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).

North Stars deal trio to Fairbanks

The Traverse City North Stars dealt away a trio of core players on Tuesday, acquiring a physical defensive presence and additional scoring punch.

The club traded away forwards Jonathan Juliano and Travis Hamway, along with defenseman Arthur Bidwill, to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for behemoth defenseman Nick Von Bokern and forward Mario Mjelleli.

Traverse City head coach Scott Gardiner says the move, which comes on the heels of a five-game skid, should pay dividends immediately.

“I think we needed a change of team chemistry,” said Gardiner, whose club is now 7-9-1 after a pair of narrow losses to Marquette this weekend. “What we have here is a very good team not playing to its potential, and we felt like we had to do something to jump-start the team.”

Van Bokern, a 6-4, 210-pound defenseman from Burnsville, Minn., has a goal and 10 assists through 18 games this year for Bozeman. The 19-year-old (he turns 20 on Saturday) played the previous two seasons with the Ice Dogs as well, collecting 27 points over that span. He has been most effective on special teams, dishing out eight power play assists and a pair of short-handed helpers.

“He has the size and the physical presence to make a huge impact with us from the day he gets here,” said Gardiner, who hopes to have his new tandem in uniform for this weekend’s two-game series at Mahoning Valley. “He has a tremendous shot from the point on the power play, and we could use that, too.”

The 20-year-old Mjelleli, a 5-10, 180-pound center/wing from Faribault, Minn., has four goals and seven assists in his 18 games of action this season, and tallied 11 goals to go with five assists for Fairbanks in 2005-06.

“Mario’s another hard-worker, he can play anywhere along the front line,” Gardiner assessed. “He plays on the power play, the penalty kill, and is just a very good all-around type of player.”

Juliano, an original member of the inaugural North Stars squad, scored 18 goals over 77 games with Traverse City, and had two goals with seven assists through 15 games this season. Hamway, who came to Traverse City from the now-defunct Billings Bulls, had a goal and nine assists in 16 games for the Stars, while Bidwill had posted career numbers through 17 games this season, scoring twice and amassing seven assists.

“I think it’ll be good for those guys to have a change of scenery,” Gardiner said. “They’re all very good players. We just had too many of the same kinds of players, and had to make a move. If it’s possible to have too much skill and not enough grit, that’s what we had.”

Saginaw Spirit News & Notes

During the month of October, the Saginaw Spirit were 9-1-0-0 overall, 6-0-0-0 at home. The team kicks off November with three games this week. Sault Ste. Marie will be the site of a Wednesday match-up against the Greyhounds, while Friday and Saturday will be home games against the Barrie Colts and Peterborough Petes, respectively.

The Spirit enter the upcoming series in first place in the West Division with 21 points and a record of 10-4-0-1.

Mursak Beats Team Record
Spirit forward Jan Mursak beat the team’s point streak record on Sunday following his assist on a Patrick McNeill goal. Mursak has had at least one point in the last 15 games, giving him the record that was previously held by former Spirit Nick Lees (14 games in the 2003-04 season) and Marek Kvapil (14 games in the 2004-05 season). So far this season, Mursak has notched 26 points, with nine goals and 17 assists. He also has the distinction of scoring at least one point in every game he has played in Spirit uniform.

OHL Leader Boards
Mursak (9G-17A-26PTS) is currently ranked sixth in OHL scoring, third in rookie scoring and ninth in assists.

Tom Pyatt is ranked third in goal scoring and eighth in overall scoring with 25 points (14G-11A).

McNeill is fifth in scoring for defenseman with 16 points (6G-10A).

Goaltender Ryan Daniels is ranked seventh in both goals-against average and save percentage with a GAA of 2.99 and save percentage of .913.

November 1, 2006
Wednesday at 7:00 PM
Away at the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

For ticket and travel information, please visit www.saulttourism.com or call 1-800-461-6020.

The Greyhounds received good news last week in the form of center Jiri Tlusty. The Czech native and Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect was sent down from the AHL Toronto Marlies to join an already potent Greyhound offense that includes Dustin Jeffrey (14G-10A-24 PTS), Cody Thornton (7G-11A-18PTS) and David Kuchejda (3G-7A-10PTS). Josh Godfrey has not only been a constant presence on the defense, but on offense as well with 15 points (6G-9A). Starting goaltender Kyle Gadjewski (.888 save percentage) had a shutout in last weekend’s game against the Peterborough Petes. The Spirit, who have a 11-19-1-0 record against the Greyhounds since 2002, will face-off against the Greyhounds in the newly built Steelback Centre.

November 3, 2006
Friday at 7:11 PM
Home vs the Barrie Colts

For ticket information, please visit www.saginawspirit.com or call 989-497-7747.

Bryan Little (15G-18A-33PTS) is back to lead the Colts in what is shaping up to be a successful season. Right behind him in scoring production is Hunter Tremblay (8G-14A-22PTS) and Andrew Marshall (3G-15A-18PTS), followed by Richard Clune (8G-9A-17PTS) and Tomas Marcinko (6G-6A-12PTS). On defense is Marshall (3G-15A-18PTS), Tyson Aitcheson (4A-4PTS) and Blake Parlett (1G-3A-4PTS). ADT CHL Goaltender of the Week (10/17/06) Andrew Perugini (.909 save percentage) has been starting for the Colts this season following the departure of Dan LaCosta.

The Spirit have a team record of 1-5-2-0 against the Colts since 2002.

November 4, 2006
Saturday at 7:11 PM
Home vs the Peterborough Petes

For ticket information, please visit www.saginawspirit.com or call 989-497-7747.

Saturday, the Spirit will host the Petes, who are looking for a rematch following their 5-3 loss to Saginaw on October 12. Leading the Petes’ offense is Daniel Ryder (11G-17A-28PTS), Steve Downie (6G-11A-17PTS) and Justin Soryal (9G-7A-16PTS). On defense, the Petes are counting on three overagers – former Plymouth Whaler Craig Cescon (2A-2PTS), Davin Welsh (2G-1A-3PTS) and Kyle Raftis (1G-10A-11PTS). Starting goalie Trevor Cann (.915 save percentage) is backstopping the Petes in net.

The overall record between the two teams since 2002 stands at 4-2-1-0.

Alpena heads to Ann Arbor to battle NTDP

The Alpena IceDiggers hit the road for two mid-week games to take on the USA Under-18 National Team tonight and the USA Under-17 National Team tomorrow night.

Both games will be played at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube and the puck will drop at 7:00 p.m. for both contests.

With the North Division standings tight, Alpena knows that these two games are very important for the first-place club.

"We have to go into these games and give a great effort in order to be successful," IceDiggers' coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "We will give it everything we got."

Alpena will need to get a balanced scoring attack like they have had the past four games.

"When we get scoring from all four lines and our defensemen, we have more success," noted Miller. "I am happy with how we are playing right now."

The IceDiggers are coming off a weekend where they played host to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms and lost 5-2 on Friday and 5-4 Saturday in a shootout. Saturday's shootout was a first for Alpena this season.

"On Friday we were not good and didn't deserve to win," Miller said. "On Saturday, I thought we outplayed them and had a few breakdowns and that cost us the extra point."

The IceDiggers are led by Nolan Craner and Todd Rudasill, who are still 1-2 in scoring in the NAHL. Veterans Ricardo Yesue and Erik Peterson are starting to heat up offensively. Peterson has scored six points in his last five games, while Yesue has added a goal and four assists in the last five contests.

The goaltending tandem of Shawn Hunwick and Mike Jarboe has played well for the 'Diggers so far this season in combing for 10 wins in 14 games.

Indians out to even Cup series with T'birds

The battle of the border continues on Saturday night when the Soo Indians play host to the Soo Thunderbirds.

