Thursday, August 30, 2007

Whalers open camp with scrimmages

Newcomer Steve Lock scored three goals and two assists as the Blues swept the Whites, 4-1 and 6-3, in a pair of scrimmages to open training camp for the Plymouth Whalers on Thursday at Compuware Arena.

Lock had two goals and an assist in the morning scrimmage for the Blues while Whaler veterans Andrew Fournier and Brett Valliquette added singles. Rookie Tyler J. Brown (an eighth round 2007 draft choice) scored for the Whites.

Lock, just acquired from Peterborough, scored a goal and an assist in the afternoon scrimmage for the Blues. Veterans Joe Gaynor, Kaine Geldart and Valliquette and rookies Taylor Carnevale (second round), Jamie Devane (seventh round) all added singles for the Blues. Brown scored again for the Whites in the afternoon scrimmage and veterans Joe McCann and Vern Cooper added singles.

McCann figured in on all four Whites goals Thursday with a goal and three assists.

Lock scored a goal with four assists for five points and 20 penalty minutes in 54 games last year in an injury-plagued rookie season with Peterborough.

“Last year was a grind,” Lock said. “I had a groin injury at the start of the year and it was tough building back up (physically) to where everyone else was. By Christmas, I was back, but it was tough getting into the lineup. Plymouth seems really nice so far. It looks like this is going to be a real good change.”

Based on the Opening Day scrimmages, Lock is right on the mark.

The Blues and Whites scrimmage on Friday from 9-11 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. at Compuware Arena. The scrimmages are free to the public.

Plymouth kicks off the preseason against Windsor on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Compuware Arena.

Golembiewski not coming to Plymouth

St. Clair native Zach Golembiewski, who will play for the United States National Team Development Program next season, has committed to Michigan State for the 2009-2010 season, according to the Port Huron Times Herald.

Golembiewski spoke earlier this summer on his options and recently announced his commitment to the Spartans.

Golembiewski was a fifth-round pick of the Plymouth Whalers last May, but as of right now, will be going the NTDP/college route.

Top prospect Comrie signs with Saginaw

The Saginaw Spirit have announced the signing of defenseman Adam Comrie.

The former USHLer was selected by the Spirit in the ninth round of the 2006 OHL Priority Selection.

“Adam brings a great size and presence to our roster and adds a valued asset to our defense,” stated Spirit GM Don Edwards. “He is an exceptionally gifted player with tremendous mobility."

“He is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman with all the tools,” stated Spirit head coach Todd Watson. “He is an excellent skater and puck handler with an outstanding hockey sense. We look forward to his continued development with the team.”

Comrie has the distinction of being chosen in both the OHL Priority Selection and in the USHL Entry Draft - he played with the USHL Ohio Junior Blue Jackets at the start of the 2006-2007 season. Comrie tallied six goals, four assists and 28 penalty minutes in 19 games for the Blue Jackets, including a game-winning overtime goal in the Blue Jackets’ inaugural game and first franchise win. By December, Comrie was the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer and had the most power-play goals and highest shot percentage in the league.

Comrie was traded to the Omaha Lancers in early December, where he accumulated a goal, six assists and 27 PIM in 38 games. He notched one goal and three assists in his first two games with the Lancers, earning him the league’s player of the week honors. By the end of the season, the Lancers had moved from a last-place team to division champions and Comrie had posted the highest shot percentage in the league for a defenseman. He finished out the season with a total of seven goals, 10 assists and 55 PIM.

Comrie is a highly anticipated prospect for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He was invited to participate in the USHL Jamboree, an event where NHL scouts can watch and interact with the best prospects in the league. He was the only 16-year old that attended the event. The USHL Jamboree is the equivalent of the CHL Top Prospects game.

"Scouts from all parts of the world of hockey agree that Adam Comrie is a special defenseman that could be a cornerstone to the future success of the Saginaw Spirit,” stated Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin. “Adam has the talent, work ethic, character and integrity of the type of player that we want to build our program around. We are thrilled to give our fans the opportunity to watch his development occur here in Saginaw over the next few years both on and off the ice."

Kisil added to Saginaw's coaching staff

The Saginaw Spirit have welcomed John Kisil as the newest addition to the Spirit family.

The former Compuware Ambassadors coach will be reunited with head coach Todd Watson as an assistant coach in Saginaw for the 2007-2008 season.

"I'm proud to be with the Saginaw Spirit," stated Kisil. "The ownership, both Dick (Garber) and Craig (Goslin), are awesome. They've taken care of me pretty well here."

"John is a very hard worker. He loves the game," stated Watson. "He is the most positive person I know. He is a tireless motivator who is a key addition to our staff. The players will respect and admire him."

“John Kisil is an enthusiastic young coach with a great work ethic,” stated Spirit GM Don Edwards. “Further, he is a consummate professional who will support the system implemented by Spirit head coach Todd Watson.”

