Wednesday, February 28, 2007

North Stars, MDA team up for Jerry’s Kids

Get your pre-event admission pucks now, because the Traverse City North Stars are serving up a piping hot Olive Garden spaghetti dinner on the ice Thursday, March 22 at Centre ICE arena, with proceeds going to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Along with partners from TV 7&4, Olive Garden, Pepsi, and Classic Rock The Bear, the North Stars will host the event on the actual skating surface where the team plays its home games. The Stars players will act as skating waiters, brining the Olive Garden grub directly to patrons.

“MDA holds a similar event with the Flint Generals at IMA Arena and it has been a great success,” said MDA Northern Michigan District Director Shannon Gowan. “We think this community will come out to support the event as well. It’s a great dinner at a great price, and it all goes to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.”

Admission to the dinner is just $5 per person or $30 per family, and admission pucks are available at the North Stars ticket office inside Centre ICE arena or by calling MDA at (989) 771-9612. In addition to a delicious meal, there will be great auction items, contests and prizes, and a live jersey auction. And patrons can get their picture taken with their favorite player(s) – or Stars mascot Wild Cherry!

“We’ve had a great relationship with MDA, and we’re proud to get together with them on a great event like Spaghetti on ICE,” said North Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “You couldn’t go out to dinner and get a meal like this for $5, and it goes to Jerry’s Kids. This is a win-win event for everyone involved.”

For more information or to order your admission pucks, call the North Stars at (231) 941-9200 or MDA at (989) 771-9612.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Saginaw's O'Marra part of Ryan Smyth trade

Saginaw Spirit center Ryan O'Marra, along with New York Islanders' prospect Robert Nilsson and the Islanders' first round pick in 2007, were traded to the Edmonton Oilers today at the NHL trade deadline in exchange for standout forward Ryan Smyth.

O'Marra was drafted in the first round (15th overall) by the Islanders in 2005.

O'Marra was acquired by the Spirit in November 2006 in a trade with the Erie Otters. He has recorded 13 goals and 25 points in 26 games since joining the Spirit. O'Marra won gold medals at both the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championship as a member of Team Canada.

This is not the first time a member of the Spirit organization has had a connection to the Oilers' organization. Spirit head coach and general manager Bob Mancini is a former Oilers' scout and associate head coach Ian Herbers once played for Edmonton.

IceDiggers return home, host Team USA

The Alpena IceDiggers (30-19-3) return home this weekend to play host to the USA Under-17 Team Friday and Saturday nights at Northern Lights Arena.

Faceoff for both games will be at 7:00PM.

Alpena holds the second spot in the North Division standings while USA currently sits in the third spot, 15 points behind the IceDiggers with two games in hand.

The IceDiggers clinched their first-ever berth in the NAHL playoffs two weeks ago. The playoffs will begin the first week of April.

"We are excited about the fact that we will be playing in the postseason," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "Now he need to use this last month of the season to fine tune our game and be prepared mentally and physically for the long grind that the playoffs are."

Despite their recent struggles, the IceDiggers remain confident they will get things turned around in the final 10 games of the season heading into the playoffs.

"We know what it takes to win and we have to find a way to get back to doing the little things it takes each game in order to have success," said co-captain Ricardo Yesue.

The IceDiggers are coming off a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the USA Under-18 team in Ann Arbor on Sunday. Miller liked the way his team battled, though.

"I thought the guys played hard for 60 minutes," said Miller. "It was a closer game than the score indicated. If we continue to play the rest of the regular season like we did Sunday, we will be just fine."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Indians reclaim first place in NOJHL

After an absence of about 10 years, junior hockey returned downtown to the Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie Saturday night and the Soo Indians defeated the crossriver Soo Thunderbirds 4-3 to move back into first place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League standings.

The Indians' victory, coupled with Sudbury's 6-4 loss at Blind River on Saturday, puts the Michigan Sooites one point ahead of the second-place Jr. Wolves. With both teams having four games to play in the regular season, the Indians have 58 points, one more than Sudbury.

Saturday's win for the Indians came 24 hours after they dropped a 4-3 road decision to the Manitoulin Islanders.

The Indians vacated their Big Bear Arena home to play Saturday's game at the Pullar. Despite going head to head with the Lake Superior State Lakers, who were closing out their Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular season at Taffy Abel Arena, the Indians drew a season-high crowd of 334.

The Indians have averaged 183 fans per game at the Big Bear this season.