Game time is 7:00 p.m. at Big Bear Arena in the Michigan Soo and the Indians will be out to avenge a 3-2 home-ice loss to the Thunderbirds from Oct. 22.

The Indians are in third place in the tight Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League standings with a 9-5 record and the Thunderbirds are sixth with an even 6-6 mark.

Saturday's game will be the second regular-season meeting between the crossriver rivals as part of the Carmen Provenzano Memorial Cup series.

"In that first game against us they played with a lot of energy and spirit," Indians' coach/general manager Jim Capy said of the Thunderbirds. "It was a very good game that could have gone either way and I am expecting more of the same on Saturday."

During that first game of the Provenzano Cup series, both Travis O'Brien of the Thunderbirds and Elliot Hogue of the Indians fashioned first-rate goaltending displays.

Saturday's game with the Thunderbirds is the back end of a two-game homestand for the Indians, who begin by playing host to the Sudbury Kal Tire Jr. Wolves on Friday at 7 p.m. at Big Bear. Sudbury is led by sniper Scott Restoule, formerly of the Ontario Hockey League's Soo Greyhounds.

From an Indians' offensive standpoint, Sean Farley is the points leader with 12-6-18 totals followed by Paul Isleib at 3-10-13, Chris Cooper at 4-8-12, Nick Novak at 1-10-11 and Derek Thocker at 6-4-10.

Defensively, the Indians have the two top ranked goalies in the NOJHL. Hogue has a .926 save percentage to go with a 2.42 goals-against average and 5-4 record. Brennan Poderzay has a .900 save percentage, 2.30 GAA and 4-0 record.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rangers complete sweep of North Stars

For the second straight night, the Traverse City North Stars were flummoxed by the Hooveresque goaltending of Stephen Ritter, and for the second straight night the Marquette Rangers walked out of Centre ICE arena with a victory, this time a 4-2 triumph that sent the host Stars to a fifth straight defeat.

"The goalie stole one from us tonight and this time we outplayed them, outskated them, beat them to pucks, and should have won it," assessed North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. "It was a better effort than Friday, but we're too good on paper not to be winning more than we are."

The loss dropped the Stars from a four-way tie for second place in the NAHL's North Division and into a tie with Team USA for fourth at 15 points. Alpena was swept at home by Mahoning Valley this weekend, so the IceDiggers' lead is down to four points over the Phantoms and Rangers.

"As the only new team in the NAHL this year, we have steadfastly stayed the course, building team chemistry and patiently waiting for our players to learn to play together," said Marquette general manager David Saint-Onge. "Although the season still has a long way to go, we're coming together as a team and expect to be in the hunt as the season progresses."

On Saturday, Kory Kaunisto got the North Stars on the board first, opening the scoring at 8:24 of the first period on an assist from Richie Zobak, before Neeco Belanger tied the contest less than five minutes later. Belanger was able to shake the cobwebs off following a game-opening bludgeoning at the hands of TC's Joe Greener.

Just over two minutes later, Nate Urbaniak converted a beautiful cross-ice pass from Travis Hamway and the Stars took a one-goal bulge into the first intermission. Sabastion Kimmel was also credited with an assist on the play.

Marquette got goals from Matt Tinordi (power play) and the eventual game-winner from Nic Weight in the second period, and Luke Bennett closed the scoring with an empty-netter in the final half-minute of play.

"That second goal in the second period was a weak one," Gardiner said. "We gave it up on a turnover that should have never happened. Other than those two mistakes, I thought we kept the pressure on them all night. We just couldn't put the puck in the net. But there are changes coming."

"Saturday was a character win with our bench being short because of an injury and a suspension," Rangers' head coach Leigh Mendelson said. "I am very pleased with our progress, though. Our forwards are starting to click and our team defense is continuing to make progress. We've been getting contributions from all four lines and our special teams have continued to be effective."

Ritter snuffed 25 of the 27 shots he faced, while his TC counterpart, Kyle Jendra, collected 24 attempted shots in his 58-plus minutes of action in net.

The North Stars travel to Mahoning Valley next weekend for a two-game series with the Phantoms before a home-and-home set with Alpena on Nov. 11-12.

Marquette continues their month-long road trip with two games this weekend against Fargo and then a trip to Mahoning Valley for a three-game series. The Rangers finally return to Lakeview Arena to take on Alpena Nov. 17-18.

Whalers go 1-2 on rough weekend

Former Whalers captain Jared Newman shakes hands with current Plymouth captain Steve Ward before Saturday's game with Kitchener. Rangers captain Jean-Michel Rizk is on the left.

The Plymouth Whalers beat Toronto on Friday night, but then fell to Kitchener and Saginaw to finish out the weekend.

Against Toronto at home, the Whalers rode Jeremy Smith's second straight shutout en route to a 3-0 victory and their third straight win. Chris Terry, Tom Sestito and James Neal scored for Plymouth. Smith stopped all 30 shots he faced as the game's first star.

John Murray made 43 saves Saturday as the Rangers blanked Plymouth, 3-0. Michal Neuvirth turned aside 38 shots for the Whalers. Before the game, Plymouth welcomed back former captain Jared Newman, who dropped a ceremonial faceoff to start the game and then signed autographs. Newman played for Plymouth from 1998-2002 and was captain from 2000-2002.

Yesterday in Saginaw, the Spirit soared into first place in the West Division following their 5-2 victory over the Whalers. The Spirit have been undefeated at home during the month of October. The team point streak record was broken by forward Jan Mursak when he earned an assist in the third period, giving him at least one point in the last 15 games. The record of 14 games was previously held by Nick Lees and Marek Kvapil.

Zack Torquato and Patrick McNeill scored two goals apiece and goaltender Ryan Daniels stopped 45 for Saginaw. Tom Pyatt also scored for the Spirit. Sestito and Steve Ward tallied for Plymouth, who got a 39-save outing from Smith.

The Whalers hit the road all of this week, playing in Ottawa Friday, Belleville Saturday and Kingston on Sunday. Plymouth’s next home game is Nov. 10 against Owen Sound.

Photo by Rena Laverty

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rangers out and about in community

Marquette Rangers' staff and players were in attendance at the Celebrity Waiter dinner this past Thursday in Kingsford. Representatives from Debbie Stabenow’s office, Artic Blast football players and USOEC boxers and wrestlers were among the “celebrities” that waited tables and entertained with the Rangers.

Courtney Fisk (Rangers PR) gathered celebrity athletes in attendance and raised $50.00 as the players built themselves into a human pyramid. Rangers were able to contribute a significant amount of tips to the benefit because of the pyramid, waiting tables and donating Rangers’ apparel. A Rangers T-shirt was auctioned (retail value $20.00) and sold for $45.00 thanks to the winning bid from David and Kathleen Engelman of Iron Mountain, whose daughter plays for the girls U-19 Iron Rangers.

The dinner benefited the Caring House and Domestic Violence Shelter in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness month.

After their return from a weekend series in Traverse City, all 23 Rangers will be volunteering at the YMCA for their annual Halloween party. Monday, 10 players will be in Munising for a Skate with the Rangers clinic.

Front row: Dustin Partacz; Marlene Mottes, Caring House Board Member; Courtney Fisk, Rangers’ Public Relations; Cheryl O'Niel, Caring House Director
Back row: Jacob Hauswirth; Nic Weight; Richard Tegge, Rangers’ Director of Hockey Operations

DeVos accepts Spirit invitation to drop puck

The Saginaw Spirit, in partnership with Davenport University, confirmed yesterday that gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos will show his Spirit at the Friday, November 3 home game. DeVos will meet fans as they enter the arena and then participate in a ceremonial puck drop at 7:11 p.m.

The Spirit recently extended an invitation to both DeVos and incumbent Jennifer Granholm to be honored at a Spirit game. The Granholm organization has expressed interest in coming to a future Spirit game and is in discussions with the Spirit organization to arrange a date.

