Saturday, July 30, 2005

Whalers and Spirit drafted in Ottawa

Plymouth forward Dan Collins has Florida in his sights.

Plymouth Whalers forward James Neal was the first Plymouth player taken today in the NHL Entry Draft when the Dallas Stars chose him in the second round, 33rd overall.

"I've been in touch with Dallas," Neal said, minutes after being selected from his home in Whitby, Ontario. "They showed a lot of interest. I had a feeling they might take me. It was between a couple of teams that talked to me a lot - Dallas and Florida. Bottom line, I'm thrilled to go to Dallas. They have a couple of slots opening up. Their general manager (Doug Armstrong) just called me, and he's going to keep in touch to let me know about training camp and other things."

Fellow Plymouth forward Dan Collins went in the third round, 90th overall, to the Florida Panthers while incoming Whalers forward Jared Boll was taken in the fourth round, 101st overall, by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's gratifying to know all the hard work has paid off," Collins said. "I dreamed for this day and now that it's come and gone, it's really exciting. A lot of my hard work was done during the off-season, mostly, because I needed to gain weight. I worked out five days a week for two-and-a-half hours every day and I drove an hour-and-a-half there and an hour-and-a-half back. So I paid the price with a lot of hard work to get to where I am now."

The New York Rangers selected Saginaw Spirit forward Tom Pyatt in the fourth round, 107th overall. Fourteen picks later, Spirit defenseman Patrick McNeill went to the Washington Capitals.

Plymouth's 2005 Import Draft pick, Slovenian forward Ondrej Otcenas, was also selected in the fourth round, 123rd overall, by the Compuware-owned Carolina Hurricanes. Saginaw's 2004 Import pick, Slovakian forward Marek Kvapil, was the first pick of the sixth round, 163rd overall, by the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Fenton native and Plymouth defenseman Ryan McGinnis went to the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round as well, 184th overall.

Defenseman Kyle Lawson, a New Hudson native who is off to Notre Dame next fall, was drafted by Carolina in the seventh round, 198th overall. His OHL rights belong to Plymouth.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Whalers, Spirit in final NHL draft rankings

Plymouth forward James Neal is ranked 19th for the July 30 NHL Draft.

Three Plymouth Whalers and three Saginaw Spirit players are listed in the final rankings for Saturday's NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa.

Whalers' forwards James Neal (19th) and Dan Collins (24th) lead the pack followed by Saginaw defenseman Patrick McNeill at No. 75 and Spirit forward and Farmington Hills native Tommy Mannino popping in at No. 102.

Tom Pyatt rounds out Saginaw's NHL hopefuls in the 159 spot while Plymouth defenseman Ryan McGinnis, a Fenton native, is listed 168th. Newly-acquired Plymouth forward Jared Boll is ranked 187th while New Hudson defenseman Kyle Lawson, whose rights are held by the Whalers, is one later at 188.

Forward Ondrej Otcenas, Plymouth's pick in last month's Import Draft, is listed 35th among European prospects.

The draft will be held at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa. This year, the draft has been scaled down to seven rounds instead of nine.

Former Spirit players sign NHL deals

As the 5 p.m. deadline approached yesterday for NHL teams to sign their 2003 draft picks, two former Saginaw Spirit players beat the deadline and will advance to the pro ranks this coming season.

Goaltender Mike Brown and defenseman Paul Bissonnette both played for the Spirit since the team came to Saginaw in 2002 and both were traded to the Owen Sound Attack this past year. Bissonnette was also a rookie on the North Bay Centennials, now the Spirit, in 2001-2002.

Brown signed with the Boston Bruins and Bissonnette, a former Spirit captain, inked his first contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brown was a fifth-round pick of Boston while Bissonnette went a round earlier.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Whalers' forward signs with Maple Leafs

John Ferguson, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Thursday that the club has signed forward John Mitchell to a multi-year entry level contract. In keeping with club policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Mitchell, 20, played 63 games for Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League last season collecting 75 points (25 goals, 50 assists) with 59 penalty minutes. He finished second in the OHL in shorthanded goals (5-tie), 13th in assists (tie) and 17th in points. He finished first on the team in goals (tie), first in assists, first in points, first in powerplay goals (8), first in shorthanded goals and fourth in plus/minus (+14).