"Considering that we were playing the same night as the Lakers, the fact that we drew our largest crowd of the season says a lot about playing at the Pullar," Indians' head coach Kevin Cain said evenly.

Cain paid tribute to his players for the hard-fought win, saying the adjustment from the Olympic-size ice surface of the Big Bear to the smaller confines of the Pullar Stadium "was not easy. This is a team that was built for the bigger ice surface. But our guys sucked it up and played a very solid game."

Captain Isaac Viau scored a goal and added an assist for the Indians in being named the game's first star. Sean Farley, with his 30th goal of the season, Scott Pulak and Ky Moje also scored for the Indians in support of goalie Elliott Hogue, who made 23 saves.

Before the game, Viau was presented with the Carmen Provenzano Memorial Cup, emblematic of the Indians taking their regular-season series from the Thunderbirds six games to two.

Friday night in Manitoulin, the Indians scored two goals in the final 90 seconds of the game to close to within one and thought they had tied the game 4-4 when Viau put the puck in the net at the buzzer. But the linesman waved off the apparent goal and the Indians rode back home empty.

With a record of 28-14-2, the Indians play two road games this coming weekend, visiting Abitibi on Saturday and playing at North Bay on Sunday.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Brodie claims top honors with Leamington

Saginaw Spirit defenseman T.J. Brodie was awarded the Top Rookie Defenseman honors and was named to both the First All-Star Team and Rookie All-Star Team for the Junior B Western Ontario Hockey League.

Brodie earned the honors from his time with the Leamington Flyers.

“We are thrilled with T.J.'s development and are excited to have him with us in the future,” stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. “We congratulate T.J., his family and the entire Leamington Flyers organization for being recognized in this manner."

Brodie was selected by the Spirit in the third round, 47th overall, in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection. He has played 16 games with the Spirit this season, notching two assists and a plus-4 rating.

The Dresden, Ontario native is the Flyers' leading scorer with 46 points on eight goals and 38 assists. The Flyers recently concluded their 48-game season with a record of 17-28-3 and 37 points. Leamington will host the Strathroy Rockets in the first game of the playoffs at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Three for the show

Even though the calendar still says ‘February,’ this weekend’s three-game showdown between the Traverse City North Stars and U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 squad is essentially a playoff series.

With just eight games remaining after the weekend, and the Stars and U-17s in a tight race for the fourth and final NAHL North Division postseason berth – the clubs are separated by just three points in the standings – each of the weekend contests at Centre ICE arena is almost a do-or-die proposition.

Even though Traverse City is looking down in the standings at Team USA, the Ann Arbor-based program has played an astounding seven fewer games to date than the Stars. Three of those will be made up this weekend when the U-18s play host to Marquette and Alpena, but TC head coach Scott Gardiner isn’t counting on any help from anyone else. In fact, with Marquette just five points up on the North Stars for third in the NAHL North, the two Rangers-U-18 contests this weekend constitute a veritable no-win rooting interest for Traverse City.

“These are must-win games for them and us,” Gardiner told the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s James Cook in a Wednesday story. “Our head-to-head matchups with USA and Marquette will be critical, and hopefully we’ll pick up others.”

The U-17s are led by forwards Danny Kristo (8 G, 15 pts.), David Wohlberg (7 G, 14 pts.), and Justin Florek (7 G, 13 pts.), while Michael Clemente (4-11-1, 4.49 GAA) and Nick Maricic (3-10-2, .898 SV%) have shared goalkeeping duties.

For Traverse City, rearguard Nick Von Bokern – the NAHL’s top-scoring defenseman – paces the club with 45 pts. (10 goals), while Patrick Nagorsen (11 G, 39 pts.) and Aaron Pietila (11 G, 28 pts.) are the hosts’ leading forwards. Kyle Jendra, who engineered TC’s dominant 4-1 win in the clubs’ last meeting on Jan. 27, sports a 3.71 GAA.

Friday and Saturday’s games face off at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s matinee is set for a 1 p.m. start.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle honored

Saginaw Spirit mascot Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle was ranked as the second-best mascot of 2006 by

Steagle competed with Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays' "Raymond" for the title.

The Raptor from the NBA's Toronto Raptors won first place.

“If Steagle is number two, a question I have is who can beat him and be number one?” stated Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin. “We are very proud of his accomplishments and grateful to Stephen Colbert and The Colbert Report for assisting Steagle to be perched to the pinnacle of his profession."

