Friday, September 30, 2005

North Stars face tough test this weekend

Lucas Du Bay (front) and captain Jarrett Rush
(photo by Curt Kipke)

For the Traverse City North Stars, this weekend isn't just a pair of games against the Team USA under-17s - an all-everything collection of the most acclaimed players from the four corners of the country - it's a two-day measuring stick.

To date, the neophyte Stars have forayed into a first-ever training camp, initial North American Hockey League game, and inaugural home opener, and after the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 set with Team USA's U-17 squad, the North Stars will get their first true on-ice progress report.

"They give any league instant credibility," North Stars coach Scott Gardiner said of the US national development program's presence in the NAHL. "These are the top prospects in their age group in the country. Most of them have (NCAA) Division I scholarships in their pocket already, so for us to get to compete against a team like that is a great experience for our guys."

Team USA U-17 head coach Ron Rolston concedes that his roster is chock-full of prowess, but says that the 17-year old age limit means less raw bulk.

"Some might slip through the cracks, but we think we have the top talent in the age group," said Rolston, whose team is coming off a 2-1 shootout win at Cleveland on Saturday. "But we're talking about 1989 birthdays playing against some 1985's, guys with a lot of experience who can be more physically developed."

The combined record of the Team USA U-17 and U-18 go into the NAHL standings, and the tandem's current mark stands at 6-2-1, good enough for first place early on in the North Division race. The joint U-17/U-18 participation in the league is a unique feature to the NAHL, but with the added exposure to college scouts for opponents, and the bar-raising dynamic that comes with playing against the best foes, Gardiner says it's a huge benefit.

"We're coming off a series with Alpena, and USA is a totally different kind of team," he explained. "Alpena brings different things than the speed and skill, but USA - man, they can go. It's great for our team to play against that. We'll just continue to get better every week, and this will help us do that."

The U-17 team features a balanced scoring attack. Forward Ryan Hayes, a draft pick of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers last May, leads the club in scoring with three points over four games, and only two others - forwards Philip McRae and Colin Wilson - have collected more than a single point to date. Brad Phillips and Josh Unice have shared time in net for the U-17s, and Phillips has posted the better numbers, allowing an average of 2.27 goals per outing with a .904 save percentage.

The host North Stars are also riding high, after a 7-3 victory against Alpena in the closing contest of the team's home opening weekend on Saturday. Patrick Nagorsen leads TC with five points in the club's five contests. Forwards Jared Mullen and Travis Paeth - and helper-happy defenseman Luc Du Bay (four assists) - have contributed four points apiece. Forward Danny Dries is tied for the team lead in goals scored with Nagorsen with three. Jeremy Kaleniecki has worked almost 280 minutes of a possible 305 minutes so far in 2005-06, and has a goals against average of 3.43 despite facing an average of almost 30 shots a game.

"We're going to have to be at our best," Gardiner said. "We're playing a very skilled opponent."

Whalers fall in Erie Thursday, 4-3

Mike Letizia scored with one second left in regulation, but it was too little, too late for the Plymouth Whalers as they lost, 4-3, last night on the road against the Erie Otters.

Chris Terry (first OHL goal) and captain John Vigilante also scored for Plymouth (1-1-1-0). Goalie Justin Garay stopped 32 Erie shots, but took the loss.

Trenton native Sean O'Connor scored Erie's second goal.

Plymouth hosts Sault Ste. Marie tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Plymouth alumni advancing in pro game

Chad LaRose was a big-time scorer for the Plymouth Whalers.

Tim Sestito was not.

Even so, both have been making headlines recently as they advance their professional careers.

Both were never drafted by an NHL team, but both are now bonafide pro material, especially LaRose.

The Fraser native set a Whalers' record in 2002-2003 with 61 goals and after the season signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. The past two seasons, he has played with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL and Florida Everblades of the ECHL, but that looks to change this year as LaRose has all but assured himself of a roster spot in Carolina with a strong pre-season performance.

"So everybody else is seeing what I'm seeing," Carolina head coach Peter Laviolette said on Carolina's team website when asked about LaRose's ability. "It's hard not to like him."

LaRose, 23, said his lack of size (5-foot-8, 175 pounds) has been a knock as long as he has been playing hockey, so it doesn't bother him as much as it once did.

"That has been my whole life. I just try to prove people wrong and play with what I've got, right?" LaRose also said on the site.

