Monday, November 28, 2005

Michigan juniors weekend roundup, Nov. 28

Daniel Ryder scores the shootout winner Saturday night in Plymouth


Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie, the Plymouth Whalers dropped a 4-2 decision to the Greyhounds. Jared Boll and captain John Vigilante scored for Plymouth while goalie Ryan Nie stopped 24 shots.

“It’s a sad day when you go into the game, look at who the referees are and you know you’re going to get screwed,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci to the Sault Star. “You make a five-and-one-half hour bus ride and get that kind of officiating. You can go down the list, there were soft calls all night.”

Back home Saturday night against the OHL’s and Canadian Hockey League’s top team, the Peterborough Petes, the Whalers lost in a shootout, 6-5. The Petes are now 20-3-1-0.

It was the fourth straight Saturday night at the Compuware Sports Arena that a game went into the shootout.

Boll, James Neal, Vigilante (penalty shot), Vaclav Meidl and Andrew Fournier scored for Plymouth and Nie finished with 34 saves. Evan Brophey added three assists and Ryan McGinnis chipped in a pair.

Fredrik Naslund also scored on a penalty shot for Peterborough and the two penalty shots in one game was a first for the Compuware Sports Arena.

In the shootout, Daniel Ryder won it on Peterborough’s last shot. No Plymouth player scored as Mike Letizia and Fournier missed. Steve Downie also scored in the shootout for the Petes.

Plymouth outshot Peterborough, 44-39.

“We have nothing to hang our heads over,” said Vellucci. “We responded well not having two of our top five defensemen (Steve Ward and Wes Cunningham, both just "injured” according to Vellucci) and (John) Armstrong (concussion).”

The Whalers are now 13-8-1-3 and in second place in the OHL West behind Saginaw.

Plymouth is off until Friday night when they host the Mississauga IceDogs at 7:30 p.m. The Whalers then host Kitchener Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.


The Owen Sound Attack came to Saginaw (15-9-0-0, first place, OHL West) Saturday night, jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in their 8-2 win over the Spirit. The game featured a five-point performance from Owen Sound's Bobby Ryan, the second-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Captain Patrick McNeill and Ryan McDonough scored for Saginaw and Spirit goalie Ryan Daniels stopped 48 Attack shots in the effort.

Then Sunday afternoon, Saginaw upset the OHL and CHL's top team, the Peterborough Petes, 7-2.

McDonough scored twice and Tom Pyatt, Jack Combs, Chris Chappell, Matt Corrente and Jesse Gimblett added solos. McNeill tacked on five assists to break the team assist record of four held by former Spirit forward Geoff Platt. McNeill's five points ties a team record held by Platt.

Steven Whitely assisted on McDonough's second goal for his first OHL point.

Spirit goalie Francois Thuot stopped 32 shots in the effort. The win takes Saginaw's record to 15-9-0-0, for 30 points. Saginaw resumes action Saturday versus the Mississauga Ice Dogs at 7:11 p.m. at the Dow Event Center.


Ryan Hayes and Cade Fairchild had a goal and an assist each, and Matt Rust slipped home a shootout goal as the seventh shooter as the U.S. National Development Program Under-17 squad edged Traverse City on Saturday at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, 6-5.

Matt Larke registered a pair for goals for the North Stars - his sixth and seventh of the season - while Steve Hackman dished out a pair of assists. Traverse City has dropped five straight NAHL contests, falling to 9-11-3, and continued to experience low wattage on the power play. The Stars were 0-for-6 with the personnel edge on Saturday, and are in the midst of an 0-for-28 power play drought. The last stars specialty teams goal came on Nov. 12 in the first period against Alpena.

On Friday, James van Riemskyk put the host U-17s up 1-0 with the lone goal of the opening period. Larke answered at 3:04 of the second session, and the visitors pulled ahead 40 seconds later when Hackman and newly-signed Bobby Collar set up Rickie Zobak for his first goal of the 2005-06 campaign. At 6:44 of the second Mike Cieslak knotted the affair, but Larke's second goal put TC back in front near the halfway point of the second period.

Fairchild, Colin Wilson, and Hayes rattled off a trio of unanswered tallies for Team USA, and the stage was set for a Stars comeback. Josh Sorenson pulled Traverse City within a goal at 8:33 of the third period, and freshly-inked Joe Schweiger put the contest into overtime with his equalizer at the 13-minute mark. Zeke Costello assisted on the Sorenson goal, while Hackman and defenseman Christoffer Rasmussen set up Schweiger.

After a scoreless overtime session that featured a 5-1 North Stars edge in shots on net, both teams expended their initial five shooters in the shootout session, with Adam Sponseller and Travis Paeth scoring for Traverse City, and Hayes and van Riemskyk doing the same for Team USA. Rust ended it two shooters later.

Ryan Donovan (14 saves) and Jeremy Kaleniecki (eight saves) split time in net for the Stars, while Josh Unice stopped 27 of 32 shots for USA (17-6-3).

Traverse City gets back to business this weekend in Cleveland, visiting the Barons for a Saturday evening-Sunday matinee series at Lakefront Arena.


The IceDiggers split at home with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, winning 3-1 on Friday night and losing by the same score Saturday.

Drew Pierson, Chris Lanciano and Zach Barron scored Friday night and captain Nolan Craner added two assists. Johnny Morrow stopped 34 shots for the win.

Saturday night, only Chris Hendrickson tallied for Alpena and Morrow made 27 saves.

Alpena visits Mahoning Valley this weekend for a pair starting Friday night. It will also be the third weekend in a row the two teams have played one another.


The Black Bears travel to Sudbury to battle the Sudbury Jr. Wolves this Wednesday. They were idle last weekend.