Kisil spent the last four years as head coach with the Honeybaked AAA hockey club. His coaching resume consists of a total of ten years in youth hockey. Much of his time was spent with the Detroit Compuware program, two years serving as an assistant under Watson with the Compuware Ambassadors of the North American Hockey League.

"After being groomed by the Compuware program, we are proud to welcome John Kisil to the Saginaw Spirit coaching staff," said managing partner and president Craig Goslin. "He comes to us with references at all levels of the game of hockey and all agree that his knowledge of the game and passion for teaching is extraordinary. John and Spirit head coach Todd Watson have great chemistry when working together and create a dynamic duo to lead the development of the Spirit players, both on and off the ice."

"I'm excited to be back with Todd," said Kisil. "We know what each other do."

The two share a similar coaching philosophy and approach to the game of hockey. Kisil lists clinching a Junior A national championship together with Watson and the Ambassadors as a highlight in his career.

Many players from the 2002 Compuware team went on to receive scholarships or pursue professional careers. Chris Conner (Dallas Stars) and Andy Greene (New Jersey Devils) are two standout examples.

Kisil is excited for the opportunity to work with the Spirit organization and witness similar development in the players he coaches.

"I like helping out where I can and being positive," said Kisil. "Anything I can do to work on individual skill with players and help them out."

Beyond experience behind the bench, Kisil has spent time with the LaFontaine Hockey Schools and as a private hockey instructor. He has already offered his time instructing Saginaw Spirit Hockey Schools in the area. Kisil's knowledge and passion for the game makes him a welcomed addition to the Spirit roster.

Article written by Jon Michael Canale
Central Michigan University Student
Saginaw Spirit PR Intern

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Whalers hire Stefan, promote Mattson

The Plymouth Whalers hired Joe Stefan as the team’s new assistant coach on Monday.

Stefan (pictured), the brother of former Whalers’ assistant coach Greg Stefan, worked for the Whalers as a scout for two seasons before moving behind the bench.

“I’ve known Joe a long time and am very comfortable with his coaching style,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He’s done a good job for us in scouting and pre-scouting around the league. We’re excited to have Joe in Plymouth.”

After playing in the OHL from 1983-86, Stefan played in the old International Hockey League from 1987-91 before moving to England, where he played from 1991-2002 in the British National League. Stefan was also coach and GM of the Slough Jets of the BNL from 1998-2002.

“I’ve been waiting for a chance like this since coming back from Europe,” Stefan said. “I’m very happy to be on board. I’m going to bring an upbeat attitude to the bench and the dressing room. The players will be prepared to play.”

In a related move, Vellucci named Adam Mattson Plymouth’s director of operations and video coach. Mattson started two years ago as an intern and became the video coach last season.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kitzmiller gets late offer to Lake Superior

Alpena IceDiggers defenseman Ben Kitzmiller has been offered a scholarship to Lake Superior State University for the upcoming season.

The Lambertville native was planning on returning to the IceDiggers for his third season, but early last week was contacted by the staff at LSSU and offered a spot.

"They contacted us and needed a guy to come in and play right away," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "Ben is more than ready to play and we couldn't be happier for him and his family."

Kitzmiller helped guide the IceDiggers to the NAHL playoffs last year in posting 13 goals and adding 19 assists for 32 points in 59 games.

The right shot defenseman becomes the sixth player from last year's team to move onto the Division I level joining Todd Rudasill (Ohio State), Drew Pierson (Army), Eric Roman (Wayne State), Shawn Hunwick (Michigan) and Chad Billins (Ferris State '08-09).

With Kitzmiller leaving for LSSU, Alpena has added two defensemen to the training camp roster. In a trade yesterday with Fairbanks, the IceDiggers acquired 20-year-old Tim Olson. Also attending camp is Ryan Sell, who has spent the last two seasons playing for the Toledo Cherokee of the the CSHL.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rangers optimistic for '07-08 season

A total of 25 players reported to Lakeview Arena today to begin the second season for the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League. Three weeks of on-ice and dry-land training will begin as players prepare themselves for their home opener, an exhibition on Sept. 15 against the Detroit Red Wings Alumni to benefit the Bell Foundation of Bell Hospital.

“The first couple of days will be used for the guys to get to know one another,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “Before you can become a team on the ice, you need to know a little bit about one another, so we’re going to do some fun things as a group before the training part of the camp gets underway. Once that’s done and we hit the ice, we’ll be piecing together lines that look like they might have some chemistry to them, as well as getting guys into top game shape. From what we can see from the players who’ve been in town for awhile we’re in pretty good physical condition, and with eight returning guys from last years team, there’s no question we’re much more experienced than we were a year ago at this time.

