Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whalers name '06-07 award winners

The Plymouth Whalers held their annual season-ending banquet last night at the Laurel Manor in Livonia and handed out a slew of awards to a handful of players from the 2006-2007 OHL champions.

Scholastic Player of the Year - Joe Gaynor
Grinder of the Year - Joe McCann and Andrew Fournier
Fan Favorite - Tom Sestito

Alice Iafrate Overager of the Year - Jared Boll and Steve Ward
Regular Season Top Scorer - Evan Brophey (36g, 71a, 107pts)
Top Defenseman - Steve Ward
Labatt Blue Collar Player of the Year - Jared Boll
Barbara Karmanos Humanitarian of the Year - Steve Ward
Academic Player of the Year - AJ Jenks
Unsung Hero - Zack Shepley
Most Improved Player - Brett Bellemore
Rookie of the Year - Michal Neuvirth
Regular Season MVP - Tom Sestito
Playoffs Top Scorer - James Neal (13g, 12a, 25pts)
Playoffs MVP - James Neal

All players were in attendance, save for goalie Jeremy Smith, who is at the NHL Combine in Toronto. Smith on Wednesday was also named USA Hockey's Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year after appearing in 34 regular-season contests with the Whalers and posting a 23-6-0-1 record with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He's also the top-rated North American goaltender for the NHL Entry Draft June 22-23.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Traverse City drafts Stephens, Weber

Out with the old, in with the nucleus.

After losing All-NAHL defenseman Nick Von Bokern to the league’s age limit and fellow rearguard Eric Scovill to the University of Wisconsin-Stout, the Traverse City North Stars added a pair of blueliners to the fold last Tuesday through the North American Hockey League’s entry draft.

The third-year club tabbed Blind River (Ont.) defenseman Tyler Stephens in the first round of the draft, and took a chance on all-everything phenom Will Weber of Gaylord High School with the team’s second-round selection.

“We needed to get stronger on defense,” explained Anthony Palumbo after conducting his first draft as TC’s GM. “We have some solid defensemen who are eligible to return (next season), but we wanted to bolster that group as best we could.”

Stephens played for the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Blind River Beavers last year - the same club that seasoned former North Stars standout Jake Erway - scoring thrice and assisting on 11 others in 41 contests. He amassed just 46 penalty minutes over that span, while shoring up the Beavers’ own end of the ice.

“Tyler’s a solid defensive defenseman with offensive skills to boot,” said Palumbo, who tendered offensive-minded blue-liner Phil Wendecker of Livonia Churchill High School on Monday. “He’s got a year of Junior A experience and he’s a solid kid. I’ve known their family for 15 years. He’s also already being scouted by Division I coaches, too.”

Stephens, who prepped at Rockford High School, says he’s been waiting for the draft since his stellar showing at the Toronto Prospects camp in Ontario two weeks ago.

“I’m very excited,” said the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder. “I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I will continue to be a hard worker. I love Traverse City and can’t wait for the June camp. I hope I can contribute to a very successful season up there.”

Weber was the first overall selection by Chicago in the United States Hockey League draft. The Gaylord product was an All-State Dream Team selection, Traverse City Record-Eagle All-Region Dream Team captain and Team Michigan invitee after posting an 18-goal, 20-assist senior campaign. Weber, who has drawn numerous NHL scouts to his prep games, has already committed to the University of Miami of the CCHA and is likely to stick with Chicago in the USHL next year.

However, Palumbo didn’t want to take a chance on Weber opting for another NAHL destination.

“It’s a shot,” Palumbo admitted. “We wanted to be there as an option for the kid. We have a solid program that’s close to his home. We’d love to have him, but so would everyone else. We felt it was worth taking the chance.”

With the two draft picks and seven tenders extended for 2007-08, the North Stars could have as many as nine exclusive-rights newcomers. In addition to Stephens, Weber and Wendecker, the team holds the rights to forwards Eric O’Hearn (Traverse City Central, Soo Indians), Eric McLintock (TC Central, Soo Indians), Sean Burke (TC West), and former North Stars winger Marc Thompson (Soo Indians). Additionally, the club tendered ex-TC Central all-state forward Alex Redmond late Monday. Defenseman Trevor Shively, brother of current TC netkeep Stefan Shively, was the franchise’s first tender of the year.

“We think it’s a pretty solid group,” Palumbo surmised. “We’re excited to get everybody in for the June (tryout) camp to see exactly how they look, and how they work together.”

PIETILA DEALT: Palumbo sent winger Aaron Pietila to Marquette before the draft in exchange for a 2008-09 tender. Pietila, who logged 11 goals and 21 assists in 54 contests for Traverse City last year, will join his cousin with the second-year Rangers.

“Aaron wanted to be with his cousin and he has family up there, so we wanted to help him be where he wanted to be,” Palumbo explained.

Pietila, a Brighton native, also drew interest from some USHL teams, including the Green Bay Gamblers and Tri-City Storm.

Rangers add draft picks, tenders, make trade

The Marquette Rangers concluded a busy day last Tuesday with the signing of seven tenders and two draft picks from the 2007 North American Hockey League draft.

"We're excited about the talent level we were able to bring to our organization" said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. "This has been a long process. We've covered a lot of miles and watched hundreds of players over the past few months and we're confident we've brought in a good group of guys to compete to be a part of our final roster."

Players Tendered:

Ian Andrews - Sheboygan (WI.) H.S./Team Wisconsin, 5' 10" 170 lb. forward
Finalist for player of the year in Wisconsin. A smooth skating forward who put up impressive numbers in his senior season of high school. Andrews scored 35 goals and registered 31 assists in just 22 games for the Red Raiders. A team player and all-around competitor, he was also a three time captain. He led team in both scoring and blocked shots.

Josh Bussell - Detroit Honeybaked Midget AAA, 5' 10" 180 lb. forwardTied for his team's scoring leadership, finished 11th overall in league scoring. A hard-working gritty forward with big point ability, led his midget team to the national quarterfinals.

Kyle Jean - Soo Indians Midget AAA, 6'2" 190 lb. forward
A big, strong highly skilled forward who is able to score and control play in front of the net. Jean provides good size and a solid presence not common in the NAHL. Has the potential to produce high numbers on special teams.

Josh Kesler - Victory Honda Midget AAA, 6' 3" 180 lb. forward
A forward who skates very well, is an all-around solid forward capable of immediate impact in the NAHL. He is a developing forward that has a huge upside as shown in being a draft pick in the recent USHL draft. Kesler scored six goals and 12 assists for 18 points last season in MWEHL play.

Kevin Kranker - Lake Orion (MI.) H.S., 5' 9" 170 lb. forward
All State First team forward. Kranker finished in the top five in both goals scored and assists on a team that finished in the state quarter-finals. Also played for the Metro Jets of the CSHL. A speedy playmaker that is not afraid to get physical. A great team player with a "first on the ice, last off" attitude.

Tyler Matthews - Buffalo Junior Sabres OPJHL, 5' 11" 185 lb. defenseman
A solid all-around defenseman that brings Junior A experience. He moves well in his defensive zone and that allows him to effectively break out the puck. He is also not afraid to play the body and be a physical presence on the ice.

Collin Saint-Onge - Marquette Electricians Midget AAA, 6' 1" 170 lb. forward
A former Marquette Electrician that skates with good top end speed. His speed will play a major part to create scoring chances. He will be able to add depth at the forward position and his size and strength will be a positive factor in his play. He led the Electricians in scoring last year with 17 goals and 35 assists for 52 points.

Drafted Players:

Garrett Ladd, Detroit Victory Honda Midget AAA, 5' 10" 170 lb. forward
Ladd is a good skating, sure-handed forward with very good puck skills. Plays as an all around forward who's good in his own end as well as offensively. He scored two goals and 11 assists in 24 MWEHL games.

Anthony Leone, Detroit Honeybaked Midget AAA, 5' 9" 190 lb. defenseman
Leone was captain of a national quarterfinal team. A smart, mobile defenseman who plays well in his own end will add depth and compliment the returning defensive corps. Ended season with five goals and 19 assists for 24 points, finished +9 and registered 58 penalty minutes.

