Friday, November 30, 2007

Saginaw, Plymouth games postponed

The Ontario Hockey League today confirmed that Kingston Frontenacs players Jonathan Sciacca, 19, and Anthony Peters, 17, and assistant trainer Kurt Pearson, 20, were involved in a vehicle/pedestrian accident around 11:00 a.m. today in Windsor, Ontario.

All three members of the Frontenacs received non-life threatening injuries in the accident and were treated at the hospital in Windsor.

Several players and members of the team's training staff were on a morning walk when the incident occurred. The Frontenacs spent the night in Windsor after playing the Spitfires last night and were scheduled to travel to Michigan to play the Saginaw Spirit tonight and the Plymouth Whalers on Saturday.

Frontenacs' ownership and management along with the league recognize what a traumatic experience this has been for everyone involved and to that end are postponing the balance of the team's western swing in order that the players may be returned home to familiar surroundings and be provided with professional counselling and support as required.

"We appreciate the support of the league as well as the teams in their understanding of this difficult and traumatic experience," said Frontenacs' owner and governor Doug Springer. "At this time our focus is on the well-being of Jonathan, Anthony and Kurt and the well-being of our team as a whole."

Additional details on the postponed games will be provided in the near future.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Plymouth plays three-in-three this weekend

The red-hot Plymouth Whalers are taking the Rebuilding After a Championship Season Theory and throwing it out of Compuware Arena and right onto M-14.

The Whalers – 10-1-0-1 since Oct. 26 and currently 16-7-1-1 – are challenging first place Sault Ste. Marie (19-6-1-1) and second place Windsor (17-5-1-3) for the top of the Ontario Hockey League West Division standings. The Whalers have a busy weekend ahead:

Friday – Plymouth (16-7-1-1) at Kitchener (21-3-0-1), 7:30 p.m. Kitchener Memorial Auditorium: The Whalers take on the Rangers – the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League – before what is sure to be a sold-out Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. The Rangers beat Plymouth, 1-0 in overtime, on Sept. 28 in Kitchener.

WHO’S HOT FOR THE WHALERS: Goaltender Jeremy Smith (Brownstown) is the current OHL Boston Pizza Player of the Week and has posted a 1.85 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and 7-1-0-1 won-lost record with three shutouts in November. Defenseman Brett Bellemore (3-6-9, +14) returned from the disabled list at the end of October and has been a big part of the Whalers’ success this month. Chris Terry (17-28-45, +16), Andrew Fournier (20-20-40, +8) and AJ Jenks (15-5-20) lead Plymouth offensively.

WHO’S HOT FOR THE RANGERS: Kitchener's current ten-game stretch of 8-1-0-1 is the same as the Whalers. Rangers are 5-0-0-1 in their last six, the Whalers are 4-0-0-1 in their last five.

Kitchener is hosting the Memorial Cup in May of 2008 and made a bit of a statement Tuesday in hammering London, 7-1. London held the OHL's top scoring line - Kitchener's Justin Azevedo (16-37-53), Nick Spaling (23-19-42) and Matt Halischuk (12-30-42) - off the scoresheet, but it didn't matter. Scott Timmins scored twice for the Rangers and Matt Pepi, Alex Dzielski, Mike Duco, Nazem Kadri and Mikkel Boedker added singles.

Kitchener goaltender Josh Unice comes into this weekend leading the OHL with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

Saturday – Kingston (7-15-0-1) at Plymouth, 7:05 p.m., Compuware Arena. No doubt Red Wing fans will go to Joe Louis Arena to watch the Phoenix Coyotes, but fans looking to watch a Red Wing prospect should attend Saturday’s Plymouth-Kingston game.

The Frontenacs feature Red Wing draft pick Cory Emmerton (12-16-28), who has a history of playing well at Compuware Arena. He’s been named the game’s first star for Kingston in the Frontenacs’ last two games at Compuware Arena – Nov. 18, 2006 in a 5-2 win over the Whalers in which he scored two goals and an assist and Nov. 18, 2005 in a 7-5 win over the Whalers in which he also scored two goals with an assist. Emmerton was also the game’s second star on Nov. 22, 2004 in Kingston in a 4-2 victory over Plymouth. Emmerton scored a goal and an assist in that game.

In all, Emmerton has scored six goals with four assists for 10 points in six games against Plymouth in his career.

