Monday, April 30, 2007

Trio of IceDiggers commit to D-III schools

Three players from this year's Alpena IceDiggers team have committed to play college hockey at the Division III level next season.

Ricardo Yesue committed to Wisconsin-River Falls (NCHA) early last week, Korey O'Brien will be heading to Wisconsin-Stevens Point (NCHA) and Chris Hendrickson is going home to Finlandia, last season's MCHA champion, in the Upper Peninsula.

"Ricardo is the ultimate team player and it has been a pleasure to coach him the last three seasons," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "I am confident he will carry his leadership skills to the college level.

"Korey is very offensive and should be a impact player at the college level. Chris came in last year and made an impact right away and that carried over into this season where he was a top four defensemen the entire season."

With the three signings, the total number of commitments is at nine from this year's club. Others attending school next season are Todd Rudasill (Ohio State), Drew Pierson (Army), Eric Roman (Wayne State) and Chad Billins (Ferris State in 2008). Shawn Hunwick and Justin Stadler have committed to new Division III school Adrian as well.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

R.I.P. my friend

Sadly, hockey photographer Richard Long passed away April 23 at the too-young age of 56.

He will be missed.



(Photo by Walt Dmoch)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Alpena tenders defenseman Gulch

The Alpena IceDiggers announced today that defenseman JC Gulch has signed a tender contract for the 2007-2008 season.

Gulch has spent the past two seasons with the Toledo Cherokee of the CSHL, the Junior B affiliate of the IceDiggers. During this past season, Gulch led Cherokee defensemen in scoring with 11 goals and 33 assists for a total of 44 points in 43 games. In the postseason, the Temperance native dressed in all six games tallying a goal and two assists for three points.

"JC was a top defensemen in the CSHL last year and will be a solid guy on the blue line for us," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller. "He has the ability to be a stay-home defenseman and also contribute in the offensive end as well."

The 18-year-old visited Alpena during the regular season and made his choice to join the IceDiggers shortly after.

"JC had teams in the NAHL showing interest in him and we're happy he decided on Alpena," added Miller. "He will be a big part of our hockey club."

Gulch's teammate with the Cherokee, Tyler Pilmore, also signed to play in Alpena next season. Gulch joins Pilmore, Dan Pason (Little Caesars AAA) and Jonathon Puskar (Compuware AAA) as newcomers for the 2007-2008 season.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Plymouth tops London, off to OHL finals


Game 1 - Plymouth 5 at London 1
Game 2 - at Plymouth 5, London 1
Game 3 - Plymouth 5 at London 2
Game 4 - London 5 at Plymouth 2
Game 5 - Plymouth 4 at London 1
(Plymouth wins series, 4-1)

Photo of (l-r) OHL Vice-President Ted Baker, Mike Patterson, Senior Manager, Sports & Sponsorship for Rogers Television and Plymouth captain Steve Ward with the Wayne Gretzky Trophy by Claus Andersen

Neuvirth, Mursak named to All-Rookie Team

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the Rookie All-Star Teams for the 2006-07 regular season.

First Team:

Centre: Sam Gagner, London Knights
Left Wing: Kaspars Daugavins, Toronto St. Michael’s Majors
Right Wing: Patrick Kane, London Knights
Defence: Alex Pietrangelo, Mississauga IceDogs
Defence: Michael Del Zotto, Oshawa Generals
Goaltender: Thomas McCollum, Guelph Storm

Second Team:

Centre: Steven Stamkos, Sarnia Sting
Left Wing: Jiri Tlusty, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Right Wing: Jan Mursak, Saginaw Spirit

Mursak scored 27 goals and 53 assists for 80 points in 62 games this season. The 19-year-old native of Maribor, Slovenia was a first-round pick of the Spirit in the 2006 CHL Import Draft and was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

Defence: Zach Bogosian, Peterborough Petes
Defence: Yannick Weber, Kitchener Rangers

Goalie: Michal Neuvirth, Plymouth Whalers

Neuvirth had a record of 26-8-2-2 record in 41 games this season posting a 2.32 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. The 19-year-old native of Usti Nad Labem, Czech Republic was a first-round pick of the Whalers in the 2006 CHL Import Draft and was a second-round pick of the Washington Capitals at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

Whalers' Brophey ready to sign with Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks are eager to sign Evan Brophey.

"We'll do it today if he wants," said Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon yesterday from Chicago.

"It doesn't matter to me. A big centreman with skill? That's something that we can use."