"Add Aaron Pietila (Traverse City North Stars) and Tyler Mathews (Buffalo Jr. Sabres - OPJHL) and we have 10 guys on this year’s squad with junior hockey experience. Not many teams have that kind of leadership for the younger players to learn from, so we’re very excited to see this team get going."

The Rangers are returning both goaltenders from last year's team with Beau Christian and Matt Brooker both expected to compete for the starting role. Nick Condon and Derek Grogan return on the Rangers' defense, with Mike Macari, Nic Weight, Jimmy Gallagher and Dustin Partacz coming back for a second season at forward.

Christian said he’s excited about returning for another year in Marquette.

“I feel real confident about this season” the 19-year-old said. “I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this year and I’m really looking forward to getting going. We’re returning a great group of guys so this season should really be a lot of fun.”

Grogan, 20, said he’s just looking forward to playing hockey again.

“I’m a little sick of pouring concrete footings (Grogan worked construction in St. Paul, Minn. over the summer),” he said. “Marquette is such a great place to play and this should be a pretty good year for us with the guys we have coming back. I loved it here last year with the great fans, so I’m glad to be back and I really feel good and ready to go.”

Mathews said he didn’t really know what to expect with his new team, but is anxious to play in the NAHL.

“I’ve heard Marquette’s fans really get into it, which will be fun,” Mathews said Wednesday. “I worked out a lot this summer and did some coaching of younger kids at some clinics, so I was around hockey a lot in the offseason. I feel real good about being here and I think we can be pretty good this season.”

Despite the 17 new faces, Enders is optimistic about the team's second campaign.

“We lost some of our goal production from last season,” Enders continued. “But that’s the nature of Junior A hockey - guys who do well move on to higher levels. Now, it’s up to the returning guys to step in and show that it’s their time to shine in what promises to be a very competitive division this year. We’re anxious to see what our newcomers bring to the table too and how they’ll mesh with the guys who are coming back. It’s a very exciting time right now.”

Saginaw ready for camp, preseason

The Saginaw Spirit is set to start the 2007-2008 season with the annual team training camp and several preseason exhibition games.

Players are returning next weekend for camp, which takes place from Wednesday to Saturday. The camp concludes with the annual Blue-White Game on Sept. 1 at TheDow Event Center from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The general public is invited to attend the game, with general seating admittance being a donation to the Saginaw Spirit Charitable Foundation. The money is in turn donated to local youth hockey programs.

The team will participate in a two-game exhibition series with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – Friday, Sept. 7 in Sault Ste. Marie at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 8 in Saginaw at 7:11 p.m. The Sept. 8 game will be played at the Saginaw Bay Ice Arena - $7 general admission tickets are available to the general public starting Monday.

The Spirit will travel to London for an exhibition match-up against the Knights on Saturday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. The following day, the Spirit and the Knights will take part in the annual Woodstock exhibition game at 2:00 p.m. in Woodstock, Ontario.

Monroe native Mahalak inks with Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers announced the signing of right wing R.J. Mahalak, who was selected by the Whalers in the fourth round (80th overall) the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Although the Whalers have a long history of signing Michigan-born players, Mahalak is the first player Plymouth has ever drafted from Monroe.

Mahalak scored 16 goals with 15 assists for 31 points and 154 penalty minutes in 54 games last season for the Belle Tire minor midgets of the Midwest Elite Hockey League. The Belle Tire Under-16 team won state and national championships last season.

“I watched Belle Tire quite a bit last year,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “We always want to draft character players who are champions. We targeted Mahalak as one of those kinds of players. He finishes his checks, he’s got good hands and is a good penalty killer.”

Photo from Monroe News

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saginaw signs free agent Murovich

Western Michigan recruit Tyler Murovich has decided not to play college hockey and will instead play for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, according to Paul Shaheen's Research on Ice newsletter.

Murovich was a top prospect for the Broncos out of the Pittsburgh area who played for the Chicago Steel last season. He joins Josh Bemis as the second Western Michigan recruit to jump to the OHL this summer.

Bemis signed with the Plymouth Whalers earlier this month.

Murovich was a free agent and never drafted by an OHL team. He's a 1989 birthdate.

Whalers acquire Lock from Peterborough

The Plymouth Whalers acquired 17-year-old center Steve Lock Tuesday from the Peterborough Petes in exchange for a conditional 15th-round draft choice.

The conditional 15th round pick has the potential of becoming a third-round pick, should all the conditions be met.

The 6-foot, 176-pound Lock scored a goal with four assists for five points and 20 penalty minutes in 54 games last year in his rookie season with Peterborough. The Petes originally selected Lock in the third round (56th overall) of the 2005 OHL Priority Selection.

In 2005-06, Lock, from Waterloo, Ont., tallied nine goals with 17 assists for 26 points in 39 games for the Cambridge Winter Hawks of the Mid-Western Junior B Hockey League.