Steagle came to the Spirit in September 2006, joining Sammy Spirit in representing mid-Michigan's OHL franchise. Steagle is named after Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. is the premier resource web site for teams throughout the sports world. Created in 1998, the site is designed to connect teams with new ideas and promotions to help enhance their events. For more information, please visit

Whalers blank Saginaw, 4-0, Wednesday

Although the Plymouth Whalers wore their green jerseys Wednesday night in a 4-0 win in Saginaw, make no mistake, it was a blue-collar effort that led to the victory before 4,584 at the Dow Event Center.

Plymouth goaltender Jeremy Smith stopped 39 shots for his fourth shutout of the season as the game’s first star, while Evan Brophey scored twice and Chris Terry and Daniel Ryder one each to run the Whalers’ record to 41-14-1-2, good for 85 points and first place in the Ontario Hockey League’s West Division.

Plymouth is second overall in the OHL, three points behind London (42-12-1-3). Saginaw falls to 34-20-0-3, good for 71 points and second place in the OHL West. The Whalers had a 6-2-0-0 edge over Saginaw in the season series this year.

Three of the four Plymouth goals were a direct result of winning battles for pucks and keeping the play alive in the Saginaw zone.

Plymouth took a 1-0 lead at 5:26 of the first period on Brophey’s 27th goal of the season. The puck was deep in the Saginaw zone and stayed there while Plymouth started to change. Brophey – just on – took the puck from the right corner in the Saginaw zone to the high slot and wristed a shot that Saginaw goaltender Ryan Daniels appeared to be screened on. Daniels reacted late and Plymouth took a 1-0 lead in the dressing room after one period of play.

The Whalers took a 2-0 at 6:26 of the second period, capping off continual pressure in the Saginaw zone. Terry dug the puck out from the right boards and found Brett Bellemore at the right point. Bellemore (+4 on the evening and now +41 on the season) took a low shot on goal that Terry tipped in from in tight on the right wing five-hole by Daniels for his 16th season. Brophey scored his 28th of the season at 8:20 of the period when he took a shot from the slot that caromed off Saginaw defenseman Mitch Maunu (playing without a stick) and past Daniels. Plymouth led 3-0 after forty minutes.

Ryder finished the scoring with his 34th of the season (10th in 18 games with Plymouth since coming over in a trade with Peterborough) at 3:05 of the third period when he carried the puck wide right wing and beat Daniels with a well-placed shot from the right circle that caught the far post.

Plymouth’s league-leading penalty killing unit shot down all four Saginaw power plays. The Whalers continue to league the OHL in team defense, allowing a league-low 150 goals over 58 games.

Plymouth is back home the rest of the weekend, hosting Belleville on Friday and Oshawa on Saturday. Start time for both games is 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Red Wings alumni to play Saginaw Saturday

Saginaw Spirit partners Hooters and Kreager Towing will be presenting the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Team on Saturday as the Red Wings will be facing off against the Mid-Michigan Local All-Stars hockey team at 6:00 p.m., prior to the 7:40 p.m. Spirit home game against the Belleville Bulls.

The Spirit game start time was delayed to accommodate the Red Wings game.

The Red Wings Alumni team will be signing autographs for Spirit fans during the Spirit game in Dow Event Center concourse. Assorted Red Wings Alumni merchandise will be available for purchase at the game.

Participating in the game for the Red Wings are Joe Kocur, Bill Evo, Dennis Hextall, Shawn Burr and Lee Norwood. Dino Ciccarelli and Mickey Redmond are tentatively scheduled to appear at the game. The Mid-Michigan Local All-Stars include former Saginaw Gears Mel Hewitt and Jean-Marie Nichol, Brian Kischnick and J.J. Bamberger. The Local All-Stars are led by Spirit associate coach Ian Herbers.

The Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association was formed in 1959 and since then has raised millions of dollars for local charities and minor hockey league organizations. For more information on the Red Wings Alumni team, visit

Indians to be presented Provenzano Cup

The Soo Indians will be presented with the Carmen Provenzano Memorial Cup prior to their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League game with the crossriver Soo Thunderbirds this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Pullar Stadium.

Having already won five of their seven games from the Thunderbirds prior to Saturday's regular-season finale between the two teams, the Indians have thus clinched the Provenzano Cup for this season.

The Provenzano Cup was initiated prior to the start of the 2006-07 season in memory of Carmen Provenzano, a former Sault, Ontario politician who passed away in July 2006 from a heart attack.

