowd after repeating as Division 1 champions Saturday. (Middle) Brighton senior Evan Zack pushes the puck away from the front of the Bulldogs net. (Photos by Andrew Knapik.)

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.)