He played four OHL playoffs games collecting two points (one goal, one assist). He led the team during the playoffs in points (tie).

Mitchell also appeared in two regular season games for St. John's of the American Hockey League after Plymouth had been eliminated from the OHL playoffs.

The native of Oakville, Ontario finished ninth in the OHL in points (82-tie) in 2003-04. Mitchell was Toronto's fourth choice, 158th overall in the 2003 Entry Draft and was a Whalers' co-captain last season along with Tim Sestito. Originally, Mitchell was Plymouth's first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2001 OHL Priority Selection and is also Plymouth's all-time leader in regular-season games played with 258.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Whalers' newest hire a hockey lifer

The Plymouth Whalers are pleased and proud to announce they have hired Marshall Mackinder (yes, my brother!) as the team’s new Ticket Sales Coordinator and Director of Community Relations.

Mackinder, 22, comes to the Whalers from Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y., where he earned a degree in communications and was the student equipment manager for the men’s Division I hockey team, an NCAA Tournament qualifier in 2004.

A native of Oak Park and 2001 Ferndale High graduate, Mackinder began his duties last Thursday and he will be responsible for group sales, fundraisers, community relations and the Whalers Kids Club.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to work in hockey and be able to make a living out of it,” said Mackinder, engaged to Ann McLellan of Coquitlam, British Columbia, a fellow 2005 Niagara graduate and four-year member of the Purple Eagles’ women’s hockey team. “I’ve been around this organization seemingly my whole life and it’s a great feeling and an honor to be a part of something special. I started out as a young kid attending Jr. Red Wings games at Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Arena and then games at Oak Park Arena and in Plymouth, but when I went to college, I got more into college hockey.

"Now that I have experience working closely with a Division I team, and was hired by the Whalers, it comes full circle and I am right where I want to be: working with the team I closely followed as a kid growing up."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hopefuls to battle for IceDiggers roster spots

The Alpena IceDiggers 25-man roster will be set following a pair of tryout camps at Northern Lights Arena this week.

The IceDigger coaching staff is conducting the three-day camp from Wednesday, July 27 to Friday, July 29. Some 80 players will be spilt into four teams for game action on Wednesday and Thursday. The 80 players will then be narrowed to 45 players for an all-star game that runs from 2:00 to 5:00.

IceDiggers head coach and general manager Ken Miller says, "(Assistant coach) Kelly (Miller) and I are looking for the top 25 players at the camp to fill out our roster for the '05-06 season."

THE TOP 45 PLAYERS from the OPEN camp move on to an invitation only camp which runs from July 31 through August 2. From there the hopefuls will battle with IceDigger veterans for a spot on the final 25 man roster.

A number of local players will be taking part in the camp including former Alpena Wildcats CJ MacKenzie, Kevin Lundquist, Brian Bennett and Ryan Ballard. Also attending the camp are current Alpena High players Jeff Olson and Brandon McConnell.

Miller thinks it would be great if some former Wildcats could join Erik Peterson who was tendered by the IceDiggers this past May.

"We feel that if the local players come in work hard and showcase their talents they should have a chance of making the club," Ken Miller said.

Fans are encouraged to attend all the sessions as admission is free.


Wednesday July 27, 2005
6:00pm - 7:20pm, Team White VS. Team Blue
7:30pm - 8:50pm, Team Red VS. Team Green

Thursday July 28, 2005
12:30pm - 1:50pm, Team Blue VS. Team Green
2:00pm - 3:20pm, Team White VS. Team Red
5:00pm - 6:20pm, Team White VS. Team Blue
6:30pm - 7:50pm, Team Red VS. Team Green

Friday July 29, 2005
2:00pm - 4:50pm, All-Star Game


Sunday July 31, 2005
2:00pm - 3:20pm, Team White practice
3:30pm - 4:50pm, Team Red practice
7:00pm - 8:50pm, Team White VS. Team Red

Monday August 1, 2005
9:00am - 10:20am, Team Red practice
10:30am - 11:50am, Team White practice
4:00pm - 5:50pm, Team Red VS. Team White

Tuesday August 2, 2005
12:00pm - 1:50pm, Team White VS. Team Red

The coaching staff will select the top 25 players for the '05-06 Season. Players that make the roster will report to Alpena on Saturday August 13, 2005 at 2:00pm at the Northern Lights Arena.