Sestito, on the other hand, won't be skating in an NHL rink this year, but he will get to see the ECHL. Last season's co-captain earned a free agent tryout with the Edmonton Oilers this summer and ended up at Hamilton's AHL camp, where he signed an ECHL contract with the Greenville Grrrowl, another Oilers' affiliate.

"Edmonton's camp went really well," said Sestito, 21. "I had a great time and I think I made a good impression. The Greenville opportunity came up through my play with Edmonton."

While with Hamilton, Sestito became reacquainted with a former teammate during a pre-season game Sept. 27.

"(Hamilton's camp) has been fun," added Sestito. "I played against John Mitchell and that was different after playing with him for so long (in Plymouth)."

The original story on Sestito getting a tryout with the Oilers is here.

Black Bears drop decision to Sudbury

The Northern Michigan Black Bears fell to the Sudbury Junior Wolves (formerly Northern Wolves) Wednesday night in Sudbury as the home team rallied for a 4-3 win.

The Black Bears were up 3-1 midway through the second period, but squandered three unanswered goals.

Chris Cooper scored twice for the Black Bears while Jake Watchorn added a single.

Read more here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Raszka making noise with Battalion

Taylor Raszka was taken in the first round of the 2002 OHL Priority Selection by the Plymouth Whalers, but since then has worn three other uniforms.

Raszka was dealt to the Saginaw Spirit as part of a deal for Chris Thorburn at the 2003 OHL trade deadline and stayed in Saginaw for the rest of that year and the 2003-2004 season. But coming into last year, the Spirit released Raszka and he surfaced in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars where current Plymouth forward Jared Boll was captain.

"It just wasn't fun any more in Saginaw," said Raszka, a Petersburg native, in a story for USA Junior Hockey Magazine last season. "We were losing a lot and guys didn't like coming to the rink. It was like we knew we were going to lose."

At the end of last season, Raszka continued to explore his options, came back to the OHL and signed with the Brampton Battalion as a free agent. In Brampton's home and season opener Friday night against the Barrie Colts, Raszka scored Brampton's lone goal in a 4-1 loss.

“I think Raszka came in and had an extremely good camp and all Taylor needs is some confidence,” said Battalion coach-GM Stan Butler. "And as the year goes on he’s going to be a pretty good player for us.”

But Raszka gave the Battalion a scare in a pre-season game Sept. 18.

Raszka took a punch from Kelsey Wilson of the Guelph Storm in a 5-2 road loss, but X-rays on Raszka’s jaw proved negative. Late in the second period, Guelph's Matt Lyall fired the puck into the Battalion net after an offside call and, in the ensuing melee, Raszka was decked by Wilson, who ended up fighting John de Gray. Wilson received an instigator penalty and a game misconduct while Raszka left with a suspected broken jaw.

“I thought my jaw was broken and I was in a lot of pain,” said Raszka, who turns 19 on Oct. 22. “It’s still very sore but it’s getting better. They didn’t find any broken bones, so as long as they let me go I’ll be out there. I thought the play was over and I was watching the scrum at the side of the net. Wilson came flying across the ice and hit me with a cheap shot. That’s all I can really recall, but the other guys stepped up for me and that was great.”

Brampton visits Plymouth on Sat. Nov. 19 and Saginaw the night before.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Saturday's Michigan juniors roundup

Traverse City celebrates their 7-3 romp over Alpena

NAHL - North Stars upend IceDiggers

The Traverse City North Stars, after losing last night to Alpena, evened up the series with a 7-3 win Saturday night at Centre ICE. Danny Dries scored two power-play goals to go along with singles from Jarrett Rush, Zeke Costello, Austin Rugal, Travis Paeth and Patrick Nagorsen. Lucas Dubay had three assists and Steve Hackman a pair. Jeremy Kaleniecki made 29 saves for the victory.

Ricardo Yesue, Drew Pierson and Steve Culbertson scored for the IceDiggers, who got 32 saves out of goalie Phil Greer.

"We kept our focus for three periods tonight," explained Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. "When we had a breakdown tonight, we were able to bounce back quickly. We shook up the lines a little bit, too."

