Thursday, September 28, 2006

North Stars, IceDiggers renew rivalry

The rivalry is renewed.

With Friday’s season series lid-lifter in Alpena, the regional hockey enmity between the Traverse City North Stars and IceDiggers kicks off again as the two clubs battle for regional supremacy at Northern Lights Arena before returning to Centre ICE on Saturday for the back end of the home-and-home set.

The IceDiggers, a North American Hockey League-worst 13-38-7 a year ago, have turned their fortunes around in the early going of 2006-07. Alpena is alone in second place in the NAHL North Division at 4-2-0, and coming off a two-game sweep of NAHL newbie Marquette last weekend.

“They’re a good, solid team, but I thought that even last year when their record didn’t show it,” said North Stars coach Scott Gardiner. “They have 1 guys back, and some awesome new goaltending. They’re a very balanced team and we’re going to have to be at our best to play with them.”

The IceDiggers, led by head coach/GM Kenny Miller, boast the NAHL’s top two scorers through two weeks of action, with Nolan Craner leading the charge with four goals and seven assists. Another holdover from 2005-06, Todd Rudasill, is second in the league with five goals and assists on five others. Six of their combined nine goals have come when Alpena has held a man advantage.

“We’re going to have to try to keep those guys in check,” Gardiner added. “Especially when they’re on the power play, because they’ve already shown that they can hurt you.”

Traverse City will be without forward Aaron Pietila, who scored two goals and drew assists on two others during last Saturday’s 5-1 rout of the Team USA-17s. He took a slapshot to the groin during the contest, and underwent a medical procedure earlier this week. He is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.

“Pitsy did it all for us, and we’re going to miss him out there,” Gardiner said. “It’s up to everybody else to help pick up the slack, and I think we have guys who are willing to do that.”

For the North Stars, a couple of players with extra lettering on their sweaters also pace the club in scoring, as captain Patrick Nagorsen and associate captain Jameson Raymond lead the club with six points each. Nagorsen has three goals and as many helpers, while Raymond has a goal and five assists. Four players – Pietila, Jared Mullen, Richie Zobak, and Jonathan Juliano – have five points each, with Mullen tops in goals overall with four.

“It’s going to come down to execution, just as it has been for us so far,” said Gardiner, whose team is second in the league on the penalty kill and fourth on the power play. “In our own zone, in their zone and in the neutral zone – we have to continue to try to be consistent in our execution.”

The teams face off at 7 on Friday in Alpena, and at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday at Centre ICE arena.

Alpena's captains epitomize leadership

When Alpena IceDiggers' head coach Kenny Miller named Nolan Craner co-captain for the second consecutive season, he knew Craner would lead his team on and off the ice.

So it's no surprise to see that Craner (pictured) is atop the league leaders in points in the early stages of the 2006-07 NAHL season.

This season marks the Plainwell native's third that he has sported the IceDiggers jersey. Craner, along with co-captain Ricardo Yesue (Allen Park) and Miller are the only three left from the group of players and staff that made the move north prior to last season when the team called Toledo home.

In six games this season, Craner has four goals to go along with seven assists for 11 points. Three goals have also come on the power play and Craner has recorded at least one point in every game so far.

"Nolan leads by example and gets his point across to the team by what he does on the ice," Miller said. "Every guy on the team looks up to him and he deserves the season he is having so far. He has given a lot to this organization in the three years he has been with us."

Ben Kitzmiller (Lambertville) and Todd Rudasill act as alternate captains.

"All four lead by example both on and off the ice," added Miller. "Each of them are great kids who will make a difference in whatever they choose to do after their playing days in Alpena are over."

Whalers claim Loikets from Erie

The Plymouth Whalers have claimed defenseman Chad Loikets off waivers from the Erie Otters.

Under the OHL's recallable waivers format, the Otters could have reclaimed the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Loikets after the Whalers placed their bid, "but Chad's been such a special kid to us," Erie GM Sherry Bassin said in the Erie Times-News. "If some team gives him a chance to play, we owed it to him."

A 19-year-old native of Yorkville, Ill. (about an hour southwest of Chicago), Loikets has played the past three years in Erie, registering four goals and 26 points in 193 games.

Loikets is now the ninth defenseman on the Whalers' roster.

Soo Indians' News & Notes

Courtesy of Randy Russon and Osprey Blogs...