The IceDiggers' first official team practice will be Monday August 15, 2005 at 3:00pm.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Surprises unearthed by North Stars

By Jeff Peek
Traverse City Record-Eagle

Surprise, surprise.

The Traverse City North Stars found a couple of them during their training camp over the weekend at Centre ICE. They're just not naming all of them yet.

"It went well. A few guys jumped out at us that we weren't expecting," said Scott Gardiner, head coach of the first-year North American Hockey League team. "There were some pleasant surprises. We still have some tough decisions to make before the first (Aug. 1)."

Gardiner said that "on paper, we're in a much better position than I anticipated."

"Now it's up to Mike (Stapleton, assistant coach) and I to whip them into shape."

Some 50 players took part in the three-day camp that ended Sunday. Nearly 700 fans attended Saturday night's Blue-White All-Star Game and a tailgate party that followed.

According to Gardiner, the line of Jake Mullen, Matt Larke and John Juliano were "by far the best line going."

Mullen, a 6-foot, 170-pound winger who played for Belle Tire AAA in St. Clair Shores a year ago, was one of the non-drafted players to make the cut.

"It feels good; I'm excited about it," Mullen said. "Once the first cuts were made the tempo really picked up."

Mullen is the 16-year-old nephew of former NHL star Joey Mullen, who scored over 500 goals in his career, and Brian Mullen, who played 11 seasons in the NHL.

Seventeen players have been awarded roster spots. Eight more will be decided upon on Aug. 1.

The North Stars begin preseason camp Aug. 15-20. Their regular season home opener is Sept. 23.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Grand Blanc native to play for Colonials

Grand Blanc native Steve Bandurski, a 19-year-old forward who played last year in the NAHL with the Texarkana Bandits, is off to Robert Morris University in the fall and will also play hockey for the second-year Colonials.

Bandurski totalled 21 goals (six power-play, two short-handed) and 43 points in 55 games last season for the Bandits and added four more points in seven playoff games.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Compuware AAA alum was also the very last pick (298th overall) of the 2002 OHL Priority Selection by the Plymouth Whalers.

Robert Morris is entering their second season in Division I hockey as part of the College Hockey America conference. The university is in Moon Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

North Stars look to finalize roster

The Traverse City North Stars are putting on their final tryout camp this weekend at Centre ICE and in a perfect world, come Monday, Traverse City head coach and general manager Scott Gardiner will have his first roster set for the 2005-2006 season, the North Stars' first in the NAHL.

The team is also hoping the end of the NHL lockout will have a trickle-down effect on junior hockey, especially with the North Stars starting the season soon after the Detroit Red Wings finish training camp in Traverse City.

"Hopefully, we'll be riding the coattails of some positive hockey news, finally," said Gardiner to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

The approximately 45 players at the invitation-only camp will be split into three teams for games Friday evening and Saturday morning. The pool will then be trimmed down to about 30 players for a Blue-White game at 7 p.m. Saturday evening and more games Sunday morning starting at 9 a.m.

"I wanted to go with two teams going head-to-head all weekend, but we kept seeing guys we wanted to see again," Gardiner said. "So we decided to go with three teams."

The team doesn't have a goaltender on its roster yet, as third-round draft pick Kyle Jendra of Chicago is trying out for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Gardiner said Jendra told him that he would play for the North Stars if he doesn't make the Whalers. The North Stars do have three goaltenders in this weekend's camp fighting for spots on the team in Jeremy Kaleniecki (Addison Township), Ryan Donavan (Pinckney) and Stephan Shivley. Second-round pick Daniel Lawson also did not sign with the North Stars, opting to play for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League and tendered player Jon Madden (Howell) has not yet committed to TC.

Check out the full story by James Cook here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Whalers sign Terry, make other moves

Just a week after visiting Plymouth with his family, forward Chris Terry, one of the Whalers' two second-round picks last May, signed with the team for this coming season the Whalers announced today.

Terry played last season for the Markham Islanders minor midgets of the Greater Toronto Metro Hockey League and scored 47 goals with 57 assists for 104 points and 115 penalty minutes in 68 games.

The 16-year-old Terry comes with the reputation of a scorer who plays with an edge and showed that trait during the Whalers' Rookie Orientation in May.