Lock is eligible for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Interest picking up for dormant Indians

RR Media Service

New commissioner Mark Seidel has wasted little time in putting his mark on the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

In an innovative move, Seidel has confirmed that NOJHL governors have passed a motion that all games played during the 2007-08 regular season will be worth three points.

Regulation-time wins will be worth three points, as opposed to two in the past. Games won during overtime or shootout will be worth two points, while losses will be worth one point.

"We're trying to give more meaning to winning in regulation time," said Seidel, who only recently was named commissioner of the NOJHL, replacing Hector Seguin, who had held the job on an interim basis.

Seidel is a former assistant general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters and has scouted for the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. Besides his NOJHL gig, Seidel is also employed as the chief scout for the NHL's North American Central Scouting Bureau.

As he settles into his new job as NOJHL commissioner, Seidel, who is from Espanola but resides in Lively, just outside of Sudbury, is studying expansion of the tidy six-team league, which has achieved parity over the past two seasons.

Seidel plans on talking with former OHL coach Paul Theriault, who is interested in reviving the 2006-07 champion Soo Indians for the 2008-09 season. Contrary to an earlier report that originated from the NOJHL office, Theriault and his group does not have a deal to purchase the Indians from in-limbo owner Charles Perdicaro of New York. In fact, a separate group has recently re-confirmed interest in potential ownership of the Indians.

In addition to a possible revival of the Indians for '08-09, three other northern Michigan towns have indicated interest in being part of NOJHL expansion, namely Escanaba, Gaylord and Kalkaska. Sources also say that Wawa has some interest in being part of the NOJHL for '08-09.

Closer to home, the Soo Thunderbirds begin training camp on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at John Rhodes Community Centre. With only two returning defencemen signed, the Thunderbirds have inked three rookie blueliners from Michigan to NOJHL contracts -- Ian Cosgrove, Drew Otto and Warren Webster.

In another move, the Thunderbirds have acquired forward Trevor McNutt, a local product who played Junior B in Listowel last season. McNutt, a former member of the AAA midget Soo North Stars, will join a returning group of Thunderbird forwards that includes Tyler Gendron, Jake Reid, Nick Minardi and Zak McNally.

And Thunderbirds' general manager Al Jones hopes to work out a trade with Blind River that would have the Soo acquire 1987 birth year defenceman Shaun Siemers from the Beavers. Siemers, who has played parts of the last three seasons with Blind River, has requested the trade to the Soo for academic reasons.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

IceDiggers looking forward to training camp

The Alpena IceDiggers will open training camp on Tuesday, September 4 with an on-ice session beginning at 2:00 p.m. All IceDiggers practices will be open to the public.

The 27 players will report on Saturday, September 1 at Northern Lights Arena looking to lock up one of the 24 spots for the season.

The IceDiggers returns four forwards from last years squad - Alpena native Erik Peterson, Jimmy McCusker (Novi), Kerry Bence (St. Clair) and Mike DeGrazia (Novi). On the back end, veterans Ben Kitzmiller (Lambertville), Evan West (Marysville) and Carl Nielsen return for another season in Alpena.

"We will be a young team, so it is important for our returning guys to remain confident during the rough times," third-year head coach Kenny Miller said. "I feel we have added several good players to this years team and if we play the way we are capable of, we will be OK."

Other veteran players that have spent time in the NAHL that will be attending camp are forwards Russ Anderson (St. Louis Bandits), Chris Perko (Fairbanks Ice Dogs) and netminder Nate Pellegrino (Alaska Avalanche). Tristan Harper (Scotland) spent time with the Bandits last season before being sent down to the CSHL to play for the Junior B national champion St. Louis Jr. Blues.

Forwards Jerrod Hartman, Jon Puskar (Compuware), Tyler Pilmore, Adam Kuhn (Michigan Ice Dogs), Andy Yarber (Compuware), Fred Burnham (Little Caesars), Ryan Timar (Michigan Ice Dogs), Pat Leonard (Compuware) and Brandon McConnell (Alpena midgets) along with the returning forwards will battle it out during training camp for the 14 forward spots available on this year's roster. Cheboygan native Isaac Viau will also be in camp after spending the past two seasons in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Northern Michigan Black Bears and Soo Indians.

"Each and every guy coming to camp needs to be at his best during the preseason to secure a spot on the team," added Miller. "We are going to have to make some tough decisions prior to the Showcase in late September."

Defensemen that will be reporting for training camp include JC Gulch, Cameron Small (Michigan Ice Dogs), Anton Thornquist (Victory Honda), Steve Tulgestka (Alpena High) and Tom Murphy.

Dan Pason (Little Caesars) will handle the goaltending duties with Pellegrino this year for the 'Diggers.

"I really like the two guys we have in goal," said Miller. "They both have the ability to give us a chance to win every night if they play to their capabilities."

