Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mendelson out as Rangers coach

The Marquette Rangers have released Leigh Mendelson from his contract as head coach, effective December 29, 2006.

“As an organization we do not take pride in having to make these kinds of decisions,” stated David Saint-Onge, president and general manager of the Rangers. “We remain committed to advancing our quality of play and the development of our organization. We have great respect for Leigh Mendelson and are extremely appreciative of his service to the organization. We wish him the very best and will support him in any way he may ask.”

To ensure team continuity and player development, Randy Enders has agreed to assume the role of interim head coach.

“Coach Enders has served our organization as assistant coach and we appreciate his willingness to serve as interim head coach,” stated Saint-Onge.

Enders joined the Rangers in July 2006. As a player, Enders played defense with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers for two seasons and served as team captain. His NCAA career included one season for the University of Alaska-Anchorage and three seasons with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Enders began his coaching career as an instructor at the Musketeers Hockey School. He also served as head instructor at the Winners Edge Development Camp and was an assistant coach with the Sheboygan (Wisc.) High School program.

“We have had the opportunity to watch Randy help form and develop our team over the last six months. His work ethic, attention to detail and camaraderie with the players are strong assets on which our organization and players can continue to rely,” stated Saint-Onge.

Friday, December 29, 2006

North Stars, TCAPS kick off fitness program

Traverse City Area Public School students give their brains a workout every day. The Traverse City North Stars and Traverse City State Bank are doing their parts to help make sure they give their bodies a workout as well.

Kicking off the joint North Stars-TCAPS program, “Wild Cherry & the Fitness Fruit All-Stars” at Bertha Vos and Willow Hill schools just before the Christmas/New Year’s Break, the team is hopeful that the goal-based mini-curriculum will further the efforts of TCAPS’ fine physical education instruction.

“We’re very excited to partner with TCAPS on the program, and it’s just been so well-received,” said North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “The kids seem excited about it, our players love going out to the schools for the kick-offs, and every bit of feedback so far has just been very positive.”

Over 1,300 students from six area elementary schools – Bertha Vos and Willow Hill plus Norris, Long Lake, Central, and Courtade – in grades 3 through 6 are provided with “Wild Cherry & the Fitness Fruit All-Stars” booklets. These contain instructions on how to achieve certain physical fitness standards that were derived from the district’s own benchmarks, and further developed for the program by a committee of TCAPS physical education instructors, led by Tim Hysell and Kelly Roscher.

The areas of emphasis are flexibility, aerobic fitness, push-ups, and sit-ups. Each discipline is represented by a corresponding fictional fruit character (hence the name of the program).

Once the grade-specific proficiencies have been demonstrated to both parent/guardian and physical education instructor, the student is given a free game ticket to their school’s North Stars night, where they will be honored on the ice by a player at the second intermission, receive a special prize pack, and skate with the players and team mascot (Wild Cherry) following the game.

“It’s a matter of reinforcing what they’re already learning from their own phys ed teachers,” Gardiner explained. “And I think the more you reinforce, the more angles you can come at kids with positive influences, you add a certain depth and breadth to the message. Then I think you get even more students buying into the fact that physical fitness is an important component of a well-balanced, healthy human being.”

Attached please find the “Wild Cherry & the Fitness Fruit All-Stars” booklet, which is the same document that is being distributed to participating TCAPS students. It explains the program in greater detail, sets dates for the individual schools’ North Stars game nights, and provides an area to chart progress. This document can also be downloaded at traversecitynorthstars.com.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

IceDiggers fall to Sweden in shootout

From the Alpena News and author Steve Schulwitz

With two-minutes left in the Alpena IceDiggers contest it appeared the home team was about to claim an exhibition win.

But the Sweden Under-17 team pulled off a late rally to earn a hard-fought 5-4 win in a shootout at Northern Light Arena on Wednesday.

With 1:54 remaining on the clock and the IceDiggers leading 4-3, Alpena's Taylor Doorlag was whistled for a hooking call and sent to the penalty box for the rest of regulation. The Swedes called a time out with 51 seconds left in the contest and scored the game-tying goal with 27.7 seconds left to force overtime. The five-minute segment expired without a goal forcing the shootout.

After a miss by each team, the Swedish squad scored on its second attempt by Victor Hedman. Brett Kaneshiro's shot failed to connect on Alpena's next chance.

David Rundblad was next to face IceDiggers' goalie Mike Jarboe and appeared to have been stopped, but after a brief meeting amongst the officials, Rundblad was awarded a second attempt. On his first attempt he began up ice before the referee had blown the whistle to begin play, making the first shot null. As luck would have it, Rundbalnd scored on his mulligan and it proved to be the game-winner.

"The boys played really well after such a long layoff," Alpena coach Kenny Miller said after the contest.

The IceDiggers' special teams carried them in the first period, as they scored on a power play goal by Justin Stadler with 13:28 remaining in the first period. Erik Peterson and Chris Hendrickson were awarded assists on the play. Alpena's penalty-killing unit came through in the opening period also, as it killed off three Sweden man-advantages. The IceDiggers clung to a 1-0 lead as the buzzer sounded after the game's first 20 minutes.

The fireworks started early in the second segment, as the visitors knotted the contest 1-1 with an even-strength goal 2:50 into the frame and claimed a 2-1 lead less than two minutes later on a power play goal. Kenny Brandt evened the contest with 14:14 remaining in the second period on a goal that was assisted by Chris Hendrickson and Evan West. Jarboe was penalized for delay of game later in the second period and Sweden made Alpena pay, as it scored five seconds into the power play to pull ahead 3-2.

Brent Kaneshiro knotted it at 3-3 with under nine minutes left in the period on a goal that was set up by Mike DeGrazia and Justin Stadler. Marco Ruggeri scored early in the third period on a nifty two-on-one break with Eric Roman, who picked up the helper.

The home team couldn't make the lead stand, as it surrendered the tying goal and the eventual game winner in the shootout. Jarboe made several key saves in the final seconds of overtime, including a nifty backhanded glove save that helped the IceDiggers force the shootout.

Alpena returns to battle on New Year's Eve at Northern Lights Arena when it duels the Traverse City North Stars.

Saginaw adds Perron to goalie mix

The Saginaw Spirit has acquired goaltender Marc-AndrĂ© Perron from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Lewiston MAINEiacs.

Perron, who recently cleared QMJHL waivers, will be joining Ryan Daniels and Jovica Zelenbaba at the netminder position.

The 19-year-old native of Le Grand, QC played one game with Lewiston this season.

Perron, 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, will be in Saginaw this weekend for the Spirit’s three games. Tonight, the Spirit faceoff against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at home then head to Windsor Friday night for a game against the Spitfires. The Spirit return home on Saturday to take on the Kitchener Rangers.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

IceDiggers ready for Under-17 Swedish squad

The Alpena IceDiggers will play host to the Under-17 Swedish National Team tonight at Northern Lights Arena in an exhibition game. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m.

"This will be a great for our players and the fans of Alpena," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "We will get to see where a team like us in the NAHL stacks up against the best 17-year-olds in Sweden."

This will mark the first game action for the IceDiggers since their 6-1 win over Traverse City prior to the holiday break.

Tickets for the event are on sale inside the IceDiggers' office and can also be purchased at the door prior to the opening faceoff. All tickets are $6.00 for the contest. General admission seating will be in place for the exhibition game

Alpena currently sits in second place, eight points behind first place Mahoning Valley in the North Division. The Phantoms have also played four more games than the IceDiggers.

The IceDiggers will return to league play on Saturday when they travel to Traverse City to play the North Stars, then return home on December 31 to play the same North Stars. The New Years Eve game will have a special 6:00 p.m. start.

All fans are encouraged to join the IceDiggers players and coaches at the 19th Hole following the first ever IceDiggers' New Years Eve game for food and fun as well as ringing in the new year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Lawson, Fraser named WJC alternate captains

Two Michigan natives and current collegians were named alternate captains of the United States Junior National Team today.

Defenseman Kyle Lawson (New Hudson/University of Notre Dame) and forward Jim Fraser (Port Huron/Harvard University) will wear an 'A' under captain Taylor Chorney from North Dakota.

Both Lawson and Fraser are playing on their first U.S. Junior National Team.

Lawson's OHL rights belong to the Plymouth Whalers and had previously been held by the Saginaw Spirit.

Team USA is currently preparing for its opening game of the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship against Germany next Tuesday. Opening faceoff is set for 9 a.m. (EST) in Leksand, Sweden. The game will be televised live in the United States on NHL Center Ice. In addition, a live audiocast of the contest can be heard at usahockey.com.

Lawson photo courtesy Honeybaked Hockey Club (circa 2002-2003)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Former Detroit enforcer coming to Saginaw

Former Detroit Red Wings forward and assistant coach Joey Kocur is set to appear at the Saginaw Spirit home game against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Dec. 28.