“Terry plays a lot like (current Plymouth forward and second-round pick in 2004) Cory Tanaka,” Plymouth head scout Jim Debenham said at the time Terry was drafted. “He competes hard. He's got good hands and (in time) he'll be hated by the rest of the league.”

STEFAN MOVES TO CAROLINA; MCDONNELL HIRED AS PLYMOUTH DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL: The Carolina Hurricanes have announced the hiring of former Whalers Director of Player Personnel and Assistant Coach Greg Stefan as a professional scout and goaltending coach. Stefan spent the past two seasons with Plymouth in his second stint with the organization. Stefan fills the role previously handled by former NHL goaltender Don Edwards.

The Whalers have hired Terry McDonnell has the team's new Director of Player Personnel. McDonnell spent the past six seasons as a scout with Carolina, concentrating on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and college hockey in the United States.

McDonnell will concentrate primarily on scouting for the Whalers.

“I'm excited to be in Plymouth,” McDonnell said. “Peter Karmanos is an owner with a tremendous passion for the game. We want to try to win for him.”

In other front office appointments, the Whalers have hired Jason Varlesi as new Sales and Marketing Coordinator. A native Detroiter, Jason attended and played hockey at Dearborn Divine Child before moving to Henry Ford Community College and eventually to Western Michigan University, where he earned a degree in Business Administration. Before joining the Whalers, Varlesi worked in Erie with the Otters and the Erie Seawolves of the AA Eastern League.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

IceDiggers start new era with new jerseys

The Alpena IceDiggers will be sporting a new look for the 2005-2006 season.

The switch to redesigned jerseys couldn't come at a better time as the club is set to embark on a new season, in a new home with a new coach.

The project has been in the works for the past few months," said IceDiggers' general manager and head coach Ken Miller. "A tremendous amount of time and effort went into the design and production of the jersey. Our jersey supplier, OT Sports, has done a terrific job helping us design our new jerseys. The majority of the home jersey is white, while the shoulders, sleeves and band at the bottom are complemented by red and blue trim. It also includes a modification of the logo on the front of the uniform."

The away jersey (which Miller notes will be switched to the home jersey after the Christmas break) is royal blue, and sports a red collar. The uniform celebrates the heritage of hockey with a traditional lace-up front reminiscent of the NHL's "Original Six" era and features "Alpena" in white letters with red trim running diagonally across the front. There will also be IceDigger logos on each shoulder.

"The hockey sweater is more than the uniform, its appeal is universal. You see them everywhere and everyone wearing them," added Miller. "It becomes the symbol of pride to the team and our fans."

The replica jerseys will be available at the home opener. Adult sizes will cost fans $65.00 and youth sizes are $55.00.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Terry gets acquainted with Plymouth

Forward Chris Terry, one of the Plymouth Whalers' two second-round picks last spring, 29th overall, was in town recently with his family to get acquainted with the area and meet the staff.

Terry scored 47 goals with 57 assists for 104 points and 115 penalty minutes in 69 games with the Markham (Ont.) Islanders last season.

Joe Gaynor, another forward, was Plymouth's other second-rounder, going 37th overall.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Spirit announce pre-season schedule

The Saginaw Spirit will play an inter-squad scrimmage and four pre-season games before the Wednesday, Sept. 21 home opener against the Plymouth Whalers.

The club will host the fourth annual Blue-White game on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 4:00 PM at the new Midland Ice Arena. The event is free of charge, but donations will be collected to benefit area youth hockey.

Saginaw's pre-season schedule begins Friday, Sept. 9 at 7:00 PM in Sault Ste. Marie versus the Greyhounds. The Hounds return to Saginaw on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:00 PM to play the Spirit at Saginaw Bay Ice Arena. General admission tickets are $7. Donations will also be collected to benefit area youth hockey.The Spirit conclude their pre-season on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16-17 at a pre-season tournament in Erie, Penn. Game times and opponents will be announced closer to the event.

Tickets for the Spirit pre-season game and regular season contests will go on sale on Aug. 29.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Jared Boll visits Plymouth

Newly-signed forward Jared Boll came to Plymouth with his father, Peter, on Tuesday afternoon to get acquainted with the staff and learn a little about the area. Jared is shown shaking hands with Whalers president, general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci.