The Rangers have also obtained Aaron Pietila through a trade with North Division rival Traverse City. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward played in 54 games for the North Stars last season finishing in a fourth place tie in team scoring with 32 points on 11 goals and 21 assists. The Brighton native previously played one season for the Cleveland Barons of the NAHL and participated in the Robertson Cup championship round with the club in 2005 – 2006. Pietila is a tough, well rounded forward with good skating ability, and will be a solid contributor offensively. He's a proven point producer at the Junior A level and will immediately be an impact player.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Whalers bounced in Memorial Cup semis

Friday, May 18
Game #1: Vancouver Giants 4, Plymouth Whalers 3 (OT)

Saturday, May 19
Game #2: Lewiston MAINEiacs 3, Medicine Hat Tigers 1

Sunday, May 20
Game #3: Vancouver 2, Lewiston 1

Monday, May 21
Game #4: Medicine Hat 4, Plymouth 1

Tuesday, May 22
Game #5: Plymouth 2, Lewiston 1 (OT)

Wednesday, May 23
Game #6: Medicine Hat 1, Vancouver 0

Thursday, May 24
Tie Breaker Game - Plymouth 5, Lewiston 1

Friday, May 25
Semifinal Game - Vancouver 8, Plymouth 1

Sunday, May 27
MasterCard Memorial Cup Championship Game
Vancouver 3, Medicine Hat 1

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Michigan teams take part in NAHL Draft

The North American Hockey League has announced the results of the two-round 2007 NAHL Entry Draft, which was conducted on Tuesday afternoon.

The three Michigan teams particpated.

Alpena (traded to Wichita Falls)
Alpena (traded to Kenai River)

Marquette - Garrett Ladd, F, Victory Honda
Marquette - Anthony Leone, D, Honeybaked

Traverse City - Tyler Stephens, D, Blind River
Traverse City - Will Weber, D, Gaylord HS

Hunwick spurns Adrian, chooses Michigan

Alpena IceDiggers' goalie Shawn Hunwick has committed to play goal for the Michigan Wolverines this upcoming season.

The Sterling Heights native will carry the Hunwick name for another four years at the university. Shawn's older brother, Matt, just finished his senior season as Michigan's captain.

Hunwick, 20, spent this season in Alpena compiling a record of 17-9-2 with one shutout in 31 games played.

"Shawn deserves the chance to play at the D-I level," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "He is a hard-working kid that will compete everyday in practice. He is very excited about this chance and I am happy for him and his family."

Hunwick joins Todd Rudasill (Ohio State), Eric Roman (Wayne State), Drew Pierson (Army) and Chad Billins (Ferris State in '08) as members of the 2006-2007 season to commit to Division I programs.

Hunwick originally committed to D-III Adrian before deciding on Michigan.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Traverse City tenders forward, defenseman

The Traverse City North Stars gave up 49 more goals last season than any other club in the North American Hockey League and that will be a point of focus heading into Tuesday’s NAHL Draft.

In the interim, the team tendered a pair of players on Monday, laying claim to the rights to slick-skating defenseman Phil Wendecker and original North Stars forward Marc Thompson.

“To lead the league in goals-against, we know we have to add more support on the back end,” said Stars GM Anthony Palumbo. “We’ll be looking at defensemen and maybe some goaltending in order to address that. In general, we need to find a couple of kids who can come in and make an impact.”

The North Stars pick third in the draft, behind Alaska and the expansion Kenai River Brown Bears. The draft, which gets underway at 1 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, is held via teleconference with all 18 NAHL clubs taking part.

The two newest North Stars properties will not be subject to the drafting process. Their rights belong to Traverse City and no other NAHL club can select them.

Wendecker starred at Livonia Churchill last season, registering 10 goals and assisting on 19 others. His offensive ability may help replace the statistical loss of Nick Von Bokern, the NAHL’s leading scorer among defenseman in 2006-07.

“He’s a skilled, puck-moving defenseman,” said Palumbo. “He is good in his own zone and can really help out with some offense, too.”

Wendecker, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound blueliner, says he’s excited about the chance to try his hand at the next level.

“Obviously, there’ll be an adjustment period, but I’m looking forward to it,” Wendecker said. “Mr. Palumbo came and watched me play, and he seemed very interested, which felt good. Now I have to go out and prove him right.”

Wendecker was a teammate of current Stars defenseman Chris Heineman when the two were members of the IceDogs squirt and pee wee youth teams. He also faced off against league rival Zach Hitch when the TC forward was Mr. Hockey at Brighton High School.

Thompson, on the other hand, was a draft choice of the North Stars in 2005 and spent 15 games in a Stars sweater that season. He played with the Soo (Mich.) Indians of the midget-major Midwest Elite Hockey League last year, recording eight goals and 10 assists in 26 contests.

“Marc really played well at the (May 11-13) pre-draft camp and we took note,” Palumbo explained. “He’s grown physically and is maturing into a very solid hockey player. We think he can contribute right away.”

Thompson played last year with fellow 2007 TC tenders and natives Eric O’Hearn and Eric McLintock.

Tuesday’s draft could net the North Stars – who dealt away some of its draft selections last year - three players, or just two if the club does not expend its final tender. In a new twist, NAHL teams can turn a portion of their tenders into draft picks.

“We’re looking for high-quality players who want to compete – guys with skill, character, and toughness,” Palumbo explained. “It’s hard to find players who have all those qualities, but we think we have a few of them now, and we have our eyes on some guys who do, too.”

Whalers' 2006 draft pick opts for Harvard

Ryan Grimshaw, a 1990-born defenseman, has committed to Harvard for the 2008 season, according to the U.S. Hockey Report.

Grimshaw, from Rochester, N.Y., spent this past season in Ann Arbor playing with the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Prior to moving to Ann Arbor, Grimshaw spent a season prepping at Salisbury Prep, where he played for Harvard coach Ted Donato's brother, Dan (who recently resigned from Salisbury). Grimshaw reportedly selected Harvard over Cornell, Boston University, Michigan and RPI.

Grimshaw was the Plymouth Whalers' 15th-round pick (293rd overall) in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

North Stars deal Foguth, acquire Sauer

The Traverse City North Stars got a little more fleet afoot on Friday, albeit at the expense of some girth.

The team sent prodigious forward John Foguth south, trading the Fenton native to the Wichita Falls Wildcats for playmaking winger Joel Sauer.

Sauer (pictured) was tied for third last season among Wildcats scorers with 36 points after appearing in all 62 regular season contests for the Cats.

“We thought John would be a little more in his element in the South Division,” explained Stars GM Anthony Palumbo. “They (Wichita Falls) needed to get a little more rugged, a little tougher, and we know John brings that to the table. We needed a puckhandling, playmaker-type up front and we think that’s what we got with Joel.”

Sauer, 19, netted eight goals and assisted on 28 others, including 13 assists on the power play. The Verona, Wisc. native came on strong toward the end of the 2006-07 campaign, registering six goals over the final 13 contests of the regular season.

Foguth (6-4, 220 pounds), who played 18 games last year for the North Stars after a mid-season trade brought him in from Springfield, had a pair of goals and two assists in TC and three goals and four assists over the entirety of the season. He also logged a combined 148 penalty minutes.

“We lose a little size in the deal, but we also get a great deal of skill with Sauer (5-11, 180),” Palumbo surmised. “I think it was a win-win for both teams.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Alpena tenders Livonia native Yarber

The Alpena IceDiggers have added forward Andy Yarber to their tender list for the 2007-2008 season.

"Andy brings grit to our hockey club and the fans in Alpena will be excited to see this kid's work ethic," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "He is not very big, but he works hard every shift and I except him to do that at the junior level."

The Livonia native spent the 2006-2007 season with the Compuware Ambassadors midgets where he scored four goals and added 10 assists in 26 league games.