OHL - Saginaw wins, Whalers stung in OT

The Saginaw Spirit, fresh off beating London last night, won their second straight with a 7-4 win on home ice over the Windsor Spitfires. Michal Birner scored three goals and added an assist while Matt Corrente potted a pair to back Ryan Daniels' 22 saves in goal. Jack Combs and Ryan McDonough (two assists) also scored and Tom Mannino (three assists) and Joe McCann (two assists) also contributed.

"It was a team effort," Birner said of the win. "Everyone contributed and we played tough."

Over in Plymouth, Andrew Fournier gave the Whalers a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Chad Painchaud's power-play goal in overtime gave the Sarnia Sting a 2-1 win over the Whalers. Ryan Nie stopped 34 shots in the loss.

CSHL results
-St. Louis 7, Metro Jets, 2
-Quad City 3, Flint Jr. Generals, 2 (shootout)
-Motor City Chiefs 8, Peoria 5
-Grand Rapids Jr. Owls 4, Columbus 1

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Alpena beats Traverse City Friday night

Alpena forward Zach Barron scored twice Friday night

The Alpena IceDiggers' locker room was in a celebratory mood Friday night following the team's first win of the 2005-2006 season, a 4-3 come-from-behind road victory against the Traverse City North Stars.

Patrick Nargosen gave the host North Stars a 3-1 lead at 19:00 of the second period. Justin Stadler answered for Alpena at 5:06 of the third making it 3-2 and then Drew Pierson and Ben Kitzmiller set up Andrew Wilcox at 13:59 to even the score at 3-all. Then just 43 seconds later, with the North Stars' Anthony Sarno in the box for roughing, Zach Barron scored his second of the night to cap the scoring at 4-3.

"We got stronger as the game went along," said Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller. "We started to find our way and do the little things right. We were out-shot 35-29 for the contest, but Phil Greer came up big and kept us in it. He gave us a chance to overcome our mental mistakes and win."

Jared Mullen and Jonathan Juliano scored the other North Stars goals while goalie Jeremy Kaleniecki finished with 25 saves. Greer stopped 32 for Alpena.

The teams play again on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Saginaw upends OHL champion Knights, 10-7

Saginaw veteran Patrick Asselin

The Saginaw Spirit beat the London Knights for the first time in 12 tries Friday night and in the process spoiled the Knights' OHL and Memorial Cup banner raising ceremony at the John Labatt Centre.

Patrick Asselin's hat trick powered the Spirit to a 10-7 win.

"This is just one game," cautioned Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. "Yes, I'm very pleased by the victory. It was a hard-fought, team effort and we battled well. But we still have to adjust to the new OHL standards of play by committing ourselves to learning disciplined play."

Read the rest of the recap here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Plymouth and Saginaw name captains

The Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit have announced their captains and alternate captains for the 2005-2006 OHL campaign.

For the Whalers, Dearborn native and fourth-year forward John Vigilante gets the 'C' while defensemen Steve Ward and overage Mike Letizia along with Philadelphia Flyers' prospect Gino Pisellini are the alternates.

Saginaw's captain will be their first-round pick from 2003, defenseman Patrick McNeill, a Washington draft pick last July. Overage forward Jesse Gimblett and third-year forward Tom Pyatt, a draft pick of the New York Rangers this past summer, will wear the 'A.'

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Whalers all over Spirit in OHL opener, 7-2

John Vigilante notched six points Wednesday night

Dan Collins and overager John Vigilante each had six-point nights as the Plymouth Whalers routed the Saginaw Spirit, 7-2, in the OHL season opener Wednesday night at the Dow Event Center.

Collins scored three goals (two on the power play, one shorthanded) and added three assists while Vigilante, a Dearborn native, added a goal and five helpers to back Justin Garay's 25-save performance in net.

Overage defenseman Mike Letizia had a goal and two assists, Ryan McGinnis (Fenton) tallied a goal and an assist, Andrew Fournier chipped in with a pair of assists and James Neal, just back from Dallas Stars' camp, scored the other Plymouth goal.

Patrick McNeil and Michal Birner scored power-play goals for the Spirit. Goalie Francois Thuot stopped 34 shots in a losing effort in front of 4,603 fans in mid-Michigan. Tom Pyatt and Ryan McDonough each recorded two assists for Saginaw.

Next up for the Whalers is their home opener Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. against the Sarnia Sting. The game time was pushed back 30 minutes to acommodate Comcast Local. Saginaw travels to London to play the defending OHL and Memorial Cup champions Friday night.

