Thursday, December 29, 2005

IceDiggers acquire Hudick twins from CSHL

The Alpena IceDiggers announced today the signing of two players as Earl Hudick and Ed Hudick have been traded to the IceDiggers from the Toledo Cherokee of the CSHL.

"Both players will add depth and energy to our line up in the second half of the season," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller stated. "I am confident that they will bring a hardworking mentality to our team day in and day out."

The Hudick twins, 18 and Newport natives, will see action in the exhibition game versus the Northern Michigan Black Bears on Monday at home. Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Northern Lights Arena.

Whalers win, Spirit lose Wednesday

The Plymouth Whalers rode goalie Justin Peters (below) and their power play to a 5-1 victory over the Windsor Spitfires before a sellout crowd of 3,715 Wednesday afternoon at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Plymouth remains in first place in the OHL's West Division ahead of the Saginaw Spirit, who lost 4-3 last night at home to Erie.

Peters, obtained by Plymouth on Dec. 9 in a trade from Toronto, ran his record since coming to the Whalers to 4-1-0-0 with 37 saves. Evan Brophey, Dan Collins, Zack Shepley (first of the year), Jared Boll and Tom Sestito all scored for Plymouth. Defensemen Mike Letizia and Wes Cunningham, in his first game back from an ankle injury, each added two assists for the Whalers.

Plymouth went 3-for-5 on the power play while killing all four Windsor power plays.

The Whalers are off until Friday night when they host Erie.

Meanwhile, up in Saginaw, the Spirit blew a 3-1 lead and fell, 4-3. The team honored Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman (top of page) before the game and the nine-time Stanley Cup-winning coach met Spirit fans, signed autographs and participated in a ceremonial puck drop before the contest.

Anthony Soboczynski, Jesse Gimblett and Jamie Klie (first this year) staked Saginaw to a 3-1 lead, but the Otters rallied for three in the final two periods.

Ryan Daniels turned back 31 shots in the game.

The Spirit resume action Friday night in Sudbury against the Wolves, the first game of a two-game Eastern Conference road trip.

Whalers photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays from Michigan Junior Hockey!

To all of our loyal readers, have a happy holiday season and be sure to come back to MiJHO next week once the Michigan junior scene starts to pick back up again!

Sincerely yours,

The MiJHO Staff

Alpena assistant bolts for UHL's Komets

Alpena IceDiggers' assistant coach/assistant GM Kelly Miller has brought himself out of retirement and joined one of his former teams, the Fort Wayne Komets of the United Hockey League.

Check out the story here from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

IceDiggers and Black Bears plan exhibition

The Alpena IceDiggers are kicking off 2006 with an exhibition game against the Northern Michigan Black Bears on Monday, Jan. 2 at 7:00 p.m. at the Northern Lights Arena.

“With this game, our team and the fans will be able to see what teams from the (Northern) Ontario League play like,” states Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller. “There are good players coming out of that league and we would like to see how we match-up. An exhibition game like this one is exciting for us, and also brings an excitement for the fans to see us go against a team from just over the bridge.”

IceDigger fans are encouraged to bring canned goods in order to purchase discounted tickets. Just $5 and two canned goods will get fans in the door. Season ticket holders that attend will have a free entry to the game with the donation of two canned goods as well. All canned goods will be donated to the St Bernard’s Soup Kitchen in Alpena. Those who do not bring any canned goods will pay $9 for adults and $7 for students and seniors. Children 4 and under are admitted for free.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

North Stars sign Prough for '06-07

The 2005-06 season is just half done, but the Traverse City North Stars are already looking ahead to next year.

The team signed high-scoring forward Alex Prough to a tender for the 2006-07 season, becoming just the second North American Hockey League team to spend a tender on personnel for the league’s 31st campaign.

“We felt like we really wanted to make sure we got Alex,” explained Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “He’s a guy with speed, skill, and that knack for putting the puck in the net.”

Prough, a senior at Orchard Lake St. Mary's High School, participated in Stars try-out camp this summer, but opted to stay at St. Mary's for his senior year. He liked what he saw when he was in Traverse City, though.

“It seemed like a first-class program with first-class coaching,” said Prough, a three-year prep teammate of current North Stars captain Patrick Nagorsen. “It just seemed like a great place to live and to play. I am excited about the opportunity, and really excited about this chance.”

Prough, who helped Nagorsen and the Eaglets to the Michigan High School Athletic Association state championship game last year, has been in high gear this season, registering 15 points through five games and a 4-1 record, with five goals and 10 assists.

“He’s a guy who I could really see helping us right away,” Gardiner said. “He’s an impact-type player.”

The North Stars retain three tenders for 2006-07, having signed Prough and having already dealt a tender to Southern Minnesota for Arthur Bidwell last week.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Black Bears split, CSHL weekend results

The Northern Michigan Black Bears were .500 on their weekend road trip as they beat the Manitoulin Islanders Friday night, but fell short against the Abitibi Eskimos on Saturday night.

Both games were away from the Big Bear Arena.

Friday night, the Bears took a 6-2 win as Jake Watchorn and Ryan Huggett each scored a pair and Sean Farley and Steve Kruszewski added singles. Jim Ceglarek had three assists and Tyler Huskey and Watchorn contributed two helpers. Michael Bell (pictured) earned the win with 25 saves. Tony Stoehr played 7:35 and made one stop on two shots.

Saturday night, the Eskimos defeated Northern Michigan by a 7-3 count on the strength of six third-period goals.

Bell made just 15 saves on 22 shots while Abitibi goalie Cedric Bradette made 54 stops.

Captain Michael Herbert, Anthony Perdicaro and Peter Landem scored for Northern Michigan.

The Bears are off until Wednesday when they visit the Soo Thunderbirds.


