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."


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