Kocur will sign autographs for fans and partake in a pre-game question and answer session with Spirit broadcaster Greg Brady. Kocur will then be participating in the ceremonial puck drop.

"The Saginaw Spirit are excited to have Joey Kocur at our game,” stated Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin. “He is a legend in Red Wing history. He's a guy who played in the CHL before his career in the NHL. His presence at the game will bring back some great memories of his Stanley Cup victories with the Red Wings.”

Autograph packages will be available for purchase at the game. All three packages include a personalized photo of Joe Kocur and an autographed Red Wings puck. Fans that purchase a package are welcome to bring one additional item to be signed by Kocur.
One 8x10 picture and one puck -- $19.00
One 11x14 picture and one puck -- $29.00
One 16x20 picture and one puck -- $39.00

Kocur is best known as one of the Red Wings' “Bruise Brothers” with former Red Wings' enforcer Bob Probert. Together they formed one of the NHL's most penalized tandems. Kocur tallied 2,519 penalty minutes in his career - 1,963 with Detroit.

The Calgary, Alberta native started played his junior hockey career with the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades and was drafted by Detroit in the fifth round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He played 10 seasons from 1984-1990 and 1996-1999. He was with the New York Rangers from 1990-1996 and played seven games with the Vancouver Canucks in 1996. Kocur won four Stanley Cups, one with New York in 1994 and two with Detroit, in 1997 and 1998. He also won a Cup with the Wings as their video coach in 2002.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Spirits high in Alpena

After falling victim to streaking Mahoning Valley the week prior, the Alpena IceDiggers were happy to head into the holiday break on a winning note with two victories over Traverse City last week.

“Those were two big wins for us,” said IceDiggers coach Kenny Miller, whose team improved to 22-8-1. “It was good for our guys to come ready to play. We responded well and got the job done.”

The IceDiggers began their week on Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the North Stars. Justin Stadler (pictured) scored two goals in the win, with Erik Peterson assisting on both. Between the pipes, Shawn Hunwick turned aside 21 shots.

Alpena met up with Traverse City again on Sunday, this time skating away with a 6-1 victory. Todd Rudasill added to his league-leading points totals with two goals and two assists, while Drew Pierson and Chad Billins each rang up a goal and two assists. In goal, Mike Jarboe made 23 saves.

“We’re getting good play from everyone and, in order to win in the NAHL, all 20 guys have to be going every night,” said Miller. “The guys are really confident every time we step on the ice and that’s a big plus for us.”

Rudasill, who has sat atop the NAHL’s scoring chart for most of the season, has been a key contributor to Alpena’s success and is a bona fide Division I prospect.

“Todd has been our go-to guy all year and he’s delivered,” raved Miller. “He has an eye for the net and he’s been burying his chances.

“Wherever Todd ends up playing college hockey next year, that program will be very lucky because not only is he great player, but he’s also a great kid.”

The IceDiggers’ goaltending tandem of Hunwick and Jarboe has been equally impressive.

“I've said it before that I feel we have one of the best one-two punches in the league, and Mike and Shawn have proved that so far,” said Miller. “They’ve given us a chance to win every night and that’s all you can ask for in your goaltending.”

Miller has few complaints about his team’s first half and is looking forward to more good things to come in 2007.

“As a group, we need to get better everyday,” said the coach. “It’s important that we work hard - that will pay off for us. It takes little things to win hockey games and, in the first half of the season, we did them, and, in order to keep that up in the second half, we’ll need to continue to do the little things.”

But before the IceDiggers ring in the New Year, they’ll host an exhibition game against the Swedish National Under-17 Team on Dec. 27.

“Having a chance to play a team like Sweden will not only be special for our players, but also all of our fans in and around the Alpena area,” said Miller. “The boys are really looking forward to the chance to play some of the best 17-year-old players in the world."

COURTESY NAHL.COM

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mursak garners five points in Group B

Saginaw Spirit forward Jan Mursak notched five points on three goals and two assists in five games with Team Slovenia at the World Juniors Division 1, Group B Tournament held in Denmark this past week.

Team Slovenia ends the tournament with a record of 1-4.

Mursak is expected to return to Saginaw following the Ontario Hockey League holiday break.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

WEEKEND SCOREBOARD

Ontario Hockey League

Thurs. Dec. 14
Plymouth 5 at Peterborough 1

Fri. Dec. 15
Plymouth 5 at Oshawa 1
at Kitchener 5, Saginaw 3

Sat. Dec. 16
Saginaw 7 at Erie 1

Sun. Dec. 17
Plymouth 5 at Brampton 1
at Oshawa 5, Saginaw 3

North American Hockey League

Weds. Dec. 13
at Alpena 5, Traverse City 2

Fri. Dec. 15
Mahoning Valley 5 at Traverse City 1
Marquette 3 at U.S. Under-17 Team 0

Sat. Dec. 16
Mahoning Valley 7 at Traverse City 1
at U.S. Under-17 Team 4, Marquette 2

Sun. Dec. 17
at Alpena 6, Traverse City 1

Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League

Weds. Dec. 13
at Soo 8, Blind River 4

Fri. Dec. 15
at Soo 3, North Bay 1

Sat. Dec. 16
at Soo 6, Sudbury 2

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NAHL makes commish change

The North American Hockey League announced Friday a change in its leadership.

Effective immediately, Mark Frankenfeld will serve as interim commissioner.

The NAHL wishes departing commissioner Eric Krupka the best in his future endeavors.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Neal, O'Marra, Pyatt make Team Canada

Forwards James Neal of the Plymouth Whalers and Ryan O'Marra and Tom Pyatt of the Saginaw Spirit have made the Canadian entry in the 2007 World Junior Championship.

Final cuts were made this morning in Calgary and the trio was not among them.

Saginaw captain and defenseman Patrick McNeill was cut on Wednesday.

O'Marra and Pyatt were members of the gold medal-winning Canada team last January in Vancouver.

"This is a wonderful accomplishment for both young men," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini on O'Marra and Pyatt. "We are confident that they will represent not only Team Canada, but the Saginaw Spirit to the best of their abilities."

Pyatt was also named an alternate captain for Canada.

This year's tournament starts Dec. 26 in Leksand and Mora, Sweden.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

IceDiggers out in Alpena community

Tomorrow, the Alpena IceDiggers players will be going door to door in the Alpena community asking for donations of non-perishable items to give back to the Salvation Army.

The players will be around town from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The IceDiggers are asking members of the community to help with this much-needed cause.

"Our guys are happy to do this," Alpena GM Bob Krafft said. "They know it will benefit people less fortunate than them."

The IceDiggers return home on Sunday to play host to the Traverse City North Stars before heading home to spend the holidays with their families. Faceoff for the Sunday matinee will be at 3:00 p.m.

Alpena tops Traverse City Wednesday night

It’s been almost a month since the Traverse City North Stars didn’t come away from a game with a least one point, but that was little consolation following the Stars’ 5-2 setback at Alpena on Wednesday.

The contest marked the first of four games in five days against two of the North American Hockey League’s top clubs.

On Wednesday, the host IceDiggers got a pair of first period goals – including Drew Pierson’s power-play effort with just over two minutes until the first intermission – and outshot their visitors from the west, 15-10 over the first 20 minutes.

Patrick Nagorsen opened the second with a man-advantage conversion just 34 ticks into the stanza, but Justin Stadler registered his second of the game to put the hosts out front by two again. Less than three minutes later, Nick Von Bokern pulled TC to within a goal once more with his fifth goal of the year, but a pair of rapid-fire goals from IceDiggers Ben Kitzmiller (1:35) and Stars castoff Mike DeGrazia (3:49) – and being whistled for six of the game’s last seven penalties – put the contest out of reach for the North Stars at Northern Lights Arena.

“A flat team showed up here tonight,” said Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “No jump, no intensity. We let in a couple of softies in the first period, and just couldn’t get back in it. I don’t know what it is about us in this building.”

Kyle Jendra spelled Stefan Shively in net early in the final period, and the two goalkeepers combined for 34 saves on 39 shots. Shawn Hunwick and Mike Jarboe shared duties for Alpena, amassing 23 saves. Jarboe, who worked the third period, faced just two shots.

Mike Glaesmer and Harrison Niemann drew assists on Nagorsen’s ninth goal of the year, while Ben Plocar and Sabastion Kimmel set up Von Bokern’s marker.

Traverse City (11-14-5) will play host to the red-hot Mahoning Valley Phantoms on Friday and Saturday at Centre ICE arena. The Phantoms have won 16 consecutive times since they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Traverse City on Oct. 14. The Stars return to Alpena for Sunday’s matinee and the final contest before the Christmas holiday break.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Whalers win weekly, monthly awards

Two Plymouth Whalers were in the news this week.