Perhaps Tallon will bring a pen and a standard three-year NHL entry-level contract to London tonight.

Tallon plans to attend as Brophey's Plymouth Whalers try to finish off the Knights in the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference final.

The rest of the story from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Neuvirth wins weekly OHL honor

Plymouth Whalers goaltender Michal Neuvirth stopped 65 of 67 shots posting a 1.00 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage, while leading the Whalers to back-to-back playoff victories over the London Knights last week to earn OHL Player of the Week honors.

The 19-year-old recorded 29 saves on Friday in the opening game of the Rogers Western Conference Championship Series, which was held in London. Plymouth defeated London 5-1. The following night, Neuvirth made 36 saves in a 5-1 win on home ice. The Whalers are leading the Knights in the best-of-seven series, 3-0.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mancini not coming back to Saginaw

The Saginaw Spirit will not renew the contract of head coach and general manager Bob Mancini.

"We greatly appreciate Bob's efforts and commitment to the franchise and wish him nothing but success in the future," said Spirit owner Dick Garber. "The team and Bob have a philosophical difference on the team's path to future success."

"I want to thank the Saginaw Spirit fans, the community and the organization for my time here in Saginaw," Mancini added.

Mancini just completed the third year of a three-year contract. The Spirit will now begin the process of looking for a new GM. The new GM's duties will include the process of hiring a new head coach for the hockey team.

Spirit veteran head scout Dan Halliburton will coordinate the Spirit's selections in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection in May and the team's European Draft picks in June.

Friday, April 20, 2007


The Ontario Hockey League today announced the results of a preliminary review of an incident which occurred in a game played in London on the 19th of April, 2007 involving the Knights and the visiting Plymouth Whalers Hockey Club.

The incident reviewed was a match penalty for slashing to player Jordan Shine of the London Knights Hockey Club.

Based on such review by the League, it is the position of the League that player Jordan Shine shall be suspended indefinitely pending a completion of the review process.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

North Stars defender off to WSU this fall

Like father, like son.

Traverse City North Stars defenseman Phil Partyka is following in the footsteps of his dad, heading to Wayne State to play hockey for the Warriors next season. Partyka tallied just four assists over 57 contests for Traverse City in 2006-07, but his rock-solid consistency and cerebral presence attracted Division I scouts from around the Midwest.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Partyka, a Washington native. “It’s pretty much everyone’s goal in juniors to get to college, so in that sense it’s pretty satisfying.”

The elder Partyka played baseball at the midtown Detroit university in the 1970s when the school’s nickname was still ‘Tartars.'

“There’s kind of a neat symmetry to it,” said Phil Partyka, who plans to major in accounting.

Wayne State is a member of College Hockey America, a Division I conference featuring schools from Niagara to Alabama. The campus is home to more than 33,000 students and boasts several graduate programs including a law school and medical campus. The Warriors, 12-21-2 last season, play their home games at the Michigan State Fairgrounds on the city’s north side.

“Phil was just as steady as you could ask for this year,” said Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “He was a top-2 defenseman in his consistency all season long. He wasn’t a flashy player, but he was right there every night.”

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Partyka’s size and reach are huge assets, but as Gardiner points out, his academic orientation made Partyka an easy sell to collegiate scouts.

“He’s very committed to the academics,” Gardiner said. “He’s quiet compared to most guys in the locker room, but you get to know him just a little bit and you find out that he’s a smart, funny guy. He’s a great kid and everyone here is very happy for him to get the chance to play on.”

Partyka says that his seasons with Bay State (2005-06) and Traverse City gave him a look at varied facets of the game that should prepare him for the rigors of Division I college hockey.

“At Bay State, the EJ (eastern Junior Hockey League) it was more of a finesse game,” the 21-year old explained. “And then to come here with a more physical style that the North American league affords, I got to be around two very different styles. Hopefully, I can take a little bit of what I learned at each stop to the next level.”

With Partyka at WSU, the North Stars will have at least six alums playing Division I college hockey next season, and as many as 12 at NCAA and ACHA programs overall. Patrick Nagorsen and Travis Paeth are set to play for Western Michigan in the fall, Steven Oleksy will be a junior at Lake Superior State, Danny Dries has committed to New Hampshire and Eric Elmblad will begin his sophomore campaign at Michigan.

Kory Kaunisto could take his game to Northern Michigan for 2007-08, but is leaning toward returning to the North Stars for another year of juniors. Nick Von Bokern and Mike Glaesmer have also taken visits to and from numerous schools, with signings imminent for both, according to Gardiner.