The Soo Indians, with a record of 4-0, may be in position to move some players, if not to another NOJHL team, then to another junior league. At present, the Indians are carrying 15 forwards, eight defencemen and three goalies and the word is that coach/general manager Jim Capy is taking a long look at another forward of size and strength who he was recently tipped off about. When Capy does move some of his players, let’s hope that he finds takers within the NOJHL. As new commissioner Wayne Stickland noted recently: "We don’t want to lose players who want to be in our league to other leagues."

Among the top newcomers to the NOJHL who have stood out to me thus far this early season are Soo Indians’ defenceman Nick Novak, North Bay Skyhawks’ forward Joe Trotter and Blind River goalie Shawn Sirman.

Besides staying close to home in having Soo, Michigan products J.D. King and Daren Mansfield and Soo, Ontario native Daniel Vernelli, in their lineup, the Soo Indians have players on their roster from the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin.

As Abitibi searches for its first win of the season this weekend while away from home, Manitoulin also looks to enter the “W” column. The Islanders on Friday night will try to hand the Indians their first loss of the season when they give the Michiganders a Haweater welcome. Then on Saturday, Manitoulin resumes the North Shore rivalry with Blind River with a showdown in the Milltown.

Neal's hatter leads Plymouth over Saginaw

James Neal scored three goals (even strength, shorthanded, power-play) and Evan Brophey had four assists as the Plymouth Whalers took a 5-1 win over the Saginaw Spirit on Wednesday in Saginaw.

A.J. Jenks scored his first OHL goal and Jared Boll also tallied for the Whalers along with an assist on Jenks' opening goal.

Jan Mursak, a 2006 Detroit Red Wings' draft pick, scored the lone goal for the Spirit.

Michal Neuvirth earned his first OHL win with 31 saves, while Ryan Daniels (23 saves) suffered the defeat.

Plymouth (2-1-0) plays in Guelph tomorrow night and Saginaw (0-3-0) travels to Sarnia.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

WEEKEND RECAP - Sept. 26, 2006

Last weekend saw the OHL and NAHL seasons start for all the Michigan-based teams and the NOJHL's Soo Indians continue their winning ways.

The Plymouth Whalers lost their season opener, 7-3, Friday night in Sarnia, but rebounded for a 7-6 shootout win Saturday night at home against Erie. Chris Terry, who won three shootouts for the Whalers last season, did it again Saturday.

Saginaw fell to the London Knights Friday night in London, 6-3, and then dropped a 4-3 decision to the Guelph Storm Saturday night at home. The Spirit host the Whalers tomorrow night.

The Alpena IceDiggers posted a weekend sweep over the Marquette Rangers, winning 2-1 Friday night in Alpena and then came back to take a 3-2 win Saturday night in Marquette. Alpena plays a home-and-home with the Traverse City North Stars this weekend, starting Friday in Alpena.

Traverse City suffered a 5-4 shootout loss Friday night to the USA Under-17 Team at home only to hand the U.S. their first loss of the season Saturday night, 5-1. Plymouth draft pick Kevin McCarey scored the shootout winner Friday.

The Indians went to 4-0 with two more weekend wins at Big Bear Arena, beating the defending champion Sudbury Northern Jr. Wolves, 6-5 in overtime, on Saturday before edging the Blind River Beavers, 2-1, on Sunday. Soo plays their first road game when they travel to Manitoulin to play the Islanders Saturday night.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ward named Plymouth's captain

Overage defenseman Steve Ward has been named team captain of the Plymouth Whalers, while forwards Jared Boll, Evan Brophey and Andrew Fournier are alternate captains.

Boll and Brophey join Ward as Plymouth's three overage (20-year-old) players this season.

Ward came to Plymouth in a trade with Sarnia on Sept. 22, 2004 and has flourished for the Whalers, enjoying his best year in the OHL last season when he scored 14 goals with 33 assists for 47 points in 67 games.

Boll, a fourth-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2005 National Hockey League Entry Draft, came to the Whalers in a trade with Kingston on June 26, 2005. Boll scored 19 goals with 22 assists for 41 points and 205 penalty minutes in 65 games last year.

Brophey came to Plymouth last season in a trade with the Belleville Bulls on Nov. 23 and scored 19 goals with 42 assists for 61 points. Brophey’s biggest goal for Plymouth last season came on the final night of the regular season on March 18, when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Whalers clinched the West Division, 3-2, over Saginaw. Brophey, a third-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, was originally drafted by the Barrie Colts in 2002 and leads all Plymouth players with 253 career OHL games played.