IceDiggers sign local talent Olsen

The Alpena IceDiggers have called up Alpena High defensemen Jeff Olsen and he'll be good to go for this weekend.

The move was necessitated by injuries, as well as suspensions resulting from last Sunday's game against the U.S. National Development Team.

"Jeff brings blueline experience and he comes highly recommended from Coach Limback (Alpena High)," said Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller. "It's great when a guy in your own back yard gets a chance to shine. Jeff should have no trouble making the transition from high school to juniors."

Olsen, a senior, played in all 26 Alpena High contests last season where he scored five goals and 12 assists for 17 points. A starter the last two seasons, Olsen often played with IceDiggers' center Erik Peterson on the Wildcat power play and penalty kill units.

Olsen will wear No. 4 in his debut Friday night on the road against the Traverse City North Stars.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Whalers deal Lee to Knights for futures

Ryan Lee dealt to London
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Whalers)

The Plymouth Whalers made a trade today, sending defenseman Ryan Lee to the defending OHL and Memorial Cup champion London Knights for future considerations.

Lee, 19, played in 11 games last season for the Whalers after being acquired from Mississauga at the trade deadline with a second-round pick (left wing Joe Gaynor) for defenseman Craig Cescon and a fifth-round pick in May's draft and was scoreless with two penalty minutes in 11 games.

The 6-foot, 180-pound native of Caledon, Ontario, had three points in 43 games last year with the IceDogs and Whalers.

IceDiggers swept away by U.S. Under-18's

Alpena forward Justin Stadler scored twice last weekend

The Alpena IceDiggers are still searching for their first win this season as they lost both games last weekend to the U.S. National Under-18 Team in Ann Arbor.

Saturday, Drew Pierson and Justin Stadler staged a third-period comeback, but it wasn't enough as Team USA scratched out a 3-2 win. Alpena was down 3-0 going into the final period.

Phil Greer started in net and made 19 saves on 22 shots. Justin Marriott then replaced Greer and stopped all 16 shots he saw in the final 36:36.

Then yesterday, Stadler scored the IceDiggers' lone goal as Alpena suffered an 11-1 drubbing. The third period was filled with game misconducts and fighting majors and the two teams combined for 202 penalty minutes.

Marriott started in goal and Mitch Rybicki finished the game for Alpena.

The IceDiggers return to action starting Friday on the road for a two-game set against the Traverse City North Stars.

North Stars win first game in team history

On a three-game road swing in Cleveland, the Traverse City North Stars dropped the first two, but rebounded Sunday for their first win in franchise history.

The Barons went up 3-1 early in the third period before Jared Mullen, with his second of the game, and Travis Paeth tied it midway through the period.

The game stayed tied at the end of the overtime session and Patrick Nagorsen won it in the shootout.

"All the guys who were up before me told me how the ice was really choppy and Coach pointed out how he (Cleveland goalie Kenny Reiter) was going down into his butterfly," explained Nagorsen. "So I came down and pump-faked and then slid it in on the forehand."

"It feels great," said Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. "You don't want to come down here for three games and get swept. We picked up two points of a possible six (on the road swing), and we wanted more but we'll take this for a start."

The late-game heroics are nothing new to Nagorsen, who scored the game-clinching goal for Orchard Lake St. Mary's in overtime of last year's MHSAA regional finals against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.

"This is such a huge win for us," Nagorsen added. "We didn't want to leave here 0-3 and now we come into our home opener with a ton of confidence."

Cleveland had taken 5-1 and 4-2 wins the previous two evenings.

Jeremy Kaleniecki made 26 saves for the win and stopped Josh Leonard on the final shot of the shootout to make Nagorsen’s goal stand as the winner.

The North Stars return to Centre ICE for Friday's home opener against the Alpena IceDiggers. The teams clash again on Saturday. The Sept. 23-24 home set begins at 7:30 p.m. each night with warm-ups underway at 7 p.m.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Whalers down Spirit in tournament final

Dan Collins scored twice in tonight's tournament final
(Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Whalers)

The Plymouth Whalers defeated the Saginaw Spirit in the finals of a four-team tournament tonight in Erie, Penn., 4-2.

John Vigilante and Dan Collins staked the Whalers to a 2-0 lead before Jack Combs cut the Plymouth lead to 2-1. Collins then notched his second goal of the game to make it 3-1 through 40 minutes.