The first Provenzano Cup regular-season series was between the Soo Thunderbirds and the Blind River Beavers and was won by the T-Birds. The format was changed at the start of this season to make the Provenzano Cup a regular-season series between the Twin Soo teams.

Prior to the start of Saturday's game at the Pullar, the Provenzano Cup will be presented to Indians' captain Isaac Viau by Mary Desimone Russon, niece of the late former politician.

Admission to Saturday's game at the Pullar is $5.

IceDiggers clinch playoff berth

For the first time since the Alpena IceDiggers joined the North American Hockey League, the club is headed to the postseason.

On a nice feed from Mike DeGrazia, Nolan Craner scored in the final stages of Sunday night's game in Ann Arbor to force overtime. Neither team would cash in during the extra frame and the IceDiggers eventually dropped the contest 3-2 in a shootout. With the point and Traverse City's loss to South Division leader St. Louis on Sunday, the IceDiggers are on their way to the playoffs.

"When we set our goals at the beginning of the season, everyone in this organization from the owners, coaches, players and support staff set our focus as a group to get to the playoffs," said second-year head coach Kenny Miller. "We are going through a rough period right now and for us to still be able to clinch a spot is a good feeling. We will get this turned around and start playing solid hockey heading into the postseason."

The IceDiggers have 11 games remaining in the regular season with five of those contests at Northern Lights Arena. Alpena trails first-place Mahoning Valley by 14 points, but lead third-place Marquette by 19 points for second place.

"With the remaining games we have left, this will be a good for us to work out the problems we are facing as a team and get back on track," added Miller "The division has really improved top to bottom since day one and any team can win on any given night, so we will need to be better in order to win these games we have left."

The top four teams in each division make the playoffs with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed playing the No. 3 seed in a best-of-five series with the higher seed hosting three of the five games. After the first round, the NAHL will reseed the winning teams and play the division finals in a best- of-five with those winners advancing to the Robertson Cup finals in Fairbanks, Alaska.

After playing four games in five days last week, the IceDiggers will only play one game this weekend at Ann Arbor versus the high-powered USA Under-18 team led by this year's USA World Junior coach Ron Rolston on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Indians tied for first in NOJHL

With six games to play in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League's regular season, the Soo Indians are in a first place tie with the defending champion Sudbury Jr. Wolves.

Both teams have played 42 games and each has 56 points.

The Indians won their fourth straight game on Saturday night in Blind River, a 5-2 decision over the Beavers.

Shane Bailey tallied twice for the Indians, who led 4-0 at one point before needing an empty-net goal by Sean Reid to seal the victory. Isaac Viau and Sam Yearsley also scored for the Indians and goalie Brennan Poderzay won his 15th game of the season with relief help from Elliott Hogue.

"We'll take the win, Blind River is a tough place to play," reasoned Indians' head coach Kevin Cain.

After a road game against the Manitoulin Islanders on Friday, the Indians will return home to play the crossriver Soo Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. on Saturday in a match that will be played at Pullar Stadium.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rangers drive forward, Bobcats on tap

The Marquette Rangers host the Bismarck Bobcats tonight and Saturday night, facing off at 7 p.m. both nights, but the Bobcats aren’t the only group the Rangers are welcoming.

Northern Michigan University students are being appreciated at Lakeview Arena throughout the weekend with NMU Student Weekend. With proper student ID and a valid driver's license, students receive a free alcohol wristband for admission into the beer gardens and free drinks with the purchase of a pre-paid drink card.

The Rangers have won eight of their last 15 games, improving their overall record to 19-24-4.

“We’re not happy about getting only one win last weekend, but the way the guys rallied on Sunday to win was very encouraging," said Marquette head coach Randy Enders. "We were fighting to keep ahead of Traverse City, so the guys knew it was a huge game. Although the game was filled with penalties and lacked a lot of flow, our guys worked through all of it and were able to pull out a win. Between Nic Weight’s hat trick, Beau Christian shutting the door the last two periods, Nick Kosinski and Chris Smith each adding two goals and just a combined overall team effort, we pulled off a great win over a big rival.”

The Rangers' busy stretch of six games in nine days continued Wednesday as they traveled to Alpena.

“It was a big divisional game against a league-leading team," noted Enders. "We know them well and know what we need to do against them to be successful. Playing Alpena is a matter of going out and executing our plans and limiting their opportunities. We were able to get goals from five different players, (Jake Hauswirth, Will Such and Neeco Belanger each had one, James Gallagher and Jason Cohen each scored two) and get them early. Combined with the great game from Beau, we were able to go into their rink and take two points. We now immediately turn our focus to this weekend where we have a big series with Bismarck.”