Fournier was drafted by Plymouth in the 11th round (219th overall) of the 2003 OHL Priority Selection and had his best season in the OHL last year when he scored 23 goals in 67 games.

Ward photo by Walt Dmoch

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

North Stars set for home opener

The U.S. National Team Development Program actually fields two teams in the North American Hockey League: an Under-17 entry and an Under-18 squad. Between them, they play the requisite 62-game NAHL schedule in addition to their many international tournaments and collegiate exhibitions.

The players themselves typically progress from the U-17s to the U-18 club at the end of their first season in the program, meaning that when the Traverse City North Stars open their 2006-07 home schedule on Friday night at Centre ICE arena, they won’t be facing the same U-17 squad they took to the brink of playoff elimination last year.

“It might actually be a rematch of sorts when we play the U-18s later in the year, but this is a new team we get this weekend,” explained North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “We do know this: They’re every bit as big, strong, fast and skilled as the last edition of the U-17s – that much we are well aware of.”

Hand-picked from the best junior talent in the land, Team USA brings a unique and highly-proficient dynamic to the NAHL’s North Division.

“They’re all about the skill,” assessed North Stars forward Jonathan Juliano. “They’re always competitive, and of course you always want to go out there and beat the organization that’s considered the best junior team in the country.”

Juliano, who accrued five goals in last year’s postseason classic versus the U-17s, leads the Stars in scoring through four games this season with a quintet of assists – all five to different goal-scorers. He says that the NAHL’s ramped-up effort to call the games so tightly means he and his mates must endeavor to play it straight.

“We have to stay out of the (penalty) box, and do a way better job than we did last week at the Showcase,” said Juliano, whose Stars were whistled for an average of 25 minutes in minor penalties over the first four outings – against competition averaging only slightly fewer (23.5 min.). “We know we can score goals, but we have to be skating with five if we want to keep from giving them up.”

Center and captain Patrick Nagorsen is tops among TC goal-scorers with three – including the overtime game-cincher last Saturday against Wichita Falls – while Matt Hughes and Richie Zobak have a pair each. Zobak, who scored five goals in 62 games last season, also has a pair of assists.

Above all else, Gardiner, Juliano and the Stars players say they’re excited to get back to the friendly confines of Centre ICE arena for this weekend’s series.

“That always gets the boys fired up to come home to the best fans in the league,” Gardiner added. “They want to come out and give ‘em a good show, especially for the home opener.”
With the exception of two Sunday contests, the North Stars home games start a half-hour earlier this season, facing off at 7:05 p.m. Warm-ups begin at 6:35 p.m. and doors open 15 minutes before warm-ups.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Saginaw cuts pair, roster set at 25

The Saginaw Spirit cut two players today, setting their roster at 25 players heading into opening weekend.

Forward Kevin Tuckey has been released back to the Orangeville Crushers Junior A team and defenseman T.J. Brodie has been sent to the Leamington Flyers Junior B squad.

The changes reduce the active roster down to 25 players:

1990-Born Players -- 2
1989-Born Players -- 4
1988-Born Players -- 8
1987-Born Players -- 8
1986-Born Players -- 3

Forwards -- 14
Defensemen -- 9
Goalies -- 2

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ritter garners weekly NAHL honor

Marquette goalie Stephen Ritter posted a flawless 3-0 mark to compliment a 1.33 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage as the expansion Rangers posted a 3-1 record at the NAHL Showcase and was named the league's Defensive Player of ther Week.

“Stephen's play is exactly what we expected from him, and obviously what a club in our position as an expansion team needs,” said Rangers coach Leigh Mendelson. “His maturity and poise on the ice were a great help to our players as they got familiar with each other.”

A freshman at Providence College last season, the 19-year-old Ritter is a 4-2-4 transfer student eligible for Division I hockey in 2007-08.

“I certainly expect him to attract a lot of NCAA interest,” said Mendelson.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

North Stars and Rangers win Saturday

A nice parting shot seems like it takes two hours off the long bus ride home – and after a riding the high of a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory against Wichita Falls on Saturday in the final game of the North American Hockey League Showcase in suburban Minneapolis, the Traverse City North Stars might not even come down until they cross the Mackinaw Bridge.

“Jeez, that sure helps the ride home,” said relieved Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “It wasn’t our best game – that came in our loss to Santa Fe on Friday – but we showed a lot of character and determination today, and that was great to see.”

Traverse City trailed 3-1 and 4-2 in the third period before Patrick Nagorsen pulled the Stars to within a goal with 5:11 left in the third and Richie Zobak sent the game into overtime on a clutch lamplighter with :41 remaining in regulation. Nagorsen bagged the game-winner on an unassisted effort with 1:08 to go in the extra session.