"The Saginaw Spirit is thrilled to have gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos bring his campaign out to a game," stated Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin. "We are hoping that Governor Granholm is able to make an appearance as well. We are hoping to see our fans come out to personally meet the candidate of their choice and show their support."

Friday, October 27, 2006

IceDiggers host Phantoms this weekend

For the first time this season, the Alpena IceDiggers (10-3-0) will play host to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms (6-7-1) at Northern Lights Arena. The two teams will tangle on Friday and Saturday with both games set for 7:00 p.m.

The IceDiggers and Phantoms play a total of 16 times during the 2006-07 season.

With these two games, the Phantoms are finishing up a road trip that has consisted of 16 straight games away from the Ice Zone in Boardman Ohio. The IceDiggers are playing their fifth and sixth home games of the year and are currently 4-0 inside the NLA.

With the Phantoms coming to town, Alpena head coach Kenny Miller and his team know they will have to be on their game in order to come away with two victories.

"We are going to have to be at our best in order to win," Miller said. "They have a veteran team and their record is not an indication of what type of team they are. As for our team I feel this group is as good as any we have ever had since joining the league in 2003."

Mahoning Valley, led by head coach Bob Mainhardt, currently sits in fifth place in the North Division seven points behind the first-place IceDiggers.

Alpena is coming off a two-game road sweep of cross-state rival Traverse City (7-7-1) .

The IceDiggers currently have the best power play in the NAHL with a 21.37 % efficiency rate. Alpena has scored 28 goals on the man advantage. Mahoning Valley ranks sixth in the league with a 15.25 % rating in scoring 18 power-play goals. On the penalty kill, the IceDiggers rank eighth among the 17 teams with a 86.36 clip and Mahoning Valley currently has the worst penalty kill percentage in the NAHL with a 78.99 rating.


Courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Phantoms and play-by-play announcer Ron Rinaldi, fans can log onto http://www.mvpphantoms.com/ and listen to both games this weekend. The broadcast will begin at 6:45PM each night.

Alpena IceDiggers forwards Nolan Craner and Todd Rudasill are currently one and two in NAHL scoring. Craner leads the NAHL with 10 goals (six on the power play) and 17 assists for 27 points. Rudasill is second among skaters with 10 goals (five on the power play with three game-winners) and 15 assists for 25 points. Linemate Drew Pierson leads the NAHL in power-play goals with seven and also has 17 points on the season.

Shawn Hunwick has won seven games for Alpena in nine starts, Hunwick has a 2.67 goals-against average with a .907 save percentage. Last week's North Division player of the week Mike Jarboe has won all three games he has started and currently has a 3-0 record with a 2.33 goals-against average with a .918 save percentage.

Alpena forward Erik Peterson broke out of his scoring slump last weekend scoring a goal and adding three assists in the two-game sweep over Traverse City. Newcomer Mike DeGrazia added two points in the two wins last weekend by assisting on Peterson's goal Friday and scoring his first goal in an IceDiggers uniform Saturday. Austin Seiple recorded his first Junior A goal on Friday night.

Rookie forward Ryan King has decided to leave the team. The IceDiggers' roster is now at 24 players.

Veteran defenseman Korey O'Brien was injured in Saturday's 4-3 win in Traverse City and will be sidelined up to three weeks.

Mahoning Valley is led offensively by Matt Quigley and Chris Fairbanks who both have 15 points in 14 games. Mike Fillinger is third on the team with 11 points in the 14 games the Phantoms have played. The Phantoms are led in goal by Ryan Zapolski and Bryce Merriam. Zapolski has a 5-5-1 record with a 4.17 GAA, while Meriam has played in four games and has a 1-2-0 record with a 3.82 GAA. Both goalies have identical save percentages at .868.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

North Stars’ Nagorsen commits to WMU

Next year’s CCHA schedule could well read like a Traverse City North Stars reunion tour.

With Stars captain Patrick Nagorsen committing to Western Michigan University this week, he joins former North Stars Steven Oleksy and Eric Elmblad, who are already at Lake Superior State and Michigan, respectively, in what could be a four-sided Central Collegiate Hockey Association rivalry in 2007-08. Current North Stars forward Kory Kaunisto is committed to Northern Michigan, but could also opt for another year of junior hockey before heading to Marquette.

Nagorsen, who was given preferred walk-on status at Western– which means his roster spot is guaranteed with the potential to earn a scholarship – eschewed potential scholarships from a number of NCAA Div. I and III suitors to realize a long-awaited goal.

“It’s always been my dream to play in the CCHA, to play versus Michigan and Michigan State,” said the Novi product, who leads Traverse City in scoring this season with five goals and seven assists through 15 games. “Plus, I’ll be close to home where my family can come and watch, and it’s a great school with a great business school. I’ve thought past hockey and tried to plan for my future.”

Nagorsen, who prepped at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and powered the Eaglets to the 2005 MHSAA state championship, also led the 2005-06 North Stars in scoring with 17 goals and 25 assists. He has also served as one of the franchise’s front men, serving as assistant captain last year and as captain this season, appearing on the cover of the team’s yearbook, and even on the cover of the region’s AT&T Yellow Pages book.

“We’re all very happy for him,” said North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “Patrick worked hard to get to the CCHA, and he knows he has to continue to do that now that he has his commitment.

“He’s just been a great leader for us, a skilled player with speed and skill and a great work ethic. Western’s getting a good one.”

When he lands in Kalamazoo for the 2007-08 season, Nagorsen will find some familiar faces in the Broncos locker room, including a pair of former NAHL foes in goalie Riley Gill (Texarkana Bandits) and defenseman Tyler Ludwig (Texas Tornado), both of whom faced off against Nagorsen four times each last year. Nagorsen also looks forward to future meetings with his TC brethren – at least until the first puck drops.

“It would be a lot of fun. Kory and I actually talked about it,” Nagorsen said. “But when you go out on the ice, you don’t really have any friends, so I’d have to look out for Kory. It’d be great to see through my four years there (at WMU) how many former North Stars players I’ll play with and against.”

North Stars trade for TC native

Late last week, Mike Glaesmer asked Bay State Breakers' coach David McCauley for his unconditional release from the Eastern Junior Hockey League club. He wanted to come home.

While Traverse City North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner worked feverishly to acquire his North American Hockey League rights from the Alaska Avalanche, Glaesmer became restless. By Tuesday, he could take no more. Glaesmer packed up his car and started the long road trip from Rockland, Mass. to Traverse City.

He finally got the call that the trade had been arranged somewhere between Syracuse and Buffalo.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer,” said Glaesmer, who scored 21 goals for Traverse City West H.S. in 2001-02 en route to a berth on the Record-Eagle All-Region team. “I had a feeling it would get done. I’m so excited to get to play my last year of juniors at home in front of my family and friends. I can’t wait to get out there and get to it.”

The Avalanche let go of Glasemer’s rights for a player to be named at a later date after a lengthy series of negotiations.

“We’re glad to finally get it done and get Mike back here,” Gardiner said. “We think he can come in right away and be a major contributor. He’s a big body with good speed and a scoring touch, and he can play anywhere on the power play or penalty kill. We’re excited to finally get him in here.”

Glaesmer left Traverse City after his sophomore season with the Titans to play for the midget-AAA Marquette Electricians. After two years in the U.P., he went to the North American Hockey League’s Springfield (Mo.) Sprit, where he scored 12 goals and assisted on 10 others in 2004-05. The Spirit moved to Wasilla, Alaska before the 2005-06 season, and Glaesmer’s offensive totals also went north – he amassed 17 goals and 11 assists in 55 games last year for the Spirit.

After a year near the Arctic Circle, Glaesmer longed to be closer to home and family, but the Avalanche would not release his NAHL rights. The Stars and Avs exchanged proposals for what stretched into months. His NAHL status in limbo, Glaesmer took a turn with the Bay State Breakers of the junior-A Eastern Junior Hockey League, hoping the call would come from Gardiner. On Tuesday, it did.