“With those guys and the guys we have at Division III schools and ACHA schools, it’s a pretty darn good start for a two-year old franchise,” he remarked.

Saginaw native Kennedy commits to RPI

St. Louis Bandits defenseman John Kennedy has committed to RPI for the upcoming fall.

Kennedy, an assistant captain with the Bandits, had three goals and 13 assists during the regular season.

“I’m not sure if we have ever had anyone as deserving for this opportunity than John," said Bandits coach-GM Jon Cooper. “He is a class act both on and off the ice and has been a great role model in the community.”

“I am honored to go to such a prestigious school that excels both academically and athletically," the 19-year-old Saginaw native said. "I want to thank the Bandits organization for helping this dream come true."

Kennedy is the ninth Bandit to commit to a Division I school this season.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Saginaw makes formal Memorial Cup bid

The Saginaw Spirit Memorial Cup delegation presented their bid for the 2008 CHL Memorial Cup today to the Memorial Cup Host Site Selection Committee.

The host site for the 2008 Memorial Cup will be announced the week of May 7.

The Spirit delegation included Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin, VP of operations Cameron Knowles and VP of sales Brian Prout. The delegation also included Saginaw County Convention and Visitors Bureau president & CEO Annette Rummel and director of tourism Lori Amo. Dow Event Center GM Zane Collings also participated.

“The presentation was flawless,” stated Goslin. “Cameron, Brian, Annette, Lori and Zane hit on all cylinders. The presentation did nothing but enhance our opportunity to host the 2008 Memorial Cup in Saginaw. It's still a long shot (for Saginaw to host the event), but we put our best foot forward in representing the Saginaw and Mid-Michigan community.”

Goslin highlighted the future growth of the OHL into the American marketplace and the impact a Saginaw-based Memorial Cup would have on that growth. Knowles followed with an overview of the demographics and geographic environment of the region and then Rummel discussed the many travel, lodging and entertainment options available in Mid-Michigan. Collings highlighted the Dow Event Center and its three first-class facilities – the arena, the hall and the theater.

Goslin closed the presentation with a preview of next year's Spirit roster and invited the committee to join the Saginaw community in 2008 for the Memorial Cup.

The voting members of the Host Site Selection Committee include former Major League Baseball CEO Paul Beeston, former NHL Director of Central Scouting Frank Bonello, NHL consultant Brian O'Neill and NHL senior VP of hockey operations Jim Gregory.

The Spirit submitted a request to bid on the Memorial Cup on February 5. On March 6, the team was approved by the Host Site Selection Committee to make a formal bid. The other OHL teams bidding on the Memorial Cup are the Kitchener Rangers, London Knights, Oshawa Generals and Sarnia Sting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rangers remove interim tag from Enders

Randy Enders has been named the full-time head coach of the Marquette Rangers.

Enders has served as the interim head coach of the Rangers since late last December and served as an assistant coach before that under former head coach Leigh Mendelson.

"Coach Enders assisted our club during a difficult time and has shown great leadership over the last several months. He has proven to be a quality coach and a quality person," said Rangers GM David Saint-Onge. "Since taking over in late December, Randy rallied our team and put us into the Robertson Cup playoffs. We are appreciative of his effort and results."

"I'm really pleased with the vote of confidence I've received from the organization," Enders said. "This year has been a great experience for me and I've grown a lot as a coach and person. The players really rallied when the change was made and their hard work and effort are a big part of this too. I'll always be grateful to them for that.

“Marquette is a great hockey community and the fans have been very supportive of our efforts and I'm anxious to keep things moving forward."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Brophey runner-up for top OHL overager

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Tyler Donati of the Belleville Bulls is the winner of the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy as the OHL's Top Overage Player for the 2006-07 season.

Donati received 64 points in the voting process, followed by runner-up Evan Brophey of the Plymouth Whalers, who received 50 points. Hunter Tremblay of the Barrie Colts finished third with 20 points.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


The Soo Indians have put a title touch to an improbable first season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

The Indians will represent the NOJHL as league champs at the Dudley Hewitt Cup Central Canada Championships, scheduled for April 24-28 in Iroquois Falls, Ontario.

Purchased by Charles Perdicaro last summer just as the former Northern Michigan Black Bears franchise was about to be mothballed, the all-new Indians eventually had a strong finish to the '06-07 NOJHL regular season, which resulted in them snaring first place on the final night of the schedule.