Nov. 23
Metro Jets 5 at Grand Rapids Jr. Owls 6
Flint Jr. Generals 6 at Michigan Ice Dogs 4

Nov. 26
Michigan 6 at Metro 5


Dec. 1
Michigan @ Motor City, 6:50 PM, Canfield Arena

Dec. 3
Motor City @ Cleveland, 5:30pm, Metroplex
Flint @ Columbus, 8:00 PM, Chiller North

Dec. 4
Motor City @ Cleveland, 1:30 PM, Metroplex
Flint @ Columbus, 1:50 PM, Chiller North
Metro @ Grand Rapids, 1:30 PM, Southside Arena

Plymouth-Peterborough photo courtesy of Matt Mackinder

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Whalers win, Spirit and North Stars fall

The Plymouth Whalers needed overtime to beat the Sarnia Sting Wednesday night and in the process took over first place in the OHL's West Division due to Saginaw losing to London.

Dan Collins (left) scored 2:05 into overtime to give the Whalers a 4-3 win. Captain John Vigilante and James Neal had a goal and an assist apiece for Plymouth. Steve Ward scored the other Whalers’ goal, while Vaclav Meidl chipped in with three assists.

Ryan Nie made 30 saves in net for the win.

The game marked the debut of two new Whalers – center Evan Brophey and defenseman Wes Cunningham – acquired earlier in the day from Belleville along with a fourth-round draft choice in 2006 in exchange for center Cory Tanaka and two second-round draft choices. Brophey and Cunningham played regular shifts, but didn't figure in the scoring.

Plymouth plays in Sault Ste. Marie Friday night and returns home Saturday night to host the CHL's top team, the Peterborough Petes, at 7:30 p.m.

Up in Saginaw, the Spirit could only muster a third-period goal from captain Patrick McNeill as they fell to the Knights, 4-1. Ryan Daniels made 33 saves in defeat.

The Spirit resume action Saturday at home against the Owen Sound Attack. Game time is 7:11 p.m.

Over in Traverse City, the North Stars dropped a 5-1 decision to the U.S. National Under-18 Team. Matthew Larke got the home team on the scoreboard at 16:07 of the final period on assists from Jonathan Juliano and Jared Mullen for Traverse City's lone tally. Jeremy Kaleniecki made 30 stops for the host Stars.

It was the fourth consecutive defeat for the North Stars, who fall to 9-11-2. Team USA’s combined Under-17/Under-18 record is 16-6-3 in the NAHL and the Under-18 squad is 8-0-0 against NAHL competition.

The North Stars travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Team USA Under-17 team this Saturday before a weekend series at Cleveland on Dec. 3-4.

Dan Collins photo by Matt Mackinder

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Whalers deal Tanaka, get Brophey, Cunningham

The Plymouth Whalers have acquired center Evan Brophey (left) and defenseman Wes Cunningham (below), along with a fourth-round draft choice in 2006, from the Belleville Bulls in exchange for center Cory Tanaka and Plymouth’s second-round draft choices in 2006 and 2007.

“It’s tough trading Cory,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He is a great hockey player and a quality individual. In making the trade, we had a chance to acquire two of our needs – a number one center and another experienced defenseman. You have to give up quality to get quality.

“I can speak for our entire organization that we will miss Cory. We wish him the best.”

Brophey, 19, was Belleville’s leading scorer with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 22 games. Originally selected by the Barrie Colts in the second round (37th overall) in the 2002 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, Brophey was acquired by Belleville last season and has scored 63 goals with 85 assists for 148 points in 213 career games in the OHL.

Brophey was taken in the third round, 68th overall, by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2005 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

The 18-year-old Cunningham was originally drafted by the Owen Sound Attack in the second round, 23rd overall, of the 2003 OHL draft and acquired by Belleville last season. Cunningham has two goals with four assists for six points and 26 penalty minutes this year in Belleville and has 30 points and 138 penalty minutes in 140 career games in the OHL.

Tanaka, 17, was selected by Plymouth in the second round, 29th overall, in the 2004 OHL draft and scored 10 goals with 11 assists for 21 points and 49 penalty minutes in 67 games last season. This season, Tanaka has two goals (one on a penalty shot Oct. 30 against Owen Sound) with three assists for five points and 20 penalty minutes in 21 games.

Brophey (who will wear number 11) and Cunningham (number 3) are expected to be in the lineup tonight when the Whalers host the Sarnia Sting at 7:30 p.m. at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Terry and Torquato named to Ontario U-17s

Forwards Chris Terry (Plymouth Whalers) and Zack Torquato (Saginaw Spirit) were named to Ontario's World Under-17 Team that will compete in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Dec. 28 - Jan. 4 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

"We're very happy for Chris," Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. "He is deserving of this selection. He fits right in with the other talented players on his team and the good players on the other rosters."

Ontario Under-17 Roster

Joshua Bailey, Owen Sound Attack
Yves Bastien, Kitchener Rangers
Daryl Borden, Kingston Frontenacs
Bryan Cameron, Belleville Bulls
Trevor Cann, Peterborough Petes
Marcus Carroll, Owen Sound Attack
Logan Couture, Ottawa 67's
Drew Doughty, Guelph Storm
Sam Gagner, Sioux City (USHL)
Cody Goloubef, Milton Ice Hawks (OPJHL)
Mark Katic, Sarnia Sting
Daniel Lombardi, Sarnia Sting
Dale Mitchell, Oshawa Generals
Blake Parlett, Barrie Colts
Michael Pelech, Kitchener Rangers
Brendan Smith, St. Mike's Buzzers (OPJHL)
PK Subban, Belleville Bulls
Corey Syvret, London Knights
John Tavares, Oshawa Generals
Chris Terry, Plymouth Whalers
Zack Torquato, Saginaw Spirit

Head Coach: Marty Williamson, Barrie Colts
Assistant Coach: Jacques Beaulieu, London Knights
Assistant Coach: Jason Brooks, Guelph Storm
Director of Operations: Mike Futa, Owen Sound Attack
Assistant to Director: Ian MacLellan, Owen Sound Attack
Head Trainer: Andy Brown, Owen Sound Attack
Assistant Trainer: Phil Voutier, Brampton Battalion


Monday, November 21, 2005

Saturday and Sunday MiJHO digest


Whalers drop shootout to Brampton

The third time was not a charm on Saturday night for the Plymouth Whalers.