This weekend, Glaesmer will don his familiar #28 sweater when the North Stars play host to the Marquette Rangers in a Friday-Saturday series. He will also line up across from a trio of former teammates, including the Rangers’ top two scorers in Nick Kosinski (4 goals, 11 assists) and Neeco Belanger (7 goals, 5 assists). The trio, along with Rangers defenseman Bret Larson, toiled together for the Electricians from 2002-2004.

“That’ll be a lot of fun, too,” said Glaesmer. “I really hope I can come in and contribute to what the North Stars have going. My dad (Kerry) is a North Stars season ticket holder, and he tells me they have a lot of skill and some depth, too. I hope to be able to come in and help out right away.”

When the North Stars and Rangers meet this weekend, the hosts are expected to have forward Aaron Pietila back in the lineup. The Brighton product has played in only eight games this year while weathering a bevy of ailments, but has been extremely productive, netting five goals and three assists in those games -- with four goals and three assists in his last three outings. Forward Alex Prough could also be available after suffering a concussion two weeks ago against Mahoning Valley.

“We have to get the effort this weekend, because we could really use all four points,” Gardiner added. “We haven’t been playing to our potential the last two or three games.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rangers take split in Bismarck

The Marquette Rangers split on the road in Bismarck last weekend.

Friday night, Nick Kosinski had two goals and an assist to go along with a goal and an assist from Iiro Junnila in the 5-4 loss. Brodie Zuk also scored and Matt Tinordi added two assists. Stephen Ritter stopped 23 shots in net.

Saturday night, the Rangers rebounded for a 7-2 victory. Ritter made 38 saves and Mike Macari (pictured) had a four-point game with two goals and two assists. Bret Larson, Neeco Belanger, Jake Hauswirth, Dustin Partacz and James Gallagher joined in the scoring barrage. Zuk and Jason Cohen each recorded two assists.

Marquette travels to Traverse City this weekend for two games with the North Stars.

Saginaw downs Attack, lose to Sting

Saginaw broke even last weekend with a loss in Sarnia and a win at home against Owen Sound.

Friday night, Jan Mursak and Zach Torquato scored in the 5-2 loss. Ryan Daniels and Jovica Zelenbaba combined for 24 saves.

"We are disappointed with the loss, but pleased that the team never gave up and played hard in the third period," stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. "However, it is important to put this behind us."

Ryan McDonough (pictured) scored twice in Saturday's 6-3 win over Owen Sound at home. Ryan Berard, Tom Pyatt, Tomas Zaborsky and Chris Chappell also tallied to back Daniels' 48-save performance.

With an assist on Pyatt's goal, Mursak has a point in all 13 games this season.

The Spirit host Toronto Saturday night and Plymouth Sunday afternoon.

IceDiggers complete sweep of North Stars

The Alpena IceDiggers went into Traverse City looking for a split and came back to Alpena with a weekend sweep after a 6-3 win on Friday and a 4-3 come-from-behind win on Saturday.

Netminder Mike Jarboe (pictured above) collected back-to-back wins making 23 saves on Friday and 29 on Saturday.

Austin Seiple picked up his first Junior A goal on Friday and newcomer Mike DeGrazia scored his first goal in an IceDigger jersey on Saturday.

On Friday, Todd Rudasill, Erik Peterson, Zach Barron, Drew Pierson, captain Nolan Craner and Seiple scored and Craner added a pair of assists.

Jared Mullen, Matt Hughes and Kory Kaunisto scored for the North Stars and Kyle Jendra stopped 25 shots in defeat.

Eric Roman scored the game-winner midway through the third period Saturday with singles coming from Ricardo Yesue, Justin Stadler and DeGrazia. Peterson notched three assists and Stadler added two.

Zach Hitch potted two goals for Traverse City and captain Patrick Nagorsen also tallied. Christopher Heineman picked up two assists and Stefan Shively made 33 saves.

The IceDiggers return to Northern Lights Arena on Friday and Saturday this weekend to play host to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

Traverse City hosts the Marquette Rangers this weekend at Centre ICE.

Dallas Stars sign James Neal

The Dallas Stars announced Saturday that the club has signed left wing James Neal to a three-year contract. Neal was Dallas' second-round selection (No. 33) overall in the 2005 Entry Draft.

Neal, 19, is currently playing with the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League, and through the first 10 games of the season, has posted nine goals and five assists for 14 points with 31 penalty minutes.

In 2005-06 with Plymouth, Neal notched 58 points (21 goals and 37 assists) and 109 penalty minutes in 66 appearances. Neal was named the OHL Player of the Week on Dec. 12, 2005, after recording six points (1 goal, 5 assists) in two games. In 13 OHL Playoff games a season ago, Neal recorded nine goals and seven assists for 16 points with 33 penalty minutes, earning Whalers' Playoff Most Valuable Player honors.

The Whitby, Ontario, native was honored as Plymouth's Rookie of the Year in 2004-05 after notching 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points. He also played in the 2005 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver in his first full season at the OHL level.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound left wing attended the 2007 Team Canada National Junior Team development camp in Calgary, and won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2005 World Under-18 Championships in the Czech Republic.

Sestito's hatter downs Battalion Saturday

A game-time decision to play Plymouth left wing Tom Sestito paid off handsomely for the Whalers last Friday night.

Sestito, who missed two games after being hit in the face by a Dan Collins shot last Friday in Erie in a 3-2 loss to the Otters, scored a hat trick and an assist in his first game back in a 6-3 victory over the Brampton Battalion at the Compuware Sports Arena.

His third goal was an empty-netter.

John Armstrong, Kaine Geldart and Evan Brophey also scored for Plymouth.

Whalers goaltender Michal Neuvirth stopped 37 Brampton shots as the game’s second star while recording his fourth win of the season.

Plymouth is off until Friday night when they host Toronto at 7:05 p.m. at the Compuware Sports Arena and Kitchener on Sat. Oct. 28 at 7:05 p.m.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Indians drop border battle to Birds

The Soo Indians lost the first battle of the border of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League season Sunday night at Big Bear Arena, falling 3-2 to the Soo Thunderbirds.

The game also marked the opening of the Carmen Provenzano Memorial Cup series between the two teams.

Brett Perlini led the Thunderbirds with a goal and an assist and Kyle Johnson and Nick Minardi also beat Indians' goalie Elliot Hogue.

Sean Farley and Michigan Soo product Daren Mansfield scored for the Indians, who outshot their opponents 36-33. Travis O'Brien posted the win in goal for the Thunderbirds.

The win boosted the Thunderbirds' record to 6-4, while the Indians are now 8-5.

The Indians began the weekend with a 5-1 decision over the visiting Manitoulin Islanders on Saturday evening.

Chris Cooper scored a pair of goals to lead the Indians and Farley, James Ciotti and Derek Thocker added solo tallies in support of rookie goalie Brennan Poderzay, who made 26 saves to improve his record to 4-0, his save percentage to .900 and his goals-against average to 2.30.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Spirit and Whalers both win Thursday

Jan Mursak and Tom Pyatt each recorded hat tricks to lead the Saginaw Spirit to a 7-2 win over the Brampton Battalion last night in Saginaw.

Chris Chappell also scored for the Spirit and Ryan Daniels made 26 saves for the win. Former Saginaw goalie Aaron Rock stopped 39 for Brampton.

Saginaw plays in Sarnia tonight.

Across the Detroit River in Windsor, Jeremy Smith registered his first career shutout as the Plymouth Whalers beat the Spitfires, 4-0. Smith made 32 saves in the effort.

Evan Brophey scored twice and Dan Collins and captain Steve Ward tallied as well. James Neal chipped in with two assists.