Looking ahead to this weekend, the Rangers haven’t played Bismarck since October. Although Bismarck is not part of the NAHL’s North Division, there are still points at stake.

“We are in a fight for third in our division and every weekend is important," Enders said. "Our guys are prepared to come out and play hard in front of the growing hometown support at Lakeview."

Weight earned the NAHL Sherwood Player of the Week from his six-goal weekend. Kosinski not only took over as the Rangers leading scorer with 43 points in 46 games, but he’s currently ranked 23 out of over 500 players in the NAHL. Brodie Zuk barely trails as 26th in the league with 42 points in 43 games played. Belanger has amassed 38 points, while Weight has tallied 30 and Hauswirth 28.

Sunday, 18 Rangers will be bundling up as they volunteer for the U.P. 200 from 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. Rangers will be responsible for three roadblocks off of M-28 at Kawbawgam, Casino and Chocolay Downs Roads. The public is encouraged to stop by and say hello as they cheer on the sled dog racers.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Spirit fans go for world record

The Saginaw Spirit and Andersen Eye Associates will be attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for number of people wearing Groucho glasses at one time.

The first 2,000 fans to arrive at the Feb. 24 game against Erie will be given a free pair of Groucho glasses. The Groucho glasses record attempt will coincide with a charity event where Andersen Eye is asking that fans donate any used glasses they may have for use in Andersen Eye Foundation's community outreach programs.

Andersen Eye serves the Mid-Michigan community by providing a wide array of high-quality eye-care services, treating a variety of medical conditions ranging from cataracts to laser surgery. Andersen Eye Foundation provides free eye care and glasses to the indigent and underinsured.

Whalers add rookie O'Neill to roster

Defenseman Jordon O’Neill, Plymouth’s fourth-round pick (73rd overall) a year ago, will join the Whalers for their three games in Barrie, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie this weekend after being called up from the Ajax Tier II Junior A team in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound O’Neill had eight goals and 16 points for the Attack this season in 34 games and went pointless in four playoff games. Ajax was swept in four straight games by the St. Michael's Buzzers in the opening round of the OPJHL playoffs.

O'Neill will wear No. 18 this weekend, but will switch to No. 34 after the road trip.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Alpena to play four in five this week

The Alpena IceDiggers (30-15-2) hope to get back to their winning ways this week when they play four games in five days.

To start, Alpena hosts the Marquette Rangers (18-24-4) at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday at Northern Lights Arena.

The IceDiggers players and coaches know how important it is to get back on track after struggling the past two weeks.

"We have hit a mini skid and all of us in this room knows what takes to get us back to where we want to be as a team," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller. "The playoffs are right around the corner and we need to be in full stride leading up to that point in the season."

Alpena will board the bus on Thursday night and travel to Mahoning Valley for games on Friday and Saturday night. Both contests in Ohio start at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on the Internet HERE. Ron Rinaldi will call all the action.

On Sunday, Alpena will head north of Ohio to Ann Arbor to take on the USA Under-17 team. Faceoff is at 7:00 p.m.

Mr. Hockey coming to Saginaw

Former Detroit Red Wings great and hockey legend Gordie Howe, "Mr. Hockey," will be appearing at the Feb. 21 Saginaw Spirit game against the Plymouth Whalers. His appearance coincides with the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce Big Ticket Hockey Event.

The game starts at 7:11 p.m.

Howe will be signing autographs in the Bud Light Blue Line Club following the ceremonial puck drop. He will be signing a poster and/or commemorative program that are available for purchase at $25 each.

“Mr. Hockey is regarded as not only one of the best hockey players in the world, but also one of the best athletes," stated Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin. “We’re honored to bring him back to Saginaw so our fans can meet this living legend."

Howe's appearance in Saginaw is courtesy Merrill Technologies Group, Tri-Star Trust Bank, McDonald’s Restaurants and Pumford Construction. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact the Spirit at (989) 497-7747.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Indians take over first place in NOJHL


Three straight wins last week have lifted the Soo Indians into first place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

With seven games to play in the regular season, the Indians have 54 points from a record of 26-13-2. The Indians are two points ahead of second-place Sudbury, though it should be noted that the defending champion Jr. Wolves hold two games in hand.