For the third straight Saturday night, the Whalers battled the opposition to a 2-2 draw through 65 minutes. The Whalers won the last two Saturday nights by identical 3-2 shootout victories – Nov. 5 against Toronto and Nov. 12 against London. But last Saturday, the Brampton Battalion marched home with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Whalers in a game played before a season-high crowd of 3,724 at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Howie Martin’s shootout goal on Brampton’s third shot a give the Battalion a 2-0 lead and the victory after the Whalers did not score on their two shots.

The game was tied or never more than a one-goal differential the entire way. Brampton’s Wojtek Wolski and Plymouth’s Gino Pisellini traded first period goals and the Whalers’ Tom Sestito and the Battalion’s Luke Lynes traded goals in the second period.

The goaltenders took over the rest of the way through the third period and in the overtime. Plymouth’s Ryan Nie stopped 38 of 40 Brampton shots and Brampton’s Daren Machesney stopped 36 of 38 Plymouth shots through 65 minutes of play.

Wolski scored Brampton’s first goal in the shootout and then Martin sealed the victory.

Plymouth (12-7-1-2) is off until Wednesday night when they host the Sarnia Sting at 7:30 pm in a game broadcast on Comcast Local. The Whalers then play in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday before returning home Saturday to host Peterborough.

Saginaw upends Frontenacs

The Saginaw Spirit returned to their winning ways with a 5-2 win over the Kingston Frontenacs Saturday night in Saginaw. Saginaw's power play energized the Saginaw win with three of the goals coming with an extra attacker.

Saginaw opened scoring in the seventh minute of the first period when Patrick Asselin found the net on the power play, from Michal Birner and Matt Corrente.

The Spirit jumped ahead 2-0 early in the second period when forward Chris Chappell scored his first OHL goal, from Jack Combs.

"It was really a pass," Chappell said of the goal. "But it hit someone and went in."

The Spirit extended their lead to 3-0 a minute-and-a-half later, when forward Zack Torquato scored from Jesse Gimblett and Tom Pyatt. Torquato's ninth goal ties him with Pyatt and Jean-Michel Rizk for the most goals by an underage player in a Spirit uniform.

Kingston broke the Ryan Daniels shutout bid just past the ten-minute mark of the second when Kingston captain Adam Nemeth scored. The Fronts cut the Spirit lead to 3-2 four minutes later on a power-play goal from Ben Shutron.

Saginaw responded two minutes after that with Asselin's second goal of the game, from Combs and Corrente.

"We played with more intensity tonight," Combs said of the win. "We battled when we had to and kept the lead in front of us."

The goal marked Asselin's third multiple goal game of the season.

The Spirit and Fronts battled through nearly 18 minutes of scoreless hockey in the third period, when Kingston pulled goaltender Daryl Borden. But Saginaw converted on the empty net just seven seconds later on a Birner goal assisted by Spirit captain Patrick McNeill and Gimblett.

Daniels turned back 36 shots in the effort. The win takes Saginaw's record to 14-7-0-0, with 28 points, good for first place in the OHL West Division. Saginaw resumes action Wednesday versus the defending Memorial Cup champion London Knights at 7:11pm at the Dow Event Center.

North Stars swept by Texarkana

The Traverse City North Stars finally penetrated the stout Texarkana defense on Saturday night, but didn't take advantage of seven power play opportunities as the Bandits put the finishing touches on a two-game sweep of the Stars with a 6-4 triumph at Centre ICE arena.

Traverse City fell below the .500 mark at 9-10-2 and continued to experience a power play power outage, going 0-for-7 on Saturday after an 0-for-8 showing on Friday. In fact, the North Stars haven't scored in their last 17 stints with a man advantage or better.

After Colby Jones logged the only goal of the first period on Saturday, Jonathan Juliano answered for the hosts 2:12 into the second stanza with his sixth goal of the year. However, Nic Polaski scored a goal at 7:12, sandwiched between Pat Knowlton goals at 2:52 and 8:41 and the visitors had built a 4-1 advantage.

Jared Mullen scored the first of his two goals near the midway point of the second period, Aaron Lewicki recorded his ninth of the season to open the final session with what proved to be the game-winner.

A two-goal burst began at 12:08 when TC's Steven Oleksy found twine and 42 seconds later Mullen lit the lamp again to pull the Stars to within a goal at 5-4. Justin Johnston pulled the plug on the comeback a little over a minute later, however, and Traverse City ingested its third consecutive loss.

Sault Ste. Marie product Miles Williams accrued 27 saves on 31 Traverse City shots, while Jeremy Kaleniecki patrolled the pipes for the North Stars to the tune of 31 saves.

Traverse City plays host to the Team USA U-18 squad in a Thanksgiving Eve affair on Wednesday at Centre ICE. Face-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. with warm-ups at 7.

Alpena downed in Mahoning Valley

Zach Barron and Anthony McIntyre each had a goal and an assist, but the Alpena IceDiggers lost to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, 5-2. Phil Greer stopped 43 shots in the loss.

Alpena (5-15-3) currently sits in last place in the NAHL's North Division and hosts Mahoning Valley this Friday and Saturday. Game time both nights is 7:00 p.m.


The Northern Michigan Black Bears withstood a third-period charge from the Soo Thunderbirds and held on for a 4-3 win on the road Sunday night.

Sean Farley, James Ciotti, Anthony Perdicaro and Jake Watchorn scored for the Black Bears while Tony Stoehr finished with 27 saves in net.

Northern Michigan (12-7-0-1) travels to Sudbury Wednesday evening.


at Flint Jr. Generals 6, Quad City Express 3
at Motor City Chiefs 5, Grand Rapids Jr. Owls 3
at Metro Jets 5, Peoria Mustangs 3

at Michigan Ice Dogs 3, Quad City 2
Grand Rapids 4 at Motor City 3
at Flint 9, Peoria 4

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday night's Michigan juniors roundup

It wasn't a good Friday evening for the five Michigan Junior A teams as all but one lost last night.