“I was already starting to think about who our shooters were going to be for the shootout,” Gardiner admitted. “But the way we held together and stormed back like that – that was the best way for us to end it.”

The veritable conga line to the penalty box continued on Saturday in the wake of the NAHL’s crackdown on illegal impediment, affording the teams a combined 21 power play opportunities. Sean Nealon’s seal-breaking goal just 2:10 into the contest came with the Wildcats a man up, while Zobak’s first period retort was also with a man advantage.

Wichita Falls’ Ville Aman had the only goal of the second period, and opened the third with another to put the North Stars in a two-goal hole for the first time with 16:35 to play. After Alex Prough got TC close with an even-strength marker at 10:24 of the third, Adam Cardwell once again gave the Cats a two-goal bulge, setting up the crunch time heroics of Zobak and Nagorsen.

Jonathan Juliano, the team’s leading scorer – and table-setter – drew his fifth helper of the season on Zobak’s first goal on Saturday, while Nagorsen, Zach Hitch and Arthur Bidwill were also credited with assists in the come-from-behind triumph. Joe Greener set up Zobak’s game-extender.

“We saw some very good teams this week, and it was a good experience for us overall,” Gardiner surmised. “The South Division has some very god teams, and I thought we acquitted ourselves nicely. We still have plenty of things to work on, but now we have a better idea where we are having seen these teams.”

In other games at the Showcase Saturday...

Marquette beat the Fairbanks Ice Dogs by a 5-2 margin. Jake Saville scored a pair and Nick Kosinski, Mike Macari and Nic Weight added goals as well. Stephen Ritter stopped 25 shots in net for the Rangers.

The St. Louis Bandits beat the Alpena IceDiggers, 6-1. Nolan Craner scored for Alpena and Brandon Stephenson and Shawn Hunwick combined for 43 saves.

Whalers and Spirit both win again

A.J. Jenks’ goal at 2:35 of the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and the Plymouth Whalers went on to defeat the Erie Otters, 3-1, Saturday afternoon in Saginaw.

Plymouth finishes the preseason 5-1-0.

Jenks, Plymouth’s seventh-round draft choice last spring, also assisted on Wes Cunnigham’s insurance goal with 1:14 remaining in the third period.

Plymouth came from behind for the victory after spotting Erie a 1-0 lead after one period of play on Nick Palmieri’s goal at 4:28 of the first period. But the Whalers tied the game at 1-1 at 9:40 of the second period. Joe McCann outworked an Erie defender for the puck on the left wing and scored with a low shot from the lower rim of the left circle that beat Otters’ goaltender Ryan Ludzik.

That set the stage for Jenks’ game-winner and Cunningham’s insurance marker in the third period.

Plymouth outshot Erie, 33-23. Jeremy Smith played the entire game in goal for the Whalers, stopping 22 Erie shots. Ludzik started in goal for Erie, stopping 17-of-18 Plymouth shots. Jeff Dawson replaced Ludzik in the Erie goal midway through the second period and turned aside 8-of-10 Whaler shots.

In the second game of the day and final game of the tournament, the Saginaw Spirit beat Team Mexico, 10-0. Jack Combs, Patrick Asselin, Kevin Tuckey and Tim Priamo each scored twice and T.J. Brodie and Tomas Zaborsky added singles. Chris Chappell and Combs added four assists, Priamo with three and Ryan Berard and Zaborsky contributed two helpers apiece. Goalie Jovica Zelenbaba finished with eight saves for the Spirit.

Whalers and Spirit both win Friday

The Mexican Hockey Tournament got underway at the Dow Event Center on Friday with the Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit each putting a notch in the win bracket.

Team Mexico and the Whalers kicked off the tournament with the Whalers winning 12-0. Brett Bellemore (2), Vern Cooper (2), Frank Grzesczak, Kaine Geldart, Dan Collins, Andrew Fournier, Steve Ward, Joe McCann, Zack Shepley and Wes Cunningham all scored. McCann, a former Spirit player, added three assists in the game.

The Spirit beat the Erie Otters, 4-1, in the nightcap. Tomas Zaborsky, Patrick Asselin, Tommy Mannino and Tyler Haskins scored to back Ryan Daniels' 26 saves in net.

The tournament resumes Saturday when the Whalers take on the Otters at 4:00 p.m. The tournament will then conclude with the highly-anticipated Mexico vs. Spirit game at 7:11 p.m.