"Going into last week we set a goal of doing what we could to try to finish in first place," said Kevin Cain, the Indians' even-mannered head coach. "We played pretty well in all three games and took three steps towards our goal. If we don't finish in first place it won't be a setback or anything...we're just trying to improve as a team and keep the positive environment that we have."

The Indians have a 9-4 record -- including a 5-0 mark on home ice -- since an early January coaching change put Cain in charge of the bench.

"It's not about one coach or one player," Cain added. "Win or lose, the coaching staff and players are in this together. We'll win or lose as a team. You need togetherness just to try to move forward."

The Indians began last week with a 5-4 overtime win over the crossriver Soo Thunderbirds before scoring a pair of weekend victories on home ice, 6-3 over the Blind River Beavers and 6-2 over the North Bay Skyhawks.

Scott Pulak scored twice for the Indians in the win over Blind River and Sean Reid, Shane Bailey, Chris Cooper and Sam Yearsley added singles. In the triumph over North Bay, six different Indians scored goals -- Ky Moje, Chris MacKay, Isaac Viau, Sean Farley, Nick Zilka and newcomer Justin Maciuk.

Rookie forward Mike Connolly picked up assists in all three contests last week to extend his point-scoring streak to seven games.

Goalie Brennan Poderzay earned his 14th win of the season in the triumph over Blind River and Elliott Hogue notched his 12th of the campaign in the victory over North Bay.

Next home game for the Indians is on Saturday Feb. 24 when they play host to the Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. at Pullar Stadium. The game was originally slated for Sunday the 25th at Big Bear Arena, but Indians' assistant general manager Tony Talentino said the team wants to "explore the opportunity to play a game downtown at the Pullar."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Indians begin week with crossriver win

Sam Yearsley scored at 1:51 of overtime to give the Soo Indians a 5-4 win over the crossriver Soo Thunderbirds in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action on Wednesday night at John Rhodes Community Centre.

Yearsley's goal capped a see-saw match that had the Thunderbirds lead 2-0 after the first period and the Indians take a 3-2 lead after two.

In the third, Brett Perlini tied it for the Thunderbirds at 5:37 only to have Indians' defenseman J.D. King score a go-ahead goal with his first of the season on a bullet-like shot at 15:31.

But at 19:41 with goalie Ryan Dube on the bench for a sixth attacker and with an Indians' player in the penalty box, defenceman Dylan King tied it for the Thunderbirds.

Not to be denied in the OT, Yearsley scooped up a loose puck and went in on a breakway to beat Dube for the game winner.

"We'll take the two points, that was a tough road game, the Thunderbirds played well," noted Indians' head coach Kevin Cain, whose team crept to within two points of the first-place Sudbury Jr. Wolves with the win.

The Thunderbirds outshot the Indians 34-33 with Brennan Poderzay posting his 13th win of the season.

With a record of 24-13-2 and with 50 points, the Indians are at Big Bear Arena for a pair of games this weekend. The Blind River Beavers provide the opposition on Friday night at 7:00 and the Indians then play host to the North Bay Skyhawks on Saturday night, also at 7:00.

Of note, the Indians' scheduled home game on Sun. Feb. 25 against the Thunderbirds has been changed to Sat. Feb. 24 and will be moved downtown to Pullar Stadium. Game time will be 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Neuvirth wins monthly OHL honor

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the OHL Performers of the Month for January 2007.

Goaltender of the Month
Michal Neuvirth, Plymouth Whalers

Neuvirth posted a 1.29 goals-against average and a 0.960 save percentage in nine games for the Whalers to win the OHL Goaltender of the Month for January.

Neuvirth went 7-1-0-0 and posted three shutouts during the month. He had two of the shutouts in back-to-back games. The first was a 5-0 victory over the Owen Sound Attack on New Years Day and the second was a 3-0 win in London over the Knights on January 5.

Neuvirth’s shutout streak reached 164:18 and was the second longest in Whalers history behind Rob Zepp’s 182:13 streak from January 21-29, 2000. Neuvirth’s final shutout of the month was on January 27, when he made 42 saves to blank Sault Ste. Marie 6-0 and was named first star of the game.

The native of the Czech Republic currently leads the Ontario Hockey League with a .930 save percentage and is second in the league with four shutouts.

'Diggers acquire King at trade deadline

The Alpena IceDiggers (30-12-2) acquired forward Justin King from the South Division's Texas Tornado late last night.