Fri., Dec. 16
Flint Jr. Generals
1 @ Metro Jets 4
Michigan Ice Dogs 5 @ Motor City Chiefs 6 (OT)
Peoria 3 @ Grand Rapids Jr. Owls 2

Sat., Dec. 17
Grand Rapids 3 @ St. Louis 7
Metro 4 @ Michigan 7
Motor City Chiefs 0 @ Toledo 3

Sun., Dec. 18
Peoria 9 @ Grand Rapids 6
Toledo 3 @ Michigan 2
Flint 4 @ Motor City 9

Mon., Dec. 19
Grand Rapids 0 @ St. Louis 4
Michigan 8 @ Flint 4
Metro 4 @ Toledo 3 (OT)

Whalers over Toronto, 4-1, Sunday afternoon

The Plymouth Whalers go into first place all alone in the OHL's West Division with a 4-1 victory over the Toronto St. Michael's Majors in a game played Sunday afternoon at St. Michael's Arena.

The Plymouth victory - coupled with Saginaw's 5-0 loss Sunday in Guelph - gives the Whalers a two-point lead at the top of the West Division over Saginaw going into the Christmas Break.

Plymouth is 18-11-1-3, good for 40 points; Saginaw is 19-13-0-0, good for 38 points.

James Neal, Joe Gaynor (second of the season and second in two games), Ondrej Otcenas (second in two games) and Jared Boll all scored for Plymouth against former Whalers' goaltender Ryan Nie. Plymouth led 1-0 after twenty minutes and 2-0 after two periods.

Justin Peters (above) stopped 31 of 32 shots for Plymouth as the game's second star.

Evan Brophey contributed two assists as did Gino Pisellini.

In Guelph, Spirit goaltender Ryan Daniels stopped 25 of 30 shots in the loss.

Peters photo courtesy of Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers.

TC downed by Barons, 5-1, on Sunday

The good news: The Traverse City North Stars drew first blood on Sunday at Centre ICE arena.

The bad news: The visiting Cleveland Barons scored the next five.

Matt Larke (left) gave the host Stars a 1-0 edge just 7:58 into Sunday’s matinee on assists from Jonathan Juliano and Ryan Bond, but the Barons’ answer – with just 1.9 seconds left in the first period off the stick of Jeremy Tejchma – started an avalanche of Cleveland tallies.

The game started to go the Barons’ way in earnest at 11:30 of the second stanza when Josh Leonard scored his first of two goals. Traverse City’s Travis Paeth had been whistled for elbowing on what appeared to be a clean – and decisive – body check a mere 46 seconds prior to the power play score.

“That turned the game right there,” assessed North Stars coach Scott Gardiner. “It was a good hit, but they called the elbow. I thought we actually outplayed them, but we didn’t get good goaltending, and we didn’t convert on our scoring chances.”

Those scoring chances included a penalty shot by Traverse City forward Adam Sponseller, but Barons goaltender Kenny Reiter was up to the challenge.

Eric Rex made it a 3-1 affair at 13:00 of the second, while John Kennedy and Leonard piled on with third period goals to make the final margin four goals.

Jeremy Kaleniecki and Ryan Donovan split time in goal for the North Stars (10-15-4), stopping 21 of the 26 shots they faced collectively. Reiter righted himself after the first period goal, and made 27 saves in 28 chances.

“We matched their intensity, their skating, and their play for most of the game,” Gardiner said. “But you can’t score just one goal and expect to win the game.”

The Stars will enjoy a Christmas break until Jan. 7, when they’ll travel to Mahoning Valley to face the Phantoms. The next home contest isn’t until Jan. 27, when the Phantoms visit Centre ICE arena.

Alpena swept by Cleveland

Friday and Saturday at home, the Alpena IceDiggers were outscored 15-2 by the Cleveland Barons in 7-2 and 8-0 losses.

Friday night, Todd Rudasill and Matt Suggs (left) scored Alpena's goals while Phil Greer and Johnny Morrow combined for 39 saves.

Saturday night, Greer played the whole game and made 37 stops.

The IceDiggers (6-22-3, NAHL's worst record) are next in action Jan. 7-8 in Cleveland.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saginaw's Pyatt makes Team Canada

Saginaw Spirit forward Tom Pyatt will join Team Canada for the World Junior Championship later this month in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The 18-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is one of eight OHL'ers on the roster. Pyatt has 13 goals, 17 assists and is +2 in 29 games with the Spirit this season. The associate captain has previous international experience as part of the silver medal-winning Canadian Under-18 squad at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Hockey Championship in April where Pyatt's teammates named him one of the top three players of the tournament.

Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini says he's proud of Pyatt's achievement.

"It's just a great honor and a great reward for a player who consistently does the right thing on and off the ice," Mancini said. "In practice and in games, Tom works hard at making himself one of the premier players in the Ontario Hockey League."

Pyatt was the Spirit's second pick, 21st overall, in the 2003 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection and a 2005 pick of the New York Rangers.

Whalers win, Spirit fall on Friday

The Plymouth Whalers used seven different goal scorers to overcome a John Tavares hat trick for Oshawa in a 7-4 road win Friday night. Plymouth (17-11-1-3) is two points up on Saginaw (18-12-0-0), who lost, 9-6 on Friday in Mississauga.

The Whalers used excellent balance with seven goal scorers, including Joe Gaynor (pictured) with his first OHL goal; James Neal (12), John Armstrong (6), Gino Pisellini (8), Jared Boll (10), Ondrej Otcenas (4), and Evan Brophey (11 and second as a Whaler). Plymouth never trailed in the game, leading 2-1 after one period and 4-1 after forty minutes of play.

Although Oshawa outshot Plymouth, 38-36, Whalers’ goaltender Justin Peters was steady in goal in picking up his second victory for the Whalers since coming over from Toronto in a trade a week ago.