Yarber joins Compuware teammate Jon Puskar, Tyler Pilmore and JC Gulch (Toledo Cherokee) and Dan Pason (Little Caesars) as players who have signed tenders for the '07-08 season.

Yarber's signing means he will reunite with former Ambassador and current IceDigger forward Jimmy McCusker next season.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Kochan named assistant coach with Rangers

Former NHL and Northern Michigan University goaltender Dieter Kochan has been named assistant coach for the Marquette Rangers.

Kochan replaces Adrian Fure, who is leaving the area to pursue professional interests outside hockey.

The one-time NMU Wildcat is happy to be back in a hockey town, one with a very loyal following to the sport.

"This is a smart hockey town," Kochan said. "The fans here were great to play in front of; they know the game and will support all the hockey programs in Marquette. I'm looking forward to seeing ice in Lakeview Arena this fall and am anxious to coach at this level. To work with goaltenders and share what I've learned will be fun and will benefit all the players donning the Rangers sweater."

"This is just the next step in our evolution as an organization," said Rangers director of hockey operations Rich Tegge. "With the strides we have made as an expansion franchise, adding a quality person like Dieter to compliment our coaching staff will be huge for our players and organization. Dieter’s playing experience and knowledge of the game will be a tremendous asset toward helping our players excel and reach the next level of their careers, be it college or pro.”

The Madison, Wis., native was Vancouver's fourth round selection (98th overall) in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning (including a stint with the IHL's Detroit Vipers) and also spent time in the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders systems and was on the 2002 Calder Cup championship team with Houston in the AHL.

Kochan played at NMU from 1993-1997 under current NCAA champion Rick Comley, who is head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. Kochan is fourth all-time in the NMU record books in both games played (106) and saves (2,797) and is first all-time with five assists in a season and seven assists in a career.

Professionally, Kochan played in 379 games and had a career best season with AHL Bridgeport in 2003-2004, when he went 20-17-7 with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. That season he shared the AHL's Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Trophy with teammate Wade Dubielewicz as the goaltending tandem that had the fewest goals against.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gaylord's Weber goes No. 1 in USHL Draft

USHL Entry Draft – May 15, 2007

1 -Chicago Steel – Will Weber, defenseman, Gaylord High School
2 -Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets – Alden Hirschfield, forward, Mahoning Valley Phantoms
3 -Green Bay Gamblers – Joe Schiller, forward, Detroit Lakes High School
4 -Indiana Ice – Patrick Cullen, forward, Washington Jr. Nationals
5 -Des Moines Buccaneers – Trent Vogelhuber, forward, St. Louis Bandits
6 -Sioux City Musketeers – Adam Hout, defenseman, Los Angeles Jr. Kings
7 -Sioux Falls Stampede – Jack Connolly, forward, Marshall High School
8 -Chicago (from Lincoln Stars) – Aaron Schmit, defenseman, Culver Academy
9 -Tri-City Storm – Mike Cichy, forward, Boston Jr. Bruins
10-Cedar Rapids RoughRiders – Matt Donovan, defenseman, Dallas AAA
11-Omaha Lancers – Donny Harris, defenseman, NW Regulators AAA
12-Waterloo Black Hawks – Drew McKenzie, defenseman, Taft School

Weber is a left shot defenseman that stands 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds and has already committed to Miami University for 2008.

"We are very excited to select Will with our top pick and have him a part of our program for next season, " said Steel GM Jason Koehler. "Our entire staff has had the chance to see him play and all we could say is ‘wow.’ It's hard to find quality defensemen at any level, but we feel we were able to get the best one in the country that will be playing in the USHL out of this draft. Will has seen his stock go through the roof the last few months with junior, college and NHL attention, yet through it all has remained poised and focused for the future. He's physically and mentally tough and will no doubt succeed at the junior level and beyond. Miami really hit a home run with this commitment and we're proud to have him a part of the Steel family."

Players from Michigan teams taken in the draft:
2nd round, 13th overall – Chicago – Andrew Miller, forward, Cranbrook-Kingswood
2nd round, 24th overall – Waterloo – Chad Billins, defenseman, Alpena IceDiggers
3rd round, 32nd overall – Tri-City – Colin Smith, forward, Belle Tire AAA
4th round, 42nd overall – Ohio – Zach Trotman, defenseman, Victory Honda AAA
5th round, 53rd overall – Omaha – Jake Hauswirth, forward, Marquette Rangers
6th round, 61st overall – Chicago – Eric Alexander, forward, East Kentwood High School
6th round, 69th overall – Waterloo – Kory Kaunisto, forward, Traverse City North Stars
9th round, 82nd overall – Lincoln – Mark Silverman, forward, Victory Honda AAA
12th round, 96th overall – Waterloo – Michael Montrose, defenseman, Little Caesars
12th round, 103rd overall – Sioux Falls – Jeff Rohrkemper, forward, Grosse Pointe North High School
13th round, 110th overall – Ohio – Jon Merrill, defenseman, Little Caesars
13th round, 114th overall – Sioux City – Nate Taurence, defenseman, Little Caesars
13th round, 117th overall – Tri-City – A.J. Treais, forward, Little Caesars
14th round, 121st overall – Chicago – Zach Golembiewski, forward, Belle Tire
15th round, 133rd overall – Chicago – Josh Kesler, forward, Victory Honda
16th round, 156th overall – Waterloo – Anthony Schooley, forward, Traverse City North Stars

Monday, May 14, 2007

Neal's heroics give Whalers OHL crown

The Plymouth Whalers are Ontario Hockey League champions.

James Neal’s goal at 3:22 of overtime snapped a 2-2 tie and gives Plymouth a 3-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 5,738 at the Sudbury Community Arena in Game 6 of the OHL Rogers Championship Series. The Whalers eliminated Sudbury in the series, four games to two, and win the J. Ross Robertson Trophy.

Plymouth advances to the Canadian Hockey League’s 2007 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Vancouver, B.C. and will face the host Vancouver Giants this Friday at 9 p.m. EDT in the opening game of the tournament. The game will be broadcast on

The Whalers came from behind to defeat the Wolves. After a scoreless first period, Justin Donati opened the scoring for Sudbury 29 seconds into the second period when he batted home a loose puck past Plymouth goaltender Michal Neuvirth for his team-leading 14th goal of the playoffs.

Plymouth came back to take their first lead of the game in the third period. The Whalers were working on two-man advantage to start the third period and Tom Sestito tied the game with his 11th goal of the playoffs at the 18-second mark of the period when he deflected Neal’s shot from the high slot past Sudbury goaltender Sebastian Dahm. The Whalers took their first lead of the game, again on the power play, when Sean O’Connor tipped Jared Boll’s shot from the left corner past Dahm at 6:15. Sudbury tied the game with a power play goal of their own at 13:25 of the third period when Nick Foligno capped good Sudbury pressure in the Plymouth zone with a one-timer from the hash marks past Neuvirth.

The set the stage for Neal’s goal, which came after Evan Brophey skated the puck from the right faceoff circle behind the Sudbury net and found Neal out in front. Neal made no mistake with a hard shot from the hash marks past Dahm for this team-leading 13th goal of the post season.

Plymouth outshot Sudbury, 43-25, in the game.

Sudbury captain and the OHL's top defenseman, Marc Staal, was named playoffs MVP.

Plymouth’s championship is the second in their 17-year history. The Whalers won the OHL title in 1995 and lost in the finals in 1994, 2000 and 2001.

The Sudbury Star has more on Game 6 HERE.

Photo by Natalie Beauchamp

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Plymouth Whalers are OHL champions!


Game 1 - at Plymouth 4, Sudbury 1
Game 2 - Sudbury 7 at Plymouth 3
Game 3 - at Sudbury 5, Plymouth 4 (OT)
Game 4 - Plymouth 3 at Sudbury 1
Game 5 - at Plymouth 4, Sudbury 3 (OT)
Game 6 - Plymouth 3 at Sudbury 2 (OT)
(Plymouth wins series, 4-2)

Redmond shooting for shot with TC

A couple months ago, Alex Redmond was sitting in his Kalamazoo domicile readying for an exam he was to take the next day.