Bellemore photo by Matt Mackinder

All three Michigan NAHL teams lose Friday

It wasn't a good day in Blaine, Minn., Friday for the three Michigan teams at the NAHL Showcase. All three teams suffered defeats heading into today's final day of competition.

The Alpena IceDiggers lost, 5-1, to the three-time defending national champion Texas Tornado. Todd Rudasill scored Alpena's lone goal and Shawn Hunwick took the loss in net making 32 saves. Alpena plays the St. Louis Bandits today at 3:30 p.m.

Traverse City fell to the Santa Fe Roadrunners, 4-3. Jameson Raymond, Brett Englebright and Kory Kaunisto tallied for the North Stars. Goaltender Ryan Donovan stopped 24 shots. Traverse City battles the Wichita Falls Wildcats at 9:00 a.m.

The Alaska Avalanche dropped the Marquette Rangers by an 8-5 margin. Brodie Zuk had two goals and an assist and Nic Weight added two goals. Iiro Junnila scored the other. Matt Brooker allowed all eight goals and took the loss, but still made 22 saves. The Rangers tangle with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rangers, IceDiggers win; TC downed

The Marquette Rangers and Alpena IceDiggers are both now 2-0 on the season as each team continued their winning ways yesterday at the NAHL Showcase. Traverse City wasn't as fortunate as the North Stars dropped a tight game to Bismarck.

Marquette took a 4-2 victory over the Southern Minnesota Express. The Rangers got goals from four different players in Iiro Junnila, Nic Weight, Nick Kosinski and Neeco Belanger. Goaltender Stephen Ritter stopped 29 shots. Today's game is scheduled for noon against the Alaska Avalanche.

The IceDiggers scored five power-play goals en route to a 7-4 win against the North Iowa Outlaws. Captain Nolan Craner tallied a goal and added three assists while linemates Drew Pierson and Todd Rudasill each chipped in two goals while Rudasill also added an assist. Assistant captain Ben Kitzmiller scored twice and added an assist while rookie backliner Chad Billins recorded three assists. Shawn Hunwick earned the win making 28 saves in net and also added an assist on the Craner goal. Alpena plays the Texas Tornado today at 3:30 p.m.

Traverse City fell to the Bobcats, 4-3. Goaltender Stefan Shively made 36 saves and Jared Mullen, Zach Hitch and captain Patrick Nagorsen scored for the 1-1 North Stars, who play the Santa Fe Roadrunners today at 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trio of Michigan teams win at Showcase

The Alpena IceDiggers, Marquette Rangers and Traverse City North Stars all won their first games yesterday at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn.

Alpena took a 4-1 victory over the North Iowa Outlaws. Erik Peterson, Todd Rudasill and Justin Stadler each had a goal and an assist while captain Nolan Craner also registered a goal. Shawn Hunwick recorded his first NAHL victory by stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced. The IceDiggers battle the Alexandria Blizzard tonight at 7:00 p.m.

Marquette beat the Springfield Jr. Blues, 2-0, behind goals from Nick Kosinski and Brodie Zuk. Stephen Ritter earned the shutout in goal with 31 saves. The Rangers play the Southern Minnesota Express tonight at 7:00 p.m.

The North Stars beat the Fargo-Moorhead Jets, 5-3, as goaltender Ryan Donovan stopped 34 shots. Matt Hughes scored a pair and Aaron Pietila, Joe Greener and Travis Hamway also tallied. Traverse City takes on the Bismarck Bobcats today at 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two more Plymouth picks choose NCAA

Two Plymouth Whalers draft picks will not call the OHL home any time soon.

Forwards Trevor Nill and Jonathan Kearns have decided on the college route as Nill, a Compuware midget player, will skate for Michigan State in 2007 and Kearns is off to Army.

Nill was Plymouth's 14th round pick in 2005 and Kearns was taken in the same round in 2003.

North Stars ready for Showcase

There’s nothing wrong with practices and scrimmages, but the Traverse City North Stars are growing a little tired of both.

After more than two weeks of tuning and tweaking, the Stars will finally get a chance to line up across from a genuine North American Hockey League foe on Wednesday, when the puck drops on the NAHL Showcase tournament in suburban Minneapolis.

“We’re ready to jump right in, to hit the ground running,” said North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “Guys are ready for something different than practices. You can only do so much before you really need a real game situation to make some evaluations and adjustments, and we’re climbing the walls. Guys are ready for a real game, and so am I.”