The key moments in the game came in the second period after Tavares’ first goal of the game cut the Plymouth lead to 2-1. The line of Dan Collins, Armstrong and Gaynor cycled the puck effectively deep in the Oshawa zone and Armstrong scored when he tucked a shot from the right hash-mark under the cross bar by starting Oshawa goaltender Carlo DiRienzo. Then Pisellini scored at 8:45 when he accepted a pass on the right wing at the Oshawa blue line and scored with one hand on the stick roofing the shot from the right wing over DiRienzo’s shoulder.

Plymouth was the only team in the OHL West Division to win Friday night. Besides Saginaw losing, Windsor (now 11-9-2-2) lost, 3-1, in Brampton; Sarnia lost, 6-2, in Kitchener and Sault Ste. Marie lost, 6-4, in Guelph.

Saginaw plays Saturday night in Owen Sound and Sunday afternoon in Guelph. Plymouth is back in action Sunday afternoon in Toronto against the Majors.

Saginaw fell 9-6 to the Mississauga Ice Dogs Friday night in Mississauga, in a game that saw 92 minutes of penalties. The Ice Dogs scored four times against the Spirit in the first period, before Saginaw cut the Mississauga lead to 4-3 in the second. But the Dogs dominated the middle of the second period into the third period, going up 9-4, before Saginaw scored twice in the final four minutes to draw within three goals.

Spirit goal scorers were Jesse Gimblett, Joe McCann, Patrick Asselin (2), Ryan McDonough and Chris Chappell. Spirit captain Patrick McNeill contributed three assists and Spirit goaltender Ryan Daniels stopped 30 of 39 Ice Dogs shots.

The loss takes Saginaw's record to 18-12-0-0. The Spirit return to action Saturday night against the Owen Sound Attack in Owen Sound, the second of a three game road trip.

Saginaw returns home Wednesday, Dec. 28 to face the Erie Otters. The Spirit welcome nine-time Stanley Cup champion coach Scotty Bowman, courtesy AAA of Michigan, Merrill Tool and Machine and Tri-Star Trust Bank.

Friday, December 16, 2005

North Stars win, Whalers lose Thursday


After a nine-game famine without the sweet taste of victory, the Traverse City North Stars feasted on Alpena at Centre ICE arena on Thursday, 3-2. Travis Paeth notched a pair of goals for the Stars, while fellow front-liner Jared Mullen added an assist to go with the game-clinching tally.

“Thank goodness,” exhaled a relieved North Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “It’s sort of like getting that first win of the season – you need good things to happen, like some timely plays, some lines to step up, and we got that tonight.”

After Anthony McIntyre gave the visitors a 1-0 lead just 3:33 into the contest, Paeth leveled the equalizer at 14:40. Defensemen Ryan Reid and Jarrett Rush assisted.

Paeth gave the hosts a 2-1 edge just :18 into the second period on assists from Mullen and Adam Sponseller, but Eric Roman and the IceDiggers answered just over five minutes later, sending the game into the second intermission knotted at 2-all.

Paeth and Sponseller set Mullen up for the game-winner with 8:10 to play, snapping the roughest patch in the North Stars’ brief history, and building some much-needed momentum heading into the second half of the season.

“Absolutely, we needed to build some (momentum),” Gardiner conceded. “When you’re in a drought like we were, a win like this can really help turn it around.”

Paeth agreed.

“It was good tom come back home in front of our fans and get one (a win),” said Paeth, who now has eight goals and 19 points through 26 games. “But most of all, I think we just got back to having some fun.”

Steven Oleksy says the team’s week or work helped put the Stars back into the ‘W’ column.

“We had a great week of practice,” Oleksy explained. “We had to work on our chemistry a little bit, as is usually the case when you go on a losing streak, but we really … came together this week.”

Jeremy Kaleniecki worked the pipes for Traverse City (10-14-4), smothering 31 shots on 33 tries. Phil Greer made 31 saves of his own for the Diggers, now 6-20-3.

Another North Division rival, Cleveland, will visit Centre ICE arena for a Sunday matinee. Face-off is slated for noon. Fans who bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots program will get into the game for half-off admission.

That same night up in Peterborough, the Plymouth Whalers fell to the hometown Petes, 5-4.

Jordan Staal’s second goal of the game with 4:16 left in regulation snapped a 4-4 before 3,615 at the Memorial Centre in Peterborough.

Peterborough – the Ontario Hockey League’s top team with a record now of 24-5-1-0 – never led in the game until Staal’s second goal of the game and 16th of the season. Plymouth is now 16-11-1-3 and in a tie with Saginaw for first place in the OHL’s West Division.

The Whalers led at various points in the game at 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3, in spite being outshot by the Petes, 48-36. Plymouth goaltender Justin Peters stopped 43 of 48 Peterborough shots as the game’s third star in his second game with Plymouth since being acquired in a trade a week ago with Toronto.

Besides Staal’s pair, Greg Stewart (11), Patrick Kaleta (11) and Dan Ryder (20) scored single goals for Peterborough Trevor Hendrikx and Liam Reddox contributed three assists each for Peterborough.

Derek Merlini (2), Andrew Fournier (11), Dan Collins (team-leading 23) and Steve Ward (9) single one goal apiece for the Whalers and Evan Brophey contributed two assists.

Referee Joe Park sent a constant stream of skaters to the penalty box. Peterborough went 3-for-10 on the power play, Plymouth 1-for-8.

Peters was outstanding for Plymouth in the first period as Peterborough outshot the Whalers, 15-5. Merlini gave Plymouth a 1-0 at 3:29 of the first period when he tucked a hard shot from the slot under the cross bar and past Petes’ goaltender David Shantz. Fournier batted home a rebound by Shantz to give the Whalers a 2-0 lead at 19:09 of the first period.

Peterborough tied the game in the second period on goals by Staal (2:02) and Stewart (15:16), but Collins restored the Whalers at 3-2 with 1:10 left in the period when he put back John Vigilante’s backhand shot from the right dot past Shantz and the left lip of the Peterborough crease.