The IceDiggers open the regular season in Blaine, Minn., at the NAHL Showcase from September 19-22. Alpena plays Wichita Falls, Southern Minnesota, Fargo-Moorhead and North Iowa.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Whalers ink second-rounder Carnevale

Taylor Carnevale, a center taken by the Plymouth Whalers in the second round (30th overall) of the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, signed with the team Monday.

Carnevale scored 41 goals with 60 assists for 101 points and 93 penalty minutes in 70 games last season for the Mississauga Rebels.

Central Scouting offers this analysis of Carnevale: "A very smart, effective offensive minded center that shows a good understanding of the game. He reads the play quite well and displayed offensive skill and productivity all season long. He shows good speed and quickness when he is at full stride. Carnevale possesses good hands and puck skills."

“Carnevale’s a dual citizen,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He’s a born hockey player who lives and breathes the game. He’s great in his own end and a great face off guy – just a pure character player.”

The Whalers have signed a number of draft choices for the upcoming season, including 2006 selections Tom Kane, Chad Rutkowski (Harrison Township), Josh Bemis (Clarkston), and now Carnevale.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Forward Rutkowski signs with Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers signed Harrison Township native Chad Rutkowski today.

The Whalers selected Rutkowski in the fifth round (93rd overall) of the 2006 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

“We’re glad Chad chose the OHL and are excited to have him join the team,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He’s another big body, a scorer and a local kid.”

Last season, the 6-foot-2, 193 pound-forward tallied 12 goals and two assists for 14 points and 74 penalty minutes in 25 games for the Belle Tire midgets.

“I’m really excited to join the Whalers,” said Rutkowski. “I’m a big forward that likes to score and I try to model my game after Markus Naslund.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's official: Bemis signs with Whalers

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 16-year-old defenseman Josh Bemis.

Bemis, who was selected by the Whalers in the 14th round (273rd overall) of the 2006 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, originally committed to play at Western Michigan University.

“We had Josh real high on our list,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “We are excited that he will continue his education with us while playing in the No. 1 development league for the NHL.”

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Bemis played last season for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, where he tallied two assists and 42 penalty minutes in 38 games as the league’s youngest player. He describes himself as a “smart defenseman” that patterns his play after Nick Lidstrom.

“I think joining the Whalers is a great opportunity for me,” said Bemis, a Clarkston native. “I’ve attended games in the past and am excited to be a part of it.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Traverse City's '07-08 roster set

Northern Michigan’s team will have a decidedly regional flavor to open the 2007-08 season, as the Traverse City North Stars rostered seven Traverse City-area players to conclude the team’s training camp this weekend at Centre ICE arena.

Forwards Sean Burke, Todd Knaus, Eric McLintock, Eric O’Hearn, and Marc and Garrett Thompson – along with goalie Dallas Kniss – each played their way into a ‘TC’ sweater, and were introduced to the public at a free hot dog cookout on Sunday afternoon at Centre ICE.

“I was surprised at exactly how hard the process of picking the team was,” said first-year Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “There were so many good players at the camp, it just made it exceedingly difficult to pick 25 of them. I thought all 40 kids in the Blue & White game went after it hard and did an excellent job of representing the North Stars.”

In addition to the seven local players, nine of the ten skaters eligible to return this year – Matt Hughes, Sabastion Kimmel, Joe Greener, Nate Urbaniak, Ben Plocar, Zach Hitch, Chris Heineman, Harrison Niemann and Jameson Raymond – also made the cut. Forward Brett Jendra barely missed out on a roster spot.

“There were some tough decisions, no question about it,” Palumbo explained. “We had a very crisp camp, and a lot of players gave us a lot to consider all summer long. If there was a surprise – and I wouldn’t exactly call it a ‘surprise’ it was Garrett (Thompson). He’s a 1990 (birth year) but played so well we couldn’t look past him. He basically made it so we had to take him.”

Garrett Thompson, whose parents moved to Traverse City with his brother (Marc) in November, says he was relaxed from the onset this weekend.

“I wasn’t all that nervous, I just wanted to come out and play my game and try to show the coaches what I can do.”

The Thompson brothers, along with fellow Traverse City-ites McLintock and O’Hearn, spent last season together on the Soo Indians’ Midget AAA roster, which should provide for some additional cohesion in the early going this season.

“It’s pretty cool to all be together again, to already have some chemistry with your new teammates,” said O’Hearn, who actually spent the weekend in the bleachers after an upper body injury kept him out of the final camp. “We’re all pretty familiar with each other and the roles we play.”

Tender Phil Wendecker and top draft pick Tyler Stephens also earned spots, while a trio of former Flint Generals - forwards Kellen Michalak and Jarrod Labell and defenseman Jonathan Sheridan – will also open the season with the club. Forwards Clinton Bourbonais (Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep) and Ben Dykstra (Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets) landed roster berths, while Brandon Stephenson (Victory Honda midget AAA) and Sault Ste. Marie product Miles Williams will battle for starting goaltending duties with Kniss.