The Western Michigan University student looked up from his book and had an epiphany.

“I said to myself, ‘What am I doing not playing hockey?’” explained Redmond, a key cog in Traverse City Central Senior High School’s 2005-06 state championship team. “I mean, I went to school to focus on the academics. I know how important that is. But I kind of realized all of a sudden just how much I missed the game.”

Redmond aced the test, then hatched a plan to get back on blades, which brought him to Centre ICE arena this weekend for the Traverse City North Stars’ annual pre-draft tryout camp.

“I wasn’t exactly in playing shape,” admitted Redmond, who drew support from brother Zach, a star defenseman for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League. “I was playing intramurals, but that’s not exactly the kind of hockey that’s going to help prepare you for junior tryouts. So I came into the weekend with a little bit of rust.”

Any such corrosion was either barely visible this weekend, or wore off as the camp went on, according to North Stars general manager Anthony Palumbo.

“Even with a year away from competitive hockey, Alex looked pretty good on Friday,” Palumbo assessed. “From there, he just got better and better each game as the weekend wore on. He’s somebody we’ll definitely want to see again.”

With that in mind, Palumbo and the Stars scouting staff extended Redmond an invitation to the team’s August training camp, from which the final 2007-08 roster will be hewn.

“I’m happy to get that chance,” said Redmond, whose Blue Team skated to a 4-1 win over the White Team in Sunday’s camp-capping finale at Centre ICE. “I know it’s a bit of a stretch to think I can take a year off from hockey and come back and make the North Stars roster, but this is something I really want to do. I talk to Zach all the time about how much fun it is to play juniors.”

Redmond is as decorated as any player in the region’s prep hockey history. He had 34 goals and 53 points over 29 games his senior year, leading the Trojans to a 26-2-1 mark and Traverse City’s first-ever state title. He was named to the state’s Dream Team following the season, the first player from TC in more than 10 years to earn the award, and earned first team All-State and Traverse City Record-Eagle All-Region Dream Team honors.

“That was a great experience,” the 6-foot, 155-pound right winger said of his whirlwind senior season. “I learned a lot – about being unselfish on the ice, about how a tight group of teammates interact – and how those things helped to shape our success.”

For now, Redmond – a Houston native who moved to Michigan at age 3 - will prepare for the August training camp, with the ultimate goal of playing in his hometown and earning a spot in a college hockey program.

“I know it’s a longshot, but I have to go after it,” Redmond said. “I’ve been thinking about it since that day it finally hit me.”

TC GOALIES SHINE: TC West goalkeep Dallas Kniss and TC Central backstop Travis Stricker were nearly impenetrable on Sunday in the annual Blue & White Game, leading Blue to a 4-1 win. Kniss - an All-Region Dream Team performer for Palumbo and the Titans last year with a 12-4 record, 1.66 goals-against average and .912 save percentage – stopped all 14 shots he faced, blanking the White Team for the first half of the contest. Stricker, an All-Region selection for the Trojans the past two years, permitted just one goal on 16 shots. Both earned invites to the August camp, along with Muskegon goalie Justin Grevious.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised by how they played, because I know both of them and know how good they are,” Palumbo said. “But I was surprised how well they adjusted from high school hockey to a junior camp.”

Kniss says he was relaxed and confident with '06-07 North Stars defensemen Alex Breeden and Chris Heineman in front of him, along with former West teammate Nate Greenman.

“I felt a lot better than I did when the weekend started,” said Kniss, who led the Titans to their first-ever Big North Conference title in 2006-07. “There’s some adjustment period, but once I got sort of dialed in, I felt good out there.”

Nate Urbaniak paced the Blue Team with a pair of goals and an assist, while Marquette Electricians midget-AAA product Bran Cooper dished out a pair of assists.

SPRING FORWARD: The weekend camp marked the beginning of a new era of North Stars hockey, with Palumbo and new majority owner Steve Fournier overseeing the event. At least one participant enjoyed the weekend – despite leaving without an August invite.

“It went real smooth, and it was a good forum for this level of competition,” said Sal Ragusa, who led Quad City (Jr. B) in scoring last year and spent part of the 2005-06 season with the North Stars, attending tryout camps in 2006 and 2007. “There was a lot of talent here.”

In organizational news, Courtney Phillips was named Director of Operations last week. Phillips controls the day-to-day operations of the team, and drew praise from Fournier for a successful camp.

“She’s a key piece in our puzzle,” he said. “She does so many things for us and does them well. We’re fortunate to have her with us.”

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stricker hoping to make Traverse City squad

Tyler Stricker is hoping the third time is the charm.

The Traverse City Central Senior High School netminder has toiled at Traverse City North Stars camps the past three summers and would love to stay in town for the 2007-08 season. However, each time the local product was told that he had just missed out on a roster spot, good things have followed.

In 2005, Stricker was among the very first players to try out for the club in its first-ever camp. The coaches decided to go in another direction when personnel evaluations were made later in the summer, but Stricker did not let the minor setback derail his goaltending acumen. Instead, he went out and posted an undefeated record (16-0-1), a miniscule 1.40 goals-against average and sterling .930 save percentage. Oh yeah, his team experienced a fair amount of success as well, claiming TC’s first-ever state championship with a 2-1 win over Saline in the MHSAA title game.

“You can’t get down every time you go to a camp and don’t get picked,” said Stricker, a senior at TC Central this year. “You’re not always going to be a perfect fit for every team at every level. The main thing is to keep working hard, stay as consistent as you can, and let the coaches make their calls.”

North Stars GM Anthony Palumbo, who saw Stricker from the opposing bench the past three seasons, says Stricker’s even-keeled persona is a big plus for a backstop.

“Tyler is a very patient goalie,” said Palumbo, who skippered the TC West squad prior to heading the Stars’ front office. “Very rarely do you see him rattled even a little bit. He’s won some very big games, and he’s always been a winner at every level.”

Stricker, who had a 2.92 goals-against average for the Trojans last season, was selected from the pool of 12 goalies at this weekend’s pre-draft tryout camp at Centre ICE arena to a spot in Sunday’s Blue & White all-star game. He’ll join forces with former TC West netkeep Dallas Kniss for the Blue Team.

“I like the junior camps because you get to see different kinds of shots than you do in high school hockey,” exlained Stricker, who decided to become a goaltender after watching his cousin (Travis Stricker) man the pipes. “First of all, the shots are just plain harder and heavier. Secondly, a high school shooter doesn’t go top-shelf to snipe-out the goalie the way these guys do. You get to be exposed to a different approach (to shooting the puck).”

Palumbo says he is “leaning toward” keeping three goalies when the 2007-08 campaign opens in September.

“It’s going to be tough to make it here as a goalie,” Palumbo conceded. “I think you need that number one, that go-to goalie, but if you look at the teams that are very successful, they also have another guy who can come in and make stops when he’s called upon, too.”

Palumbo also says he doesn’t have a preference in terms of goaltending style.

“I’m not averse to any style,” he explained. “I’m not looking for a stand-up goalie or a butterfly-style guy. It comes down to whatever stops the puck and whatever works for the individual. I’m not going to try to force a style on a guy if it isn’t there.”

Stricker, Kniss, and the rest of the Blue & White all-star game participants, will wrap up camp on Sunday at Centre ICE arena with the culminating contest, which is slated for face-off at 10 a.m. Admission is free.

Indians' King commits to play at Adrian College

RR Media Service

Dependable defenseman J.D. King has commited to play Division III hockey at Adrian College, a private school located about 35 miles south west of Ann Arbor.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound hardrock defender played the 2006-07 campaign with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season and playoff champion Soo Indians.

"We would have loved to have J.D. back with us for another season but this is all about moving a fine young man on to college hockey," Indians' head coach Kevin Cain said of King, who played all of his minor hockey in the Michigan Soo, his hometown.