Plymouth hosts Brampton tonight and TNA wrestler Christian Cage will be making an appearance to promote Sunday's Bound For Glory pay-per-view that takes place at the Compuware Sports Arena.

Jeremy Smith photo by Walt Dmoch.

Coming to Compuware tonight ...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lots on the line when 'Diggers visit Stars

Championships aren’t won in October, but any time is a good time to build momentum, according to Traverse City North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner.

Gardiner and co. will play host to Alpena this weekend at Centre ICE arena in as big a two-game series as the calendar will permit. The IceDiggers (8-3-0) own the top spot in the North American Hockey League’s North Division, one point up on the host North Stars (7-5-1). The clubs have split their 16-game historical series right down the middle, with each club claiming a triomphe de octet.

“It’s been just the kind of rivalry we hoped when we came into the league,” Gardiner said. “And this is the first time we’ve had something very real on the line, with first place basically up for grabs. Yeah, it’s early in the season, but it’s still a big one for both teams. It should be a great series.”

The teams split a September home-and-home series, with Alpena winning a 5-1 decision in the opener before TC bounced back for a 4-3 win the following night. Since then, the Diggers have rattled off three straight victories, while the North Stars have prevailed in three of five outings.

While the stalwart tandem of Nolan Craner (9G-15A) and Todd Rudasill (9G-14A) still sit first and second, respectively, atop the NAHL scoring chase, the IceDiggers’ special teams have gotten even stronger since last month’s meetings. Alpena leads the league with a 21.37 percent success rate on the power play – nearly three full percentage points better than the second-best club – and have registered an NAHL-best 25 extra-man markers. Craner, Rudasill, and Drew Pierson have 17 of those between them. In the two meetings this year, the Diggers are 6-for-25 (24 percent) when up a man.

“That’s where we really, really have to focus,” Gardiner added. “They are absolutely deadly on the power play. We can’t put ourselves in a situation where we’re playing a man or two down. We have to get good special teams and goaltending this weekend. Those are the keys.”

With a crucial four points on the table this weekend, Alpena head coach Kenny Miller told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that he’d take two … but can’t help but feel a little greedy, either.

“They're a good team and they've gotten some good goaltending recently,” Miller said. "We haven't won in their building this year. I'd be happy with a split, but it'd be nice to take two.”

Both the Friday and Saturday games face off at 7 p.m. at Centre ICE arena.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Spirit get mention in Sports Illustrated

Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle, the newest mascot of the Saginaw Spirit, was featured in this week's Sports Illustrated, dated October 16.

The bi-weekly sports publication covered the connection between the Spirit and the Colbert Report, as well as Steagle's unveiling ceremony.

"The Saginaw Spirit organization is thrilled to have been featured with Stephen Colbert and Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle in Sports Illustrated," stated Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin. "This is just another illustration that the Spirit program is getting recognition nationwide because of the hard work, commitment and dedication of our staff to provide the best game-day experience possible for our fans."

Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle is undefeated through his first six games of his career with the Spirit and if his winning streak continues at this rate, he is sure to become one of the most famous sports mascots since the Phillies Fanatic or the Phoenix Suns Gorilla.

The Spirit have been receiving national attention lately with the increasingly amusing partnership it has developed with the Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert, the show's host, pushed to have the newest Spirit mascot be named after him. The team responded and on September 30, Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle was unveiled for the first time during the home game at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.

The Report is shown on Comedy Central Monday through Thursdays at 11:30 p.m.

'Diggers invade Traverse City this weekend

The Alpena IceDiggers travel to Traverse City to take on the North Stars in a two-game set this weekend. This marks the first time the IceDiggers will play back-to-back road games in the same building since the first weekend of the season in Blaine Minn.

Over the course of the next 18 games, Alpena will only play four at Northern Lights Arena and head coach Kenny Miller is putting a positive spin on the games away from home.

"This gives us a chance to see where we stack up," Miller said. "We have been really good at home and in order to win in this division we need to win on the road."

Alpena is coming off a 4-2 win at home against rival Marquette, while Traverse City hosted the Mahoning Valley Phantoms for three straight games where they came away with two wins and one loss to pull within one point of the first-place IceDiggers.


Forwards Nolan Craner and Todd Rudasill continue to cause havoc on opposing goalies. Craner leads the NAHL in scoring with nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points, while Rudasill has added nine goals, 14 assists for a combined total of 23 points, one shy of Craner for the league lead.

Linemate Drew Pierson is ranked 8th in the NAHL with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 11 games.

Goaltender Shawn Hunwick is second in the NAHL with seven wins while playing 561:49 minutes with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.

The IceDiggers announced today they have added forward Mike DeGrazia. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Novi native played last season for the Santa Fe Roadrunners. DeGrazia started this year with the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets in the USHL.

Michigan NAHL weekend roundup

All three Michigan NAHL teams were in action last weekend.

The Alpena IceDiggers beat the Marquette Rangers, 4-2, yesterday on home ice to regain first place in the North Division. Todd Rudasill scored twice and Nolan Craner and Drew Pierson added two assists each. Erik Peterson and Korey O'Brien also scored. Shawn Hunwick made 18 saves for the win. For the Rangers, Iiro Junnila and James Gallagher scored with Matt Brooker making 29 saves. Alpena plays in Traverse City next weekend against the North Stars.

Traverse City went 2-1 with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms at home and were in first place in the division for about 18 hours. On Friday, the Stars won, 5-4, on goals by Joe Greener, Brett Englebright, Arthur Bidwill, Jameson Raymond and Aaron Pietila and Kyle Jendra's 30 saves. Saturday night, Sebastion Kimmel's shootout goal in the 10th round gave TC a 3-2 win. Matt Hughes and Nathan Urbaniak scored in regulation and Stefan Shively stopped 39 shots for the win. Sunday, Ryan Zapolski turned aside all 29 shots the North Stars fired his way in a 3-0 win. Shively also made 29 saves.

Marquette blanked the U.S. NTDP, 5-0, Friday night and then lost,. 4-3, on Saturday. Friday, Gallagher potted two and Neeco Belanger, Mike Macari and Jason Cohen added solos. Stephen Ritter stopped 30 shots for the shutout. The next night, David Wohlberg scored 50 seconds into overtime to give Team USA the win. Belanger, with two, and Cohen scored for Marquette, who got a 28-save performance out of Ritter. The Rangers travel to Bismarck this weekend for a pair with the Bobcats.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Spirit continue winning, sweep East foes

With wins Friday night and Sunday afternoon, the Saginaw Spirit are now in second place in the OHL's West Division.

In Ottawa Friday, Tomas Zaborsky, Jack Combs and Tom Pyatt each had a goal and an assist in the 5-3 victory. Jan Mursak (pictured) and Tyler Haskins also scored to back Ryan Daniels' 32-save outing.

Sunday, Pyatt scored three goals and Mursak had a goal and four assists as the Spirit routed Kingston, 8-1. Patrick Asselin, Ryan Berard, Ryan McDonough and Haskins, also with a pair of assists, scored as well. Captain Patrick McNeill chipped in four assists and Daniels earned the win making 25 saves.

Saginaw hosts Brampton Thursday night.

Whalers drop both games over weekend

The Plymouth Whalers lost both games last weekend, one on the road and one at home.

Friday, Jared Boll and James Neal scored and Jeremy Smith made 24 stops in net for Plymouth in a 3-2 defeat in Erie.

London then came to town and took a 5-2 win last night. Vern Cooper scored his first OHL goal and Neal also tallied. Michal Neuvirth made 25 saves in Plymouth's first home loss this year.

The Whalers play Thursday night in Windsor against the Spitfires and then at home Friday night against Brampton.

Photo from London game by Walt Dmoch

Indians salvage weekend split

A 6-1 rout of the Manitoulin Islanders on Saturday night salvaged a weekend split for the Soo Indians.