Terms of the deal were not available.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound forward played in all 45 Tornado games this season scoring 16 goals and adding 16 assists for 32 points while complying 98 penalty minutes. King was currently second on the Tornado in scoring this season before Alpena obtained his rights.

This was the only move head coach Kenny Miller made at the NAHL trade deadline.

"We were looking for a guy that could come in right away and be a piece to the puzzle that will help us down the stretch," said Miller. "He is the type of player that can and will play in key situations and he is capable of playing a physical game and he can score."

The DeWitt native is a four-year veteran with the Tornado where he has helped the club to three straight Robertson Cup championships. In the past 2 1/2 seasons, King has 37 goals, 51 assists for 88 points and a total of 453 penalty minutes.

"Justin knows what it takes to win at this level he has won a championship the last three years," added Miller. "He will step in and help our captains with a leadership role. I am thrilled to have him join our hockey club. He will be welcomed by his new teammates right away."

Miller hopes to have King in Alpena when the IceDiggers play host to the first-place Mahoning Valley Phantoms this Friday and Saturday night.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Berkley's Cloutier makes college choice

The Mahoning Valley Phantoms have announced that forward Dustin Cloutier has accepted a scholarship to play Division I hockey at Bentley College this coming fall.

In 34 games this season, Cloutier leads the Phantoms in scoring with 50 points, ranking him ninth in the NAHL.

Cloutier, who plans to study business at Bentley, said, "I wanted to be in a situation where I can jump right in and make an impact. The players are great and I look forward to joining them next season."

Cloutier's eight game-winning goals leads the league and his five shorthanded goals rank second. His 27 total goals are tied for second in the NAHL. Cloutier is averaging 1.47 points per game, good for third, and has 36 even-strength points, which places him fifth.

Cloutier is the fifth current Phantom to commit to an NCAA Division I program for the upcoming season. He joins goaltender Ryan Zapolski (Mercyhurst), left wing Chris Fairbanks (Alabama-Huntsville), right wing Nathan Longpre (Robert Morris) and right wing Alden Hirschfeld (Miami).

Cloutier said he has improved certain parts of his game and continues to work on other skills in preparation for the college game.

"My confidence really came around this season and I stopped worrying about making mistakes," Cloutier said. "That allowed me to work on my skating, especially away from the puck. I still want to improve my skating and my play in the defensive zone."

Cloutier is the son of Greg and Bonni Cloutier of Berkley. Greg played college hockey at Western Michigan University.

"My parents and coaches were a very big help in putting myself in a position to make this decision," Cloutier said.

Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said it was a matter of finding the right fit for Cloutier.

"Dustin has been patient in his approach and it is nice to see it pay off for him," he said.

"We educate the players that when you work hard, scouts notice," Mainhardt said. "With that, came the confidence and comfort in Dustin?s game and surroundings. Now he's realizing the benefits of hard work."

Cloutier becomes the fifth Phantom headed to Bentley. He will join current sophomore center Anthony Canzoneri, sophomore defenseman Casey Russell, freshman left wing Marc Menzione and freshman defenseman Mark Zarbo.

IceDiggers host Phantoms this weekend

After a weekend where the Alpena IceDiggers (30-13-2) finished with a 1-2 record, the second-place club will now turn their attention to this weekend when they play host to division-leading Mahoning Valley (34-10-1).

Friday and Saturday's contests start at 7:00 p.m. at Northern Lights Arena. The Phantoms hold a seven-point lead on Alpena in the North Division standings. The two clubs have played 45 games and both teams have 17 games remaining in the regular season before the post-season begins in early April.

"We hit a bump in the road last week," Alpena coach Kenny Miller said. "This weekend will be a chance for us to see what we are made of. The Phantoms are arguably the best team in the NAHL and we are looking forward to the challenge of the games at hand."

The IceDiggers played shorthanded last weekend as forward Justin Stadler missed two games with an injury. Miller expects Stadler to play this weekend if he is cleared by team doctors. Alpena native Erik Peterson missed Friday and Saturday's games due to personal reasons, but he will be in the lineup for Friday's game.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Rangers head to Alpena tonight

The Marquette Rangers hit the road this morning, traveling to this weekend’s series against the Alpena IceDiggers.

The Rangers have won five of their last nine games and have gone into overtime twice, improving their overall record to 16-21-4.