Peterborough tied the game at 3-3 on Kaleta’s goal at 2:35 of the third period, but Ward restored Plymouth’s lead at 4-3 when his shot from the top of the left circle beat Shantz. But Ryder tied the game at 4-4 at 8:21 and Staal scored the game-winner when he batted home a rebound on the right wing side of the Plymouth goal.

Plymouth appeared to tie the game with two minutes left in regulation on a 4-on-3 power play. Gino Pisellini batted home a rebound by Shantz, but Park waved the goal off, saying the whistle blew before the puck went over the goal line.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Marquette to get NAHL team?

In a continuing effort to further the rich hockey heritage in Marquette, North Coast Hockey, Inc. is pursuing retention of a North American Hockey League franchise to be known as the Marquette Iron Rangers.

"The Iron Rangers have a rich tradition and colorful history, and are an integral part of hockey in Marquette,” stated David Saint-Onge, President of North Coast Hockey, Inc. “The community relishes the opportunity to revive this team and place it among the very best Junior A franchises in the NAHL.”

With the continued expansion of the NAHL into the Traverse City and Alpena markets in Michigan, the inclusion of the Iron Rangers makes perfect sense from a logistical, competitive and marketing perspective.

"Marquette is a great hockey venue,” Saint-Onge went on to say. “We believe the benefits of a Junior A team in a community that already sports an extensive junior hockey travel program and is home to the Marquette Electricians Midget Major AAA and the Division I Northern Michigan University Wildcats, are practical and obvious. If there was ever a true hockey town, it's Marquette, Michigan.”

Pursuit of this franchise has been on-going since 2003. The due diligence process was suspended for a short time to permit the NAHL to continue its reorganization efforts. Now, with the recent expansion of the league to 20 teams and the departure of the Soo Indians, the time is right for Junior A hockey to return to the Upper Peninsula.

In correspondence dated September 27, 2005, Michael Santos, President and Commissioner of the NAHL, noted, "The NAHL and its twenty active member clubs are hopeful for the opportunity to welcome Marquette and North Coast Hockey into the league.”

He noted the NAHL is celebrating its 30th anniversary and is the oldest and largest national Junior A league in the United States. Aside from its history of developing thousands of young hockey players for college and professional careers, the NAHL member clubs pride themselves on being generous contributors to their communities.

The Marquette Iron Rangers will uphold this legacy. Santos noted, "The NAHL believes the city of Marquette would make a fine home for a Junior A hockey club controlled and operated by North Coast Hockey."

North Coast Hockey, Inc. is currently negotiating with municipal leaders to house the team at Lakeview Arena, a multi-ice facility located in the heart of the community and next door to the NMU's Berry Events Center.

"Lakeview Arena has been home to numerous Michigan Amateur Hockey Association and USA Hockey National Championship tournaments over the last 20 years," stated Rich Tegge, Vice President of Hockey Operations for North Coast Hockey, Inc. "We respect the heritage of the Iron Rangers and are committed to operating this franchise in a manner that will make the community and the NAHL proud."

For more info, go to the official North Coast Hockey website.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Black Bears drop two in OT / CSHL results

The Northern Michigan Black Bears lost to North Bay Friday night at home and then the next night to Blind River in a pair of games that both were decied in overtime.

Friday night, the Bears and Skyhawks played a 0-0 game through regulation until Brett Venasse won it for North Bay 47 seconds into the extra session. Tony Stoehr stopped 22 shots for Northern Michigan.

Saturday night, Shane Bailey ended the game 65 seconds into overtime as the Beavers escaped with a 5-4 win. Captain Michael Herbert, Anthony Perdicaro, Derek Stabile and Steve Kruszewski scored for the Bears, who got a 24-save outing out of Michael Bell. Stoehr played 3:54 and made two saves. Michael Caprio (above left) added two assists.

Northern Michigan travels to Manitoulin Friday night and to Abitibi Saturday night.

In Junior B CSHL action over the weekend:

Sat., Dec. 10
Michigan Ice Dogs 1 at Cleveland 5
Motor City Chiefs 2 at Grand Rapids Jr. Owls 5
Quad City Express 2 at Metro Jets 3 (OT)

Sun., Dec. 11
Michigan 5 at Cleveland 4
Motor City 9 at Grand Rapids 3
Quad City 4 at Metro 6

Joe Schweiger of Motor City and Brett Englebright of the Peoria Mustangs have both earned call-ups to the Traverse City North Stars of the NAHL. Schweiger and Englebright will be in uniform for their games this weekend. No word on whether the players will be back with their CSHL teams.

North Stars, IceDiggers snuffed last weekend

The two Michigan NAHL teams were skunked last weekend as neither the Traverse City North Stars nor Alpena IceDiggers recorded wins.

In Youngstown, Ohio, the Mahoning Valley Phantoms beat Traverse City, 6-5 in a shootout Friday night and then 5-0 Saturday evening.

After the shootout loss – the Stars’ eighth consecutive setback – head coach and GM Scott Gardiner said his club is turning the corner.

“To step off the bus after eight hours and get a point (in the standings) out of that, I’m encouraged,” he explained. “It was a good game, some good hockey out there.”

Patrick Nagorsen (pictured) and Steven Oleksy, each with two, and Matthew Larke scored for the North Stars.

In the shootout, all five North Stars shooters came up dry, while each Phantoms entry found twine.

“Patrick and Steven played very well,” Gardiner said. “It was actually a pretty good all-around team effort tonight, we just have to get over that hump. We played good hockey tonight, we just have to turn that kind of effort into a win.”

Ryan Donovan worked the nets for TC, facing a whopping 56 shots while stopping 51. Jared Mullen and Travis Paeth had two assists each for the Stars.