Then, after a first-round playoff bye, the Indians defeated the North Bay Skyhawks in seven games in the semi-finals before ousting the defending champion Sudbury Kal Tire Jr. Wolves in five games in the finals, culminating with a 5-4 home-ice win at Big Bear Arena on Saturday night.

Trailing 4-3 after two periods, the Indians tied the game early in the third and then won it on Sean Farley's timely tally with just under five minutes to play.

The Indians started to come together with 20 games left in the regular season when Kevin Cain took over as head coach from the fired Jim Capy. Under Cain's steady hand, the Indians posted a 14-6 record, including a 9-2 mark down the stretch to vault from third place to first.

"The best move I ever made as owner of this team was the day I decided to make the coaching change and to bring Kevin aboard," Perdicaro said evenly.

On a team without stars, the Indians do have leaders, including former Black Bears Farley, Isaac Viau, Pete Landem and J.D. King.

Farley is the team's main goal-scoring threat, Viau, the captain is all about hustle and desire, Landem is arguably the Indians' top defenceman and King, a defender, is one of the more-popular players in the dressing room.

In winning the NOJHL title, the Indians did so with a top-notch goaltending tandem of Elliott Hogue and Brennan Poderzay. Hogue is another holdover from the Northern Michigan franchise.

"We are who we are because we work hard and play as a team," said Cain, who gets considerable help behind the bench from assistants Al DiPasquo and Warren Lavoy.

Whalers down Kitchener, off to West finals


Game 1 – at Plymouth 6, Kitchener 5 (OT)
Game 2 - Plymouth 3 at Kitchener 2
Game 3 - at Plymouth 5, Kitchener 4 (OT)
Game 4 - at Kitchener 4, Plymouth 2
Game 5 - at Plymouth 4, Kitchener 1
(Plymouth wins series, 4-1)

Friday, April 13, 2007

IceDiggers to applaud fans Sunday

With the Alpena IceDiggers' season coming to an end last night in Ann Arbor, the IceDiggers staff is planning a skate with the team event and a pizza party for any fans wanting to see their favorite player off before he heads home to began the offseason.

Fans are encouraged to bring their skates to skate with the team. Skate rental will also be available at no charge.

The event will take place at Northern Lights Arena on Sunday with a FREE public skate session with the players from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m, and after the skate there will be pizza and refreshments for everyone in attendance in the Thunder Bay Recreation Center.

"This is a way for our great fans who have supported us all year long to get a chance to say goodbye to their favorite player before the guys leave for the summer," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller.

The game jersey auction will also end following the get together. Anyone interested in bidding on these game-worn jerseys can email VP/GM Bob Krafft at or call the main office at (989) 356-9812. There are plenty of jerseys to bid on.

Neuvirth runner-up as top OHL goalie

Plymouth Whalers goaltender Michal Neuvirth finished second in this season’s Ontario Hockey League goaltender of the year voting, behind London goaltender Steve Mason.

Neuvirth, a second-round pick (34th overall) of the Washington Capitals, compiled a 2.32 goals-against average and led the OHL during the regular season with a .932 save percentage. Along with Jeremy Smith, the Whalers led the OHL in team defense this season in allowing 173 goals over 68 games.

Mason posted an impressive 45-13-1-3 record, along with a 3.20 goals against average and a .914 save percentage, in 62 games this season. Mason was instrumental in leading the Knights to their fourth consecutive Hamilton Spectator Trophy, along with the teams fourth consecutive Holody Trophy Midwest Division Championship. Mason’s 45 regular season wins is a new OHL record amongst goaltenders.

Mason received 76 points in the voting process, followed by Neuvirth, who received 43 points. Thomas McCollum of the Guelph Storm finished third with 28 points.

Rangers and IceDiggers both swept

FIRST ROUND (best of five)

Marquette Rangers vs. Mahoning Valley Phantoms
Game 1- at Mahoning Valley 4, Marquette 1
Game 2 - at Mahoning Valley 6, Marquette 2
Game 3 - Mahoning Valley 6 at Marquette 2
(Mahoning Valley wins series, 3-0)

USNTDP vs. Alpena IceDiggers
Game 1 - USNTDP 5 at Alpena 4
Game 2 - USNTDP 3 at Alpena 2
Game 3 - at USNTDP 5, Alpena 3
(USNTDP wins series, 3-0)

Saginaw's Mursak inks with Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have announced the signing of Saginaw Spirit forward Jan Mursak to a three-year entry level contract.