The Showcase, which is being played to open the NAHL slate for the first time in the history of the event, will pit Traverse City against four unknown quantities: Fargo-Moorhead, Bismarck, Santa Fe, and Wichita Falls (Tx.). Of the four, only Santa Fe missed out on the 2005-06 postseason.

“By all accounts, these are good teams we drew,” Gardiner added. “We don’t now much about them, but that’s actually a positive. You can truly focus on what you own team needs to do, and not get as caught up in trying to react to their tendencies like you might with more familiar teams.”

The club named centerman Patrick Nagorsen as its captain for 2006-07 on Monday, placing the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s product in a leadership role. Nagorsen says the extra lettering on his sweater is symbolic but important.

“It means a lot to be able to try to lead this group of guys,” said Nagorsen, who led the North Stars in scoring last year with 17 goals and 25 assists over 57 contests. “It doesn’t really change a whole lot – you may have a little bit of a bull’s-eye on your back or guys might look to you for something – but you still go out there every day and work hard whether you’re the captain or on the far end of the bench, and that’s what I’ll still strive toward.”

Jameson Raymond, a rugged defenseman who came over from Bozeman when the Ice Dogs franchise suspended operations this off-season, was named as the Stars’ associate captain.

“He’s a leader,” said Gardiner of Raymond, who helped lead Bozeman to an amazing 48-9-1 mark and spot in the NAHL Robertson Cup championship game in 2005-06. “We could see that right away. He’s rock-solid on defense, and sets an example on and off the ice.”

The Stars will also publicly unveil a host of other additions at forward from the rosters of inactive NAHL clubs on Wednesday, including Travis Hamway, who led Billings in scoring last year with 17 goals and 35 helpers in 51 outings, Aaron Pietila and Joe Greener from the Cleveland Barons, and Matt Hughes, who played alongside Raymond last season in Bozeman.

“We’re excited to get going,” Nagorsen said. “Sure, we don’t know a lot about these teams we’re playing other than they play a style of hockey that might be a little more gritty and grindy. But you go into every game you play from the time you’re a pee wee with the same mindset: you’re out there to win a hockey game, and it doesn’t really matter what the other jersey says.

“We can get tough when we have to play that way, but we can also beat teams with finesse as well.”

Cadillac's Peterson settles in with 'Cats

By Marc Vieau, Cadillac News

CADILLAC - Nate Peterson has been everywhere, man.

He's been to Traverse City.

He's been to North Bay, Ontario, Canada.

He's been to Blind River, Ontario.

His next stop is at least back in the United States - in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Peterson, a 2005 Cadillac High School graduate, is still chasing the goal of playing collegiate hockey somewhere.

Now 19 years of age, Peterson signed with the Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League over the weekend.

The Bobcats are in the NAHL's West Division, opposite teams like the Traverse City North Stars and Alpena Ice Diggers, which are in the East Division.

The move to Bismarck came through the help of current Cadillac hockey coach Scott Graham, who helped Peterson get a chance.

“Coach Graham knows one of the assistant coaches out there, so he called out there and talked to both coaches for me,” Peterson said. “Then I signed up for an open tryout in Detroit, they liked me and invited me back to Bismarck to try out last weekend. We played in some scrimmages and things like that.”

When the weekend was over, the Bobcats' staff posted a list of who made it and Peterson found his name.

He reports to North Dakota on Aug. 27 for training camp with the season set to begin on Sept. 13.

He takes with him some opened eyes about the business of hockey after bouncing around a bit during the 2005-06 season.

Peterson began the season in Traverse City where he played in just nine games.

From there, he was traded to North Bay of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he was on the team for just three weeks before being traded again.

At his next stop - in Blind River, Ont., - Peterson stuck around enough to play in 30 games for the Beavers, scoring three goals and 12 assists.

“Hockey is more than a sport; it's a business, too,” he said.

While in Bismarck, players stay with host families but do pay $250 to cover expenses.

The 2006-07 season is the key one when it comes to Peterson getting a chance to play collegiately - something that's been his goal all along.

He can only play in the NAHL until the age of 20, making this the last season he's eligible to play in the junior league.

“It's a huge year for me to get better if I want to move on,” Peterson said.

“I am just looking for a scholarship and get someone else to pay for college.

“I want to get in lots of ice time and get better.”

He's had contact with Lake Superior State University, Ferris State University and couple smaller schools out east like Salem State, Utica College and Castleton College in Vermont.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Alpena plays NOJHL foe this week

After playing two home games last weekend, the Alpena IceDiggers are preparing to play a home-and-home series against the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL.