Saturday night, the hosts peppered TC netminder Jeremy Kaleniecki to the tune of 45 shots and converted three of their five power-play opportunities. The Phantoms enjoyed a 23-9 edge in shots on net in the second period alone, while the North Stars failed to capitalize on five man-advantage situations. Traverse City did skate to a 14-9 bulge in shots over the final 20 minutes, but could not solve Phantoms' goalie Bryce Merriam, who stopped 28 shots.

Friday night, Alpena fell, 5-2, to the U.S. National Under-17 Team in Alpena. Gilles Hickey and Matt Suggs scored for the IceDiggers while goalie Johnny Morrow made 34 saves. Alpena is in Traverse City Thursday night and then hosts the Cleveland Jr. Barons Friday and Saturday night.

Plymouth doubles-up Owen Sound, 6-3

Justin Peters made his Plymouth Whalers' debut and stopped 44 shots as the Whalers defeated the Owen Sound Attack, 6-3, Saturday night at the Compuware Sports Arena.

“The last 24 hours have been pretty emotional,” said Peters. “I was nervous and jittery at first, but got more comfortable as the game went on.”

Gino Pisellini (pictured) paced Plymouth (16-10-1-3) with two goals, one shorthanded, and two assists, while defenseman Steve Ward scored twice with an assist.

Dan Collins and Andrew Fournier scored the other Plymouth goals.

“To win 6-3, we played horrible,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “I gave it to them (players) after the second period. But it’s a win, I guess. It’s two points in the standings.”

Bobby Ryan, the second-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim, scored all three goals for Owen Sound.

The Whalers and Saginaw Spirit are now tied for first place in the OHL's West Division, but Saginaw has two more wins and a game in hand.

Plymouth is on the road all of next week, playing in Peterborough on Thursday, in Oshawa on Friday and in Toronto on Sunday before breaking for Christmas.

Plymouth’s next home game is Dec 28 at 2:00 p.m. against Windsor.

Spirit fall twice to London, Barrie

The Saginaw Spirit, despite losing both games last weekend, remain in a first-place tie with the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL's West Division.

Friday night in London, the defending OHL and Memorial Cup champs beat Saginaw, 4-2. Tom Pyatt and Anthony Soboczynski scored for the Spirit and goaltender Francois Thuot made 58 saves as the game's first star.

Thuot's save total is a new Spirit record for saves in regulation, eclipsing the mark of 56 set Nov. 15, 2002 by Tyson Kellerman in Kitchener against the Rangers. The most saves in an overtime game is held by Mike Brown who had 62 saves Nov. 14, 2003 in an overtime loss in Kitchener.

Saturday night at home, Ryan McDonough scored Saginaw's lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Barrie Colts. The Spirit took a man-advantage into the final minute of the game, but the Colts broke out on Saginaw's power play and went ahead 2-1 on Matthew Bragg's shorthanded goal. Saginaw pulled Thuot for the final 20 seconds of the game, but were unable to force overtime.

Thuot finished with 27 saves.

The Spirit resume action Friday at Mississauga when they face the Ice Dogs for the first game of a three-game road trip before the Christmas break. The Spirit return home to face the Erie Otters on Dec. 28 as nine-time Stanley Cup champion coach Scotty Bowman will be appearing at the game.

The OHL Academic Player of the Month for November in the West Division is goaltender Ryan Daniels of the Saginaw Spirit. The 17-year-old from Pickering, Ontario, is a senior at Nouvel Catholic Central High School in Saginaw.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Change of heart leaves Sellers smiling

By Brian Lavelle
USA Junior Hockey Magazine

Last summer, junior hockey appeared to be a thing of the past for Nik Sellers.

After playing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the NAHL’s Soo Indians last season, Sellers was bound for Detroit, where he planned on beginning his college career at Wayne State this season.

However, a last-minute change of heart had Sellers deciding to return to the junior ranks. His next decision - where to play this season – proved quite simple, as Sellers quickly came to the conclusion that the USHL, specifically the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, was the right choice.

“(RoughRiders) coach (GM Mark) Carlson had called me over the summer when he didn’t know I was going to go to Wayne State,” recalled Sellers. “When I de-committed, I called him back.”

The RoughRiders’ successful track record - the Riders won their first Clark Cup title last season and have enjoyed five straight winning seasons - helped draw Sellers to Cedar Rapids.

“They’ve always been a winning team,” said Sellers. “They had a lot of good returning players and thought I’d have a chance to win something here.”

Sellers has certainly helped the Riders win plenty of games early on, seeing ample ice time for a team that has spent most of the campaign battling for the top spot in the USHL’s East Division.

“Nik has done a very good job for us,” said Carlson. “He’s a guy we can put out there in any situation - even strength, power play or penalty kill - and count on him to get the job done.”

Sellers’ versatility is in some part a function of his experience; the 19-year-old Plymouth, Mich., native is now in his third season of junior hockey.

“Playing in all those situations has been great. All the hard work I did this summer has paid off,” said Sellers. “Because I’ve been around junior hockey a lot, I think I know what it takes to play in different situations.”

Sellers has also been able to pass along some of what he has learned to some of his less experienced teammates.

“I just try to be a good example,” said Sellers. “I try to show them that you have to come to play every night and you’ve got to come to practice every day.”

Friday, December 09, 2005

Whalers deal Nie to Toronto for Peters

The Plymouth Whalers pulled off two trades today and in one swapped goaltenders with Toronto.

In the first deal, the Whalers acquired defenseman Steve Spade from the Belleville Bulls in exchange for two draft choices – Belleville’s own fourth-round draft choice in 2006 and Plymouth’s fourth-round pick in 2007.

In the second deal, Plymouth acquired 19-year-old goaltender Justin Peters (pictured right) from the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors in exchange for Spade and 20-year-old goaltender Ryan Nie.

Peters, a second round pick (38th overall) of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2004, is expected to be in the Plymouth lineup Saturday night when the Whalers host Owen Sound.