The Indians had started a weekend doubleheader at Big Bear Arena by losing to the Abitibi Eskimos, 5-3, on Friday night.

"I thought we rebounded nicely on Saturday after a lacklustre effort on Friday," observed Indians' coach-general manager Jim Capy. "It's important with a schedule being top heavy with so many home games during the first part of the schedule that we don't give away points."

The Indians now have a record of 7-4 and are 6-2 on home ice and 1-2 on the road.

In Saturday's win over Manitoulin, Sean Farley, Joe Larson, Derek Thocker, Isaac Viau, James Ciotti and Mike Connolly scored for the Indians in support of the 21-save effort of goalie Brennan Poderzay, who improved his record to 3-0. Farley's goal was his team-leading ninth of the season and Connolly's was his first Junior A marker.

Ciotti, Thocker and Larson scored in Friday's loss to Abitibi in which Michigan Soo product Miles Williams made 31 saves between the pipes for the Eskimos.

The Indians' next action is at home to Manitoulin again on Saturday night, while on Sunday, they head across the International Bridge to play the Soo Thunderbirds in the first Carmen Provenzano Memorial Cup series action of the season.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Spirit take 5-3 win in Peterborough

The Saginaw Spirit took a 5-3 win over the 2006 OHL champion Peterborough Petes Thursday night in Peterborough.

Captain Patrick McNeill (pictured) scored twice to go along with singles from Ryan McDonough, Jan Mursak and Zack Torquato.

Spirit goalie Ryan Daniels made 15 saves in the effort.

Saginaw continues their road trip through eastern Ontario Friday night against the Ottawa 67's and then head to Kingston for a Sunday match-up against the Frontenacs.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Indians end losing streak Wednesday

The Soo Indians ended a two-game losing streak in tidy fashion on the road Wednesday night.

The Indians trimmed the defending Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Sudbury Kal Tire Junior Wolves 5-2 to improve their record to 6-3-0 on the season.

It was the first road win of the season for the Indians after previous losses at Manitoulin and Blind River.

Sean Farley, Nick Zilka, Paul Isleib, Sean Reid and Daren Mansfield scored for the Indians, who got a 43-save performance from goalie Elliot Hogue.

"Elliot was outstanding...he was named player of the game and deservedly so," noted Indians' head coach Jim Capy.

Sudbury outshot the Indians 45-28, who played much of the game shorthanded and benefitted from Hogue's clutch goaltending.

The Indians are now home for two games this weekend. On Friday, the Abitibi Eskimos are at Big Bear Arena and on Saturday, the Manitoulin Islanders pay their first visit of the season to the Michigan Soo.

Start time both nights is 7 p.m. Admission for all Soo Indians games is $5, the lowest price in the NOJHL.

Phantoms to descend on TC

According to Traverse City North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner, the North American Hockey League’s North Division is ‘arguably the toughest division in the league.’

While Alpena has what amounts to a sizable lead in the early stages of the 2006-07 campaign, the rest of the North is separated by just three points.

That makes this weekend’s three-game series at Centre ICE arena between the second-place North Stars and fifth-place Mahoning Valley Phantoms an important one. With six points on the table, either club could make a serious move in the standings by the final whistle of Sunday’s matinee.

“It makes for a long weekend,” Gardiner admitted. “But we try to treat it like a mini-tournament, like it’s a playoff weekend. It sort of gives us an idea of what it’s like when you have those playoff weekends in April. There’s some stamina involved.”

While the visiting Phantoms might be on the bottom of the North standings at the moment, Gardiner says they’re as good as any team in the division.

“Oh geez, there’s no way that’s a last-place club, I don’t care what the standings say. They’re big and physical and throw a lot of skill at you, too. Plus they have both their goaltenders back from last year. This is a good hockey club coming in here.”

While the NAHL’s most dynamic scoring trio of 2005-06 – Anthony Ciraulo, Marc Menzione, and Drew Satterly – are off to NCAA Div. I schools this fall, the 4-5-0 Phantoms have gotten solid production from holdovers Matt Quigley (team-leading six goals, 11 points) and Chris Fairbanks (five goals, nine points).

The netminding tandem to which Gardiner refers includes Ryan Zapolski and Bryce Merriam, both of whom scored victories against Traverse City last season. So far in 2006-07, Zapolski has worked twice as much as Merriam, logging three wins while surrendering an average of 4.33 goals per games with an .883 save percentage.

With his two-goal outburst last Saturday against Marquette, Jared Mullen now has a Stars-best six markers, while captain Patrick Nagorsen leads the club with nine points.

The Phantoms, who captured 11 of the 12 meetings between the teams last year, were riding a three-game win streak before falling to interdivisional foe Springfield last Saturday.

The Friday and Saturday installments of the three-day weekend series face off at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s matinee commences at 12:40 p.m.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Saginaw nabs OA from Western League

The Saginaw Spirit have acquired overage defenseman Curtis Cooper from the Western Hockey League's Prince George Cougars.

Cooper arrived in Saginaw last night and is expected to play in the three-game road trip this weekend.

The 6-foot 200-pound native of Kamloops, British Columbia contributed 58 points (eight goals, 50 assists) in his four seasons playing for the Cougars.

Saginaw players under investigation

State police are investigating a criminal complaint involving five members of the Saginaw Spirit.

According to a report in the Saginaw News, five players were suspended two games for "breaking team rules." They have since rejoined the team and will continue to play pending the outcome of the investigation.

According to detectives, Tittabawassee Township police were called to a home last Thursday night. At least one of the players lives at the house in question.

From there, Tittabawassee Township police turned the investigation over to the Michigan State police.

Detectives are conducting interviews in the criminal complaint. At this point, the case centers around a 15-year-old girl who was at the house with the players.

The Spirit organization isn't saying much about the case.

"It's come to the attention of the Saginaw Spirit hockey club that there is an investigation involving one or more members of the Saginaw Spirit hockey team. We're taking this matter very seriously. We're still gathering information on the Spirit side of things. But it is our policy, in an incident like this, or any similar incident, that we fully cooperate with any investigation," said the team's director of marketing Cameron Knowles.

The status of some players for Thursday's game in Peterborough is unknown.

"There will be more discipline coming, but I can't say what because I don't know what the outcome of the criminal investigation will be," Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini told the newspaper. "I am extremely disappointed (in the players)."

Defensemen Scott Fletcher and Matt Corrente and forwards Ryan McDonough, Zack Torquato and Chris Chappell didn't play last weekend.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Michigan juniors weekend recap

Recapping last weekend...

On the road, the Plymouth Whalers fell to the Owen Sound Attack Saturday night, 4-2, but came back to beat the Mississauga IceDogs, 4-2, Sunday afternoon. Saturday, Kaine Geldart and John Armstrong scored and Jeremy Smith stopped 45 shots. Jared Boll, Armstrong, Chris Terry and Evan Brophey scored Sunday to back Michal Neuvirth's 41 saves. The Whalers play in Erie Friday night before hosting London Saturday night.

Saginaw won both their home games over the weekend. The Spirit beat the Ottawa 67's Saturday by a 7-3 count and then edged the Sudbury Wolves, 2-1, Sunday. Saginaw scored five power-play goals against Ottawa and a shorthanded goal. Tyler Haskins had a goal and three assists, Jack Combs scored twice and Tom Pyatt, Tomas Zaborsky, Patrick Asselin and captain Patrick McNeill added singles. Ryan Daniels stopped 24 shots. Sunday, Zaborsky and Pyatt scored and Daniels made 28 saves. Saginaw travels to Peterborough Thursday night.