The 2007-08 season will mark the debut of Adrian College in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association. Adrian will play in a new ice hockey facility scheduled to open in August.

Called the Bulldogs, Adrian College will be coached by Ron Fogarty, a former assistant with the Division I Bowling Green Falcons of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

"I heard from Adrian earlier in the season and then just before the Dudley Hewitt Cup," said the personable King, a 1987 birth year who had a goal, six assists and 54 penalty minutes in 45 regular-season games with the Indians. "This is a really exciting opportunity. I always wanted to play college hockey somewhere in Michigan."

Burke aims to stick with North Stars

Sean Burke hopes he won’t have to go far to take the next step in his hockey career.

Just a few miles, to be exact.

The former Traverse City West High School star accepted a tender for 2007-08 from his hometown Traverse City North Stars late this week, just in time for the weekend pre-draft tryout camp at Centre ICE arena.

“I was pretty excited,” said Burke, who poured in 16 goals and assisted on 29 other for the Big North champion Titans last season. “It would be nice to be able to stay in TC. I know junior hockey is one way to get to college (hockey), and to be able to do it in front of family and friends would be great.”

Burke amassed just about every postseason honor available to him after leading West to its first-ever Big North Conference crown in 2006-07. He was named captain of the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s All-Region Dream Team in March, followed by All-Big North and All-State first team honors came his way.

“Sean has a tremendous work ethic and character,” pointed out North Stars GM Anthony Palumbo, who had coached Burke in four of the past five seasons. “He was basically the top forward in all of northern Michigan, and one of the top four forwards in the whole state.”

Burke, playing for the Red Team at the Stars’ three-day camp, thinks he knows what Palumbo and the team’s scouting staff are looking for.

“I just go out and work as hard as I can,” he said. “It’s a little faster, a little more physical (than high school hockey), so I can’t leave anything on the ice if I want to earn my spot.”

The Stars have just four tenders remaining to use before the May 22 NAHL Draft after securing the rights to Burke, ex-TC Central stars Eric O’Hearn and Eric McLintock and Cleveland-area defenseman Trevor Shively.

“Sean is a big team guy,” Palumbo pointed out. “He shows great leadership in leading by example. He likes the front of the net a la (Red Wings forward) Tomas Holmstrom, and is very difficult to knock off the puck. He’s also got that scoring touch you look for.”

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spirit and Whalers honored by OHL

The Ontario Hockey League named their All-League Teams yesterday. A trio of Plymouth Whalers and one Saginaw Spirit skater earned OHL honors.

First Team
Center: John Tavares, Oshawa
Left Wing: James Neal, Plymouth
Right Wing: Patrick Kane, London
Defense: Marc Staal, Sudbury
Defense: Drew Doughty, Guelph
Goalie: Steve Mason, London
Coach: Mike Vellucci, Plymouth

Second Team
Center: Bryan Little, Barrie
Left Wing: Brett MacLean, Oshawa
Right Wing: Tyler Donati, Belleville
Defense: Jakub Kindl, Kitchener
Defense: Ryan Parent, Guelph
Goalie: Michal Neuvirth, Plymouth
Coach: Mike Kelly, Mississauga

Third Team
Center: Sam Gagner, London
Left Wing: Jamie McGinn, Ottawa
Right Wing: Sergei Kostitsyn, London
Defense: Alex Pietrangelo, Mississauga
Defense: Patrick McNeill, Saginaw
Goalie: Thomas McCollum, Guelph
Coach: Dave Barr, Guelph

Rangers hold pre-draft camp this weekend

The Marquette Rangers will be holding their only local pre-draft tryout camp Friday through Sunday at the Berry Events Center at Northern Michigan University.

An excess of 65 hopefuls from around the country will be in Marquette for the event, which is free and open for fans to come and watch the action.

"We were very pleased with the fans' response to last year's tryout," said Rangers director of hockey operations Rich Tegge. "It's such a unique opportunity for fans to get a look at a part of the game they generally don't get to see, plus it's a chance for our fans to see who some of the future stars of the Rangers might be."

The schedule of events starts on Friday with practice sessions from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. and games at 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saturday begins with the first game at 8:00 a.m., followed by additional games at 9:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. with a goaltenders session scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

An All-Star game will end the weekend at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning and will feature the players who have earned a right to be considered for the team for the 2007 – 2008 season.

The Rangers will also be holding tryouts in Chicago and Detroit later in June.

"This is where our season really begins," said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. "Fans see our final product in the fall and winter, but they don't see the process of how we put a team together. I think even the casual fan will be interested in watching this event and seeing first hand what it takes to develop a team that will compete at a high level like the North American Hockey League."

Spirit's Goslin named top OHL executive

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Saginaw Spirit managing partner Craig Goslin is the OHL Executive of the Year for the 2006-07 season.

Goslin, a 46-year-old native of Bay City, is the first repeat winner of this award, having also won the Executive of the Year honours in 2005-06. since Jim Rutherford of the Detroit Jr. Red Wings, who was the successful recipient in 1992-1993 and 1993-1994.

Goslin has been instrumental in the success of the Saginaw Spirit franchise during their first five years of operation, establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of first class, quality sports entertainment.

Goslin joined the Spirit prior to their inaugural season in 2002, as VP of sales, following a distinguished 19-year career with Hilti Corporation. He was named part owner, managing partner and alternate governor of the Spirit, in 2005.

During the season, Goslin and his staff hosted a very successful 2007 OHL All-Star Classic in Saginaw . The two-day event marked the first time in OHL history that the All-Star Classic has left Ontario . Goslin and his business staff organized the first annual “Saginaw Spirit Ice Festival” the weekend prior to the All-Star Classic, partnering with the entire community of mid-Michigan to celebrate and educate fans on OHL hockey in Saginaw. The festival was estimated to bring in over $3 million to the local economy.

Goslin and his staff introduced a new mascot during the 2006-07 regular season, which was named “Steagle-Cobeagle the Eagle” following a campaign by Stephen Colbert from Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” who encouraged his international television audience to vote for the name on the Spirit website. People from all parts of the globe were exposed to the Spirit and the entire OHL through this campaign. Stephen Colbert has continued to cover “Steagle-Cobeagle the Eagle” as a regular feature on weekly or bi-weekly basis on “The Colbert Report."

Goslin and his business team were instrumental in generating over $1.5 million in corporate advertising in 2006-07 and sold 2,600 season tickets throughout the season. The Spirit also continued to produce the largest laser system operated in the mid-Michigan community, enhancing the overall game day experience for Spirit fans.

Goslin also created positive relationships with high schools, colleges and universities providing Spirit players with multiple educational opportunities.

Goslin is the chairman of the business development committee for the OHL, which he helped spearhead the creation of in 2005. Under Goslin’s leadership, the committee helps lead the 20 OHL member teams in an effort to encourage communication and cooperation for the purposes of leveraging each member team’s marketing strengths while raising the level of business operations throughout the OHL.

Goslin has spent tireless hours working to improve the business operations and structures of not only the Saginaw Spirit, but the entire OHL.

Spirit introduce skills development school

The Saginaw Spirit has announced the High School Skills Development School.

The school will be held at the Bay County Civic Arena from June 25 to June 29. The cost per student is $292 and is open to students currently attending high school. Deadline to sign-up is May 31.

Students will receive three hours of on-ice instruction and 1 1/2 hours of off-ice instruction per day. The class is designed with the student's development in mind, so the student to instructor ratio is limited to a maximum of 30 students. Emphasis is placed on overall hockey skill development and power skating. The school includes on-ice individual skill video analysis and off-ice fitness training. Plus, students get to participate in a scrimmage every day.

The Saginaw Spirit run several development schools throughout the year; summer sessions are also available for students ages 6-13.

For more information, please visit this link or contact Tory Newberry, Spirit Account Executive, at 989-497-7747.

North Stars open first tryout camp today

More than 60 hockey players will vie for the attention of coaches and scouts this weekend at Centre ICE arena, as the Traverse City North Stars hold the first tryout camp of the off-season, dropping the puck on the 2007 Pre-Draft Camp on Friday.