“Ryan Nie’s been a quality goaltender for us and his statistics speak for themself,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “But with this move, we free up an overage spot and get a quality goaltender in Peters, who could come back to play next season for us. Being a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick, we’re very familiar with him. His playoff statistics are outstanding.”

Nie, selected by the Whalers in ninth round (179th overall) in the 2001 OHL Priority Selection, has played his entire career in Plymouth, playing in his 100th career game for the Whalers Thursday night in a 6-3 victory in Sarnia against the Sting. Nie has played in 21 games this season with a 3.24 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. In 100 games with Plymouth, Nie has posted a 2.75 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

As Vellucci said, the trade alleviates Plymouth’s overage situation. OHL teams can play just three overagers (1985 birthdays). With Tuesday’s acquisition of defenseman Derek Merlini (Clinton Township) from Erie and now the trade of Nie, the three Whaler overagers are Merlini, defenseman Mike Letizia and left wing John Vigilante, currently playing with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Vigilante is expected to be back in Plymouth on Dec. 28.

Peters was selected in the third round (59th overall) by Toronto is the 2002 OHL Priority Selection and has been Toronto’s No. 1 goaltender for the last two-and-a-half seasons. Peters has a 2.92 career goals-against average in 154 games played for Toronto.

Peters has sparkled in the playoffs. In 35 playoff games, Peters has a 2.25 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and a 15-12 won-loss record for Toronto, who went to the Eastern Conference finals in 2002-03 and 2003-04 and the Eastern Conference semifinals last season. In 2004, he became only the second goalie in league history to score a goal during a playoff game when he connected in Game 7 of the Majors' first-round playoff series versus Sudbury on March 30, 2004.

Plymouth beat the Majors and Peters in a shootout back on Nov. 5 and play in Toronto on Dec. 18.

Whalers double Sarnia, 6-3, on Thursday

The Plymouth Whalers used balance and excellent special teams and goaltending en route to a 6-3 victory over the Sarnia Sting last night at the Sports and Entertainment Centre in Sarnia.

Six different Whalers scored, including James Neal in the first period, Dan Collins, Tom Sestito, Steve Ward (pictured left) and Andrew Fournier in the second period and newcomer Derek Merlini in the third. Neal added two assists as did Evan Brophey.

Merlini, in his first game for Plymouth, played a regular shift skating most of the game with Ryan McGinnis.

Collins and Sestito scored 20 seconds apart in the second period to overcome a 2-1 Sarnia lead and then Ward scored on a power play to give the Whalers a 4-2 lead they didn't relinquish.

Harrison Reed, Richard Clune and Nick Tuzzolino scored for Sarnia.

The Whalers (15-10-1-3, two points behind Saginaw in the OHL West) went 4-for-11 on the power play and killed 10-of-11 Sarnia power plays.

Plymouth goaltender Ryan Nie was excellent in goal, stopping 37 of 40 Sarnia shots. Parker VanBuskirk started in net for the Sting and made 17 saves on 22 shots. Jeff MacDougald played the third period and had six saves on seven shots.

The Whalers host the Owen Sound Attack on Saturday night.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Spirit win wild one in Soo, 6-5

It was a wild game last night in Sault Ste. Marie, but the Saginaw Spirit came away with a 6-5 win over the host Greyhounds.

Chris Chappell (pictured above) scored a goal and added two assists while Patrick Asselin scored a pair for the Spirit, first place in the OHL West.

Saginaw had a 6-3 lead with just over four minutes left in the game until the 'Hounds scored two power-play goals to cut the lead to 6-5.

Tom Pyatt, Michal Birner and Zack Torquato also scored for Saginaw, who got a 23-save outing from goaltender Ryan Daniels. Pyatt's man-advantage marker at 12:35 of the third period stood as the game-winner.

The 18-9-0-0 Spirit travel to London tomorrow night and then host Barrie on Saturday.

Metro Jets power past Jr. Generals

The Metro Jets scored five second-period goals that Flint couldn't answer and the Jets powered past the Jr. Generals, 7-4, Wednesday night at the Flint Iceland Arena.

The two teams exchanged goals less than 30 seconds apart in the first period as Derek Szecsodi gave Flint the lead. Colin Ronayne answered right back for the Jets. Dave Stone would give the Jr. Generals the lead on a shorthanded goal late in the period for a 2-1 lead going into the second period.

The teams would again exchange goals as Chris Harvey tied the game early in the second period for the Jets and Rob Steele would put Flint back on top two minutes later. Mike Crowder then scored to give the Jr. Generals a two-goal lead just after the midway point.

Metro, however, wasn't done as Ryan Compeau scored for the Jets to close the gap to one and several minutes later, Chris Sarnowski scored to knot the score at 4-4. Harvey scored his second of the game to give the Jets a 5-4 lead and Compeau scored his second of the game with just thirty seconds to play in the period, giving the Jets a two-goal lead after two.

Brandon Barnhart scored midway through the third period to give the Jets a three-goal cushion as they cruised to a 7-4 final.

Frank Sinatra stopped 29 of 33 in the win while Chris Noonan stopped 33 of 40 shots in the loss.

In other CSHL news, the Motor City Chiefs have announced that forward Ryan Bond has been called up to the Traverse City North Stars of the NAHL. Bond spent the 2004-05 season in Toledo playing for the Cherokee where he scored six goals and had 22 assists for 28 points in 48 games. This year, he has exploded for 42 points on 14 goals and 28 assists that have him tied him for the overall league lead with St. Louis' Ryan Kretzer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Vigilante signs NHL deal, Merlini arrives

In two separate-but-related deals Tuesday, the Plymouth Whalers announced captain John Vigilante has signed with the Nashville Predators and defenseman Derek Merlini was acquired from the Erie Otters.