The Alpena IceDiggers swept the U.S. Under-17 Team at home to take over first place in the NAHL's North Division. Friday night, captain Nolan Craner and Todd Rudasill each potted a pair to pace Alpena to a 4-2 win. Shawn Hunwick made 29 saves. Saturday, Drew Pierson recorded a hat trick in a 6-1 win. Craner, Justin Stadler and Taylor Doorlag also scored and newly-acquired Mike Jarboe stopped 26 shots. Next up for the IceDiggers is a game at home next Sunday with the Marquette Rangers.

Marquette and the Traverse City North Stars split last weekend in Marquette. Friday, goalie Stephen Ritter made 29 saves en route to a 3-1 win for the Rangers. Neeco Belanger, Brodie Zuk and Mike Macari scored for Marquette, while Matt Hughes tallied Traverse City's lone goal. Stefan Shively made 36 stops for the North Stars. Jared Mullen scored twice in Traverse City's 5-2 win Saturday. Captain Patrick Nagorsen, Aaron Pietila and Jonathan Juliano also scored to go along with Kyle Jendra, on assignment from the Whalers, who stopped 23 shots. Matt Brooker stopped 38 for the Rangers, who got goals from Zuk and Jake Hauswirth. Traverse City returns to Centre ICE this weekend, hosting the Mahoning Valley Phantoms in a three-game series starting Friday night. The Rangers host the USNTDP Friday and Saturday.

The Soo Indians dropped both their games over the weekend as they lost 4-3 to the Sudbury Northern Jr. Wolves Friday night at home and then 3-2 to the Blind River Beavers Saturday night in Blind River. Derek Thocker, Joe Larson and Sean Farley scored Friday and goaltenders Elliot Hogue and Brennan Poderzay combined for 22 saves with Hogue taking the loss. Saturday, Farley registered both goals and Paul Isleib and Andy Rammer each had two assists. Hogue made 46 saves. The Indians travel to Sudbury Wednesday night.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stars visit first-year Rangers this weekend

Even as the North American Hockey League’s officiating crackdown is packing ‘em into penalty boxes at a record clip, the Marquette Rangers will pay homage to ‘old-time hockey’ this weekend when the Traverse City North Stars visit for a two-game series.

That’s because Saturday’s game will feature an appearance by the Hanson Brothers, the bespectacled brethren who played for the Charlestown Chiefs in the cult hockey classic, “Slap Shot.”

On the ice, the teams are unlikely to ‘put on the foil,’ but the North Stars will have their hands full with Marquette goalie Stephen Ritter, one of the NAHL’s top goalies. Ritter, a behemoth of a netkeep at 6-3, 200-lbs., has worked the pipes in five of the first-year Rangers’ six outings, posting a 3-2-0 mark with an eye-bulging .946 save percentage and nearly as astounding 1.80 goals against average.

“They’re a solid team all around, but that guy has been outstanding in net for them,” assessed Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “We’ll have to work hard to get anything past him.”

While Marquette boasts five NAHL vets, including Steve Sperry (Team USA-17 in 2005-06), the neophyte Rangers have been as hard-hit as any team by the officiating onslaught. Despite not having played a game in 12 days, the club has amassed the second-most penalty minutes in the league.

The Rangers’ offense is led by Saskatchewan export Brodie Zuk, who has a trio of goals and four assists. Nick Kosinski and hometown prep star Neeco Belanger have contributed six points each, while Nic Weight leads the club with four goals.

Marquette head coach Leigh Mendelson told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that his team would be facing a vet-laden, open-ice bunch in the North Stars.

“Their team has some veterans and returning players,” he said. “They have a good, skilled team with speed. That’s the kind of team you need to have in today’s hockey.”

While the North Stars are just a point out of first place in the NAHL North Division, it would be impossible for them to ascend to the divisional penthouse on Friday, as the two first place clubs – Alpena and Team USA – face off at Northern Lights Arena. The Rangers are in fourth place, right behind Traverse City with two games in hand. And as for a home ice advantage, the team set an NAHL record with 2,270 fans at its inaugural home opener against Alpena on Sept. 23.

“It should be an interesting series because they’re a new franchise but in a very hockey-savvy community,” Gardiner said. “They packed ‘em in pretty good up there at their opener, and with the Hanson Brothers thing, they’ll probably be going crazy in their building. We’ll have to match their intensity or we could get caught on our heels a bit.”

The North Stars return to Centre ICE arena next weekend for a two-game set against Mahoning Valley.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Elmblad impresses, now a Wolverine

Not long after the Team USA U-17 squad held off the Traverse City North Stars in a decisive Game 5 of last year’s North American Hockey League North Division semifinal playoff series, Eric Elmblad went right back to work. But instead of chasing a NAHL Robertson Cup championship, the St. Ignace native was running down a dream.

“Since I was a kid, it’s been a lifelong dream to play hockey at (University of) Michigan,” said Elmblad, whose indelible image after scoring an overtime clincher in Game 3 of the USA-17 playoff series has become a de facto component of the North Stars’ branding. “I got into the school and deferred my enrollment for two years so I could try to become the kind of hockey player who could make it here. There were some bumps in the road along the way, I guess, but I never really lost sight of that goal.”

Over the summer, Elmblad contacted Wolverines assistant coach Mel Pearson and inquired about getting a look from the U-M coaches as a walk-on. A rigorous training regimen followed, as Elmblad prepared himself to dazzle the Wolverines’ staff.

“We did not recruit him, and I told him right away that it’s pretty tough to make it here as a walk-on, especially given how much depth we have this year,” explained longtime Michigan coach Red Berenson. “That might have discouraged some kids, but it only seemed to make Eric work harder, and that’s something I really admired about him.”

Berenson has seen his share of Wolverines hopefuls come and go over the course of his 23 years in Ann Arbor. And some have helped Berenson win nearly 600 games (eighth in all-time NCAA victories), nine CCHA titles and pair of national crowns. But the coaching legend says Elmblad earned his block ‘M’ sweater the old fashioned way.

“It’s rewarding for me to see a kid work like that toward a goal and reach it,” Berenson added. “Nothing was handed to Eric. He just plain wanted to be here.”

Elmblad had three goals and six assists in 36 games with the North Stars last year after spending 2004-05 with the NAHL champion Texas Tornado. Traverse City head coach Scott Gardiner moved him to forward toward the end of the season and it paid huge dividends in the club’s first-ever home playoff game, won by Elmblad’s tip-in in overtime on April 7.

“It’s big for us as a team, but it’s just a great, great thing for Eric,” Gardiner said. “He worked hard academically to get where he is, and he did the same thing on the ice and look where it got him. We here in Traverse City couldn’t be happier for him or prouder of him. He’s a great kid and he deserves all of it.”

The scholarly Elmblad – who, by the way, is also enrolled in the prestigious U-M School of Engineering – says that his NAHL stint truly helped him prepare as a hockey player intent on playing for the Wolverines.

“Playing in the North American league helped me develop a certain work ethic,” he explained. “I tried to learn how to be strong with the puck and to be able to play a physical game. It’s a good level of competition, and playing there definitely helped my development as a player and a person.”

While the first hurdle – making the team – has been cleared, Elmblad now faces the challenge of securing his share of playing time. But challenges are nothing new to the 6-4, 210-pound defenseman/forward.

“When you come in as a walk-on, you generally start at the bottom of the depth chart,” Berenson said. “And we are very deep on defense, so his work isn’t done. He knows that, and I’m sure that will probably drive him even harder.”


“I’m still in a little bit of shock just making it,” Elmblad admitted. “But there’s a lot of work ahead of me still. But this isn’t something I just decided to try this summer – I’ve been aiming at this for a long, long time. I’m not going to back down from any challenge.”

Spirit trades Priamo to hometown Guelph

The Saginaw Spirit announced today that forward Tim Priamo has been traded to the Guelph Storm for a conditional pick in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection.

Further details of the trade were not disclosed.