First, forward Tom Sestito (above) was named the OHL Player of the Week for the week ending December 10, 2006. The 19-year-old winger from Rome, N.Y., scored six goals and had seven points in three games last week.

Sestito helped the Whalers to a 7-1 victory on the road in London on Friday night over the Knights. He had a natural hat trick in the contest, including the game-winning goal and also added an assist. He was also named first star of the game for his efforts.

The next night, Sestito was once again the game’s first star after recording is second hat trick in as many nights as the Whalers defeated Sudbury 5-3 at home.

The back-to-back three-goal games give Sestito four hat tricks on the season and he currently leads Plymouth with 20 goals in 28 games.

Second-year left wing Joe Gaynor (left) was then selected the OHL Academic Player of the Month for November in the West Division.

Gaynor, 17, a native of Goderich, Ontario, is a Grade 12 student at Plymouth High School in Plymouth.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

IceDiggers finally come back home

After playing the last 10 games away from Northern Lights Arena, the Alpena IceDiggers finally get to come home Wednesday and play in front of the hometown crowd versus the Traverse City North Stars.

Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m.

The IceDiggers finished their longest road trip of the season with a record of 7-3 and, although it gave the team not only a measuring stick within the North Division, it gave the players a chance to spend quality time together as a group.

But now they are happy to be back and ready to play in front of their fans and housing families.

"It was a successful road trip in terms of wins and losses, but for the guys it is going to be nice to play at NLA," stated head coach Kenny Miller.

Alpena will play Traverse City four straight times before the New Year. Aside from the exhibition game against the Under-17 Swedish National Team on Dec. 27, the North Stars will be the only opponent until the 2007 calendar year.

The IceDiggers currently sit four points behind first place Mahoning Valley, but Alpena has one game in hand on the Phantoms.


NOTEBOOK

Center Todd Rudasill continues to lead the NAHL in scoring with 49 points in 29 games. He is currently eight points better than Fairbanks' Kyle Schmidt, who has 41 points.

The IceDiggers also announced today they have acquired forward Jonathan Juliano from Fairbanks. The Clinton Township native appeared in nine games with the IceDogs recording three assists. Juliano spent all of last season and the beginning of this season with Traverse City, where we played 72 games and scored 13 goals and added 27 assists. Last season, Juliano led Traverse City in scoring in the playoffs with seven points in five games.

The IceDiggers will be without the services of captain Nolan Craner, assistant captain Ricardo Yesue and veteran defensemen Korey O'Brien, who are out with various injuries.

"With these guys banged up other players will need to step in and make an impact," said Miller. "We have guys on the team able to do that."

All three players should be ready after the Christmas break.

Monday, December 11, 2006

WEEKEND SCOREBOARD

Ontario Hockey League

Thurs. Dec. 7
Plymouth 7 at London 1

Fri. Dec. 8
at Plymouth 5, Sudbury 3
at Saginaw 6, Sault Ste. Marie 2

Sat. Dec. 9
Barrie 2 at Plymouth 1 (SO)

Sun. Dec. 10
Saginaw 2 at Sault Ste. Marie 1


North American Hockey League

Thurs. Dec. 7
Alpena 5 at U.S. Under-17 Team 2

Fri. Dec. 8
at Mahoning Valley 7, Alpena 1

Sat. Dec. 9
at Mahoning Valley 3, Alpena 2
Traverse City 3 at U.S. Under-17 Team 2 (SO)

Sun. Dec. 10
at U.S. Under-17 Team 4, Traverse City 3 (SO)


Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League

Fri. Dec. 8
at Manitoulin 4, Soo 3 (OT)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Zaborsky selected by Team Slovakia

Saginaw Spirit forward Tomas Zaborsky has been selected to play with Team Slovakia in the upcoming World Junior Championship.

Team Slovakia will take on Team Canada and Team USA, as well as squads from Belarus, Finland, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

"We are excited for Tomas as it is one more player representing our organization on the world stage," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini.

Zaborsky came to the Spirit in this year's CHL Import Draft from Trencin, Slovakia, and was picked by the New York Rangers in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The 19-year-old has notched six goals and14 assists for 20 points this season.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

IceDiggers to host Swedish National Team

The Alpena IceDiggers have been selected to host an exhibition game against the Swedish National Under-17 Team on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at Northern Lights Arena at 7 p.m.

"To be able to bring a team like this here to Alpena is going to be very special, not only for our boys, but for all our great fans," said IceDiggers GM-VP of operations Bob Krafft. "It should be a fun and exciting event."

The Swedish National Team will play in the Four Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor between the Christmas and New Year's holiday. Team Sweden will play the USA Under-17 team that the IceDiggers take on in league play. The other two teams competing in the tournament will be Germany and Finland.

"We're really excited for this prestigious opportunity," said IceDiggers head coach Kenny Miller. "This tournament showcases some of the best young players in the world and to be able to host Sweden in our building is a real honor."

The game will mark the first time the IceDiggers have played an international opponent.

Four Michigan OHLers get Canada invites

Three Saginaw Spirit players and one Plymouth Whalers' star have received invitations to Team Canada's final selection camp for the 2007 World Junior Championship later this month in Sweden.

Saginaw defenseman and captain Patrick McNeill and forwards Ryan O'Marra and Tom Pyatt got the call along with Plymouth's leading goal scorer James Neal (pictured).

O'Marra, then with Erie, and Pyatt were members of the 2006 gold medal-winning Canadian contingent.

“We’re excited for James,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “He’s worked very hard during his career in Plymouth.”

“As an organization we are all proud of these three men and wish them the best of luck at the Selection Camp," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini.

Team Canada will play against teams from the United States, Belarus, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. The tournament runs Dec. 26, 2006 to Jan. 5, 2007 in Leksand and Mora, Sweden.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Monday, December 04, 2006

WEEKEND SCOREBOARD

OHL

Thurs. Nov. 30
Kitchener 4 at Saginaw 2

Fri. Dec. 1
at Plymouth 4, Saginaw 2

Sat. Dec. 2
at Plymouth 5, Guelph 3
London 5 at Saginaw 4 (SO)

Sun. Dec. 3
Plymouth 4 at Guelph 0


NAHL

Fri. Dec. 1
at Traverse City 6, Marquette 5

Sat. Dec. 2
at Traverse City 3, Marquette 2

Sun. Dec. 3
Alpena 6 at Marquette 0

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mancini wants more than Garber's offered, so far

FROM THE SAGINAW NEWS...

The Saginaw Spirit have the same man handling the general manager and coach's duties.

That man is Bob Mancini, and under his direction the franchise has gone from a laughingstock to one of the best in the league.

Make no mistake about it, Mancini laid the foundation and built on it, erecting a strong squad that seems capable of making a long run in this year's playoffs.

Team owner Dick Garber wants both a general manager and a coach next season. He'll get no argument from Mancini.

"One of the issues Bob and I have had is the dynamics of this situation," Garber said. "I felt and still feel strongly based on our location in Saginaw we need a general manager and a coach; the positions are separate.

"It is a tremendous workload for one person. We're removed from the mainstream of the league being in Saginaw, and I believe Bob is in agreement it is a two-person job. Hopefully we'll come up with a plan that complements the community."

Mancini doesn't disagree with his boss, but he isn't happy Garber hasn't offered him a new contract and his current three-year deal expires in May.

Actually, Garber did submit a proposal to Mancini last summer and Mancini felt slighted by it.

"He offered me a one-year extension and I turned it down," Mancini said. "I would have expected for Dick to offer me a contract to be general manager beyond this year. I think Dick thinks I want to be coach and general manager and that's not true.

"I've told Dick time and time again I just want to be the general manager, but I felt strongly that the right thing for me and the team this year was for me to do both."

The issue is moot right now as far as Garber is concerned.

"We have higher priorities right now, and neither Bob nor I need the distraction right now," Garber said, referring to negotiating with Mancini for next season and possibly beyond.

Mancini doesn't see it the same way.

"I think I've earned a minimum of three years," Mancini said. "They gave (Owen Sound general manager-coach) Mike Futa a four-year extension. I turned it down because not only have I brought stability to this organization, I've obviously shown that I can not only point it in the right direction to win, but I can lead it in the right direction to win.

"I think I've shown so far I deserve a lot more than one year."

Mancini refused to speculate whether Garber is waiting to see how this season turns out before starting serious negotiations to keep him in Saginaw.

"The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself," Mancini said. "That's just to do the best job I can every day."

But Garber said performance is part of any evaluation he makes of Mancini.

"Performance is tied to everything we do, and Bob understands that," Garber said. "He understands the expectations of the franchise. I made it clear to him when I hired him what I expected.