Vigilante is on a ten-game tryout and was assigned to Nashville's AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. With an overage spot now open, Plymouth sent a conditional 11th-round draft pick to to the Otters for Merlini (pictured), a towering 6-foot-7, 248-pounder from Clinton Township.

Vigilante will leave for Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“We’re very happy for John,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He’s been an excellent Whaler for a long time and has worked very hard for this opportunity.”

According to Vellucci, Vigilante (right) will return to the Plymouth lineup December 28 when the Whalers host the Windsor Spitfires.

Vigilante is Plymouth’s leading scorer this season with 14 goals and 34 assists for 48 points in 28 games. Originally selected in the 11th round (209th overall) in the 2001 OHL Draft, Vigilante is currently 10th on the Whalers’ all-time career scoring list with 83 goals and 134 assists for 217 points. He’s 11th on the team’s career games played list with 227 and is the Whalers’ all-time leader with 23 game-winning goals in his career to date.

Merlini, originally selected by Erie in the 14th round (266th overall) in the 2001 OHL Priority Selection by Erie, spent two full seasons with the Otters, playing in 132 games and scoring 12 goals with 36 assists and 48 points and 192 penalty minutes. This season, Merlini was scoreless with five assists and 48 PIMs in 20 games.

Once Vigilante returns, Plymouth will have until Jan. 10 to decide on their three overagers. Their other two are goalie Ryan Nie and defenseman Mike Letizia.

Merlini is expected to join the team in time for practice Wednesday and will play Thursday night when the Whalers play in Sarnia.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Saginaw remains in first place in OHL West

The Saginaw Spirit won both games over the weekend to maintain their grip on first place in the OHL's West Division.

Saturday night, in a 6-2 win in Saginaw over Mississauga, six different Spirit players - Jesse Gimblett, Patrick Asselin, Zack Torquato, captain Patrick McNeill, Tim Priamo (pictured), with his first OHL goal, and Ryan McDonough - scored and goalie Ryan Daniels stopped 36 Mississauga shots to earn the victory.

"These are a big two points," Priamo said. "We were able to contain them after we started scoring."

Oskar Osala and Jordan Owens scored for the IceDogs and Michael Ouzas and Aaron Barton combined for 12 saves. Barton played the final 20 minutes for Mississauga.

Sunday afternoon at home, Saginaw put up a 7-4 win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds as Joe McCann and Garrett Sinfield each posted three-point games with a goal and two assists each.

"The Soo worked very hard tonight and had some good individual performances," said Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. "But we were able to out play them as a team. We had one or two great performances out there, but every single player was good. The guys are beginning to settle into important roles and on any given night, one can contribute to victory."

Jack Combs scored twice and Michal Birner, Tom Pyatt and McNeill added solos. Francois Thuot finished with 36 saves for the Spirit.

Saginaw's record is 17-9-0-0, with 34 points, good for first place, two points ahead of the Plymouth Whalers.

The Spirit return to the ice Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie to face the Greyhounds before heading to London to play the Knights on Friday.

Whalers start strong, then drop pair

The Plymouth Whalers began last weekend with a convincing shutout on Friday night, but then proceeded to lose their next two games to now sit in second place in the OHL’s West Division, two points back of the Saginaw Spirit.

Friday night, Ryan Nie (pictured) made 45 saves as the Whalers beat the Mississauga IceDogs, 4-0. The shutout was Nie’s first this year. Plymouth captain John Vigilante scored two goals, defenseman Steve Ward added a goal and an assist and James Neal also scored for the Whalers. Evan Brophey added two assists for the Whalers.

“As a goaltender you try to approach each game the same,” Nie told the Canadian Press. “I like to see more action. It's easier to stay in the game that way. But all you can do is make the first stop and look to build on it from there.”

Mississauga goalie Michael Ouzas stopped 28 shots for Mississauga.

The Kitchener Rangers then invaded the Compuware Sports Arena Saturday night and dominated the Whalers in a 7-3 win.

Mike Duco scored twice and defenceman Jakub Kindl and overage forward Cory Konecny each scored a goal and two assists while Victor Oreskovich, Nic Spaling and Jean-Michel Rizk each added single goals for Kitchener.

Dan Collins, Jared Boll and Neal replied with third-period goals for Plymouth.

Dan Turple made 23 saves earning the win, while Nie and Jeremy Smith combined for 46 stops. Smith played the third period and stopped 13 shots.

The Rangers out-shot Plymouth, 53-26, and 25-3 in the first period.

Yesterday in Brampton for an afternoon matinee, Battalion captain Wojtek Wolski scored twice to lead Brampton to a 4-3 win.

Luke Lynes and Michael Vernace also scored for the Battalion.

Vigilante, Brophey (first goal as a Whaler) and Ward replied for the Whalers (14-10-1-3).

Daren Machesney finished with 23 saves for the win, while Nie stopped 29 shots in a losing effort.

Plymouth is off until Thursday night when they play in Sarnia. The Whalers’ next home game is Saturday night when they host Owen Sound at 7:30 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers.

Cleveland knocks off Stars twice

The Traverse City North Stars suffered a pair of setbacks over the weekend, dropping a pair of games against Cleveland in a North American Hockey League North Division series at Lakefront Arena.

The Barons posted a 5-2 victory on Saturday and knocked off the Stars by a 4-2 margin on Sunday.

On Saturday, Barons forward and NAHL leading point-producer Carter Camper scored twice and assisted on Tomas Petruska’s game-opening tally to lift the hosts to a 5-2 triumph. Jeremy Tejchma had two goals, including a shorthanded effort in the second period, while Josh Leonard dished out a trio of assists. Both of Camper’s scores came on the power play.

Danny Dries had both goals for Traverse City, on assists from Tony Swarthout, Zeke Costello, and Patrick Nagorsen. Dries’ second goal of the game – his sixth of the season – may have been purely academic in terms of the final outcome, but it also ended a five-game, 31-opportunity drought on the power play for the North Stars. The last time TC scored with an opponent in the box was Nov. 12.