“I thought I might have had a shot to make it, but I certainly didn’t take anything for granted,” said Kniss, who played for Palumbo last year at TC West. “Basically, playing here was my only option. I didn’t try out anywhere else, and I’m going to NMC (Northwestern Michigan College) this fall. I feel pretty fortunate to be able to stay home and play at this level.”

O’Hearn echoed those sentiments.

“It’s quite a privilege,” said O’Hearn, who led TC Central to a state championship two years ago before heading to the Soo for 2006-07. “Kids travel hundreds of miles to play junior hockey, and here we get to do it right in our own back yard.”

With a summer of camps now in the rear-view mirror, Palumbo and his staff are starting to turn their attention to the season-opening NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn., which runs from Sept. 19-22.

“I’m very, very excited about this team,” he beamed. “We can’t wait to get started. We think this year is going to be a success. I think we’re all pretty anxious to get started in earnest.”

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bemis reportedly on way to Plymouth

Per the Western College Hockey blog, the Plymouth Whalers are getting a player who previously had committed to go the NCAA route.

Defenseman Josh Bemis, Plymouth's 14th round pick in 2006, has reportedly spurned Western Michigan, where he would have started in 2009, to play for the Whalers this coming fall.

No confirmation from Plymouth as of yet.

North Stars’ Heineman a year older, wiser

Twelve months ago, Traverse City North Stars defenseman Chris Heineman was a 16-year-old North American Hockey League rookie, the youngest player in the league outside of Ann Arbor.

According to the New Boston product, it took him more than a month just to feel comfortable in his new environs and level of competition.

“I was a bit nervous, no question,” explained Heineman. “I mean, when you’re 16, you don’t necessarily have all that much in common outside the rink with 20- and 21-year old teammates. We were well into October before I really felt like I had my legs under me.”

Oh, what a difference a year makes.

After a two-goal, eight-assists rookie campaign, Heineman is ready to take the next step, and new Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo has taken note.

“He may be the top-performing defenseman at this weekend’s camp,” said Palumbo on Saturday before the 6-foot, 183-pound blue-liner took to the ice with his Blue Team teammates at Centre ICE arena. “He’s ready to step it up a level, to carry a bigger load. He also lost 7-10 pounds this summer and came into camp in great shape. That tells me he’s in the proper frame of mind – and body - to go after a college scholarship.”

Heineman’s summer workout regimen included two-mile runs every other day, intensive weight training, and numerous sessions with the U.S. National Team’s speed skating instructor.

“I just want to do the best I can and try to contribute to a winning season,” stated Heineman, a 3.4 GPA student who will enter his senior year at Traverse City Central High School this fall. “There’s a lot more accountability this year with the new staff, a lot more is being demanded of us on and off the ice, and I’ve really tried to embrace that.”

A 2006 draft choice (eighth round, 151st overall) of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves, Heineman describes himself as a ‘stay-at-home’ defender who doesn’t have to score to be effective.

“I don’t have to join the play,” he said. “I have to win my battles along the boards and not let anyone get past me with the puck. I try to focus on playing in our own zone and keeping shots off our goalies.”

Palumbo appreciates the defensive-mindedness, but won’t limit Heineman to his own end of the ice.

“Yeah, Chris can be called more of a stay-at-home guy, but it’s not like he’s not capable of chipping in with some offense, too. He’s ready for more responsibility, and we’re going to give it to him. He’s a good kid, a good student, and the sky is the limit for what he can do.”

Heineman unsurprisingly survived Saturday’s round of cuts and will compete in Sunday’s Blue & White All-Star game. Beyond that, his personal goals for 2007-08 take a back seat to team goals.

“We need more of a ‘team’ atmosphere, more of a bonding between the guys,” said Heineman, who toiled for Honeybaked’s midget program before joining the Stars. “I can see that happening already, and it should only get better. We had a lot of (personnel) turnover last year, and we should be a tighter unit this season. If we can achieve that, the wins will follow.

“Forget about last year. We’ve got a fresh start this season, and it’s time to get down to business.”

Friday, August 03, 2007

Plymouth pick Lynch turns down OHL

By Sue DePassio

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — On the surface, Kevin Lynch seems to be a typical 16-year-old.

With a spanking new driver’s license in his pocket, the Grosse Pointe Woods resident uses his newfound freedom to cruise Lake Shore Drive, and in his spare time, he plays golf at the local course or plays street hockey with his friends.

But Lynch is anything but typical; he’s an exceptional hockey player who has recently made some big decisions regarding his future, including his immediate future and his collegiate choice.

His first decision was whether to play for the Plymouth Whalers — which drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection — or accept an invitation by the U.S. National Team Development Program for the 2007-2009 training seasons in Ann Arbor.
Although he was thrilled to be chosen by the Whalers, he has decided on the national development team.

