Sunday, July 08, 2007

IceDiggers announce 2007-2008 schedule


For the second straight season, the Alpena IceDiggers will start the year at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn.

The IceDiggers, coming off their first NAHL playoff appearance in franchise history, begin the 2007-08 season at the league showcase against Wichita Falls, the league announced. Alpena also faces Southern Minnesota, Fargo-Moorhead and North Iowa at the four-day showcase, a popular event with college and professional scouts that brings each of the NAHL’s teams together for a weekend chock-full of action.

“With the amount of kids we moved on and the league moved on, it’s pretty good,” Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said of opening the year at the showcase.

Alpena’s 58-game schedule includes 25 games at Northern Lights Arena, beginning with the team’s home opener against Traverse City on Sept. 28.

The IceDiggers schedule is front-loaded with home games. Of Alpena’s 25 home dates, 15 are before the end of the calendar year. Alpena plays only five home games in February and March, but Miller said that was by design with hopes that an inexperienced Alpena team can build confidence in front of the home fans at Northern Lights Arena in the early going.

“We’re going to be a young team,” he said. “We have to learn to win as a team. We’re loaded up front with a lot of home games, but that was done on purpose. Some dates we got to choose when we were going to play and some dates we were forced into.”

The biggest home date of the schedule, according to Miller, is a New Year’s Eve contest with the Traverse City North Stars. Alpena also played on New Year’s Eve last season and was able to secure that date again.

“That was our No. 1 date,” Miller said. “We wanted that one the most.”

While Alpena has two stretches early on where they host four consecutive games, the IceDiggers finish the year with five games on the road. The IceDiggers face division rivals Traverse City and Marquette 14 times each, the most of any teams. Also featured on the schedule is defending NAHL champion St. Louis, which moved to the North Division from the South to accomodate the league’s addition of Kenai River, which takes the Bandits spot in the South Division.

“We’ve got a tough division,” said Miller. “Both of the teams (St. Louis and Mahoning Valley) who played in the championship game are in our division. It’s going to be tough for us.”

St. Louis won’t be visiting Alpena, however. An unbalanced division schedule has Alpena facing the Bandits four times — with Alpena’s two “home” games versus St. Louis coming at the North Division Showcase at Mahoning Valley in late January. Alpena also plays USA twice during that weekend.

Notes: Alpena dealt forward Marco Ruggeri to Fairbanks for forward Chris Perko, who had one assist and 57 penalty minutes in 31 games with Fairbanks last season. Ruggeri had five goals and 14 points for Alpena in 2006-07.

"Chris will add a physical element to our lineup, as well as leadership," Miller said. "We are very excited about having him on our side."

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