The camp ushers in the Anthony Palumbo era, as the former Lake Superior State star and TC West coach begins his tenure as general manager in earnest. Palumbo and a staff of coaches and scouts will evaluate the potential candidates in advance of the May 22 North American Hockey League draft. Several players from the 2006-07 roster will be taking part in the camp, as will numerous hopefuls from across the area (TC Central, TC West, etc.) and Midwest.

Goalies check in on Friday morning and will get an afternoon skate before the residual of the skaters report for a pair of evening scrimmage and skill evaluation sessions. After four scrimmages on Saturday, a pair of specially-selected teams will face off in the Blue & White game on Sunday morning as the camp draws to a conclusion.

The complete camp schedule is as follows:

Friday, May 11
11 a.m. – Goalie check-in
Noon-3 p.m. – Goalie skate
4 p.m. – Skater check-in
5:30 p.m. – Full camp assembly in community room
6:30 p.m. – 7:50 p.m. – Teams A & B
8:00 p.m. – 9:20 p.m. – Teams C & D

Saturday, May 12
7:45 a.m. – 9:05 a.m. – Teams A & C
9:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Teams B & D
10:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Goalie skate
5 p.m. – 6:20 p.m. – Teams B & C
6:30 p.m. – 7:50 p.m. – Teams A & D

Sunday, May 13
10 a.m. – Noon – Blue & White all-star game

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Palumbo named Traverse City general manager

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Anthony Palumbo helped Lake Superior State rise to national prominence as both a player and coach.

Now Palumbo aims to do the same with the Traverse City North Stars.

The former Lakers star, and most recently the head coach at Traverse City West High School, formally became the general manager of the North Stars on Tuesday, hours after resigning from his post at TC West. Palumbo, who will also spearhead the Stars’ coaching search, says the prospect of playing a role in shaping the futures of the players was a big draw.

“What excited me the most about this was the opportunity to help kids move on to the college level, and that’s the main focus of juniors,” said the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native. “I think back on my own college experiences as some of the best years of my life, and to get to be a part of getting kids into their own college years is very appealing to me.”

Palumbo, who starred in the Canadian high school ranks before his four-year playing stint at Lake Superior State, amassed 45 goals and 111 assists over 156 contests with the Lakers, helping the school to an NCAA championship in 1988. His finest statistical campaign was 1988-89 when he poured in 22 goals and assisted on 44 others for the 29-11-6 NCAA tourney qualifiers. During the 1991-92 season, Palumbo was an associate coach for a squad that went 30-9-4 and captured another NCAA crown. He was drafted in the 1989 NHL supplemental draft by the New York Rangers before embarking on a career in finance.

He is presently a commercial loan officer for Huntington Bank in Traverse City.

“Anthony is a longtime friend, but even more importantly, he’s a guy with a lot of hockey knowledge from years of experience,” said Stars' owner Steve Fournier. “And he is in tune with the college hockey community. He has all the credentials you want for that position and then some.”

Palumbo, who inherits a club already faring well in terms of collegiate placement – seven current or former North Stars are in college or have NCAA Division I college commitments (Steven Oleksy, LSSU; Patrick Nagorsen and Travis Paeth, Western Michigan; Eric Elmblad, Michigan; Danny Dries, New Hampshire; Anthony Schooley, Michigan Tech; Kory Kaunisto, Northern Michigan) after just two years – would like to transform the franchise into a collegiate turnstile.

“A lot of the guys I played with and against are now Division I coaches,” Palumbo explained. “We want every kid that walks through the doors of Centre ICE to play for the North Stars to be here to go after the (college) scholarships hard, and that’s the ideal setting for winning in the NAHL and even more importantly, in life.”

Palumbo, who led TC West to 40 wins in the past two seasons and the school’s first-ever Big North Conference hockey title, will begin his player evaluations this week in preparation for the weekend’s tryout camp at Centre ICE arena and the May 22 North American Hockey League entry draft. The camp, which runs from Friday-Sunday, culminates with the invite-only Blue & White Game on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saginaw, Plymouth draft future OHLers Saturday

Both the Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers participated in Saturday's OHL Priority Selection draft process and each had a late pick in the first round.

Drafting at No. 16, Saginaw selected Whitby Wildcats minor midget center Daniel Pachis. Last season, the 6-foot, 170-pound Pachis (pictured) tallied 55 goals and 91 points in 82 games for the Wildcats. He'll turn 16 on June 5.

SCOUTING REPORT ON PACHIS: A highly skilled player who is most effective and determined when he is in possession of the puck. He is very solid on his feet and possesses a strong stride. Pachis protects the puck very well and competes hard along the walls and in the corners. He is very hard to knock off the puck. He wins the battles in the tough areas and then takes the puck to the net.

In the No. 19 slot, Plymouth chose 5-foot-10, 165-pound Belle Tire defenseman Beau Schmitz. From Howell, Schmitz had verbally committed to Ferris State for two years down the road. This past year with the national champion Belle Tire minor midgets, Schmitz, who turns 16 on May 26, recorded 64 points on 13 goals and 51 assists and also had 167 penalty minutes.

SCOUTING REPORT ON SCHMITZ: An offensive minded defenseman who plays a very high risk, high reward style of game. He is a very good skater - one of the most mobile defensemen in this year’s draft. He has excellent quickness and his first few steps get him up to top speed immediately. Schmitz also possesses very good puck skills and is very effective at moving the puck.

One pick before the Whalers, Kitchener took Honeybaked minor midget defenseman Cam Fowler, a Northville native. Fowler was considered the best defender in the draft, but has reportedly committed to Notre Dame for 2009.

Likewise, at No. 5, Brampton selected center Matt Duchene from the Central Ontario Wolves. Duchene had expressed his intentions in going to Michigan State, perhaps as early as 2008.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Saginaw captain McNeill signs with Capitals

The Washington Capitals announced today that Saginaw Spirit defenseman Patrick McNeill has signed an entry-level contract.

McNeill was drafted by the Capitals in the fourth round, 118th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Strathroy, Ontario native is expected to sign an amateur tryout agreement with the Hershey Bears, Washington's AHL affiliate, for the remainder of the season.

The terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“We're thrilled for Patrick and his entire family,” stated Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin. “We're proud of the fact that his development into an NHLer occurred here in Saginaw. He will be a huge asset to the Capitals and we wish him all the best.”

McNeill, 20, was drafted first overall by the Spirit in the 2003 OHL Priority Selection and served as the Spirit's captain for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons.

OHL Priority Selection on tap Saturday

The 2007 OHL Priority Selection will take place Saturday at 9:00 a.m.

Steven Stamkos of the Markham Waxers was the first overall pick of the Sarnia Sting in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection. Stamkos racked up 105 goals and 92 assists for 197 points for the Waxers, who won the OHL Cup Minor Midget Showcase Tournament last March. The Oshawa Generals followed up by selecting defenceman Michael Del Zotto of the Waxers. It was the first time in history that the first two picks in the OHL Priority Selection have come from the same team. The Mississauga IceDogs selected defenceman Alex Pietrangelo from the Jr. Canadiens third overall. The Erie Otters selected defenceman Mitch Gaulton from the Toronto Red Wings with the fourth overall pick and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds rounded out the top five when they selected James Livingston from the York Simcoe Express.

2007 OHL Priority Selection - Order of Selection (First Round)

1. Erie Otters
2. Windsor Spitfires
3. Toronto St. Michael's Majors
4. Peterborough Petes
5. Brampton Battalion
6. Ottawa 67's
7. Sudbury Wolves
8. Owen Sound Attack
9. Kingston Frontenacs
10. Oshawa Generals
11. Guelph Storm
12. Sarnia Sting
13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
14. Belleville Bulls
15. Mississauga IceDogs
16. Saginaw Spirit
17. Barrie Colts
18. Kitchener Rangers
19. Plymouth Whalers
20. London Knights

Jack Ferguson Award History

The "Fergie" is presented annually to the player selected first overall in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection. The award recognizes the dedication and contributions made by Jack Ferguson during his 25 year association with the Ontario Hockey League, first as a scout with the Ottawa 67's and followed by his appointment as head of the OHL's Central Scouting Bureau in 1981 as its Director of Central Scouting.