Mursak was drafted by the Red Wings in the sixth round, 182nd overall, of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Mursak is expected to return to the Spirit next season. He tallied 27 goals and 53 assists (80 points) in his rookie season with the Spirit and was plus-27. He also set a new Spirit consecutive point streak record with at least one point scored in 22 consecutive games.

Mursak has the distinction of setting that record in his first 22 games in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Maribor, Slovenia native came to the Spirit via the 2006 CHL Import Draft.

Indians can win NOJHL title at home

The Soo Indians are in position to win the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League title on home ice.

Leading the best-of-seven NOJHL championship series three games to one, the Indians will play host to the defending champion Sudbury Jr. Wolves on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Big Bear Arena.

Sudbury forced Saturday's game five with a 5-2 home-ice win over the Indians on Thursday night.

Defenceman Jacob Johnston scored a pair of goals to spark the Sudbury attack. Nick Zilka and Austin Brown replied for the Indians, who got a 32-save outing from goalie Elliot Hogue.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pyatt named OHL's most sportsmanlike

The Ontario Hockey League announced Wednesday that Saginaw Spirit center Tom Pyatt has been named the Most Sportsmanlike Player and winner of the William Hanley Trophy for the 2006-07 season.

The winner is selected by the league's general managers.

“We are very thrilled for Tom,” stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini. “It's a tremendous credit to him as a player and speaks to his ability, his competitiveness and his sense of fair play. Our entire organization is very happy for Tom.”

Pyatt tallied 43 goals and 38 assists (81 points) and was plus-33. He was the team's goal leader and point leader during the season, and broke Spirit single season records in goals, shorthanded goals (6) and plus/minus. Pyatt notched 94 goals and 106 assists (200 points) in his four-year, 240-game Spirit career.

The Thunder Bay, Ontario native represented Saginaw at the 2006 OHL All-Star Classic, being named the Western Conference Most Valuable Player, and the 2007 OHL All-Star Classic, being named the captain of the Western Conference. He participated in the 2005 and 2006 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge and won gold medals with Team Canada at the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships.

Pyatt joined the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack following the conclusion of the Spirit postseason. The Wolf Pack is the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, who drafted Pyatt in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Pyatt received 45 points in the voting process, followed by Logan Couture of the Ottawa 67’s and Dustin Jeffrey of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who both received 27 points. Daniel Ryder of the Plymouth Whalers finished third in voting with 25 points.

The Most Sportsmanlike Player award and William Hanley Trophy has been previously awarded to Brampton's Wojtek Wolski (2005-06) and Sault Ste. Marie's Jeff Carter (2004-05). The trophy is presented by the OHL to commemorate William Hanley, former Secretary-Manager of the Ontario Hockey Association for over 25 years.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Indians one win from NOJHL title

RR Media Service

Only one win stands in the way of a Northern Ontario Junior A Hockey League playoff championship for the Soo Indians.

On Tuesday evening at the Big Bear Arena in Sault Ste. Marie, the Indians drubbed the NOJHL's defending champion Sudbury Junior Wolves 5-2 to take a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven finals.

Game 4 will be played on Thursday night in Sudbury.

The Indians got their goals from five players as Shane Bailey, Joe Larson, Chris Cooper, Isaac Viau and Sean Farley all scored once. Viau's and Farley's goals came when the Indians were shorthanded.

The Indians outshot the Junior Wolves, 43-34, before 222 fans as goalie Elliott Hogue won his third straight game of the series for the surging Soo team.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vellucci wins top OHL coaching honors

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Michael Vellucci of the Plymouth Whalers is the 2006-2007 Matt Leyden Trophy winner as the OHL's Coach of the Year.

Vellucci, a 40-year-old native of Farmington, is a graduate of the Ontario Hockey League having spent three seasons as a defenceman for the Belleville Bulls. Vellucci guided the Whalers to an impressive 49-14-2-3 record this season, the most wins in his Ontario Hockey League coaching career, while capturing the Bumbacco Trophy West Division Championship for the second consecutive year. Vellucci has coached the Whalers for the past six seasons and has an overall coaching record of 228-124-38-18.

Some past winners of the Matt Leyden Trophy include: Dale Hunter, Brian Kilrea, Craig Hartsburg, Jacques Martin, George Armstrong and Terry Crisp.