"He has done a great job. He has done exactly what I anticipated he'd do, but we still have a lot to prove. We have not won anything."

http://www.mlive.com/hockey/sanews/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/1164983126293280.xml&coll=9

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mursak selected to Slovenia World Juniors

Saginaw Spirit forward Jan Mursak has been selected to play in the 2007 IIHF World U-20 Championships with Team Slovenia.

Team Slovenia will take part in the Division 1, Group B Championship from December 11 to December 17 in Odense, Denmark. The team will see action against squads from Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine.

"We wish Jan the best of luck in helping his country at the World Juniors in Denmark," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini.

Mursak is a native of Maribor, Slovenia and came to the Spirit in the 2006 CHL Import Draft. The 1988-born player was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

This season has seen Mursak score 13 goals and 33 assists for 46 points. He also has the distinction of holding the team's consecutive point streak record, scoring at least one point in 22 consecutive games.

The World Juniors is an annual competition that pits the best junior hockey players in the world against each other. Spirit forward Tom Pyatt was part of the Team Canada squad that won the 2006 World U-20 Championship. Spirit forward Ryan O'Marra, who was with the Erie Otters at the time, also participated in last year's gold medal winning Canada team. Canada's roster has yet to be announced.

Past Saginaw World Junior participants:
2006: Tom Pyatt, Canada (Gold)
2006: Michal Birner, Czech Republic
2005: Marek Kvapil, Czech Republic (Bronze)

IceDiggers add Plymouth native Brandt

The Alpena IceDiggers have signed forward and Plymouth native Kenny Brandt.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder reported to Alpena on Monday and began practicing with his new teammates at that time.

Brandt spend time with the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL prior to joining the IceDiggers. In two seasons in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, Brandt played with the Valley Junior Warriors where he suited up in 79 games, scoring 24 goals and 26 assists for 50 points.

"We have a few minor injures up front and to be able to add a player like Kenny is a big plus for our hockey club," stated Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller. "He will give us another scoring threat and he is a tremendous skater with a knack for being around the net."

In other news, the IceDiggers will play without captain Nolan Craner this weekend as he nurses a minor injury. Miller said Craner should be ready to go next Thursday when Alpena travels to Ann Arbor to take on the USA Under-17 team before heading to Mahoning Valley to play the Phantoms on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Marquette to face Traverse City, Alpena

The Marquette Rangers travel to Traverse City to play the North Stars in a two-game series this weekend and the trip may be just what the doctor ordered for the first-year Rangers.

When the Rangers (9-14-2) and North Stars (8-13-4) meet on Friday and Saturday an important four points will be at stake. The clubs are deadlocked at 20 points each and tied for third in the North Division, but trail frontrunners Alpena and Mahoning Valley who have both posted 18 wins and a division-best 37 points apiece.

The Rangers pushed past Traverse City for a pair of two-goal wins in late October and won their next game at Central Division leading Fargo-Moorhead, but have since lost nine consecutive times. Marquette's stellar defense - the Rangers have held teams to two or fewer goals nine times this year - has suffered a bit lately, giving up 5.11 goals per game during the dry spell. Goalie Stephen Ritter, who has stymied Traverse City this season, is ninth in the NAHL with a 2.85 goals-against average and 10th overall with a .910 save percentage.

"We have struggled defensively over the last several weeks," said Marquette head coach Leigh Mendelson. "We tend to play solid hockey for long stretches, but when we make a mistake and turn the puck over, the good teams we've played in our last 10 games have made us pay."

According to Scott Gardiner, head coach of the North Stars, the Rangers are no pushover.

"We need all four of these points and it won't be easy," Gardiner admitted. "They're going through some growing pains just like all new franchises do, but make no mistake - they have a good team. They sure came in and played well against us last month."

The Rangers hope to remedy its play of late with the recent addition of two players.

"As a new franchise, we continue the task of building a solid team," said Rangers' GM David Saint-Onge. "Earlier this week we consummated a deal with Alexandria as we traded forward Stephen Sperry for defenseman Derek Grogan (1 goal, 8 assists and 20 penalty minutes in 21 games). He has good size (6’-0”, 205 lbs.) and should be a solid addition to our blue line.

"We also added forward Chris Smith, (5’-11”, 205 lbs.) acquired from Surrey of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. Smith was in our final camp this past summer and made an impact. At the time he decided to play for his original team in the BCHL, but recently the opportunity presented itself to return to Marquette and we are excited to have him."

Fans will notice the ability of the new players immediately, as noted by Mendelson.

"We expect to be more reliable in our own zone and improve our offensive transition," Mendelson said. "But perhaps the biggest upside is the presence of Chris Smith. He plays with an edge that will be noticeable. He is a solid offensive player and adds an element of grit that we felt we were lacking.”

Nick Kosinski (8 G, 16 A) leads Marquette with 24 points, while Brodie Zuk (9, 13) has amassed 22 points. Neeco Belanger has a Rangers-best 10 goals and is third in the league with 108 penalty minutes. As a team, Marquette is second in the NAHL in box time with 787 minutes - or an average of 31.48 minutes per game.

Following the Friday-Saturday series with the North Stars, the Rangers return home for a Sunday matinee game against rival Alpena.

“Not only will the game pit us against a team we need to beat, it is billed as a ‘Soldier’s Christmas’ and will be an opportunity for the community to help the families of our service men and women stationed overseas,” noted Saint-Onge.

The Rangers organization will collect new toys, games and clothing to help the families of U.P. soldiers. Fans donating such items will receive one free kids (eight and under) admission, or $1.00 off each student or adult ticket purchased (maximum of four), and are entered in door prize drawings to be held during the game.

“This will be a special game and opportunity for our fans to show their support of our troops during this holiday season," added Saint-Onge. "So many young men and women serve our country, but must leave their families behind for long periods of time. We thought of no better way to extend a thank you to them by putting this event together.”

The Sunday game versus Alpena will start at 3 p.m. at Lakeview Arena.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rangers come to Traverse City for two

The Traverse City North Stars are on the other side of a prolonged winless streak, so Scott Gardiner and his team can sympathize with the Marquette Rangers as they come into this weekend’s two-game series at Centre ICE arena in the throes of a nine-game losing skid.

However, don’t expect the Stars to do anything but try to add to the misery quotient of the first-year franchise, as both clubs battle to stay on the leeward side of a growing chasm in the North American Hockey League’s North Division.

When the Rangers (9-14-2) and North Stars (8-13-4) meet on Friday and Saturday, an important four points will be on the proverbial table. The clubs are deadlocked at 20 points each tied for third in the North, but Alpena and Mahoning Valley have put some distance between themselves and the pack, galloping to 18 wins each and a division-best 37 points apiece.

“We need all four of these points, and it won’t be easy,” Gardiner admitted. “They’re going through some growing pains just like all new franchises do, but make no mistake – they have a good team. They sure came in and played well against us last month.”

The Rangers pushed past Traverse City for a pair of two-goal wins Oct. 27-28 at Centre ICE, and won their next game at Fargo-Moorhead, but have since tasted defeat nine consecutive times. Marquette’s stellar defense – the Rangers have held teams to two or fewer goals nine times this year – has suffered a bit of late, giving up 5.11 goals per game during the dry spell.

Goalie Stephen Ritter, who has stymied TC on two different occasions this year, is ninth in the NAHL with a 2.85 goals-against average and 10th overall with a .910 save percentage.

“He has been great against us, and he has the ability to step up at any time,” Gardiner admitted.

Nick Kosinski (8 G, 16 A) leads Marquette with 24 points, while Brodie Zuk (9, 13) has amassed 22. Neeco Belanger has a Rangers-best 10 goals and is third in the league with 108 penalty minutes. As a team, Marquette is second in the NAHL in box time with 787 minutes – or an average of 31.48 minutes per game.

Patrick Nagorsen leads the hosts with 19 points on seven goals and 12 helpers, and the Stars’ captain has six points in his past five outings. Defensemen Kent Detlefsen has also had a hot hand lately, dumping in six goals and assisting on four others in just eight games in a TC sweater. Detlefsen had the first natural hat trick in North Stars history on Sunday in a 5-4 overtime loss at Team USA.

Friday’s game is sponsored by AT&T Yellow Pages and Yellowpages.com, while Traverse City State Bank night is slated for Saturday. Both contests face off at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Saginaw players help edge Russia Monday

Three Saginaw Spirit players helped Canada's Team OHL secure a 4-3 win over Russia in the 2006 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge last night in Oshawa.

Spirit forward Ryan O'Marra scored the first goal for Team OHL during the first period, assisted by Spirit forward Tom Pyatt and Ottawa 67's forward Logan Couture.

Saginaw defenseman and captain Patrick McNeill finished the period with a goal on the power play, assisted by Oshawa Generals' forward John Tavares and London Knights' forward Sam Gagner.