Alpena will travel north of the border to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, tomorrow for a 7:30 p.m. contest and then the same two teams will tangle in Alpena on Friday with a 7:00 p.m. faceoff.

"I would like to see us play for the entire 60 minutes," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "I felt once we got the lead last weekend, we sat back and we know in order to win in the NAHL you cannot do that. We also need to capitalize on our scoring opportunities more. We should have scored more goals than we did last weekend."

These two games will conclude the exhibition schedule for the IceDiggers before they head to Blaine, Minn., for the NAHL Showcase starting next Wednesday.

The IceDiggers will once again be without Korey O'Brien, Tyler Coe and Ryan King for the third consecutive game.

"Trainer Brad Nash has done a great job with these guys to make sure they are healthy for the Blaine trip," added Miller. "Brad and I want to make sure they are 100 percent for the regular season opener, so we have options when I fill out the lineup card for the North Iowa game (on Sept. 13)."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Whalers go to 2-0 in preseason

Joe Gaynor’s goal at 4:57 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and the Plymouth Whalers went on to defeat the Windsor Spitfires, 4-2, in an OHL preseason game at Windsor Arena on Monday afternoon.

Plymouth is now 2-0 in the preseason; Windsor is 0-2.

Jared Boll, Tom Sestito and Andrew Fournier (empty net) also scored for the Whalers.

Windsor outshot Plymouth, 29-23. Whalers' goaltender Jeremy Smith started and stopped 14 shots in 30 minutes of work. Justin Garay stopped all 13 Windsor shots he faced in relief.

The Whalers are off until Friday night when they play in Sarnia against the Sting. Plymouth’s next preseason home game is Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Compuware Sports Arena against Sarnia.

WHALERS IN NHL CAMPS: John Armstrong (Calgary), James Neal (Dallas), Dan Collins (Florida), Evan Brophey (Chicago), Steve Ward (Toronto), Michal Neuvirth (Washington) and Boll and Sestito (Columbus) will be leaving Plymouth for their NHL training camps by Wednesday. Ryan McGinnis is already with Los Angeles.

Spirit cut roster down to 27

The 2006 Saginaw Spirit training camp ended Sunday with a 5-3 victory by Team White in the annual Blue-White game. With the camp concluding, the Spirit head into preseason play with a roster of 27 players -- 15 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. A total of 16 players have been carried over from the 2005-2006 squad.

Patrick Asselin
Ryan Berard
Chris Chappell
Andrew Clouthier
Jack Combs
Tom Craig
Ryan Garlock
Tyler Haskins

Jamie Klie
Ryan McDonough
Jan Mursak
Tim Priamo
Tom Pyatt
Zack Torquato
Tomas Zaborsky

Christopher Breen
T.J. Brodie
Matt Corrente
Nick Crawford

Scott Fletcher
Tommy Mannino
Mitch Maunu
Patrick McNeill
Garrett Sinfield

Ryan Daniels
Scott Zacharias
Jovica Zelenbaba

Camp joins Spirit coaching staff

The Saginaw Spirit has added Shawn Camp to the team's hockey staff.

Camp joins the Spirit as an assistant coach and assistant to the general manager, joining head coach-GM Bob Mancini, associate coach Ian Herbers and assistant coaches Bill Paige and Randy Wilson.

"I am happy to add a coach of Shawn's caliber to our organization," said Mancini. "He will be a great compliment to our staff."

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, nor were any plans to re-organize the Spirit coaching staff.

Camp has been coaching hockey for over 20 years. In 1997, he was an assistant coach of the QMJHL's Hull Olympiques in their quest of the Memorial Cup. In 2002, Camp was an assistant coach with the Memorial Cup-champion Guelph Storm and won the 2004 OHL Championship with the Storm as their head coach.

In 2005, he was the head coach for the Western Conference in the All-Star Classic and the past two years coached the Sarnia Sting.

Camp has coached internationally as well, winning a gold medal as head coach of Canada's National Under-18 team in 2005 and another gold medal as an assistant coach in 2004. He also won a silver medal as head coach at the 2005 Junior World Cup.

"It's a real pleasure to be here working with Bob, Ian and all the staff," said Camp. "We have a very exciting team and are hoping to have a good run this year."