“The team did a great job against a good hockey club (last) Friday (in beating Alpena)," head coach Randy Enders said. "We wanted to go out work hard, limit their opportunities, and finish on ours; that’s what the guys did. Our power-play needed to score and it did, our penalty kill needed to challenge their power play and it killed off eight out of nine and above all, we needed to be gritty and tough and that’s what happened in the third. The line of (Nick) Kosinski, (James) Gallagher and (Chris) Smith came through again, along with a good performance by Matt Brooker in the net.

“Weekend series against Alpena are always exciting. We’ve prepared all week and are ready to play against a team that we’re building a good rivalry with. Our guys know what we need to do be successful and it’s just a matter of learning to be consistent. We had a great game Friday and there is nothing that leads me to believe we can’t expect to see that again this weekend. We have had many close games and they are always hard-fought ones. We will look to build on the things that were successful against them last weekend in our Friday night win and eliminate the mistakes that hurt us on Saturday."

Brodie Zuk continues to lead the Rangers in scoring with 37 points in 37 games played with Kosinski barely trailing with the same total, but in 41 games. Neeco Belanger has amassed 30 points, while Nic Weight and Jake Hauswirth each have 22.

Next weekend, the Rangers host Traverse City for a three-day weekend series. The games Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. will lead up to the Pigs-N-Heat charity game and skating with the Rangers Sunday at 1 p.m. Youth hockey players wearing their team jersey will receive free admission into the game and can skate with the Rangers immediately following. Half of all ticket sales will go toward the Pigs-N-Heat organization as well as 100 percent profit from a silent auction that will contain items such as an Alexander Ovechkin autographed picture, Steve Yzerman official autographed jersey, Brett Favre autographed helmet, items from Richardson jewelers and much more.

Whalers, IceDiggers both lose Thursday

The Plymouth Whalers and Alpena IceDiggers both lost in games played Thursday night.

Plymouth got just a goal from James Neal in a 5-1 loss at Sarnia. Michal Neuvirth stopped 28 shots in net. The Whalers, still in first place in the OHL's West Division, host Erie tonight.

Alpena, meanwhile, was blanked, 3-0, at home by the U.S. Under-17 Team. Shawn Hunwick made 25 saves for the IceDiggers, who start a two-game series at home with Marquette tonight.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Indians topple Beavers Wednesday

The Soo Indians ended the month of January on a winning note to remain in second place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League with 48 points, just two points back of the pacesetting Sudbury Kal Tire Jr. Wolves.

Wednesday at Big Bear Arena, the Indians cooled off the Blind River Beavers, 5-2. Scott Pulak had a pair of goals and Nick Zilka, Mike Connolly and Ky Moje also scored for the Indians, who halted a two-game losing streak.

The Indians led 1-0 after the first period and 4-0 after the second. Pulak clinched the game with an empty net goal late in the third after Jon Drake and Anthony Libonati had scored for Blind River.

Brennan Poderzay made 29 saves for the Indians, who now have a 6-4 record since Kevin Cain took over as head coach, including 3-0 on home ice.

"We played okay, not great, but well enough to win," Cain said evenly. "We've got some things to work on."

The Indians don't play again until Feb. 7 when they play the crossiver Soo Thunderbirds at John Rhodes Community Centre in the Canadian Sault.

Photo by Mike Burrill

IceDiggers host three this weekend

Another big weekend awaits the Alpena IceDiggers (29-11-2) as they host three games this weekend starting on Thursday versus the USA Under-17 team at 7:00 p.m.

The IceDiggers defeated USA on Sunday afternoon by a score of 6-1. Ben Kitzmiller led the way offensively with three goals in recording his first Junior A hat trick.

On Friday, the Marquette Rangers (16-21-4) come to town for a rematch of last weekends home-and-home series. Last Friday, Marquette beat Alpena 5-3; it was Alpena's first loss against the expansion club this season. Saturday night in Alpena, the IceDiggers knocked off Marquette 3-1. Mike Jarboe earned the win in net making 31 saves. Face off for Friday's game is at 7:00 p.m.

Alpena and Marquette will wrap up the two game set on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena with a special 7:30 p.m. start time.

"We're faced with three games again this weekend," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "We'll need to be at our best in order to come away with the six points that are on the line. The good thing is we are at home in front of our fans where we've had success this season."

Alpena is currently five points behind first-place Mahoning Valley with one game in hand. Marquette holds the third place position in the standings one point ahead of Traverse City (15-24-5). USA sits in fifth place in the North Division, three points out of the final playoff spot.

The IceDiggers have 20 games remaining in the regular season with 11 of those coming at Northern Lights Arena.