The Matt Leyden Trophy is voted on by the member teams of the Ontario Hockey League. In a first round of balloting, teams vote for the top coaches, within their own conference. The top three nominees from both the Eastern and Western conferences are declared as finalists. A second round of voting is then conducted on a league wide basis where teams vote for any of the six finalists. At no time during the voting can a team vote for their own candidate. Coaches receive five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.

The Matt Leyden Trophy has been awarded annually since 1972, to the Coach of the Year in the Ontario Hockey League. The award is in recognition of the contributions of Matt Leyden, past President of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1965-1967. The Oshawa native was honored as a lifetime member of the OHA in 1972.

Last year, Dave Barr of the Guelph Storm was named the OHL Coach of the Year after guiding the Storm to a 40-24-1-3 record, for 84 points. This was a 27 point increase from the previous season for the Storm and was among the largest improvements in the Ontario Hockey League.
Vellucci received 53 points in the voting process, followed by Mike Kelly of the Mississauga IceDogs with 35 points and Dave Barr of the Guelph Storm with 26 points.

Vellucci is the Ontario Hockey League nominee for the Go RVing Brian Kilrea CHL Coach of the Year Award.

Grand Ledge's Fillinger commits to Ferris State

Mahoning Valley Phantoms right wing Mike Fillinger has accepted a scholarship to play college hockey at Ferris State University.

“I have seven family members who attended Ferris State,” Fillinger said. “My mom went there on a tennis scholarship and my dad graduated there as well. I’m excited to follow in their footsteps and play for a great university.”

Fillinger will know by next month whether or not he will play at Ferris State this fall or in 2008, returning to the Phantoms next season.

“They have been looking at me for some time,” said Fillinger, a Grand Ledge native. “After a recent game in Alpena, (Ferris State) coach (Bob) Daniels wanted to arrange a visit for me. After my visit, they made me an offer.”

“It’s definitely the right fit for Mike and we couldn’t be happier for him,” Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said.

Fillinger becomes the second Phantom this season, the third overall, to head to Ferris State. He joins center Derek Graham, who will play in Big Rapids in 2008, and former Phantom and current Bulldogs’ sophomore defenseman Evan Case.

“Mike has really become a more complete player,” Mainhardt said. “He reads the play well at both ends of the ice.”

In 52 regular season games this season, Fillinger recorded 44 points on 24 goals and 20 assists. Five of his goals were shorthanded, tying him for third in the North American Hockey League with teammates Dustin Cloutier and Nathan Longpre.

Mainhardt said that Fillinger’s skating ability sets him apart from others.

“Mike has learned how to use his speed much more effectively and put himself in situations that only his speed can place him in,” Mainhardt said.

“I’m gradually seeing the ice better as I move with the puck,” Fillinger said. “At the same time, I still need to improve my puck handling skills and my speed with the puck.”

The Phantoms right wing says a national championship is on his mind first and foremost.

“A lot of the players got together Saturday to watch Michigan State win the national championship,” Fillinger said. “We watched them celebrate and thought how great it would be to win one ourselves.”

Monday, April 09, 2007

Plymouth's Boll signs with Blue Jackets

Plymouth Whalers' overage forward Jared Boll signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets over the weekend.

The Whalers did not issue a press release, but the Blue Jackets did.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Indians up two on Sudbury in NOJHL finals

RR Media Service

A pair of huge weekend wins have given the Soo Indians a commanding two-games-to-none lead in their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League title series with the defending champion Sudbury Kal Tire Jr. Wolves.

Playing at home on Saturday night, the Indians began the series with a 4-1 win as Sean Farley scored twice and Sam Yearsley and Pete Landem tallied once apiece. Landem, Austin Brown, Nick Novak, Sean Reid and Jake Russell all turned in stellar blueline performances in front of surprise starter Elliott Hogue, who made 26 saves in the Indians' net.

It was Hogue's first start in almost a month, his last action being the final game of the regular season back on March 10 when the Indians beat the Manitoulin Islanders to clinch first place. And the 20-year old goalie shrugged off the cobwebs to make several timely saves.

The Indians then ventured into hostile territory at Copper Cliff, just outside of Sudbury, on Easter Sunday and cuffed the Jr. Wolves 5-3. Yearsley had a pair of goals, Farley, Ky Moje and Isaac Viau tallied once apiece and Landem had three assists. Hogue made 40 saves for the Indians, who were outshot 43-30.

Jesse Graham scored all three Sudbury goals -- all on the power play.