“Although Kevin was honored to be drafted by Plymouth, he has chosen, for the time being, that he’s not going to be playing there,” said Mike Lynch, Kevin’s father. “He wants to keep his options open about being able to play in the NCAA, and if he played for Plymouth, he would lose his NCAA eligibility.”

So this fall, he’ll be moving into a billet home in Ann Arbor and attending Ann Arbor Pioneer High for his junior and senior years.

One stipulation of the U.S. NTDP is that you must board within a 20-mile radius of its facility in Ann Arbor or live with a billet family, which Lynch said most boys in the program choose to do.

“I’m going to miss my family and friends, and the community,” said the talented center. “But I’ve always said I want to come back and settle down in Grosse Pointe.”

The second life-altering decision will be finalized in a year or so, when he’s officially allowed to make a formal commitment to play college hockey. Though several top-notch hockey schools have shown an interest, including Notre Dame, Michigan State, Boston and Wisconsin, Lynch said he has verbally committed to the University of Michigan.

“It’s close to home and a lot of family members went there and encouraged me to go, too,” Lynch said. “It was a perfect fit.”

As for what he will study at Michigan, Lynch said he hasn’t given it much thought.

“My parents keep telling me to decide what to do, but I can’t imagine myself doing anything but hockey.”

Lynch got his start playing at age 5 in the Grosse Pointe Hockey Association, but he’s been skating even longer than that.

“My mom put me on skates when I was 2 or 3,” Lynch said. “I think my first pair were figure skates.”

From there, he played center for the Detroit HoneyBaked AAA organization from ages 10-16.

“I just loved playing,” Lynch said. “I never knew I’d be good enough to make it anywhere, but I also couldn’t see myself being away from hockey for a second.”

You can reach Sue DePassio at or at (586) 279-1107.

Photo courtesy Mike Lynch

Traverse City's Greener back for more

There’s a Latin expression – ‘carpe diem’ – which means to ‘seize the day.’

Joe Greener wants to take it a step further and drink in an entire year.

The Traverse City North Stars’ 6-foot-1, 215-pound power forward enters his final year of junior hockey with some unfinished business on his mind – business that kept him from returning to his native England to play professionally.

“I wanted to come back to Traverse City to win something, to claim a national championship, ideally,” said Greener, a product of Surrey, about 35 minutes southeast of London. “Last year was not as good as we had hoped it would be in terms of the won-lost record, so I felt like I really wanted to be here when it did come around.”

While home in the United Kingdom this summer – and on holiday near Alicante, Spain – Greener had an opportunity to ply his trade in the British National League for 2007-08, but says he feels a definite attachment to northern Michigan.

“I’ve made so many friends over here, so many good people,” Greener added. “And my housing parents, Scott and Denise Loveland, have been so good to me. Plus, I worked so hard to get my visa, and it had another year on it, so it all made sense to come back.”

Greener poured in 12 goals and assisted on 15 other while playing in the full compliment of 62 contests last year. He was also third among North American Hockey League skaters with 189 penalty minutes. While Greener dubs himself a ‘power forward,' Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo won’t pigeonhole the center as such.

“I think everybody underestimates Joe a little bit as a skilled player,” Palumbo surmised. “As a midget in the Soo, he was a guy putting up 40-plus goals a year. Plus, he brings a lot of leadership and toughness, and I don’t necessarily mean by dropping the gloves. We expect that if we can get him in the right positions, he’s going to score some goals for us.”

While Greener – who packed on 5-7 pounds of lean muscle this summer working for his brother’s construction company – is among those returning players who will be counted on heavily on the ice this year, it is his steadying influence in the locker room that aids in the interpersonal cohesion requisite to winning games.

“The guys look to him for leadership, and he’s a great teammate,” said fellow returnee Jameson Raymond. “We’re all very glad he came back. He’s part of the heart and soul of this team.”

While Greener worked long, strenuous hours this summer, he found very little time – or competition – in England to keep his hockey skills sharp. And since this weekend’s training camp – from which the Stars will hew their 25-man roster come Sunday evening – is the first serious competitive hockey he’s played in months, Greener says it’s an important three-day stretch for him.

“I just hope I can keep up with everyone,” he quipped. “I hope I can provide what everyone expects from me. It was good to have a break to sort of recharge the batteries a little bit, but my hands and confidence will probably take a little time to come back.

“But this is my last year of juniors and I plan on making the most of it every day, every game.”

The Stars’ training camp continues through Sunday evening, when the team will introduce its roster during a hot dog cookout at around 5:45 p.m. All events, including the BBQ, are free to the public.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

North Stars roster to be named Sunday

Players who land a spot on the Traverse City North Stars’ roster this weekend at Centre ICE arena will also get a few goodies on Sunday evening following the training camp-culminating Blue & White All-Star game: A new practice jersey, a stall in the team’s locker room – and a hot dog with spicy mustard.