The Northern Michigan Black Bears were the lone winners Friday as an overtime goal by captain Steve Kruszewski (pictured right), completing the hat trick, gave the Black Bears a 5-4 win over the Blind River Beavers. Michael Caprio and James Ciotti also scored for Northern Michigan, who got a 23-save outing from goalie Tony Stoehr. The Black Bears are idle tonight, but go on the road to play the Soo Thunderbirds Sunday at 7:00 p.m.

In Plymouth, the Whalers lost to the Kingston Frontenacs, 7-5. Dan Collins had two goals and an assist and goalies Ryan Nie (41:11) and Jeremy Smith (OHL debut, 17:15) combined for 36 saves. Andrew Fournier, Vaclav Meidl and captain John Vigilante also scored for Plymouth, who hosts the Brampton Battalion tonight.

Over in Saginaw, Brampton was down early, but came back to beat the Spirit, 5-3. Ryan McDonough, Garrett Sinfield (first OHL goal) and Jack Combs scored for Saginaw. Francois Thuot made 33 saves in taking the loss. The Spirit play Kingston at home this evening.

Up in Traverse City, the North Stars suffered their first-ever shutout as the Texarkana Bandits defeated Traverse City, 3-0. North Stars goalie Ryan Donovan stopped 25 shots. The two teams meet again tonight.

And down in Mahoning Valley, the host Phantoms beat the Alpena IceDiggers, 5-3, by notching all five goals in the second period. Alpena was up 2-0 on goals by Ricardo Yesue and Anthony McIntyre heading into the second period. Steve Culbertson also tallied for the IceDiggers and goaltender Johnny Morrow made 47 saves. A rematch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

In CSHL play, it was the Motor City Chiefs 7, Quad City Express 4 and the Peoria Mustangs beat the Michigan Ice Dogs, 7-3. Tonight, Quad City visits the Flint Jr. Generals, the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls travel to Motor City and Peoria moves on to play the Metro Jets.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

North Stars gear up for Bandits

The Texarkana Bandits are right where the Traverse City North Stars want to be: on the precipice of a North American Hockey League championship. This weekend at Centre ICE, the Stars can find out just how far away they are.

The Bandits roll into TC brandishing a 12-4-1 record after a split last weekend with two-time defending NAHL champion Texas, and having won 10 of their last 12 outings – including four wins over the division-leading Tornado. Texarkana is also the model franchise for an organization like the North Stars, according to head coach-GM Scott Gardiner.

“They’re in their third year (as a franchise) and they’re one of the best teams in the league,” Gardiner explained. “They say it takes about three years to build a championship team and they’ve got all the makings this year. (Bandits head coach) Jon Cooper has done a great job with the team.”

The Bandits also sport something that the North Stars can’t – a roster dotted with veterans of NAHL rigors.

“We went through our first two expansion years,” said Cooper, who has many Michigan ties including a stint as head coach at a Lansing-area high school (Catholic Central), downstate Junior B club (Metro Jets) and HoneyBaked midget major as well as having a wife who hails from Cadillac. “Now, into our third year we have a good core of veterans, and this is the first year we’ve been able to have that kind of veteran leadership you need to have if you want to succeed in this league.”

Texarkana has no offensive players among the top 25 leading scorers in the NAHL, but boast seven who have reached double-digit points over the team’s 17 contests. Forwards Anthony Becker and Aaron Lewicki (Livonia) lead the way with 17 points each, while Becker and forward Jason Weeks pace the club with nine goals each.

Riley Gill has done yeoman’s work in net for the Bandits this season, logging over 900 minutes in 15 appearances. Gill is seventh in the NAHL in both goals-against average (2.59) and save percentage (.919).

Gardiner says that facing an array of offensive and defensive weapons is the perfect barometer by which to measure his team’s progress in its inaugural campaign.

“That’s why we scheduled Texas and Texarkana,” he said. “We want to see where we stand as a first-year team, we want to know how we stack up against the best teams.”

Traverse City forward Zeke Costello (pictured above), who played for Texarkana last season, says the Bandits will be a stiff challenge, but not an unassailable favorite.

“They know we’re an expansion team, but they’ll see pretty quickly that they’re going to have to tighten up their ‘D’,” said Costello, who has four goals and eight assists through 19 contests in 2005-06. “They’re definitely one of the elite teams in the league, but just like anyone else, they can be beaten on any given night.

“They’re going to get up here and it’s not going to be 85 degrees and they’ll have been traveling for a while. Plus, their rink has been down and they haven’t skated since last Saturday, so we’re going to try to take advantage of that if we can.”

Patrick Nagorsen still leads the North Stars in scoring with eight goals and eight assists in 19 games, while Jared Mullen (six goals, eight assists) is second with 14 points.

Cooper says that while the North Stars are a talented crew, he also knows that Gardiner will have his team ready for action.

“If I know Scotty, he always has his teams prepared and working hard. I had a chance to see them in Blaine (at the NAHL Showcase last month), and they’re a scary team to play against because they come at you with everything they have. If you let up for a second, they will make you pay for it.”

Friday’s game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. face-off, while Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. start time will be preceded at 5:00 p.m. by the Pat Erway Hockey Benefit.

Sorry, Gino...

I just think this is a fantastic photo - good stuff, Walt!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Whalers beat Sarnia and London

Chris Terry is mobbed after his shootout winner Saturday night
(Photo by Matt Mackinder)

The Plymouth Whalers battled for a 4-3 win in Sarnia Friday night and then provided a dramatic finish Saturday night in a 3-2 shootout win over London.

Friday night, Ryan Nie made 33 saves and James Neal had a goal and two assists. Captain John Vigilante and Dan Collins chipped in with a goal and an assist and Jared Boll added a goal.

“It should have been 5-2 after the first period,” Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci said, noting three Plymouth goals were disallowed. “The three goals that didn’t count were definitely goals.”

Jeff MacDougald stopped 34 shots for the Sting.

Saturday night back home in front of a season-high 2,947 fans, Chris Terry repeated his shootout magic as he beat London goalie Adam Dennis in sudden death.

“I didn’t really analyze their goalie too much,” said Terry. “The most nervous part is watching the guys go ahead of you. I used a different move than last week and it turned out well.”