In addition to coaching with the Spirit, Camp also coaches with the Ottawa Senators' Pro Development Camp.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Plymouth topples Windsor, 7-4, Saturday

The Plymouth Whalers scored five goals in the first period to build a 5-1 lead after 20 minutes and never looked back in a 7-4 victory over the Windsor Spitfires Saturday afternoon at the Compuware Sports Arena in the first OHL preseason game for both teams.

John Armstrong (left) led the Plymouth attack with three goals and an assist. Andrew Fournier, Tom Sestito, Leo Jenner and Evan Brophey added single goals for the Whalers. Defenseman Brett Bellemore added two assists and Ryan McGinnis was +3 on the Plymouth blue line.

Michal Neuvirth started in goal for Plymouth and stopped 10 of 11 shots he faced in 29 minutes of work. Kyle Jendra relieved Neuvirth in the second period and stopped 11 shots in 31 minutes.

Plymouth scratches in the game included Chad Beal, Justin Garay, James Neal, Zack Shepley, Jeremy Smith, Chris Terry and Steve Ward.

Plymouth and Windsor meet again Monday afternoon at 2:00 pm at Windsor Arena.

NOTEBOOK: Plymouth cut the following players after Friday afternoon’s practice – draft choices Steven McDonald, Tom Kane, Emyle Morgan, Jordon O’Neill and John Chayka and free agents Josh Nichol and Nick Hanforth.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Saturday, September 02, 2006

IceDiggers complete sweep of Rangers

The Alpena IceDiggers completed a two-game preseason sweep against the Marquette Rangers this afternoon with a 4-2 victory at Northern Lights Arena.

Todd Rudasill again led the charge with a goal and an assist while veteran Ricardo Yesue netted his first of the preseason. Newcomer Kerry Bence scored his first goal in an IceDiggers' uniform, while captain Nolan Craner (pictured) scored for the second time in as many nights.

Rookie Brandon Stephenson started in goal allowing one goal on 16 shots. He was replaced by local goalkeeper Justin Marzean, who made 12 saves on 13 shots.

The IceDiggers will now hit the road for an exhibition game against the Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Alpena will then host the Thunderbirds on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Northern Lights.

Alpena beats Marquette in preseason play

The Alpena IceDiggers played host to the Marquette Rangers in preseason action last night at Northern Lights Arena and came away with a 4-2 victory.

The IceDiggers were lead offensively by Todd Rudasill (left), who scored a goal and added two assists. Zach Barron netted two goals and Nolan Craner also added a goal and an assist.

Shawn Hunwick started the game in goal and allowed two goals on 10 shots. Midway through the second period, Brandon Stephenson entered the game and held the Rangers scoreless, stopping all 13 shots he faced.

Coach Kenny Miller was pleased with the team effort.

"I thought we came out playing hard," Miller said. "And then when we got the lead, we sat back a bit. We talked after the game and we will make sure we continue to get better and compete the entire sixty minutes."

Alpena was whistled for 18 minutes in penalties while Marquette racked up 28 total minutes.

The same two teams return to the ice this afternoon for a 12:30 p.m. faceoff.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Saginaw adds Junior B affiliate

The Leamington Flyers Junior B team, part of the Western (Ontario) Junior Hockey League, have been named the new affiliate team for the Saginaw Spirit.

The Flyers' main objective is to prepare players for a higher level of hockey both on and off the ice. As an affiliate team, the Spirit will have the opportunity to send its prospects to Leamington, just outside Windsor, to continue their development.

A formal announcement will be made prior to Saginaw's annual Blue-White Game on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Bence added to IceDiggers' roster

The Alpena IceDiggers announced today they have acquired forward Kerry Bence from the St. Louis Bandits for a 2007 draft pick.

Bence played with the Texarkana Bandits last season before the team moved to St Louis for the upcoming campaign.

The 6-foot, 195-pound St. Clair native will add a strong work ethic and toughness head coach Kenny Miller is looking for.

"Kerry is a great addition to our club," Miller said. "He is a veteran player on a team that already has several veterans with NAHL experience. He will fit in really well with our team and I am very happy to have him with us."

Bence played in 33 games last season netting three goals and 10 points with Texarkana. Bence and his new teammates will play his former club at the NAHL Showcase on Saturday, September 16. He played the 2004-05 season with the Belle Tire major midgets.

"I am really looking forward to playing in Alpena and helping the team," Bence said. "With the guys we have here already I would expect us to have a great season. We have a lot of guys with experience in this locker room. I am excited about this season."

With Bence joining the team, it brings the roster to the maximum 25 players that USA Hockey allows in Tier II junior hockey.