Unbeatable Goalie, Unrelenting Effort Earn Dow Memorable 1st Title
March 12, 2022
PLYMOUTH — When Collin Lemanski plays the way he did on the biggest of stages, his hockey coach is well within his rights to promote him to the fullest.
While identifying his players in a postgame press conference, Midland Dow coach Dick Blasy introduced the player seated to his left in full goaltending equipment as “best goalie in the state, Collin Lemanski.”
Care to elaborate?
“You can’t do this without goaltending,” Blasy said after Dow won its first MHSAA hockey championship with a 2-0 victory over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the Division 3 Final on Saturday at USA Hockey Arena.
“How many shots did they have today? 32? How many goals did they get? I think that speaks for itself. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s brought it. I don’t think it takes a rocket hockey fan to know they took it to us more than we took it to them.”
It was the seventh shutout of the season for Lemanski, who finished with an 18-3-3 record, a 1.29 goals against average and a .950 save percentage.
“I think it’s less about the shutout and more about the team just winning it, our first win,” Lemanski said. “It was great.”
Lemanski said he didn’t treat the championship game any differently than another game, going through his usual pregame routine.
One of the staples of his pregame ritual is this: “Just don’t talk to me,” he said.
With Lemanski putting up an impenetrable barrier in front of the Dow net, the Chargers hung around throughout the game until they got the break they needed.
Caden Chritz, who was robbed earlier in the period, broke to the net and took a shot that was stopped by Eaglets goalie Aidan Klingbeil. Nolan Sanders pounced on the rebound to score with 2:29 left in the third period.
“We knew we were gonna get our chances,” Sanders said. “They had their chances. My line took it into the zone, put it on net, got it in front and just tapped it home.”
With so little time on the clock, the Chargers couldn’t get caught up in thinking they had just won the championship.
“We’ve got to keep our composure, got to stay simple until the final buzzer,” Sanders said. “Just let things roll out.”
Dow couldn’t breathe easily until Ryan Pomranky banked a pool shot from his own end off the left boards and into an empty net with 17.7 seconds remaining.
Dow is the first of Midland’s two hockey teams to win an MHSAA championship. Midland High was a runner-up in 1994, 2008 and 2010. Dow reached the Semifinals three times without getting to the championship game, including in 2020 when MHSAA tournaments were shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“It just doesn’t seem real, to be honest with you,” Blasy said. “I checked the scoreboard about 50 times; it’s still there. It’s still 2-0. It’s unbelievable, but it’s always about the boys. That’s all I really truly care about is the fact that they did this. Whether we won or we lost, it doesn’t really change things. I would’ve been just as proud of these boys if we would’ve come out on the other end, because they just worked so hard.”
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s reached the championship game by running a gauntlet that included defeating 2021 Division 3 champion Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in the Regional Final and second-ranked Warren De La Salle Collegiate in overtime in Friday’s Semifinal.
The Eaglets were playing in Division 3 for the first time since winning that division in 2005. They reached three Division 1 Finals, winning two, before choosing to make the switch.
“We made the decision to change, just because we felt that Division 3 was probably the strongest route,” St. Mary’s coach Brian Klanow said. “Certainly, we’re not a team that runs away or hides from competition; we encourage it. It just makes us better for this time of year. Division 3 this year, we think it’s the deepest division.”
PHOTOS (Top) Midland Dow’s Nolan Sanders celebrates after sending a rebound into the net for what would be the game-winning goal of the Division 3 Final. (Middle) Sanders’ chip in made it just over an outstretched goalie’s glove. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)