"Now it's the next game that is key, we have the home-ice advantage and we're up two games. It's up to us to keep going what we've started. We're very aware of what Sudbury has and that it takes four games to win a series, not two. We need two more wins, one at a time, before I'll get really excited," said Indians' head coach Kevin Cain, in his usual ho-hum fashion.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is set for Big Bear Arena in the Michigan Soo on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Indians eliminate Skyhawks, off to NOJHL finals

The Soo Indians advanced to the NOJHL finals with a 5-3 Game 7 win over the North Bay Skyhawks last night at Big Bear Arena.

The two teams traded first-period goals with Sam Yearsley scoring a late power-play goal for the Indians.

Scott Pulak, captain Isaac Viau, Austin Brown and Mike Connolly added goals in the second period for the Soo.

Both teams were held off the scoresheet in the third period.

Brennan Poderzay (pictured) made 40 stops in the Soo net.

Next up for the Indians is a best-of-seven with the Sudbury Jr. Wolves. Game 1 is tomorrow night at Big Bear Arena at 7 p.m. Sudbury hosts Game 2 Sunday night at 7 p.m.

IceDiggers add Puskar for '07-08 season

The Alpena IceDiggers have signed Jonathan Puskar to a tender for the 2007-2008 season.

The Canton native spent the 2006-2007 campaign with the Compuware midget major team in the Midwest Elite Hockey League.

"Jon played with Jimmy McCusker at Compuware last year, so when we offered him the tender it didn't take long for him to decide Alpena was the place he wanted to play juniors," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward led Compuware in every statistical category scoring 33 goals while adding 42 assists for a total of 75 points in 61 games played.

"We have added a hard-working kid that has the ability to score goals," added Miller. "He scored goals in midgets and I think he will at junior level as well."

Puskar becomes the third player this season to sign a tender for next year, joining Tyler Pilmore (Toledo Cherokee Junior B) and Dan Pason (Little Caesars AAA).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Whalers, Spirit recognized in Coaches Poll

Tom Sestito, Evan Brophey, James Neal, Jared Boll and Dan Collins are all recognized in the annual OHL Western Conference Coaches Poll for the Plymouth Whalers, while Nigel Williams, Patrick McNeill, Ryan O'Marra and Cody Bass get mention for the Saginaw Spirit.

Alpena defenseman Billins commits to FSU

The Alpena IceDiggers announced Wednesday that rookie defensemen Chad Billins has committed to Ferris State for the 2008-2009 season.

Billins is in his first year of junior hockey and tallied seven goals and assisted on 18 others for a total of 25 points in 62 regular season games this year.

"I am very excited to be going to Ferris," said Billins. "Coach (Bob) Daniels and his entire staff were very professional during my visit and my family and I can't thank them enough."

The Marysville native becomes the fourth IceDigger this season to commit to a Division I school joining Todd Rudasill (Ohio State), Drew Pierson (Army) and Eric Roman (Wayne State).

Billins will play one more year of juniors before making the jump to the college level and Alpena head coach Kenny Miller is happy about that situation.

"I am really happy for Chad and his family," said Miller. "He has earned this scholarship and he has improved as a player everyday. Our main goal as an organization is to move these kids on and when you can do that and get that player for another year, that is an added bonus."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Three Saginaw skaters off to AHL teams

The Saginaw Spirit announced today that several players have left Saginaw to play in the American Hockey League.

Tom Pyatt and Tomas Zaborsky have left to play with the Hartford Wolf Pack and Cody Bass has left to play with the Binghamton Senators. Hartford is the New York Rangers' affiliate and Binghamton is the Ottawa Senators' affiliate.

“We as an organization are very proud of these three young men and wish them the best of luck with their AHL teams,” stated Spirit coach-GM Bob Mancini.

IceDiggers to honor host families Saturday

On Saturday night during the first intermission of Game 1 of the NAHL playoffs between the Alpena IceDiggers and the USA Under-17 team, the IceDiggers will honor the team's host families at center ice.

Each member of the team will lead their host family to the middle of the ice to be recognized by everyone in attendance at the first-ever home playoff game for the IceDiggers since joining the NAHL in 2004.

"Without these fine folks, IceDigger hockey would not be possible," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "Honoring them is the least we can do. They open their homes to these young men, make them a part of the family and we truly respect and thank them for that."