The former items are standard hockey issue, but the latter is part of the team’s Kickoff 2007 weekend bar-b-que, set to flame-up around 5 p.m. on Sunday following the Blue & White game.

The event – and all weekend games and on-ice workout sessions – are free to the public.

Three teams totaling about 50 players will compete – quite literally – for roster spots starting Friday. After Saturday’s action, the top performers will be placed on two teams for the Blue & White game, from which Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo will select his first roster.

“This is our third camp of the summer, but you’re looking for a little something different here than what you looked for at the pre-draft camp in May or the open camp in June,” Palumbo explained. “Early on, you look for talent and skill, now you start to try to fill certain roles and you look for the best players to fill those roles.”

Players who stood out in the North Stars summer tryout camps – including returning players, tenders, and draft picks – were invited back for this weekend’s event. Several local products are among them, including tenders Sean Burke, Alex Redmond, Eric McLintock, Eric O’Hearn and Marc Thompson, plus area prep stars Todd Knaus, Dallas Kniss, Tyler Stricker, Eric Swy and Dane Macdonell. First-round draft pick Tyler Stephens, along with tenders Trevor Shively and Phil Wendecker, are also slated to compete.

“It’s a good group, we’re very excited,” Palumbo added. “And this is probably as pure a way to arrive at a roster as any – throw a puck out there and let ‘em go at it. Who wants it more?”

At the conclusion of Sunday’s Blue & White game (face-off at 3 p.m.), Palumbo will briefly meet with each player individually, and after each has been informed of his status, the 2007-08 roster will be officially introduced at the bar-b-que.

“It’s a little bit of a unique way to do it, but it should be fun,” Palumbo said. “We’d love nothing more than to have all our fans come out to see some intense, crisp hockey, have a hot dog and a Pepsi, and meet the new North Stars.”

KAUNISTO TO WATERLOO: Kory Kaunisto, who scored six goals and assisted on 16 others in 61 contests last season, signed with the Waterloo of the United States Hockey League and is set to open the season with the Blackhawks. The Sault Ste. Marie product was selected by Waterloo in the 6th round (69th overall) of the USHL draft in May.

“Yeah, it’s going to hurt to lose Kory,” Palumbo admitted. “He made a decision and we support him in his decision. And if it ever didn’t work out in Waterloo, he’s the kind of kid we’d certainly love to have back.”

Kaunisto, who was honored as the NAHL’s top scholar last season, already has a commitment to Northern Michigan in hand, and could well make the jump to the NCAA in time for the 2008-09 season.

ENGLEBRIGHT DEALT: With a logjam of forwards eligible to return this season and a wealth of young talent at the position on the team’s radar, Palumbo finalized a deal last week to send winger Brett Englebright to Kenai River for a pair of conditional draft picks. Englebright spent the second half of the Stars’ inaugural season in Traverse City, appearing in 33 games and posting five goals and 10 assists.

Last year, the Pekin, IL native posted seven goals and 16 assists over the full compliment of 62 contests.

“We just had a lot of options at forward and they (Kenai River) really wanted Brett,” Palumbo explained. “Brett had played for their coach before and called us about him.”

North Stars training camp

Friday Aug 3
4:00-5:15 p.m. - Player check-in
5:20-5:30 p.m. – Orientation (Citizens Rink)
6:00-7:20 p.m. – On- ice workouts
7:30-9:20 p.m. – GAME

Saturday Aug 4
8:00-9:20 a.m. – On-ice workouts
9:30-11:30 a.m. – GAME
6:00 -7:20 p.m. – On-ice workouts
7:30-9:20 p.m. – GAME

Sunday Aug 5
9:00-9:50 a.m. – On-ice workouts
10:00-10:50 a.m. – On-ice workouts
3:00-5:00 p.m. – BLUE & WHITE ALL-STAR GAME
5:00 p.m. – Kickoff Weekend BBQ
5:45 p.m. – 2007-08 ROSTER INTRODUCED

Spirit prospects in town this weekend

The Saginaw Spirit will welcome its current and future prospects to town for this year's annual mini-camp, taking place from Thursday to Sunday.

The general public is invited to attend the two “Blue/White” games taking place over the weekend. The games take place on Friday and Saturday at the Midland Civic Arena and both games start at 7:00 p.m., with admission to the games being a monetary donation to the Saginaw Spirit Charitable Foundation.

The mini-camp is an annual team event that sees prospects taking part in drills, scrimmages and strength and conditioning training programs. The Spirit hockey operations staff - led by GM Don Edwards, head coach Todd Watson and director of scouting Dan Halliburton - will conduct evaluations designed to shape the Spirit roster for the 2007-2008 season.