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, 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



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


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)


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


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.


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


Plymouth's Andrew Fournier celebrates his goal Friday night


Fri. Nov. 17
at Plymouth 7, Saginaw 3

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


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


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.

Led by goaltender Michal Neuvirth's 40 saves, the Whalers win their third straight game.

Evan Brophey scores the winner as the Whalers remain perfect in shootouts this season at 4-0.

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

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


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."


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 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."