Plymouth went up 4-1 early in the third period on a goal from Cory Tanaka. Saginaw cut the lead to 4-2 when defenseman Matt Corrente buried a slapshot from a Chris Chappell pass.

Justin Garay earned the win in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots.

"We played well as a team," Garay said after the game.

Gino Pisellini added two assists for the Whalers. This was also Pisellini's last game until Sept. 29 as he must serve a league-imposed two-game suspension for his role in an altercation last Saturday against Sarnia.

Spirit goalies Francois Thuot and Ryan Daniels split time in net. Thuot had nine saves on 11 shots while Daniels had ten saves on 12 shots.

"We played well and had the majority of the scoring chances," said Spirit head coach and general manager Bob Mancini. "We took the play to Plymouth, but we have to give them credit. They took advantage of their opportunities."

Plymouth and Saginaw open the OHL's regular season next Wednesday in Saginaw at 7:11 p.m.

In the consolation game tonight, Nick Palmieri scored two goals including the game winner to lift the Erie Otters to a 4-3 win over the Toronto St. Michael's Majors. Patrick Lee and Brett MacLean also scored for the Otters. Matt Halischuk, Ryan Penney and Matt Caria scored for the Majors.

Plymouth and Saginaw both win Friday

Both the Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit won their games Friday night in Erie as part of a four-team tournament with the Toronto St. Michael's Majors and host Otters.

In the first game, Mike Letizia's goal on the Whalers' sixth shot of an overtime shootout proved to be the game-winner as Plymouth defeated Toronto, 6-5.

Plymouth came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead in the second period. Tom Sestito, Letizia, Steve Ward and John Vigilante then scored to lead 4-3 after two periods.

Rookie Matt Caria tied the game for Toronto at 3:53 of the third period, but Vigilante scored his second of the game at 6:16 of the period to give Plymouth a 5-4 lead. Justin Donati scored a shorthanded goal with 2:02 remaining in regulation to tie the game and set the stage for the shootout.

Ryan Nie stopped five of six shots in the shootout while Toronto goaltender Wayne Savage stopped Ondrej Otcenas, Andrew Fournier, Dan Collins (hit the post) and Chris Terry, but Vigilante and Letizia scored to give Plymouth the victory.

Plymouth outshot Toronto, 40-35. in the game.

The Spirit rode a hat trick from Ryan McDonough to eke out a 5-4 win over Erie. Matt Corrente and Chris Chappell also tallied for Saginaw, who got a 31-save performance from overage goalie Francois Thuot.

"We played an up-tempo game," said Spirit general manager and head coach Bob Mancini. "We stuck to our concepts well and a couple of individual performances helped make this win happen. It's still pre-season, but I'm pleased."

Plymouth and Saginaw will meet in the final game tonight at 8:00 p.m. Toronto and Erie play in the consolation game at 5:00 p.m.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Whalers and Spirit OHL Notebook

Former Plymouth captain Tim Sestito
(Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Oilers)

The Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit have been in the news recently. Here's the nuts and bolts of their headlines:

Saginaw, having already released veteran forward Daniel Borges two weeks ago, cut forwards Rick Caughell and Kevin Tuckey this week...Assistant coach Ian Herbers was promoted to associate coach and extended his contract through the 2006-2007 season...Third-year forward Tom Pyatt excelled at the New York Rangers' rookie camp and was invited to New York's main camp this week...Potential overage candidate Marek Kvapil had a great showing at Tampa Bay's rookie camp in Traverse City and should play in the Lightning organization this year. The only OA's on Saginaw's roster right now are newly-acquired goalie Francois Thuot, defensemen Erik Lundmark and Tyson Gimblett and forward Jesse Gimblett. OHL teams can dress three per game until the January trade deadline when only three may be kept on the active roster.

The Whalers, in Erie this weekend along with Saginaw and Toronto for a four-team mini-tournament, will be without forward Gino Pisellini for the first two regular-season games as he was assessed a league-imposed two-game suspension for allegedly spitting at the Sarnia bench after missing in the shootout last Saturday in Plymouth...Andrew Fournier wore the 'C' during the game last Saturday. No captains have officially been named as all four from last year (co-captains John Mitchell and Tim Sestito and Jonas Fiedler and Mike Knight) have moved on...Speaking of Sestito, he made it to the Edmonton Oilers' main camp after a rookie camp tryout, but was assigned to their AHL affiliate in Hamilton yesterday.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Alpena goalie commits to Bowling Green

Alpena IceDiggers' goaltender Phil Greer has committed to play for the Bowling Green Falcons of the CCHA starting next fall.