(photo credit - Walt Dmoch)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Brighton native off to Bucs, then Irish in '07

Ben Ryan was a key part of the '04-05 Victory Honda squad.

Ben Ryan, a center from Brighton who won a state championship last year with the Victory Honda Major Midget AAA team, has reportedly verbally committed to Notre Dame for the fall of 2007.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Ryan scored 31 goals in 65 games last season and will play this coming fall in the USHL with the Des Moines Buccaneers, the team that selected him in the second round of May's USHL draft.

"Ben was certainly one of the best young, skilled players at our Invite Camp," Buccaneers head coach and general manager Regg Simon said. "He's very mature for his age though, and I'm not surprised that he made the decision to attend Notre Dame. Ben will play for a top-level hockey program, and he'll get a world-class education. That shows how well he thought the whole process through."

A right-handed shot, Ryan has a 10/16/88 birthdate and was also reportedly considering Michigan and Michigan State.

"The education, tradition and spirit of Notre Dame are what won me over," Ryan said. "I'm also excited to play for (New Irish head) coach (Jeff) Jackson. He's won everywhere he's coached and has what it takes to get the hockey program turned around."

Friday, July 08, 2005

Boll signs with Whalers, shuns NCAA

Jared Boll said no to the NCAA and hello to the OHL.
(Photo credit - Robert Meyer)

Jared Boll, acquired by the Plymouth Whalers last week from the Kingston Frontenacs for fifth-round draft choice in 2006, has shunned Minnesota-Duluth and will instead play for the Whalers this season.

“We're excited about having Jared on board,” Plymouth head coach and general manager Mike Vellucci said. “We think he'll bring some scoring with grit and toughness to the rink.”

“I've heard nothing but good things about the Whalers,” said the 19-year-old Boll. “I'm excited to get started and become part of things, especially since Plymouth acquired my rights. I had a few options, but the OHL seems to suit my game.”

In signing Boll, a Crystal Lake, Ill., native, the Whalers' Chicago connection gets a little stronger. Current Whalers Gino Pisellini and Mike Letizia come from the Chicago area, as do 2005 draft choices Kyle Jendra (Chicago Chill) and Vincent Loverde (Chicago Young Americans).

Boll and Pisellini were teammates in 2002 with the Team Illinois midgets.

Although Boll, a center, was drafted by Kingston in the 6th round (101st overall) of the 2002 OHL Draft, he played the last two seasons for the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. Boll scored 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points and a league-leading 294 penalty minutes in 59 games last year and scored six goals with eight assists for 14 points and 176 PIMs in 57 games for the Stars in 2003-04.

Boll was captain of the Stars last season and made the USHL all-star team. He is currently ranked 212th by the National Hockey League Central Scouting Bureau among North American skaters.

In coming to Plymouth, Boll understands the physical side of the game.

“Penalty minutes are a part of the game,” Boll admitted. “I have no problem getting into your face. I have to play physical to be effective.”

Boll will report to Plymouth's training camp August 30 with the rest of the Whalers.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Indians players moving on to juniors, NCAA

While the Soo Indians may be no more, several players from this past season’s team will be moving on to Division I and Division III programs this fall, as well as other junior programs.

League MVP Jason Kearney is heading to Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., to tend goal for the Falcons. Fellow goalie Troy Redmann is off to the NAHL champion Texas Tornado for another season of juniors.

A foursome of forwards, Jim Pentecost, Nik Sellers, Andrew Broughton (started last season with the Indians, finished with Texarkana) and Derek Punches (finished with Texas) are all college-bound. Pentecost and Broughton will play for D-III Curry College in Milton, Mass., while Sellers and Punches will offer their services to Wayne State University.

Sellers and Punches will join former Soo forward and 2004-2005 CHA rookie of the year Stavros Paskaris in Detroit.

Defenseman Tiger Marcotte has committed to Utica College, a D-III college in New York and Marty Gurnoe, another blueliner, is staying close to home and will play for Lake Superior State University.

Ray Kaunisto, a Northern Michigan recruit for 2006, and cousin Steven Kaunisto are leaving town to play for the USHL Clark Cup champion Cedar Rapids (Iowa) RoughRiders.

The Indians finished in third place at the Gold Cup National Championship in April and promptly folded after their tenth season in the NAHL, all under head coach Joe Shawhan.