Mike Letizia and OHL scoring leader David Bolland scored in the shootout prior to Terry’s winner.

Terry had won the game the previous Saturday night against the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors on the last shot of the shootout.

“I wouldn’t have put (Terry) in to tie it,” said Vellucci. “But to win it, I think there’s less pressure.”

Letizia and Collins scored in regulation for Plymouth while Rob Schremp scored both for the Knights.

Nie finished with 44 saves while Dennis made 43 stops.

The Plymouth victory moves the Whalers into a first-place tie in the West Division with the Spirit. Plymouth’s record is 12-6-1-1 and Saginaw is 13-5-0-0 – both good for 26 points.

Plymouth hosts Kingston Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and then hosts Brampton Saturday night, also at 7:30 p.m.

Saginaw drop 2 of 3, tied for 1st in West

The Saginaw Spirit started out their road trip last weekend with a 4-2 win in Oshawa Friday night, but then hit a wall in losses to Belleville (3-0) and Brampton (6-2).

Friday night, Patrick Asselin (left) scored a pair and Zack Torquato and captain Patrick McNeill added singles for the Spirit.

Goaltender Francois Thuot made 24 saves for the victory.

"Everybody trusts each other on this team," Thuot said after the win over the Generals. "When we're down a goal or two, I trust our offense to get the goals back. And they trust the defense and the goalies to stop the other team from scoring. That's how we can come back and win when we're down a goal or two."

Saturday against the Bulls, Thuot made 32 saves. The Bulls used just seven minutes in the second period to score the three power-play goals.

Then against the Battalion yesterday, Tom Pyatt and Joe McCann were the Saginaw goal scorers. Thuot and Jovica Zelenbaba split time in net. Thuot had 21 saves on 26 shots while Zelenbaba made six saves on seven shots.

Saginaw is now tied with the Plymouth Whalers for first place in the West Division as both teams have 26 points.

The Spirit return home to the Dow Event Center to face Brampton on Friday.

Traverse City and Alpena do the splits

The in-state rivalry between the Traverse City North Stars and Alpena IceDiggers continued this past weekend as the two teams split their two-game set. Each team won on their home ice with the North Stars winning Friday night and Alpena getting the duke Saturday.

Friday night at Centre ICE, Josh Sorenson (pictured) scored twice to lead Traverse City to a 4-2 win. Travis Paeth opened the scoring and Matthew Larke’s power-play score with 5:06 remaining in the contest salted away the victory for the North Stars, who claimed a sixth straight conquest at home.

“We worked harder tonight and had the better forecheck,” said Jonathan Juliano, who celebrated his 19th birthday in style with an assist on Larke’s clincher. “Coach (Scott Gardiner) told us to stop playing at their level and try to rise above some of the penalties and stuff, and to get back to the level we had been playing at.”

Jeremy Kaleniecki stopped 23 IceDiggers shots for Traverse City while Johnny Morrow saved 25 for the IceDiggers.

Justin Stadler scored both goals for Alpena.

Saturday night, Alpena linemates Chris Lanciano and Anthony McIntyre helped keep Traverse City winless at Northern Lights Arena with a pair of goals each as the IceDiggers dealt the North Stars a 5-2 loss.

Stadler added Alpena's other goal.

"We've been talking about how important it is to get pucks on net," Alpena assistant coach Kelly Miller said. "Tonight we were rewarded for our efforts."

Miller also was happy to see Lanciano rewarded.

"Chris is solid defensively," Miller noted. "We might expect to get two goals from him for the entire season, but two in one night shows how he carried his effort into the offensive zone and gave us a big lift."

Steven Oleksy and Jake Erway scored for the North Stars, who got a 36-save outing from Kaleniecki.

Phil Greer made 25 saves for the win in the Alpena net.

The North Stars will take a six-game home winning streak into this weekend’s two-game series with Texarkana at Centre ICE. The Bandits come into the contest at 12-4-1 after splitting a home-and-home set with defending NAHL champion Texas. Both the Friday and Saturday contests are slated for 7:30 face-offs. The Saturday contest will be preceded by the Pat Erway Hockey Benefit game at 5:00 p.m.

Alpena travels to Mahoning Valley for two games Friday and Saturday night.

Black Bears win both over weekend

The Northern Michigan Black Bears beat the Manitoulin Wild, 6-2, Friday night on the road and then took a 3-2 win at the Big Bear Arena Saturday night against the Abitibi Eskimos.

Michael Caprio (pictured) tallied a hat trick Friday night and goalie Tony Stoehr made 24 saves. Derek Stabile, Anthony Perdicaro and Ryan Huggett scored solos for Northern Michigan. Chris Cooper added three assists and Isaac Viau and Jesse Peltier chipped in with two assists each.

The game was 2-2 heading into the third period until the Black Bears scored four unanswered goals.

Saturday night, Caprio, Viau and Tyler Huskey paced the Northern Michigan attack and Stoehr finished with 17 saves.

The Black Bears host Blind River Saturday night and travel to the Soo Sunday evening.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Helmick leaves Whalers, goes home

Defenseman Jake Helmick has reportedly left the Plymouth Whalers and gone home to West Virginia. Helmick had played in seven games this year and did not register a point.

He joined Plymouth last January as the team's "wild card" 1988-born rookie and was pointless in 11 regular season games and two playoff games.

Helmick was originally Plymouth's fourth-round pick, 73rd overall, in the 2004 OHL Priority Selection and the first-ever West Virginia native to play in the OHL.

UPDATE - Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said Saturday night that Helmick has strep throat and that he "expects him back soon."

Photo courtesy of the Plymouth Whalers.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Whalers lose in shootout in Owen Sound

Owen Sound defenseman Andrej Sekera scored twice in regulation and then added the only goal scored in a shootout to give the Owen Sound Attack a 7-6 shootout victory over the Plymouth Whalers last night at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound.