Greer, from Franklin, Mass., was a post-graduate last season for Kimball Union Academy in the New England Prep League where he played 897 minutes posting a 3.01 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.

Prior to attending Kimball Union, Greer played for Arlington Catholic High School in Boston where he was the team's co-captain and Central Catholic League MVP in 2003-04. The Boston Herald also named him to the "Top Seven Players in Boston" team.

"As an organization we are very excited to announce that we have a player going to play at a great school like Bowling Green State University," Alpena head coach and GM Kenny Miller said. "Phil is a great kid, both on and off the ice; he works hard and sets a good example. He plays with a lot of intensity and passion and he leads by example. As an older player, I think the younger players look to him."

Tendered in April, Greer is expected to be a key contributor for the IceDiggers. Upon completing this season in Alpena, Greer will be one of the freshman to help compose the 2006-2007 Falcon roster.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

IceDiggers swept in opening weekend

Todd Rudasill had two goals and an assist over the weekend

The Alpena IceDiggers are looking to rebound from a disappointing two-game season-opening series against the Cleveland Barons. The IceDiggers managed just one out of a possible four points on the weekend after falling to Cleveland 6-2 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday.

On Friday, Todd Rudasill and Adam Snead scored for Alpena. Rudasill's goal came at 7:09 of the second period with Steve Culbertson and Ben Kitzmiller drawing assists. Snead's tally came at 16:59 of the third on assists from Rudasill and captain Nolan Craner. Alpena was out-shot, 35-32, for the contest with goaltender Phil Greer taking the loss.

Saturday saw Alpena native Erik Peterson notch his first points as an IceDigger, scoring the game tying goal with just under 7:00 to play. Rudasill scored a power-play goal in the first period. But it wouldn't be enough as the 'Diggers lost the shootout with Peterson logging the lone Alpena tally. Greer stopped 28 of 30 shots while being charged with the loss.

"I am a little disappointed in the way we played," said IceDiggers head coach and general manager Kenny Miller. "I feel we are a better team than what we showed last weekend."

Alpena resumes play this coming weekend at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor for Saturday and Sunday contests against the U.S. National Development Team. Both games get underway at 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Spirit still can't solve Hounds, lose 6-3

Ryan McDonough tallied a goal and an assist in the 6-3 loss

After a 4-1 loss Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie, the Saginaw Spirit got more of the same in a 6-3 defeat at the Saginaw Bay Ice Arena to the same Greyhounds Saturday evening in OHL pre-season play.

Saginaw scored three power-play goals in the game and Aaron Rock made 24 saves in net. Newcomer Ryan McDonough had a goal and an assist in the loss. First-round pick Zack Torquato and Tim Priamo scored the other Spirit goals.

The Spirit resume action Friday in Erie for a round-robin tournament with the Plymouth Whalers, Toronto St. Michael's Majors and host Otters.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Whalers split with Sting this weekend

Gino Pisellini scored a goal in both games this weekend

The Plymouth Whalers and Sarnia Sting played two tight games Friday night in Sarnia and Saturday afternoon in Plymouth and the Whalers came away with a win last night and a shootout loss this afternoon.

Friday night across the Blue Water Bridge, James Neal's second goal of the game at 8:54 of the third period snapped a 3-3 tie and the Whalers came from behind with three unanswered goals in the third period for a 4-3 win. John Vigilante and Gino Pisellini also scored for Plymouth while defensemen Steve Ward added three assists and Mike Letizia added two helpers of his own.

Then this afternoon at the Compuware Sports Arena, Harrison Reed's shootout goal gave the Sting a 4-3 victory. The game was tied 3-3 after regulation and Sarnia won 2-1 in the shootout. Vigilante scored the lone Whaler goal in the five-man shootout.

The Whalers are now 1-1-0-1 in preseason play.

Tom Sestito, Pisellini and Andrew Fournier scored in regulation for Plymouth.