The 18-year-old Guelph native played 60 games for the Spirit last season, earning four goals and 10 assists. He also played three games against the Storm in the 2006 OHL playoffs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Whalers deal goalie Garay to Erie

The Plymouth Whalers have traded third-year goaltender Justin Garay to the Erie Otters in exchange for a conditional draft choice in 2007.

The trade reduces Plymouth’s crowded goaltending situation. Michal Neuvirth and Jeremy Smith have split duty in goal so far this season with rookie Kyle Jendra as the third goaltender.

Garay, 19 and from Monaca, Penn., was selected by Plymouth in the eighth round (159th overall) in the 2003 OHL Priority Selection. Garay made his OHL debut on October 1, 2004 in London in a 5-4 overtime loss. He played in 22 games in his rookie season in 2004-05, posting a 3.64 goals-against average and a .880 save percentage.

Last year, Garay compiled excellent numbers through the first two months of the season with a 2.70 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, including his first OHL shutout on Oct, 21, 2005 in a 3-0 victory in Kitchener. But Garay injured his ankle last November and appeared in five games the rest of the season. Overall, Garay had a 3.72 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage in 14 games in 2005-06. He also won the Barbara Ann Karmanos Community Goals Award.

In addition, the Whalers have assigned goaltender Kyle Jendra to the Traverse City North Stars and defenseman Chad Loikets has moved on to play for Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Loikets was picked up off waivers from Erie last week, but did not see any game action.

The Colbert Report spotlights Spirit

The Saginaw Spirit were highlighted on the Colbert Report last night.

The Report showed footage from the unveiling ceremony of the newest Spirit mascot, Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle. The segment also showcased the OHL and the two upcoming Spirit home games against the Ottawa 67's and the Sudbury Wolves. At the end of the show, the host, Stephen Colbert, retired his Spirit jersey and raised it to the rafters of his studio.

"We are proud of our accident-prone new mini mascot, Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle, as he made his international television debut last night," Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin said. "As Stephen Colbert raised his Spirit Jersey to the rafters of his studio, he officially became the first Spirit to do so."

The community of mid-Michigan is quickly being transformed into raving Stephen Colbert fans. Stay tuned for future updates on both the Colbert Report and the Saginaw Spirit hockey games played at the Dow Event Center.

The Report is shown Monday through Thursday at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. The show will be replayed on Comedy Central Wednesday, October 4th at 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. A video clip of the segment will be available online on Comedy Central's website within the next two days.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Alpena acquires goalie from St. Louis

The Alpena IceDiggers acquired goaltender Mike Jarboe from the St. Louis Bandits yesterday.

The Grosse Pointe native is in his second season in the NAHL, having played last year for the now-defunct Bozeman IceDogs where he complied a 15-4-0 record with two shutouts.

Jarboe started this season with the Bandits where he went 1-0 with a 31-save win over the North Iowa Outlaws.

Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller feels that with Jarboe and Shawn Hunwick, both goalies can step in and give the team a chance to win every night.

"Shawn has been great so far and now with Mike, we should have one of the best one-two combos in the league," said Miller.

With adding Jarboe, the IceDiggers had to make room by releasing rookie netminder Brandon Stephenson.

"It was a tough decision, but when you get a chance to add a guy like Mike you have to do what is best for the entire team," Miller noted. "Brandon is a great kid who will turn out to be a good goalie in this league, but I felt we had to get a guy that can step in right now and play."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Michigan juniors weekend recap

All six Michigan junior teams were in action this past weekend.

The Plymouth Whalers won another shootout, 3-2, in Guelph Friday night. James Neal and Evan Brophey scored shootout goals, while goaltender Jeremy Smith stopped all three Guelph shots. Earlier, Frank Grzeszczak scored his first OHL goal and Neal also scored. Saturday night at home, Neal scored the shootout winner and Steve Ward, Chris Terry, Dan Collins and Tom Sestito all scored. A.J. Jenks added two assists for Plymouth and Michal Neuvirth earned the win in net. The Whalers are at Owen Sound Friday and at Mississauga Saturday.

Saginaw lost, 4-3, in a shootout in Sarnia Friday night, but won their first game of the season, 5-3, Saturday night at home against Windsor. Friday, Patrick Asselin, captain Tyler Haskins and Ryan McDonough scored and Ryan Daniels made 43 saves. Tom Pyatt had two goals and two assists in Saturday's win and Asselin added two goals as well. Jack Combs potted the other and Daniels stopped 26 shots. The Spirit play two home games this weekend with Ottawa Saturday night and a Sunday matinee with Sudbury.

The Alpena IceDiggers/Traverse City North Stars rivalry continued as the teams split their weekend home-and-home series. On Friday, host Alpena dropped Traverse City, 5-1, as Erik Peterson (2), Ricardo Yesue, Ben Kitzmiller and Drew Pierson scored to back Shawn Hunwick's 20 saves. Harrison Niemann tallied for TC and Stefan Shively and Ryan Donovan combined for 27 saves. Saturday night in Traverse City, the North Stars held on for a 4-3 win. Brett Englebright, Sebastion Kimmel, Matt Hughes and Jonathan Juliano scored for Traverse City while Nolan Craner scored twice and Pierson once for the 'Diggers. Shively stopped 33 shots and Hunwick made 25 saves. Traverse City will travel to Marquette for a two-game set against the Rangers this weekend. Alpena hosts the U.S. Under-17 team on Friday and Saturday night.

Marquette was idle last weekend and hosts Traverse City this weekend.

Paul Isleib picked a good time to score his first two goals of the NOJHL season for the Soo Indians. Saturday at Big Bear Arena, Isleib's goal with less than five minutes to play in the third period tied the score before his overtime tally just 41 seconds into the extra frame gave the Indians a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Abitibi Eskimos. The victory gives the Indians a 5-1 record as they prepare to play host to the defending champion Sudbury Northern Jr. Wolves on Friday night at 7:00 at Big Bear. James Ciotti and Sean Farley had scored earlier goals for the Indians and Isleib's timely tallies made a winner out of goalie Elliot Hogue, who turned aside 27 shots for his third straight win to start the season. The win over Abitibi came a night after the Indians lost for the first time this season, a 5-3 road setback at Manitoulin. Farley, Nick Novak and Nick Zilka scored for the Indians in defeat. Jake Rosenthal stopped 22 shots for the Indians.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Soo Indians players come from all over

The Soo Indians may be based in Michigan and play in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, but they feature players from six different states and the province of Ontario.

The Indians feature two homegrown products in Michigan Soo natives J.D. King and Daren Mansfield, as well as a lone import from the crossriver Canadian Soo in winger Dan Vernelli. King is a defenceman and Mansfield is a forward.

Besides those three, the rest of the team is from just about all over. In fact, the Indians' goalies are from three different states -- Elliot Hogue hails from St. Louis, Missouri, Brennan Poderzay calls Tower, Minnesota home and Jake Rosenthal is from Wantagh, N.Y.

Others from Michigan include defencemen Dan Klever (Bailey), Jake Russell (Owosso), and Brett Lavalley (Grosse Pointe Woods) and forwards Darek Thocker (Grand Ledge), Jon Sutton (Muskegon), James Ciotti (Romeo), Alex Falardeau (Midland) and Issac Viau (Cheboygan).

New York natives include defenceman Billy Horton (New Hartford) and forwards Alex Durinka (East Amherst) and Mike Connolly (Shoreham).

Others from Minnesota include forwards J.P. Perpich (Bloomington), Nick Zilka (Mound) and Joe Larson (Apple Valley).

Players from Illinois include defencemen Peter Landem (Lombard) and Sean Reid (Chicago) and forwards Chris Cooper (Glenview), Sean Farley (Park Ridge) and Paul Isleib (Batavia).

And the Indians have two players from Wisconsin: defenceman Nick Novak, who hails from Green Bay, and winger Andrew Rammer, who calls Appleton home.