O'Marra later earned an assist on a goal from Barrie Colts forward Brian Little during the third period. Sudbury Wolves defenseman Marc Staal also assisted on the goal. O'Marra's two-point game earned him Team OHL's player of the game honors.

All three Saginaw players are expected to re-join their Spirit teammates for the Thursday night home game against the Kitchener Rangers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trio of Saginaw players to face Russians

Saginaw Spirit defenseman Patrick McNeill and forwards Tom Pyatt and Ryan O’Marra were recently named to the OHL roster for the 2006 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. The game will be played tonight in Oshawa, Ontario.

All three players participated in last years ADT Challenge with O’Marra representing Erie.

“We are very excited for Patrick, Tom, and Ryan," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. “All three are very deserving of this oppourtunity."

The ADT Canada Russia Challenge is a yearly event that plays an important role in the selection process of the Team Canada roster for the World Junior Championship. The Challenge is played twice in the QMJHL, the WHL and the OHL. Sarnia and Oshawa were chosen as the OHL's host cities.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

WEEKEND SCOREBOARD

OHL

Fri. Nov. 24
at Kitchener 4, Plymouth 3 (OT)
Saginaw 4 at London 3 (SO)

Sat. Nov. 25
at Plymouth 6, Peterborough 1
at Saginaw 2, Owen Sound 1

NAHL

Fri. Nov. 24
Mahoning Valley 4 at Marquette 2
Alpena 3 at U.S. Under-17 Team 1

Sat. Nov. 25
Mahoning Valley 5 at Marquette 1
Alpena 4 at U.S. Under-17 Team 1

Sun. Nov. 26
Mahoning Valley 5 at Marquette 1
at U.S. Under-17 Team 5, Traverse City 4 (OT)

NOJHL

Fri. Nov. 24
at Soo 4, Abitibi 1

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Plymouth holds on to beat Spits

Rookie Vern Cooper's goal early in the third period proved to be the winner as the Plymouth Whalers held off a late rally and edged the Windsor Spitfires, 5-4, Wednesday night.

Cooper (pictured), Plymouth's first-round selection in last May's OHL draft, had staked the Whalers to a 5-1 lead with his rebound marker at 5:37 of the third before the Spitfires scored three straight.

"We got up early and guys started taking it easy," Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said to the Canadian Press. "You can stress it all the time but when you have your way early, you start to do things by yourself and not with teamwork. You start taking shortcuts. Then you take some stupid penalties because of it."

James Neal, Tom Sestito, Chris Terry and John Armstrong added goals for Plymouth (13-10-0-0).

Windsor got power-play goals from rookie Mark Cundari (his first OHL goal), Craig Voakes and Bradley Snetsinger, while rookie Ryan Baldwin added his first OHL goal at even strength.

Plymouth goalie Michal Neuvirth finished with 34 saves, while Windsor's Anthony Guadagnolo stopped 24 shots.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Saginaw falls to Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday

Jiri Tlusty and David Kuchejda each scored twice as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds erased a two-goal deficit to earn a 6-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit on Wednesday.

Tlusty's second goal of the game with 4:45 left in the second period stood as the game winner for the Greyhounds, who trailed 3-1 early in the period. Michael Quesnele and Josh Godfrey added singles while Dustin Jeffrey had four assists in Sault Ste. Marie's fourth straight win.

Nigel Williams, Matt Corrente and Ryan Berard replied for the Spirit (17-7-0-1).

"We were disappointed by the loss and I don't believe that we are at the top of our game at this point," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. "Now we just need to buckle down and move forward."

Tyler Haskins assisted on Berard's goal to incrase his assists streak to eight games, tying Ryan McDonough's team record.

Kyle Gajewski earned the win with an 18-save performance for the Greyhounds. Saginaw netminder Ryan Daniels stopped 28 shots in defeat.

North Stars top Alpena, 3-1

The Thanksgiving turkey goes down a little smoother when dipped in the victory gravy.

Just ask Traverse City North Stars coach Scott Gardiner, whose team ended an 11-game losing streak with a 3-1 triumph over the first-place Alpena IceDiggers on Wednesday night at Centre ICE arena.

The North Stars (8-13-3) fell behind 1-0 when Chad Billins poked home a power-play tally just 3:13 into the second period, but a trio of third period goals – including the game-winner off the stick of Brett Englebright – gave Traverse City its first triumph since a 3-2 shootout win over Mahoning Valley on Oct. 14.

“We showed a lot of guts down the stretch in the third period there,” Gardiner said. “I’m very proud of these guys. We can’t exactly start over, but this is the start of a new ending. I think it was an impressive win against a good team and we hope it’s the start of a different kind of streak.”

Patrick Nagorsen evened the contest at 1-all just 4:40 into the second period on a power-play tally – his seventh of season – on an assist from Mike Glaesmer. Just over four minutes later, Englebright levied the eventual game-cincher on setups from Joe Greener and Nick Von Bokern. Glaesmer added a short-handed empty-netter with mere seconds on the clock. Harrison Niemann assisted.

“It was a great team win, no question about it,” Gardiner added. “And (goalie) Kyle (Jendra) was just awesome in net tonight. He made some crucial stops there late in the third, and really all throughout the game. I hate to single anyone out because it was such a team victory, but he was key for us.”

Jendra rebuked 30 of the 31 shots he faced, while Mike Jarboe was nearly as effective for the IceDiggers (16-6-1), making 25 stops on the 27 shots he saw.

"I thought we outplayed them in the first and second periods," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "We got in penalty trouble in the third and they were able to score a 5-on-3 power-play goal and get momentum. We'll chalk this up as a missed opportunity and turn our attention Friday's game in Ann Arbor."

The North Stars travel to face the Team USA Under-17 squad on Sunday in Ann Arbor before returning to Centre ICE for a Dec. 1-2 series against Marquette. Alpena heads to Ann Arbor to take on the USA Under-17 team on Friday and Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Saginaw deals Torquato for O'Marra

From GoErie.com.

The Erie Otters' rookie dinner turned into Ryan O'Marra's last meal.

The club traded O'Marra, 19, the veteran center and captain, to Saginaw for highly rated, second-year center Zack Torquato, 17, on Tuesday night. The Otters also received second-round and fourth-round picks in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, giving them six picks in the first four rounds of that draft.

The deal remains unofficial until the OHL approves the deal today, said Sherry Bassin, the Otters managing partner and general manager. But Bassin expects that to be a formality.

"It's an emotional night," O'Marra said by telephone late Tuesday night.

Given the club's emphasis on the future and its current on-ice struggles, O'Marra, knew the deal could happen at any time. In reality, the possibility has existed since last summer, he said. At that time, he and Bassin spoke about possibly making the move if the Otters endured a slow start this season. The feeling grew stronger in the past few days, he said. But it did not make the team dinner at Aoyama Restaurant less emotional.

O'Marra learned about the trade when Saginaw right wing Ryan Berard called his close friend, Otters goaltender Ryan Ludzik. Berard and his teammates were having a farewell meal for Torquato at the same time. So instead of enjoying Japanese food paid for by the rookies, O'Marra said goodbye to his teammates.

"(Erie) is a great place to play. It's a great group of kids, a great foundation for the future," O'Marra said. "Hopefully I've rubbed off on them for the future. ... I wish that Erie could be in the situation that Saginaw is in now. Nothing would have pleased me more than to have won (an OHL championship) in Erie."

The trade provides O'Marra with an opportunity to win a title in what should be his final OHL season. He is expected to play for the New York Islanders or the Bridgeport (Conn.) Sound Tigers, the club's AHL affiliate next season.

Meanwhile, Torquato provides the cornerstone of the Otters' rebuilding effort, Bassin said.

"This is a significant player," he said.


OFFICIAL RELEASE FROM SAGINAW:

The Saginaw Spirit have acquired forward Ryan O’Marra from the Erie Otters, in a trade that sends Spirit 2005 first round draft pick Zack Torquato to Erie.

“This is a deal that benefits both teams, and both players," said Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Bob Mancini. "In Ryan O'Marra, we acquire one of the top experienced forwards in the Ontario Hockey League, and Zack gets a chance to showcase his talent with a young and talented Erie team in his NHL draft year. On behalf of the entire Spirit organization, I want to thank Zack for his time in Saginaw and wish him the best of luck in his OHL career and beyond.”

O’Marra was a 1st round pick, 4th overall in the 2003 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection and 1st round pick, 15th overall in the 2005 NHL draft by the New York Islanders. He was named to the OHL Team for the 2006 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. The 19 year old native of Mississauga, Ontario is expected to join the Spirit for tonight’s game.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Traverse City acquires two defensemen

The Traverse City North Stars came into the season a little bit front-heavy, but have been getting defensive about it ever since.