Past Winners of the Jack Ferguson Award:

Year Player Team
1981 Dan Quinn, Belleville
1982 Kirk Muller, Guelph
1983 Trevor Stienburg, Guelph
1984 Dave Moylan, Sudbury
1985 Bryan Fogarty, Kingston
1986 Troy Mallette, S.S. Marie
1987 John Uniac, Sudbury
1988 Drake Berehowsky, Kingston
1989 Eric Lindros, S.S. Marie
1990 Pat Peake, Detroit
1991 Todd Harvey, Detroit
1992 Jeff O'Neill, Guelph
1993 Alyn McCauley, Ottawa
1994 Jeff Brown, Sarnia
1995 Daniel Tkaczuk, Barrie
1996 Rico Fata, London
1997 Charlie Stephens, Toronto
1998 Jay Harrison, Brampton
1999 Jason Spezza, Mississauga
2000 Patrick Jarrett, Mississauga
2001 Patrick O'Sullivan, Mississauga
2002 Robbie Schremp, Mississauga
2003 Patrick McNeill, Saginaw
2004 John Hughes, Belleville
2005 John Tavares, Oshawa
2006 Steven Stamkos, Sarnia

West Bloomfield native chasing grandpa's cup

By Brian McDonough

It's an exhilarating feeling winning a national championship trophy. When that trophy is named after a family member, however, it brings on a whole new level of euphoria.

That's the unique opportunity facing Travis Hamway this week as he and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs battle for the NAHL's Robertson Cup, which is named after Hamway's grandfather, Chuck Robertson.

The Robertson Cup crowns the NAHL's playoff champion, which also represents USA Hockey's Tier II Junior A national champion.

"It's definitely special," said Hamway. "I couldn't end my junior career any better winning my grandpa's Cup."

A pioneer of junior hockey in the NAHL and youth hockey in the state of Michigan, Robertson was the owner of the Paddock Pools Saints when they won a record seven straight NAHL championships from 1976-83.

It wasn't until the beginning of this year when the West Bloomfield native Hamway, now in his second season in the NAHL after spending last year with the Billings Bulls and starting this year with the Traverse City North Stars, knew he was chasing a trophy with roots so close to home. He started to ask questions after reading a story about the Robertson Cup on the Texas Tornado's Web site.

"I finally put two and two together thinking, 'Hey, this could be my grandpa,'" said Hamway, a Wayne State recruit. "I called my mom (Robertson's daughter) and found out that way."

A regular supporter of local youth hockey, Robertson was never short on generosity towards his grandson's teams, among others.

"He's a great guy, always a really giving guy," said Hamway. "You could go to him and ask him for anything. I'd always go and ask him to sponsor our travel teams when I was young to get some new equipment and stuff."

Roberston, 69, who won't be able to make the trip to Fairbanks because of health reasons (he suffers from a genetic muscle disease similar to Lou Gehrig's Disease) will still bring a little boost to the Ice Dogs' locker room as they chase this year's NAHL title.

"All my teammates know," said Hamway. "It's definitely extra motivation for me and hopefully it motivates the team a little bit, too."

The Robertson Cup Championship has been the talk of Fairbanks the past few weeks, but the fan support at Big Dipper Arena has been the talk of the league for quite a few years. The Ice Dogs averaged 1,877 in attendance this season (second only to Texas in the entire NAHL) and Hamway expects the Fairbanks faithful to be a factor.

"It's going to be pretty crazy in our building," he said. "We've been promoting it like crazy and we're expecting a ton of fans. It's a great hockey town, people love it here."

The four-day tournament, which begins Thursday, will also feature the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, Southern Minnesota Express and the St. Louis Bandits.

"I think teams hate to play here and I think that's going to give us a little advantage," Hamway added.

And even though he'll be thousands of miles away back home in Michigan, Robertson can't help but be at the center of all the excitement.

"I talked to him a couple days about it, he's pretty fired up," said Hamway.

Whalers move up in Priority Selection

The Plymouth Whalers made two deals today to move up in Saturday’s OHL Priority Selection.

Plymouth picked up the 80th overall pick in Saturday’s draft, along with Sault Ste. Marie’s fifth-round pick (93rd overall), in exchange for Erie’s sixth-round pick in Saturday’s draft (101st overall) and Plymouth’s third-round selection in 2009.

The 80th selection is originally London’s fourth-round pick in Saturday’s draft.

In a second deal with the Oshawa Generals, Plymouth acquired Oshawa’s second-round pick (30th overall) in Saturday’s draft along with the Generals’ fourth-round pick (71st overall) in exchange for Plymouth’s second- and fourth-round selections in 2009.

The Whalers’ first-round pick is 19th overall on Saturday.

Smith, Mursak named to All-Academic Team

Plymouth Whalers second-year goalie Jeremy Smith and rookie Saginaw Spirit forward Jan Mursak were named to the OHL All Academic Team for the 2006-2007 season yesterday.

Soo Indians go 1-2 at Dudley Hewitt Cup

Tuesday, April 24
Aurora Tigers 4, Soo Indians 1

Wednesday, April 25
Abitibi Eskimos 4, Soo Indians 2

Thursday, April 26
Soo Indians 2, Schrieber Diesels 1

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gardiner, North Stars mutually part ways

The interlocking ‘TC’ will still adorn the fronts of their sweaters next season, but the Traverse City North Stars will have a new look in 2007-08.

Steve Fournier assumed majority ownership of the North American Hockey League franchise on Thursday as the team heads into its third season of Junior A hockey. Scott Gardiner, who guided the Stars through its first two seasons, will not return for 2007-08

“This is now a locally-owned entity,” said Fournier. “We now have the ability to streamline control a bit, to put even more of a local emphasis on the direction of the team – and that was the original intent from the day we got this team going.”

Fournier, who expects to acquire 100 percent of the ownership in the coming weeks, was part of an ownership consortium which consisted of several Florida businessmen.

Gardiner (pictured), who compiled a 36-72-12 record with the North Stars, is taking a step back from the coaching ranks for the upcoming season.

“It was a kind of mutual thing,” explained Gardiner, who says he is unlikely to seek a coaching job elsewhere for 2007-08. “The team is heading in a new direction, and we needed to have a mutual parting of ways.

“We had some big wins here, some struggles, too, but that is to be expected when you’re dealing with a new franchise. I’ve always said it takes 3-4 years to build a program, and I think in the next year or two you’re going to see this team really come on. There’s a great group of core players who are eligible to come back with a very bright future.”

The team is still in the process of replacing Gardiner behind the bench, and will likely name his successor in advance of the 2007 NAHL Draft on May 22.

“Hopefully sooner than that,” Fournier said. “The process has already begun and the decision will be made as soon as we can work out some things.”

The team is holding the first of its summer tryout camps May 11-13 at Centre ICE arena, which will culminate with a select group of players facing off in a Blue & White Game on Sunday, May 13.

Spirit and Spitfires swap draft picks

The Saginaw Spirit has concluded a trade of draft picks with the Windsor Spitfires.

The Spirit have sent a second-round choice in the upcoming OHL Priority Selection and a fourth-round choice in 2010 in exchange for Windsor’s second-round pick in 2008, third-round pick in 2008 and a fifth-round pick in 2009.

Two North Stars, two 'Diggers land NAHL honors

The North American Hockey League’s annual hardware was handed out Thursday and a pair of Traverse City North Stars players and the Alpena IceDiggers' general manager and top forward were among the honorees.

Forward Kory Kaunisto won the NAHL Academic Achievement Award as the league’s top scholar-athlete, while blueliner Nick Von Bokern was named to the All-NAHL second team.