Jeff Kyrzakos also scored twice for Owen Sound, while Bobby Ryan and Mike Angelidis scored one each for the Attack. Plymouth (10-6-1-1, second place OHL West) got a pair of goals from rookie Ondrej Otcenas (pictured) and singles from Andrew Fournier, Vaclav Meidl, Gino Pisellini and Mike Letizia.

Owen Sound outshot Plymouth, 48-25 through regulation and a five-minute overtime. Justin Garay stopped 42 of 48 Owen Sound shots for Plymouth while Kyle Knechtel stopped 19 of 25 shots for Owen Sound.

First-period goals by Fournier and Meidl gave Plymouth a 2-0 lead, even though Owen Sound outshot Plymouth, 23-8, in the first period.

Owen Sound scored four unanswered goals in the second period to lead 4-2 after forty minutes on a pair of goals by Kyrzakos and Sekera.

Plymouth bounced right back at the start of the third period to tie the game at 4-4 on goals by Otcenas (0:24) and Pisellini (0:50). But the Attack regained a 6-4 lead on Angelidis’ goal at 10:28 of the period and a disputed goal by Ryan at 12:19.

Otcenas cut the Owen Sound lead to 6-5 with his second of the evening at 13:55 and then – with Garay pulled for an extra attacker and the Whalers working with a 6-on-4 advantage – Letizia scored from the slot with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 6-6.

After a scoreless overtime, Sekera scored the only goal in the shootout to give Owen Sound the victory. John Vigilante, Dan Collins and Otcenas did not score for Plymouth in the shootout.

Plymouth is back in action Friday night in Sarnia before returning home to face London on Saturday night at 7:30 pm at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Tornado's Messier carving a name for himself

By Matt Mackinder
USA Junior Hockey Magazine

The last name is about all Lyon Messier has in common with his father, the recently-retired Mark Messier.

The elder Messier is a surefire Hall of Famer while Lyon, an 18-year-old rookie with the Texas Tornado, plays defense and is a long way from his father’s totals (by comparison, Mark was in the NHL at 18).

“I’ve always wanted to play pro hockey and if college is the way to go, then so be it,” said Messier, also noting he hasn’t received any NCAA offers yet. “Right now, I just want to help the team here progress and if we win a championship at the end of the season, that’s a bonus.”

Tornado coach-GM Tony Curtale said not a day goes by that the all-too familiar topic comes up.

“People always ask him about his dad and what it’s like to be his son,” Curtale said. “But for the most part, I think Lyon tries to block that out and tries to be a successful player on his own.”

The 6-foot, 190-pound Messier agreed with his coach’s assumption.

“Everyone thinks that having a father like that would be different, but really my childhood was just like any other childhood,” Messier said. “It just happened that my father was a good hockey player and he and I played a game that we both love.

“I might have gotten noticed a lot because of my last name, but I want to play my game for who I am and get noticed that way.”

Messier was born in Virginia and played hockey there until he was 14 when he moved with his mother to Michigan. There, he played Bantam AAA for Little Caesars and then played Junior B with the Tecumseh (Ontario) Chiefs for two years. Now, he’s elevated his game again to play with Texas.

“I was in Tecumseh and my grandfather made a few calls,” admitted Messier. “I went and played in a prospects tournament and the (Tornado) coaches saw me and invited me down and tendered me.

“It took a couple games to get used to the game here because it’s so different than in Canada, but the atmosphere is great here and definitely the highest and most elite level I’ve played.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

North Stars deal two

The Traverse City North Stars made another move on Wednesday, dealing a pair of players to the North Bay Skyhawks of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. Defensemen Nathan Peterson and Anthony Sarno were sent to North Bay for an undisclosed sum of cash.

Peterson, who appeared in nine games this season for the North Stars, did not register a point and was whistled for one minor penalty over that time. Peterson prepped at Cadillac High School, where he was a three-time All-Region selection by local media.

Sarno (pictured), who played for the Turino Bulls in Italy last season and is a former Traverse City Enforcer of the now-defunct Continental Elite Hockey League, saw action in 13 games in 2005-06 for the Stars, collecting a pair of goals and four assists.

The trade comes on the heels of a bevy of personnel movement over the past 14 days. Austin Rugal was sent to Alpena and Scott Ponstein reassigned to Blind River of the NOJHL, while defenseman Eric Elmblad was signed and Josh Sorenson acquired in a cash deal with the NAHL's Texas Tornado.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Black Bears and CSHL roundup

The Northern Michigan Black Bears lost to the Sudbury Junior Wolves, 5-4, Friday night at Big Bear Arena.

Jake Watchorn, Sean Farley, Anthony Perdoicaro and James Ciotti scored for the Black Bears while goaltender Tony Stoehr (left) made 19 saves.

The Wolves scored at 16:24 of the third period to escape with the win.

Saturday's home game against Manitoulin was not reported.

Northern Michigan plays at Manitoulin Friday night and back home Saturday against Abitibi.


Sat., Nov. 5
Cincinnati 3 at Metro 4
Motor City 3 at St. Louis 6
Toledo 2 at Michigan 5

Sun., Nov. 6
Motor City 2 at St. Louis 5
Cincinnati 2 at Flint 5
Grand Rapids at Michigan - not reported

Alpena plays forgettable weekend

Three home games in three days meant three losses for the Alpena IceDiggers over the weekend.

Friday, Johnny Morrow (pictured) made 27 saves, but Alpena lost, 3-0, to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

In Saturday's rematch, Phil Greer stopped 22, but the IceDiggers lost, 5-2. Anthony McIntyre and Todd Rudasill scored Alpena's goals.

Then yesterday, Drew Pierson's goal at 17:37 of the third period tied the game at 3-all before Cleveland won, 4-3, in a shootout. McIntyre scored the first two IceDiggers' goals. Morrow finished with 27 saves and all five Alpena shooters missed in the shootout.

The IceDiggers play a home-and-home series this weekend against the Traverse City North Stars - Friday in Traverse City and Saturday in Alpena.

North Stars sweep away Cleveland

The Traverse City North Stars improved to 8-7-2 overall with a pair of wins on home ice last weekend over the Cleveland Jr. Barons.