With a bevy of slick-skating forwards dotting the roster – the Stars carried as many as 16 front-liners at one point– head coach Scott Gardiner had been looking to add size, toughness, and grit to the defense. With a pair of deals that were completed on Tuesday, the North Stars furthered the beefing process by acquiring imposing (6-3, 215 lbs.) blue-liner Ben Plocar from Springfield, as well as stalwart stay-at-home defenseman Alex Breeden from North Iowa.

The Stars dealt away defenseman Richie Zobak in a one-for-one swap with Springfield, while forwards Jared Mullen and Mario Mjelleli were sent to North Iowa for Breeden. Both Zobak and Mullen were charter members of the North Stars’ original roster.

“We’ve hit a bit of a bad streak here, but what are we supposed to do – stop trying?” asked Gardiner. “No, we’ve got a good team here and we just needed to add some parts to the machine. We got another player sort of in the (Nick) Von Bokern mold – big, strong and good with the puck in Plocar, and a seasoned meat-and-potatoes defenseman in Breeden. We think these guys can come in and make an impact.”

Plocar, a Howard Grove, Wis. product, played 19 games this season for the Junior Blues, collecting a pair of goals and 11 assists, including a power play goal, four power play assists and a pair of shorthanded helpers. In 2005-06, he led the Springfield defensemen with five goals and 19 assists in 45 contests. Breeden, a 5-11, 190-pounder from Ft. Collins, Co., had six assists through 20 games for the Outlaws after posting a goal and seven assists last year for North Iowa. Both players have 1987 birthdates.

“You just can’t play your defense as shorthanded as we’ve been playing them,” Gardiner explained. “We needed size, experience and that physical presence. You can’t just stand in front of our net anymore, you can’t just chase the puck into the corner anymore, or you’re going to pay the price physically. That’s something we’ve really been craving, and we think we have that.”

The acquisition also gives Traverse City a third member of the ‘treehouse gang,’ with recent acquisition Von Bokern (6-4) and Phil Partyka (6-3) already staffing the blue line. Harrison Niemann (6-2) is also a part-time member, but has seen extensive duty at forward of late.

The bigger North Stars will look to bring their bigger games to Centre ICE arena on Wednesday, when the first place Alpena IceDiggers bring a six-game winning streak into the annual Thanksgiving Eve clash. The Diggers survived for a pair of wins in the teams’ last series – a 6-5 overtime victory at Alpena on Nov. 10, and a thrilling 3-2 shootout win the following night at Centre ICE.

“They’re playing as well as anyone in the league,” admitted Gardiner. “But we can play with them. Our games are usually pretty tight, usually close, hard-fought games. I don’t see anything different on the horizon for Wednesday.”

The Stars-Diggers contest will face off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Monday, November 20, 2006

WEEKEND SCOREBOARD - Nov. 20, 2006

Plymouth's Andrew Fournier celebrates his goal Friday night

OHL

Fri. Nov. 17
at Plymouth 7, Saginaw 3

Sat. Nov. 18
Kingston 5 at Plymouth 2
at Saginaw 4, Sarnia 3 (OT)

NAHL

Fri. Nov. 17
Alpena 5 at Marquette 3
at Mahoning Valley 5, Traverse City 2

Sat. Nov. 18
Alpena 4 at Marquette 3 (OT)
at Mahoning Valley 3, Traverse City 1

NOJHL

Sat. Nov. 18
Soo 4 at Blind River 1

Sun. Nov. 19
Soo 7 at Canadian Soo 2


Photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rangers set up mitten tree for charity

The Marquette Rangers will have a mitten tree set up beginning at the game tonight against the Alpena IceDiggers and ending at the game Dec. 22.

The tree will be accessible at all games and 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Rangers' office for people to donate mittens, hats and scarves for local charity.

The Rangers will be collecting the items and distributing to organizations and local charities such as the Salvation Army, women’s shelter and Janzen House, or as needed.

Saginaw wins fifth straight Thursday

Zack Torquato scored a pair of goals as the Saginaw Spirit beat the Erie Otters, 4-3, Thursday night at home for their fifth straight win.

Jack Combs had the game winner 6:57 into the third period as the Spirit (16-5-0-1) extended its overall OHL lead to three points over London, who fell 3-0 to Kitchener.

Captain Patrick McNeill added a single goal for Saginaw.

Erie captain Ryan O'Marra, Shayne Taylor and Nick Palmeiri replied for the Otters (5-15-0-2), who have lost two straight and own the worst record in the league.

Saginaw goalie Ryan Daniels stopped 29 shots in the win, while Jonathan Laniel made 44 saves for Erie.

The Spirit travel to Plymouth tonight to battle the Whalers.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mancini named Grand Marshall of parade

The Saginaw Spirit have been given the honor of Grand Marshall for Saginaw’s 29th Annual Christmas Parade, presented by PRIDE in Saginaw Inc.

The parade kicks off at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday at the corner of Genesee and Jefferson and will head west, ending at the corner of North Michigan and Cass Avenue.

Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini will serve as the Grand Marshall for the parade and will be joined by Sammy Spirit, Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle and the Saginaw Spirit Dance Team.

Spirit fans are invited to walk in the parade with the Spirit. Those interested are asked to wear Spirit apparel and meet at the Spirit float by 10:45 a.m.

Monday, November 13, 2006

TC goalie to become NAHL's youngest player

Traverse City is expecting to formally add 15-year-old goaltender Spencer Sonneveldt to its roster, giving the North Stars the youngest player in the entire North American Hockey League.

"It's a little weird, but everybody's cool about it," Sonneveldt said. "It makes me work harder to keep up with them."

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound netminder received his release from the Midget A North Stars travel team on Monday, and is expected to be officially added to the Junior A North Stars' roster later this week.

"I believe he's the goalie of the future," North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner said.

Read the rest from the Traverse City Record-Eagle here.

Whalers take three wins over weekend

The Plymouth Whalers ended their five-game losing streak with a perfect three-win weekend.

PLYMOUTH 4, SARNIA 1 on SUNDAY
Led by goaltender Michal Neuvirth's 40 saves, the Whalers win their third straight game.

PLYMOUTH 6, SARNIA 5 in SATURDAY SHOOTOUT
Evan Brophey scores the winner as the Whalers remain perfect in shootouts this season at 4-0.

PLYMOUTH 4, OWEN SOUND 0 on FRIDAY
Jeremy Smith records his OHL-leading third shutout of the season with 42 saves in 4-0 win over Owen Sound.

The third-place Whalers host the Saginaw Spirit Friday night and Kingston on Saturday.

In other Michigan junior news...

Saginaw took a 5-4 shootout win over Owen Sound Saturday and then took over first place in the OHL with a 7-2 win against Brampton yesterday. The Spirit return home Thursday against Erie. Friday night, Saginaw will be in Plymouth and will then finish out the weekend at home against Sarnia on Saturday night.

The Alpena IceDiggers beat the Traverse City North Stars twice last weekend - Friday 6-5 in overtime and Saturday in a shootout, 3-2. Traverse City plays two at Mahoning Valley this weekend, while Alpena will head to Marquette to play a pair with the Rangers.

Marquette was swept in their three-game set in Mahoning Valley. The Phantoms won 5-0 on Friday, 7-2 on Saturday and 6-1 on Sunday. The Rangers host Alpena this weekend.

The Soo Indians fell to Abitibi, 5-3, on Saturday night and 5-2 to North Bay Sunday. The Indians are at Blind River Saturday and Canadian Soo Sunday.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Saginaw upends Toronto Thursday night

Chris Chappell scored twice and added an assist as the Saginaw Spirit defeated the Toronto-St. Michael's Majors, 8-3, Thursday night in Toronto.

Toronto native Ryan McDonough and captain Patrick McNeill each added a pair of goals while Tom Pyatt and Tom Craig contributed singles for the Spirit (13-5-0-1).

Former Toronto captain Tyler Haskins chipped in with three assists. Ryan Berard and Garrett Sinfield helped out on two goals each.

"They made us look pretty average with their skill," Majors coach Bud Stefanski told the Canadian Press.

Ryan Daniels made 29 saves to earn the win for Saginaw.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

North Stars, IceDiggers set for two

A year ago, the Alpena IceDiggers won a North American Hockey League-low 13 games in 58 tries.

Through just 18 contests in 2006-07, the Diggers have scored a dozen wins, lead the North Division by a full four points, and have built a 10-point cushion between themselves and this weekend’s opponent, the Traverse City North Stars.

When the regional rivals square off on Friday in Alpena before returning to Centre ICE arena on Saturday, the North Stars will look to end a seven-game skid against a team that has lost three of its last five.