The following host families will be in attendance for Saturday's game: Dr. Robert and Nancy Coombs, Mark and Robin Birmingham, Tom and Judy Sommerfeld, Mike and Norma Agius, Tim and Kay Sayre, Dr. Eric and Joanie Cornish, Bill and Arlene Peterson, Al and Mary Wirgau, Peggy Levren, Tom and Lisa Hilberg, John and Marie Fisher, Dave and Terri Dziubinski, Ray and Theresa Henry, Tom and Debbie Van Massenhove, Marie Tulgestka, Milt and Colleen Clark, Tom and Peggy Marzean and Bob and Sue Krafft.

The IceDiggers will also honor second-year housing director Donna Baranyai as Miller will also lead her to center ice along with the host families.

"Donna and I have worked together since I came her two years ago and she has helped me tremendously," added Miller. "She makes my job easier and words can't express how grateful I am."

Indians home for deciding Game 7

The Soo Indians and North Bay Skyhawks are going to a Game 7.

Tuesday night in North Bay, the Skyhawks evened the best-of-seven Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League semifinal series at three games apiece with a 3-1 win over the Indians.

The loss capped a tough day for the Indians, whose charter bus broke down in Sudbury. After a two-hour delay, the Indians arrived in North Bay on a school bus at 7:15 -- just 15 minutes before the scheduled game time. The Indians hurriedly unloaded the bus, dressed and had a brief warmup before the game got underway at about 8:15 p.m.

"It's down to one game now and we'll be at home and in a seventh game, anything can happen," said Indians' coach Kevin Cain. "It's been a tough, hard-fought series and no one should be surprised that it's going to a seventh game."

Thursday's game will be played at 7 p.m. at Big Bear Arena in the Michigan Soo.

Saginaw doles out awards at annual banquet

The Saginaw Spirit hosted their fifth annual awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Dow Event Center. Players were recognized by their teammates, staff members and fans for their on-ice and off-ice contributions to the 2006-07 season.

Below are the award winners, voted on by the players and staff, for the 2006-07 season.

The Heart and Soul Award was given to Spirit center Cody Bass. The award recognizes a player whose hard work and attitude not only pays results on the ice, but rubs off on his teammates as well.

Winger Ryan Berard won the Community Service Award.

Rookie center Andrew Clouthier was recognized as the Most Improved Player for the 2006-07 season.

Center Tyler Haskins received the Wren Blair Leadership Award, which recognizes a player whose contribution to the team goes above and beyond the score sheet, to include leadership in the locker room and off the ice.

Defenseman and captain Patrick McNeill was named the Top Defenseman for this season.

Spirit winger Jan Mursak was the co-winner of the Fan Favorite Award and was recognized as the Spirit's Rookie of the Year. Mursak, who attends Nouvel Catholic Central High School, also received the Academic Award.

Center Tom Pyatt was this season's leading scorer, team MVP and co-winner of the Fan Favorite Award.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Stadler to help start D-III Adrian program

Alpena IceDiggers forward Justin Stadler has committed to Adrian College for the 2007-2008 season.

"Justin is very excited to be going to Adrian and help jump start their program and I am happy for him," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller. "He will get a chance to play close to home so his parents can attend his games for the next four years."

Adrian will compete for the first time in school history next season at the Division III level and play in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association.

Stadler, a Livonia native, becomes the fourth IceDigger to commit to play college hockey next season joining Todd Rudasill (Ohio State), Drew Pierson (Army) and Eric Roman (Wayne State).

With Stadler attending Adrian, he will join several former IceDiggers who are currently competing in D-III hockey. Dayne Bihn and Kaleigh Schrock are playing at third-ranked Neumann College, while Steve Culbertson (Castleton), Jeff Miller (St. Mary's), Ross Enmark (Curry College), Joe Watson (Utica) and Mitch Sabo (Suffolk) are also at the D-III level.

Whalers advance, Spirit gone in six


Series "B" - PLYMOUTH vs. GUELPH
Game 1 - at Plymouth 3, Guelph 2 (OT)
Game 2 - Plymouth 5 at Guelph 3
Game 3 - at Plymouth 7, Guelph 1
Game 4 - Plymouth 3 at Guelph 2
(Plymouth wins series, 4-0)

Game 1 - at Saginaw 4, Sault Ste. Marie 3
Game 2 - Sault Ste. Marie 5 at Saginaw 1
Game 3 - at Sault Ste. Marie 2, Saginaw 1
Game 4 - at Sault Ste. Marie 5, Saginaw 3
Game 5 - at Saginaw 7, Sault Ste. Marie 1
Game 6 - at Sault Ste. Marie 4, Saginaw 3 (OT)
(Sault Ste. Marie wins series, 4-2)