Plymouth is off until next Friday when they play in a four-team OHL pre-season tournament in Erie against the Toronto St. Michael's Majors at 5:00 pm. The host Otters host the Saginaw Spirit in the other game on Friday. The losers of Friday's games will play next Saturday at 5:00 pm, with the winners going at 7:45 pm.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Saginaw downed in the Soo, 4-1

Saginaw goalie Ryan Daniels turned aside 33 shots

It was the Saginaw Spirit of old Friday night as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds topped the Spirit, 4-1, in an OHL pre-season game in the Soo.

Ryan Daniels made 33 saves in the loss and rookie Anthony Soboczynski netted Saginaw's lone tally.

"Throughout the game, we did a lot of good things," said Spirit general manager and head coach Bob Mancini. "We need to adjust better to the way the game is going to be called defensively. Offensively, we had good transition, even though you didn't see a lot of it on the scoreboard. We worked our patterns and concepts well. We were 1-0 even strength. We will quickly learn to adjust and not put ourselves in that position again."

The Spirit return to action tomorrow at 7:11 p.m. against the same Greyhounds for their only home game of the pre-season.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Former Plymouth, Saginaw goalie off to UBC

Former Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit goaltender Jeff Weber, a former eighth-round selection of the Buffalo Sabres, has committed to the University of British Columbia hockey program and will be in the lineup tomorrow when UBC plays host to the Vancouver Canucks prospects.

Weber, who turns 21 on Sept. 24, played four years in the OHL. He split the 2004-05 season between Barrie and Saginaw, posting a 3.41 goals against average and .906 save percentage in 48 games combined. His OHL career started in Sault Ste. Marie in 2001-02 and then shifted to Plymouth in 2002-03, where he was 13-2-2 in 19 games with a 2.32 goals against average and .925 save percentage. That season, Weber shared the OHL's Dave Pinkney Trophy for top team goaltending. In 101 career OHL games, the Ottawa, Ontario, native was 38-40-13 with a 3.12 goals against average and .908 save percentage.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound netminder was also signed by the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL after Saginaw missed the playoffs this past season. Weber was 2-0 with a 2.14 goals against average and .928 save percentage in three appearances with Atlantic City.

"I had some options, but UBC is one of the best schools in the country and coach (Milan) Dragicevic has done an excellent job of putting together a first-class hockey program with the guys he's brought in," said Weber, whose family recently moved to Calgary. "I'm excited for a new opportunity and I want to help lead this program toward a national championship."

Weber was drafted 235th overall by Buffalo in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and attended their main camp that September. He never signed an NHL contract.

"He's a proven starter in the OHL and every coach I've talked to has nothing but great things to say about him and his work ethic," said Dragicevic. "He's a bigger goalie who covers a lot of the net and that gives us some options."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Whalers fall in Windsor Monday afternoon

Cory Tanaka sniped a pair for the Whalers on Monday

The Plymouth Whalers fell to the Windsor Spitfires, 7-5, on the road this afternoon at Windsor Arena in OHL pre-season action.

Andrew Fournier staked the Whalers to a 1-0 lead 2:08 into the opening period before Windsor scored three unanswered goals to make it 3-1 midway through the second period.

Rookie Chris Terry and Nashville prospect Vaclav Meidl tied it for Plymouth as the Whalers skated into the second intermission tied at 3-all.

Windsor then scored two goals in a three-second span in the first minute of the third period before Cory Tanaka added a pair to close out the scoring, but not before the Spitfires had tallied two more.

Justin Garay started in net for Plymouth before being relieved by Jeremy Smith, who suffered the defeat. Smith came in after Garay was ejected amidst a line brawl in the middle stanza.

Next up for the Whalers is a game in Sarnia on Friday before returning home Saturday to host Sarnia at 3:30 pm.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Grosse Pointe Park native done with OHL

IceDogs lose defenceman

The Mississauga News

The lure of a scholarship at a major university closer to home was more than Adam Abraham could resist.

The 18-year-old native of Grosse Pointe Park says he won't be returning to the Mississauga IceDogs' blueline for his third season in the Ontario Hockey League. Abraham told The News that while it was a tough decision to make, he has opted for a baseball scholarship with the Wolverines, based in Ann Arbor and a mere 40-minute drive from his home.

"I'll miss hockey and the IceDogs, but this is a good opportunity for me," said the defenceman, who was the second-round pick of the IceDogs in the 2003 OHL priority draft.