“Just a good solid weekend,” said North Stars coach-GM Scott Gardiner. “Cleveland didn’t play that poorly. We just got some bounces and some breaks and we were able to take advantage of them. We just played with a little more heart this weekend than we have been. It’s a different team right now.”

Friday night, goalie Jeremy Kalieniecki stopped Josh Leonard on a penalty shot with less than five seconds left in the third period and the North Stars ahead, 3-2.

“We really needed that one,” said Gardiner. “It was great to get back home and to taste victory again. Kaleniecki was huge for us, especially there at the end.”

Kelieniecki made 34 saves and Jonathan Juliano, with two, and Adam Sponseller scored for the hosts. Newly-acquired Josh Sorenson assisted on Julaino's second goal. Sorenson was obtained from Texas last week.

Then Saturday night, Traverse City used a three-goal outburst in the first 20 minutes of action and cruised to a 6-2 triumph.

Sorenson, Matthew Larke, Sponseller (two), Travis Paeth and Patrick Nagorsen tallied for Traverse City and Kalieniecki stopped 28 shots.

“That’s what we needed after last weekend at Mahoning Valley,” said Nagorsen. “We’re playing smarter and playing to our system. If we shut them down in the defensive zone, it only helps us in the offensive end.”

The North Stars return to Centre ICE Friday when North Division rival Alpena comes to Traverse City for the front end of a home-and-home series. Game time on Nov. 11 is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Photo by John L. Russell/Great Lakes Images

Saginaw's win streak ends in Windsor

Saginaw's win streak ended at eight games as the Spirit dropped an 8-2 decision Sunday afternoon in Windsor against the Spitfires.

"I'm not disappointed with our effort," said Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. "We just weren't ready to put together three games in two-and-a-half days. But every lesson we learned from our eight game streak was important and we learned some important lessons from this loss to Windsor as well."

Ryan McDonough and Joe McCann scored for Saginaw. Ryan Daniels started in net and played 40 minutes and had 18 saves in the loss. Jovica Zelenbaba played the final 20 minutes and had nine saves in his OHL debut after getting called-up from the Kitchener Junior Rangers major midget program.

Zelenbaba was a ninth-round pick of Saginaw in last May's OHL draft.

"We're happy to have a goaltender like Jovica available to activate," said Mancini. "He has the potential to be a fine goalie for our team and in the Ontario Hockey League."

Saturday night at home, the Spirit came from behind to beat the Oshawa Generals, 7-5. Saginaw goaltender Francois Thuot stopped 33 shots in the effort, including a penalty shot against the OHL's top draft pick, 15-year-old John Tavares.

McDonough had two goals and two assists, Tom Pyatt (pictured) two goals and an assist, Michal Birner three assists, Zack Torquato two goals and captain Patrick McNeill added a goal and an assist.

Oshawa led, 3-0, after the first period.

"We were down in the first period and didn't play that well," McNeill said. "But we were able to learn from that and get back into the game."

At home Friday night, the Spirit took a 3-1 win over the Toronto St. Michael's Majors. Torquato, Birner and Tyson Gimblett scored for Saginaw, who got a 36-save performance from Daniels.

"Toronto rolled three good, talented offensive lines against us," Spirit associate head coach Ian Herbers said. "But we were able to play our game and our defense stepped up when we needed them."

The Spirit remain in first place in the OHL's West Division and are just one point back of Western Conference-leading Guelph Storm for the top spot in the conference.

Saginaw returns to action Friday when the Spirit take on Oshawa for the first game of a three-game Eastern Conference swing. Saginaw returns home Friday, Nov. 18 to face the Brampton Battalion.

Whalers lose in Guelph, then beat Toronto

The Plymouth Whalers concluded their three-game week with a 3-2 shootout win over the Toronto St. Michael's Majors Saturday night.

Chris Terry scored the winner (pictured) on the shootout's final shot. Steve Ward scored Plymouth's regulation goals and Ryan Nie made 40 saves.

“As I came in, he (Toronto goalie Justin Peters) came out pretty far to take the shot away,” Terry explained. “So I came in and gave a little fake shot and he fell for it and just froze. I was able to walk around him (and score).”

Friday night, John Armstrong scored both goals for Plymouth in a 7-2 loss on the road against the Guelph Storm. Armstrong's second goal, eight seconds into the third period, set an all-time franchise record for a goal at the start of a period, a record previously held by Keith Redmond, who scored nine seconds into the second period in a 5-2 loss in Belleville on Feb. 15, 1992.

Justin Garay stopped 30 shots in the defeat.

The Whalers started the week with a 5-2 win Thursday night in Windsor.

Plymouth plays Wednesday night in Owen Sound, Friday night in Sarnia and Saturday night at home against London.

Chris Terry photo courtesy of the Whalers/Walt Dmoch.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Pair of North Stars named on NHL list

Twenty-seven North American Hockey League players have been placed on the National Hockey League Central Scouting Bureau's Watch List that was released yesterday.

The Watch List provides an early indication of those players who, in the opinion of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, may have draft potential and should be seen by the scouts of NHL clubs. The list is provided to each NHL team management for their review and is drawn from the pool of those players eligible for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft - 1986, 1987 and to September 15, 1988 birthdates, concentrating on the ’87s and ’88s. As the season progresses, the list may change depending how a player is progressing.

Two Traverse City North Stars made the B List - players who have exhibited talent worthy of consideration to be a draft selection. Forwards Travis Paeth and Adam Sponseller (pictured) were named on the list.

“We congratulate the players on the NHL Central Scouting Watch List and we congratulate our teams and their coaches for their outstanding efforts in developing these players,” said NAHL commissioner and president Michael Santos. “At the same time, this is an accomplishment for our entire league, for it is the outstanding competition in the NAHL that helps bring out the best in all our players. We thank NHL Central Scouting for recognizing the rapidly escalating talent level and quality of play in the NAHL. ”

Photo courtesy of the Traverse City North Stars

Plymouth downs Windsor, 5-2, Thursday

The Whalers celebrate Gino Pisellini's goal Thursday night
(Photo courtesy of Plymouth Whalers/Walt Dmoch)

Andrew Fournier's goal at 17:51 of the second period snapped a 2-2 tie and the Plymouth Whalers went on to defeat the Windsor Spitfires , 5-2, Thursday night at Windsor Arena.