“Every game between us is a battle – they know it and we know it,” said Traverse City head coach Scott Gardiner. “And certainly, I don’t think they’ll count us out because we’re 10 points behind them, but at the same time we can’t let the spread get two big or it’ll be too hard to catch them.”

The North Stars, having reshuffled the deck last week in terms of personnel movement, were not as cohesive a unit last Friday as they were on Saturday in a 3-2 loss at Mahoning Valley.

Newly-acquired defenseman Nick Von Bokern paid immediate dividends soon after his arrival from Fairbanks last week, scoring a power play goal and assisting on two others versus the Phantoms, while TC native Mike Glaesmer – another new pickup – also registered a goal and a pair of assists in Boardman.

“We’re close to coming out of this and it seems like we’re starting to jell a little bit after throwing so many new guys into the mix all at once,” Gardiner said. “You go into every weekend looking for four points, so we’re going to have to go into their building with a lot of effort and get after them as quickly as possible.”

Alpena’s dynamic duo of Nolan Craner (13 G/19 A) and Todd Rudasill (12 G – 19 A) – the NAHL’s top two leading scorers – has become a tremendous trio, as fellow forward Drew Pierson (9 G/13 A) has climbed the league’s scoring chart, coming into the weekend eighth among all NAHL skaters. The threesome is most exacting on the power play, combining for 22 extra-man markers, while powering the Diggers’ PP unit to a 21.74 percent efficiency – far and away tops in the league.

Both weekend games face-off at 7 p.m., with Friday night’s contest at Northern Lights Arena in Alpena, and Saturday’s back-ender at Centre ICE arena.

Saginaw gets Williams from Wisconsin

ANDY BAGGOT
abaggot@madison.com
Wisconsin State Journal

Unhappy with a lack of playing time, highly regarded defenseman Nigel Williams left the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team.

Williams was in the process of withdrawing from school Wednesday and is expected to sign with Saginaw, a Michigan-based major junior franchise in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He was not a happy young man," UW coach Mike Eaves said Wednesday. "Hockey is very important to him. It's what makes him tick and feeds his self-esteem and all those important issues as an 18-year- old. He just felt right now this is what he had to do."

A second-round pick of Colorado in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Williams appeared in one of the first 10 games for the Badgers. He was unable to crack the top seven of a veteran unit in part because his puck- handling and decision-making were not yet to the level Eaves wanted.

Williams, listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, spoke last month of being "very frustrated" at not playing. He said it was reminiscent of a year ago when he didn't see regular playing time with the U.S. National Team Development Program.

"I thought I was going to be playing a lot more (with UW)," Williams said.

Eaves said the situation with Williams was similar to last season when sophomore winger Matt Auffrey left school and signed with Kitchener of OHL.

"(Williams) kind of wants to play now instead of being patient and growing," Eaves said.

Saginaw drafted Williams in the 14th round (263rd overall) of the 2005 OHL Priority Selection.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

IceDiggers to wear camo jerseys Friday night

The Alpena IceDiggers will wear special event camouflage jerseys, sponsored by Lafarge, this Friday night at Northern Lights Arena when they play host to the Traverse City North Stars at 7:00 p.m.

The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off immediately following the game in the main grand stands. The bidding will start at $100.

With the help of OT Sports, the official jersey supplier of the NAHL, the IceDiggers are extremely happy with the design of the jerseys.

"We are excited about the jerseys and really feel our fans will like them." said Alpena VP/GM Bob Krafft. "If you have a favorite IceDigger player, this is a great chance to own a game-worn jersey."

The IceDiggers will sport the camouflage jersey on Friday only five days prior to opening day of hunting season in Alpena. Krafft and his staff thought it would go over great with not only the IceDigger faithful, but hunters in the area as well.

"When we were looking at doing the special event jerseys, we went to Lafarge and gave them the idea and they were very excited about it," Krafft added. "This jersey not only appeals to hockey fans, but hunters as well."

The IceDiggers play only one their next 12 games inside Northern Lights Arena.

Alpena currently sits atop the North Division with a record of 12-5-1. Nolan Craner and Todd Rudasill sit one and two in the NAHL scoring race. As a team, the IceDiggers currently lead the NAHL in power-play goals with 35.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Marquette splits with Fargo-Moorhead

The Marquette Rangers took advantage of a five-minute power play in the first period, registering three goals en route to a 6-3 road win over the Fargo-Moorhead Jets Friday night.

Neeco Belanger, Nic Weight and Matt Tinordi all registered goals in under a minute for a 3-1 lead in the first period, but the Jets cut the Rangers’ lead to one before intermission.

Marquette responded in the second and third periods with three unanswered goals. Jason Cohen had the lone goal in the second period and in the third, Belanger and Nick Kosinski each posted scores.

Belanger finished the game with two goals and two assists, while Kosinski notched a goal and an assist.

Goalie Stephen Ritter stopped 22 of 25 shots faced for Marquette.

Saturday night, after scoring the most goals by any opponent against the Jets in four seasons at home, the Rangers looked for the sweep Saturday night. The Rangers never led in the contest and were outshot 44-26 on the way to a 5-1 loss.

Dustin Partacz scored the lone Ranger goal in the third period and Matt Brooker made 41 saves.

The Rangers hit the road for the last away series against the Mahoning Valley Phantoms in Boardman, Ohio this weekend, before returning home to host Alpena Nov. 17 and 18.

North Stars swept in Mahoning Valley

FRIDAY

When it rains, it pours.

And there was a deluge on Friday at the Boardman IceZone, as Mahoning Valley handed the visiting Traverse City North Stars a 7-2 setback at the Phantoms' home opener.

Doug Leaverton's knuckling, bounding puck from beyond the blue line somehow found its way into the back of the Traverse City net just 2:26 into the contest, and the affair snowballed in favor of the hosts from there.

"When it's bad, it's bad - and it was bad tonight," admitted Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. "That first dump-in that scored - it wasn't why we lost, and it wasn't anybody's fault, but it was kind of symbolic of how our night went."

New TC defenseman Nick Von Bokern did give the North Stars a 1-1 tie when he registered a power-play marker a mere :16 into the second period, but Matt Quigley responded for Mahoning Valley a little more than two minutes later and Nathan Longpre added what turned out to be the game-winner a minute after that. It was the first of two for Quigley, and the first of three for Longpre, who would post two more in the second period.

Mike Glaesmer posted his first goal in a Stars sweater, keeping Longpre from the natural hat trick with a power-play effort at 11:46 of the second. Glaesmer and Aaron Pietila had assisted on Van Bokern's goal, while Jameson Raymond and Kent Detlefsen drew helpers on Glaesmer's marker.

The game featured a plethora of shots on net as the teams combined for 93 attempts, but TC's Stefan Shively was the busiest goalkeep, absorbing 55 shots to Ryan Zapolski's 38. The North Stars fell to 7-10-1, while Mahoning Valley upped its mark to 9-7-1. The clubs have now split their four regular season meetings in 2006-07.

"I know we have a ton of new guys, and you might expect as much, but we were not in sync tonight," Gardiner added. "We had two new guys with the goals, but we need our producers to produce. There were times tonight when we dominated - like almost the entire second period - but it's a period we still lost, and it's frustrating."

SATURDAY

The Traverse City North Stars struck first and struck last on Saturday at the Boardman Ice Zone, but the host Mahoning Valley Phantoms wedged a trio of goals betwixt to claim a 3-2 triumph in the finale of a two-game series.

Joe Greener put Traverse City ahead just five minutes into the contest on a power play marker set up by Aaron Pietila and newly-acquired Nick Van Bokern, but Chris Fairbanks (7:42), Alden Hirschfeld (12:30) and Dustin Cloutier (13:32) reeled off the game-winning trifecta in the middle stanza.

Patrick Nagorsen pulled Traverse City (7-11-1) to within one on a power play goal at 10:12 of the third, but the North Stars couldn't crack Phantoms goalkeep Ryan Zapolski down the stretch. Mike Glaesmer and Van Bokern drew assists on Nagorsen's sixth of the season.

Glaesmer recorded three points in the two-game series, while Van Bokern now leads all North American Hockey League defensemen with 10 power-play assists.

Kyle Jendra staffed the TC net, stopping 30 of the 33 shots he faced, while Zapolski went 31-for-33.

The North Stars face off with regional adversary Alpena next weekend, with Friday night's contest slated for Northern Lights Arena and Saturday's return engagement at Centre ICE arena. Both clashes commence at 7 p.m.

Saginaw topples champs, falls to Barrie

Saginaw went 1-1 last weekend with a loss at home to Barrie and a win at home against Peterborough on Saturday.

Jan Mursak and Tom Pyatt both registered a goal and an assist to help lead the Spirit to a 5-3 win over Peterborough Saturday. Captain Patrick McNeill, Zack Torquato and Patrick Asselin also scored for Saginaw, who out-shot the Petes, 48-19.