Kaunisto, who is slated to play at Northern Michigan University in 2008-09 on a full scholarship, posted a perfect 4.00 GPA over his high school career, and found himself in the top one percent of students during his stint at Traverse City Central Senior High School.

The Marquette native is a longstanding member of the National Honor Society, the Business Professionals of America, and is nearing endorsement as a Certified Microsoft Expert. In his 61 games this season, the 6-foot, 170-pound winger scored six goals and assisted on 16 others, and was second among Stars regulars with 134 penalty minutes.

Von Bokern was the NAHL’s top-scoring defenseman with 12 goals and 37 assists. His 21 power-play assists were sixth among all skaters in the league.

Alpena forward Todd Rudasill was named to the league's second team as well after piling up 89 points on 33 goals and 56 assists, good for second overall during the regular season.

A pair of St. Louis players and Ferris State recruits took home top honors, as forward Pat Maroon was named NAHL MVP and Bandits netminder Pat Nagle landed Rookie of the Year accolades.

Alpena skipper Kenny Miller was named NAHL GM of the Year after guiding the IceDiggers to the franchise’s first-ever playoff berth. They were subsequently swept by the USA Under-17 Team in the first round.

G – Ryan Zapolski, Mahoning Valley Phantoms
D – Jeff Dimmen, St. Louis Bandits
D - Jeff Carlson, Southern Minnesota Express
F – Pat Maroon, St. Louis Bandits
F – Kyle Schmidt, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
F – Dustin Cloutier, Mahoning Valley Phantoms

G – Pat Nagle, St. Louis Bandits
D – Nick Von Bokern, Traverse City
D – Scooter Vaughan, St. Louis Bandits
F – Jesse Echternach, Fargo-Moorhead Jets
F – Todd Rudasill, Alpena IceDiggers
F – Tibor Kutalek, Santa Fe RoadRunners

G – Pat Nagle, St. Louis Bandits
D – Scooter Vaughan, St. Louis Bandits
D – Tom Kleidon, Santa Fe RoadRunners
F – Ryan Kretzer, Springfield Jr. Blues
F – Andy Inderieden, Southern Minnesota Express
F – Derek Graham, Mahoning Valley Phantoms
F – Andy McCabe, Fairbanks Ice Dogs

Sherwood MVP: Pat Maroon, St. Louis Bandits
Rookie of the Year: Pat Nagle, St. Louis Bandits
Coach of the Year: Bob Mainhardt, Mahoning Valley Phantoms
General Manager of the Year: Kenny Miller, Alpena IceDiggers
Community Service Award: Eric Borre, Alexandria Blizzard
Academic Achievement Award: Kory Kaunisto, Traverse City

North Stars' Scovill signs with Wiscionsin-Stout

Even though he had a year of junior eligibility left, Traverse City North Stars defenseman Eric Scovill was ready to hit the books. Now, the Peoria, Ill. native will get to hit the ice as well, committing to play at the University of Wisconsin-Stout next fall.

“It wasn’t pressure from family, or from friends who were already at school – this was my decision to get going on my college education,” explained the 6-foot, 200-pound. Scovill, who joined the Stars after a December trade with Santa Fe. “I had played three years of juniors and really enjoyed it, but I think I had gotten all I could out of it. It was time to move on.”

Scovill, who registered three goals and seven assists in 39 contests between the North Stars and RoadRunners, chose the Menomonie, Wisc. university (enrollment: 8,000+) for its renowned College of Technology, Engineering and Management. Scovill plans to pursue a degree in construction management.

The Blue Devils hockey program, an NCAA Division III entry, was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally last year, but missed out on an NCAA Tournament berth despite a sterling 21-5-2 record in 2006-07. The Devils were 5-3 in Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

“It’s D-III, but it’s strong, competitive hockey in the WIAC,” Scovill said. “And the Stout program is really coming on strong the past couple of years, and I just hope to contribute to that.”

Traverse City head coach Scott Gardiner says the Blue Devils landed a rock-solid stay-at-home type that can help anchor the Stout blue line corps.

“I think they know what they’re getting in Eric, and that’s defenseman’s defenseman,” Gardiner explained. “He’s not a guy who is going to find himself in the rush too often, not a power play type of guy, but he’ll go out there and give you steady play in your own zone. We wish we had him here for another year, but we’re glad he’s getting on with his education and getting to play in a very competitive Division III conference.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


The Ontario Hockey League today announced the result of a review of an incident which occurred in a game played in London on the 19th of April, 2007 involving the London 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 which resulted in a preliminary indefinite suspension being assessed to player Jordan Shine.

As a result of the completion of such review, it is the position of the League that player Jordan Shine shall be suspended for twenty (20) games which would include the first sixteen (16) games of the 2007-08 OHL regular season.

In making his announcement as a result of the review, Commissioner David Branch stated “the League is of the opinion that player Jordan Shine used his stick in a most unacceptable fashion and it is fortunate that the opposition player was not injured on the play. The Ontario Hockey League has made it clear that the illegal use of the stick will not be tolerated by the League and that we must all work to eliminate this element from our game.”

OHL announces TV coverage for title series

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that the entire 2007 OHL Rogers Championship Series will be broadcast live locally and through the OHL Action Pak on Rogers Television. Viewers can watch every game, with the exception of game two, on Rogers channel 464. Game two of the series on Sunday at 3:00, will be broadcast nationally on Rogers Sportsnet.

“Rogers Television has been a proud partner of the OHL for over 15 years.” said Colette Watson, Vice President of Rogers Television. “While the championship series unfolds outside of our markets, we're pleased to go the extra mile to bring this exciting hockey to our Action Pak customers."

The addition of the home playoff games for the Sudbury Wolves and the Plymouth Whalers will be available in the Sudbury and Plymouth markets as well as on the OHL Action Pak through a co-operative effort with Rogers Television in Ontario and Schoolcraft Sports Network, in Plymouth .

“We are thrilled to have the entire 2007 Rogers Conference Championship Series broadcasted live locally and on the OHL Action Pak,” commented OHL Commissioner David Branch. “This is an exciting time not only for the OHL, but for all of our fans. The OHL is pleased to partner with Rogers Television and Schoolcraft Sports Network of Michigan during this playoff series.”

In addition to the television broadcasts, all Rogers Conference Championships Series games will be available online in broadcast quality through the OHL Live Stream program, which is a partnership with INSINC. Additional information on OHL Live Stream as well as a schedule of the Rogers Conference Championship Series is available online here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sestito out for Game 1 of OHL finals

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the results of a review of an incident which occurred in a game played in London on the 26th of April, 2007 involving the Knights and the visiting Plymouth Whalers Hockey Club.

The incident reviewed was a 5-minute major and game misconduct for boarding assessed to player Tom Sestito of the Plymouth Whalers Hockey Club.

Based on such review, it is the position of the League that player Tom Sestito shall be suspended for the first game of the OHL Championship Series between the Whalers and the Sudbury Wolves Hockey Club commencing on Friday, the 4th of May, 2007 in Plymouth, Michigan.

Saginaw preparing for OHL draft Saturday

The Saginaw Spirit is prepping for the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection to be held on Saturday via web and telephone conference.

Saginaw selects 16th overall in the draft.

Saginaw Spirit 2007 Priority Selection Order:

First Round – 16th
Second Round – 4th
Third Round – No Selection
Fourth Round – 1st
Fifth Round – 2nd and 16th
Sixth Round – 16th
Seventh Round – 11th
Eighth Round – 5th
Ninth Round – No Selection
Tenth Round – 15th and 16th
Eleventh Round – 16th
Twelfth Round – 16th
Thirteenth Round – 16th
Fourteenth Round – 16th
Fifteenth Round – 16th

The Spirit selected defenseman Nick Crawford in the first round, 12th overall, of the 2006 Priority Selection. Other first-round picks for the Spirit include Zack Torquato (2005), Matt Corrente (2004), Patrick McNeill (2003) and Jean-Michel Rizk (2002).