The victory moves Plymouth (9-5-1-0) to within one point of first-place Saginaw (10-3-0-0) in the OHL West Division. Windsor falls to (5-11-0-0), last in the OHL West Division and last in the Western Conference.

Five different players scored for Plymouth. John Armstrong, Dan Collins (team-leading 14th), Gino Pisellini and Tom Sestito all added goals for the Whalers.

Ryan Garlock and Cal O'Reilly replied for Windsor.

"They were all over us," O'Reilly said in the Windsor Star. "We couldn't get out of our end."

Plymouth goaltender Ryan Nie stopped 28 of 30 Windsor shots for his fifth victory of the season. Nie was particularly sharp in the first 4:37 of the game when Windsor had two power plays and outshot Plymouth at that point in the game, 8-0.

Anthony Guadagnolo made 43 saves for the Spitfires.

The Whalers are back in action tonight in Guelph and will return home Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Compuware Sports Arena to host Toronto.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Whalers' rookie Terry earns OHL award

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the OHL Academic Players of the Month for the month of October.

“We are very pleased to introduce this program which identifies and recognizes players who have also enjoyed success in their academic careers,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch. “All of our teams support the academic pursuits of our players and count on scholastic achievement as one of the building blocks of a successful student athlete."

West Division - The OHL Academic Player of the Month for October in the West Division is Chris Terry of the Plymouth Whalers. The 16-year-old from Brampton, Ontario, is enrolled in grade 11 at Plymouth High School in Plymouth, Michigan.

“It’s not always easy to combine our busy schedule on the ice with work in school – especially for a player in his first year in the league,” said Plymouth assistant coach Todd Watson. ”But Chris has been able to manage his time well. He deserves this award.”

Midwest Division - Vince Scott, Erie Otters
Central Division - Blake Parlett, Barrie Colts
East Division - Geoff Killing, Belleville Bulls

Each month, the OHL recognizes a player from each division who is striving to reach his full potential in his educational program while playing in the OHL. More than 97 percent of the players currently playing in the league are currently attending high school or post-secondary institutions. More than 400 OHL graduates are currently attending Canadian universities and colleges on scholarships from their OHL teams.

North Stars ready for Cleveland

An everyman comedian once penned a theme song to a sitcom that proclaimed: “Cleveland rocks.”

In North American Hockey League circles, truer words were never spoken. The Cleveland Barons visit Centre ICE this weekend for a Nov. 4-5 two-game series against the Traverse City North Stars sporting the league’s most explosive offensive duo in Carter Camper and Josh Leonard.

Camper rolls into town brandishing the lead in the NAHL scoring chase with 28 points in the Barons’ 20 contests, while Leonard is fifth in the league with 21 points. Leonard’s 11 goals are second-most in the NAHL, while Camper has 10 -- tied for third.

The North Stars are quite familiar with the high-octane tandem. In the teams’ Sept. 16-18 three-game set, Camper scored a pair of goals and assisted on four others, while Leonard registered a hat trick in a 5-1 Barons triumph on Sept. 17.

“We definitely gotta pay a little more attention when they’re on the ice,” admitted North Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “But at the same time, you can’t change your gameplan for two players. They’re excellent perimeter players with speed and skill, but we can’t let them drive the net.”

The North Stars come into the series having lost a pair to Mahoning Valley last weekend that capped over a month of NAHL action away from Centre ICE. The Stars’ last home game was Oct. 1, a 2-1 shootout victory over the Team USA U-17 squad. Since then the club has traveled more than 3,000 miles, which included trips to Alpena, the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Mn., and the Youngstown-based Phantoms last weekend.

“It’ll be great to get back home,” said Gardiner, whose team boasts a 4-2 mark thus far at Centre ICE arena. “We don’t have another big road trip until December, so guys are going to get to sleep in their own beds, dress in their own room, and play in front of their own fans. We can’t wait to get back on home ice.”

The North Stars begin a busy month at Centre ICE this Friday for the first of the Cleveland contests. Alpena kicks off a home-and-home weekend series in TC on Nov. 11 before South Division rival Texarkana comes to Traverse City for a Nov. 18-19 series. The Team USA U-18s will visit Centre ICE arena for a Nov. 23 Thanksgiving Eve face-off.

The Nov. 19 contest against Texarkana will be preceded by the Pat Erway Hockey Benefit, which will pit the TC LawDogs against the Traverse City Fossils. The LawDogs are comprised of local law enforcement agents, while the Fossils are a collection of local businessmen, former Traverse City Central H.S. hockey teammates and coaches of Pat Erway’s, and North Stars coaches Scott Gardiner and Mike Stapleton. The LawDogs will be captained by Stars forward Jake Erway. brother of Pat Erway. Pat Erway is a detective with the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Dept. who suffered a severe head injury while on vacation in North Carolina and is making inspiring progress in his rehabilitation at a Grand Rapids hospital. Proceeds from the gate, silent auction, and concessions will benefit the Erway Family Fund.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Daniels takes monthly OHL honor

Saginaw Spirit goaltender Ryan Daniels was named the OHL Goaltender of the Month for October after posting a 5-0-0 record along with a 1.57 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in five games. Daniels allowed only two even-strength goals over the month and is now 7-0-0 on the season with a .918 save percentage and a 2.79 goals-against average.

The 17-year-old Pickering, Ontario native is in his second OHL season. Daniels played seven games with the Spirit in 2004-05, while spending the majority of his season with the Pickering Panthers Junior A squad. Daniels was the Spirit's third-round pick, 48th overall, in the 2004 OHL Priority Selection and is NHL draft-eligible for the first time this season.

Last weekend at home, the Spirit beat Kitchener, 5-4, Saturday night and Guelph, 3-1, on Sunday. Saginaw hosts Toronto Friday night and Oshawa Saturday night before playing a matinee in Windsor Sunday afternoon.