On Saturday, Petruska scored two more goals, Camper added a pair of assists and Leonard took center stage for the Barons with a goal and two helpers. The triumvirate of Steven Oleksy, Costello and Jared Mullen accounted for all the Stars’ scoring, as Oleksy tied the game at 16:13 of the first period with his fourth goal of the year on assists from Costello and Mullen, while Costello gave Traverse City a brief 2-1 lead at 10:41 of the second period on a goal set up by passes from Mullen and Oleksy. Petruska and Brett Jendra posted unrequited goals in the second and third periods to seal the Stars’ fate.

Jeremy Kaleniecki (pictured above) worked both ends of the doubleheader, making 66 saves on 75 shots. Bobby Jarosz did the same for Cleveland (15-11-4) with 50 saves in 54 attempts.

The Stars, who fall to 9-13-3, have lost seven straight outings – a franchise high – and will look to snap that skid next weekend in a Friday-Saturday set at Mahoning Valley.

Black Bears win, lose over weekend

The Northern Michigan Black Bears played two games at the Big Bear Arena last weekend and came away with a win and a loss to bring their record to 13-8-02, good for second place in the NOJHL's Western Division behind the Soo Thunderbirds.

Friday night, the Sudbury Jr. Wolves won, 2-1, in a shootout. Michael Herbert scored for the Bears while Rob Bonhomme answered for Sudbury. Brian McGarry won it in the shootout.

Tony Stoehr stopped 34 shots for Northern Michigan and Paul Pidutti finished with 39 saves for the Wolves.

Saturday night, Northern Michigan posted a 4-1 win over the Manitoulin Islanders on the strength of a third-period natural hat trick from forward-assistant coach Derek Stabile (pictured). Michael Caprio had tied the game early in the period after Manitoulin jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

Stoehr earned the win with an 18-save outing and Billy Stone made 41 stops for Manitoulin.

The Black Bears host the North Bay Skyhawks (Saturday) and Blind River Beavers (Sunday) this weekend.

Alpena swept away by Mahoning Valley

Alpena continues to sit in the basement of the NAHL North as the IceDiggers dropped both games over the weekend at Mahoning Valley.

Both losses, however, were by a single goal.

Friday night, Phil Greer made 54 saves in a 5-4 loss. Drew Pierson (pictured), Steve Culbertson, Todd Rudasill and Zach Barron scored for Alpena.

Then the next night, Johnny Morrow stopped 49, but the Phantoms took a 4-3 decision. Alpena captain Nolan Craner and Pierson each had a goal and an assist while Erik Peterson also scored.

The IceDiggers (6-18-3) are tied for the league's worst record with the Helena Bighorns.

Alpena hosts the U.S. National Under-18 Team Friday night at the Northern Lights Arena.

CSHL weekend roundup

Sat. Dec. 3

The Motor City Chiefs scored two early first period goals that would end up being all they needed as they skate past the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks, 5-1.

Joe Schweiger and Bob Collar scored in the first to give the Chiefs the lead. Mike Schultz closed the gap to early in the second period, but Steve Popp and Zac Lewis scored to extend the Chiefs lead. Justin Ingram scored an insurance goal in the third period. Paul Beckwith stopped 31 of 36 shots in the loss while Josh Baker stopped 27 of 28 in the win.

Ryan Arndt broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period and Scott Gossman added an empty-net goal to lead the Flint Jr. Generals over the Columbus Jr. B Blue Jackets 4-2.

Columbus fought back from a two goal deficit as Randy Willis and Rob Steele scored to give Flint a two-goal lead.

Ryan Wall and Matt Harrison would each score once to tie the game at two after two periods.

Drew Stanton takes the loss, stopping 27 of 30 shots and Chris Noonan gets the win stopping 40 of 42.

Sun. Dec. 4

The Motor City Chiefs and Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks played to a score indicative of a football game with the Chiefs coming out on top 10-7.

Leading the way for the Chiefs offensively was Ryan Bond (1G,3A), Nick Stroup (1G,3A), Zach Lewis (3G,1A), Joe Schweiger (2G,1A) and Bob Collar (1G,2A). Steve Popp and Mitch Washer each scored once. Jason Lartie and Josh Baker combined to stop 32 of 39 in the win.

For the Jr. Jacks, who signed an emergency goaltender late last night, Cody Ayers (2G,1A) and Tim Okicki (2G) led the way offensively. Pete Opalacz, David Bruder and Steve Osacky each scored once. Fran Park stopped 42 of 51 shots, with an empty-net goal, taking the loss.

Shane Mytnik scored a hat trick, including one in the first as the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls held off the Metro Jets for a 6-3 win.

Eric Curtis scored in the first period to give the Owls a 2-0 lead after one. The teams would exchange a goal each as Mytnik scored his second of the game and Wes Stoecker closed the gap to two. Grand Rapids would then score two more before the end of the period as Mytnik completed the hat trick and Greg Gentry rounded out the scoring.

Metro would make a game of it late, scoring the next two goals as Zach Warson and Chris Sarnowski scored to make the game 5-3.

With the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Matt Krueger would score into an empty net to seal the win for Grand Rapids. Ryan Douglas and Sean Pero would combine to stop 22 of 25 shots in the win while Nick Deskins and Frank Sinatra would combine to stop 23 of 28 with an empty-net goal in the loss.


Metro @ Flint, 7:20 PM, Flint Iceland

Michigan @ Cleveland, 9:00 PM, Metroplex
Motor City @ Grand Rapids, 8:00 PM, Southside Arena
Quad City @ Metro, 8:45 PM, Lakeland

Michigan @ Cleveland, 1:30 PM, Metroplex
Motor City @ Grand Rapids, 1:30 PM, Southside Arena
Quad City @ Metro, 1:45 PM, Lakeland