Jovica Zelenbaba made 16 saves for the win. Mursak extended his consecutive point streak record to 18 games as well.

Friday, Barrie defeated Saginaw, 4-2.

Mursak and Torquato tallied for Saginaw and Ryan Daniels made 24 saves.

The Spirit go on a road trip this weekend, with games in Toronto, Owen Sound and Brampton. The team’s next home game in on Thursday, Nov. 16 against Erie.

Whalers suffer brutal weekend out east

The Plymouth Whalers left for their eastern Ontario road swing a .500 team (8-6-0-0) only to return one game under (8-9-0-0) the break-even mark.

Plymouth lost 3-2 in Ottawa on Friday, 3-1 in Belleville Saturday and 5-2 in Kingston yesterday with only five defenseman and seven forwards.

James Neal scored both goals for the Whalers against Ottawa and Jeremy Smith made 31 saves in goal.

Vern Cooper tallied the lone goal Saturday. Michal Neuvirth stopped 33 shots.

Sunday, Cooper and Wes Cunningham scored and Smith and Neuvirth combined for 31 saves. Neuvirth started, played the first 40 minutes and took the loss.

Captain Steve Ward, Jared Boll, Dan Collins, Neal, Ryan McGinnis and Tom Sestito didn't play Sunday along with Andrew Fournier and Joe McCann. Zack Shepley and John Armstrong didn't play all weekend.

Eight players broke curfew Saturday night while at a Belleville restaurant and were caught by head coach Mike Vellucci.

"Not the way I wanted to spend my birthday," Fournier told the Kingston Whig-Standard.

He turned 19 yesterday and missed his team's only visit to his hometown.

Vellucci refused to elaborate on the incident, saying only that the matter "was behind us" and that the eight would be reinstated for Plymouth’s next game.

"The guys that did play played great and showed a ton of character," Vellucci said in the same Whig article. "We never gave up and with a couple of breaks, who knows?"

The Whalers return home to host Owen Sound Friday and Sarnia Saturday. Plymouth is then in Sarnia for a Sunday matinee.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Indians in three-way tie for second

A weekend split has left the Soo Indians in a three-way tie for second place within the torrid standings of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

After losing 2-1 to Sudbury despite outshooting the Kal Tire Junior Wolves 37-29 on Friday night, the Indians rebounded on Saturday evening to post a tidy 3-1 decision over the crossriver rival Soo Thunderbirds before 254 fans at Big Bear Arena.

With 20 points from a 10-6 record, the Indians are tied with North Bay and Blind River for second place, just three points back of first-place Sudbury but just three points ahead of surging Abitibi.

Friday night, defenceman Sean Reid scored the only goal for the Indians, who were repeatedly thwarted by Sudbury rookie goalie Alain Valiquette.

Saturday night, the Indians ran into another hot goalie in Ryan Dube of the Thunderbirds. The Indians poured 50 shots at Dube -- 20 in the third period -- but needed two goals in the final frame to break a 1-1 tie and secure the 3-1 triumph.

Joe Larson, Chris Cooper and Sean Farley, with his team-leading 13th goal, handled the Indians' scoring. Paul Isleib added two assists for the Indians to boost his point totals to 3-12-15, second on the Indians to Farley, who is 13-7-20.

Brennan Poderzay started in the Indians net and blocked 13 of 14 shots in the first period before tweaking his hamstring. Elliot Hogue finished up with a 23-save effort over two periods to post the win.

Indians' head coach Jim Capy was relieved to get the win over the Thunderbirds.

"We had 87 shots in two games and scored only four goals and that is a concern. Had we finished better around the net, we would have won both games," the Indians' boss said evenly.

Capy, Hogue and Indians' chief scout Jim Yardanoff will be among the guests when "The Hockey North Show" makes its debut on SportsZeus.com on Thursday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m. The show will be broadcast live from Brody's Sports Bar in Soo, Ontario.

Friday, November 03, 2006

IceDiggers beat Team USA Friday night

In Alpena, the hometown IceDiggers completed their delayed three-game set with the U.S. National Team with a 5-2 win. The two teams had split Tuesday and Wednesday.

Captain Nolan Craner scored twice with an assist, while Todd Rudasill had a goal and two helpers. Drew Pierson added three assists to go along with single goals from Marco Ruggeri and Mike DeGrazia.

Mike Jarboe took the win making 23 saves.

Alpena plays a home-and-home series with the Traverse City North Stars next weekend. Friday's game is in Alpena and Saturday's shifts to Traverse City.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

IceDiggers lose Tuesday, win Wednesday

Alpena split the first two games of its staggered three-game series with the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, the Under-18 squad took a 6-3 win. Eric Roman, Evan West and Drew Pierson scored for the IceDiggers. Chris Hendrickson tacked on two assists and Shawn Hunwick made 22 saves.

Last night, Alpena scored three times in the third period to rally for a 4-3 win. Nolan Craner and Todd Rudasill each had a goal and an assist to go along with single goals from Ben Kitzmiller and Jim McCusker (first NAHL goal). Mike Jarboe finished with 23 saves in net.

The two teams play again tomorrow night in Alpena. Game time is 7:00 p.m.

Spirit edges Greyhounds Wednesday night

Garrett Sinfield scored his first goal of the season 6:39 into the third period and it stood as the game-winner as the Saginaw Spirit beat the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 5-4, last night in Sault Ste. Marie.

Zack Torquato scored twice for Saginaw, winners of nine of their last 10 games. Patrick Asselin and Tom Pyatt added singles, while Ryan Daniels posted 23 saves in net.

The Barrie Colts are in first place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, making Friday night's game in Saginaw a match-up for first place overall in the OHL.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Indians make four-player deal with Blind River

The Soo Indians have shipped two players from their active roster to the Blind River Beavers in exchange for the playing rights to two others in a trade completed Tuesday night.

Going to Blind River are winger Alex Durinka and defenceman Brett Lavalley. Durinka had one assist in six games with the Indians this season while Lavalley was pointless in his only outing. Both are 1987 birth years.

In exchange for the two, the Indians acquired the rights to forwards Shane Bailey and Sam Yearsley, both of whom are currently playing in the North American Hockey League.

Both Bailey and Yearsley played for Indians' coach-general manager Jim Capy when he was with Blind River last season.

Bailey, a 1986 birth year, had 19 goals and 10 assists in 38 games with the Beavers last season. Yearsley, a 1987 birth year, had 15 goals and 20 assists in 40 games with the Beavers last season.

Should Bailey and Yearsley join the Indians, they would hook up with two of their former Blind River teammates from last season -- forwards J.P. Perpich and Nick Zilka -- who were obtained by Capy from the Beavers in transactions made earlier this season.

Rangers make several roster tweaks

The Marquette Rangers have made some roster moves to hopefully help the team continue its climb to the top of the NAHL's North Division.

Forward Chad Johnson and defenseman Andy Keogh have been released, making room for defensemen Nikki Holt and John McAfee. Holt joins the Rangers from the Bozeman IceDogs Junior B team, while McAfee was released by the Alaska Avalanche of the NAHL.

"We feel we've complemented our current roster with the addition of Holt and McAfee," said Marquette head coach Leigh Mendelson. "Holt is a 6-foot, 180-pound 20-year-old that gives us a little more experience at the blue line. He played for John LaFontaine in Bozeman and has been an immediate contributor to our team. McAfee was released by Alaska and we feel he has a good upside. Our fans will certainly notice his size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) but as an 18-year-old he will learn a lot from some of our veteran defensemen."

In addition, the Rangers traded defenseman Todd Graham to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for forward Artie Peckscamp. Peckscamp saw limited action in five games with Fairbanks, registering one assist and four penalty minutes.

"Artie is an 18-year-old who played Minnesota high school hockey last season," Mendelson said. "He is a young forward who will have a chance to learn and play under some very good forwards on our team."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Muskegon's Paeth off to Western Michigan

Des Moines Buccaneers' forward Travis Paeth has verbally committed to Western Michigan University.

Paeth, a native of Muskegon, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in the 2006 USHL Entry Draft. He came to Des Moines after spending last season playing for the Traverse City North Stars of the NAHL.

The 19-year-old Paeth currently has two goals and three assists in seven games for the Buccaneers and has helped the team to get off to a 7-1 start in its first eight games.

"Travis has come in and worked hard for our club," said Des Moines coach-GM Regg Simon. "He's filled a role for our team and now he'll be a great fit for the Western Michigan program."

Paeth is the eleventh member of the Buccaneers to commit to a Division I hockey program this season. Previously committed players to Michigan schools are Jeff Petry (Farmington Hills/Michigan State), Aaron Palushaj (Northville/Michigan), Ben Ryan (Brighton/Notre Dame) and Austin Handley (Clarkston/Michigan State).