Abraham, a pitcher and infielder with his Ann Arbor team, said he has agreed to a partial scholarship that will cover about 75 percent of the annual costs to attend Michigan.

"I think being drafted by Florida may have tweaked his interest to pursue a career in baseball," said the owner and general manager of the IceDogs, Mario Forgione.

"Actually that didn't factor into it at all," said Abraham, who was a late draft choice of Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins in June. "It really came down to a great opportunity at Michigan."

Forgione, who has been holding discussions with Abraham's agent, said while it was certain the rearguard wouldn't be at training camp, there was a possibility he would join the IceDogs at a later date. But Abraham, who had five goals and 16 assists in 59 games last season and was a plus 16, ruled that out when he spoke to The News.

"I don't think I could leave Michigan to play hockey without jeopardizing my scholarship and I don't see myself doing that," said Abraham.

Abraham's loss leaves a big hole along the Mississauga blue line.The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder was a leading figure on the blueline, probably just behind overager David Pszenyczny (Sterling Heights). They did make defenceman Drew Schiestal their second pick in this year's priority draft. But unless he has added some muscle in the off-season, Schiestal will likely report to camp at around 160 pounds. He's six feet tall.

Abraham's departure would indicate that the IceDogs are likely going to have to make a trade to shore up the blueline, since defence is going to be a critical part of the game this year as a result of rule changes made by the National Hockey League and adopted by the OHL.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Plymouth wins pre-season opener over Spits

First star Andrew Fournier

The Plymouth Whalers beat the Windsor Spitfires, 6-5, this afternoon at the Compuware Sports Arena in both team's pre-season openers.

Plymouth came all the way back from an early 3-0 deficit in the first period to take a 4-3 lead in the second period. The game see-sawed until Gino Pisellini scored the game-winning goal on a power play at 10:55 of the third period.

Ryan Stephenson led the Plymouth attack with a pair of goals as the game's second star.

Whalers center Andrew Fournier - coming back after missing the second half of last season with a sliced Achilles' Tendon - was the game's first star with a goal and two assists. James Neal, Jared Boll and Pisellini added singles for the Whalers.

As with most OHL preseason games, the Whalers used the opener to play rookies, who saw action in all situations. Plymouth veterans John Armstrong, Dan Collins, Justin Garay, Mike Letizia and Zack Shepley - among others - sat out the game.

"We wanted to see Joe Gaynor, Chris Terry, Ondrej Otcenas, Brett Bellemore, and all the young guys," said Plymouth general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci. "I thought they played pretty well considering it was the first game for everyone."

Plymouth outshot Windsor, 42-31. Ryan Nie started in goal for Plymouth and was relieved by rookie Jeremy Smith midway through the second period.

Plymouth and Windsor meet again on Monday at 2:00 pm at Windsor Arena.

The Whalers then play in Sarnia next Friday, Sept. 9, before returning home next Saturday, Sept. 10, to host Sarnia at 3:30 pm.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Saginaw wheelin' and dealin'

New Spirit netminder Francois Thuot

The Saginaw Spirit acquired goaltender Francois Thuot from the Barrie Colts in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection.

Thuot is a 20-year-old native of Longueuil, Quebec. He was 18-12-5 with the Colts with a 3.07 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 39 games after two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Val D'Or.

"I'm happy we can add a goaltender with Francois' experience to the Saginaw Spirit," said Spirit general manager and head coach Bob Mancini.

Spirit trade pair of '04 picks
The Spirit have also traded the rights to forward Andrew Marcoux, a seventh-round pick in 2004, to the Mississauga Ice Dogs for a seventh-round draft pick in 2006.

Saginaw then dealt the rights to defenseman Tim Cavanagh to the Peterborough Petes for a conditional 15th-round draft pick in 2008. Saginaw picked him in the sixth round a year ago.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Nolan Craner named Alpena's captain

Alpena captain Nolan Craner

Forward Nolan Craner, a Plainwell native, has been named team captain of the 2005-2006 Alpena IceDiggers.

"Nolan is a player our team looks up to," said head coach and general manager Ken Miller. "He leads both on and off the ice and that is extremely important."

Craner, 19, is in his second season with the IceDiggers franchise.

In addition to Craner’s appointment, Miller also named Adam Snead and Jeff Miller (Portage) as alternate captains.

"We have three outstanding players in leadership roles," said Miller. "They each have a very important role to play."