Emmerton was selected by the Red Wings in the second round (41st overall) of the 2006 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

Sunday – Plymouth at Sarnia (15-12-0-0), 6:05 p.m. The Whalers take on top NHL prospect Steven Stamkos (25-20-45), who scored the game-winning goal for the Sting against Plymouth in a 3-2 victory on Oct. 24 at Compuware Arena.

Emmerton photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rangers return home for three games

Fresh off a weekend sweep of the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, the Marquette Rangers return to Lakeview Arena for a rematch with the USNTDP Friday and Saturday, as well as a Challenge Cup series match-up Thursday evening with Traverse City.

Marquette currently sits alone in third place in the North American Hockey League’s North Division with 26 points while the USNTDP is in fourth place just two points back. Traverse City is currently in sixth place in the North Division with 22 points.

“It’s another big weekend for us,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “The fact that it is so close proves what we’ve been saying is true: our division is going to be tight all year. Every game is going to count and we need to be mentally and physically ready to go at all times. We took a big step last weekend in Ann Arbor, now we have to take the next step in developing as a team this weekend and give our fans a good weekend of hockey here at Lakeview.”

Thursday’s game with Traverse City will be the first opportunity for Rangers’ fans to see the Smith Barney Challenge Cup this season. The Challenge Cup is sponsored by Smith Barney offices in both Marquette and Traverse City and is awarded at the end of the year to the team who wins the season series between the two rivals. The North Stars lead the series two games to none with a pair of wins at Centre Ice in Traverse City in early October. A total of 12 regular season games between the two teams are scheduled this year.

Marquette’s Aaron Pietila has scored goals in three out of the Rangers’ last four games, including a four-point weekend at Ann Arbor in the sweep of the USNTDP (2g, 2a.) Pietila has now taken the lead in overall scoring for the Rangers with 24 points on the season. Josh Bussell heads a group of nine other Rangers scoring in double digits so far this season.

Two Rangers defensemen are currently among the top players in NAHL scoring this year. Derek Grogan is second among blueliners in goals this season with seven, while Nick Condon is fourth in the league for point production for a defenseman with 19 (1g, 18a).

Matt Brooker continues his strong play in goal for Marquette, improving to 9-2 on the season with a 2.70 goals-against average and a save percentage of .922.

Eight of the next nine games for the Rangers will be played on home ice leading up to the NAHL holiday break in late December.

“We wanted to be on solid footing by the time this homestand rolled around,” Enders added. “As a coach, you’re never satisfied with third place, but with the North Division being as tough as it is, we’re certainly not unhappy about where we are and with the opportunity to hopefully do well during this stretch of home games.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rangers off to Ann Arbor this weekend

The Marquette Rangers take to the road this weekend for a key matchup with the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-17 team based in Ann Arbor.

Marquette currently sits alone in third place in the North American Hockey League North Division with 22 points (11 wins, eight losses). The NTDP is in a fourth-place tie with Alpena just one point behind.

“We knew at the beginning of the season that our division was going to be very tight,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “The balance we’ve seen in our division has been amazing and we’re not even to December yet. It’s great for all involved because it forces us to be at the top of our game every weekend because if you’re not, you’re going to lose ground quick - ground you may never make up during the season.

“With young men like we have in our league, it’s a great lesson on being prepared and what it takes to win at a very high level. We as coaches can see the growth almost on a daily basis from the guys who show up ready to go. It’s very rewarding when you can see the switch get turned on in a players head, because you know he’ll be ready for the next challenge.”

Marquette is coming off a split at Lakeview Arena against the IceDiggers, winning 4-1 on Friday before falling 2-1 on Saturday night.

Team USA, following a silver medal at the Four Nations Cup in Russia traveled to St. Louis and split with the defending Robertson Cup champion Bandits, losing 5-3 Friday and winning on Saturday by a score of 7-3.

The two teams split their only other weekend together in late September in Marquette with the NTDP winning the first night 5-3. The Rangers held on for a 6-4 win on Saturday night.

The Rangers have been getting solid goaltending so far this season from second-year Ranger Matt Brooker. The Richmond, Virginia native sports a record of 8-2 on the year with a 2.88 goals-against average and a save percentage of .919.

Offensively, Aaron Pietila (Brighton) and Josh Bussell (LaSalle) lead the team with 20 points each. Ten Rangers have double-digit point totals so far on the season.

The NTDP, coached by former Michigan Tech standout Ron Rolston, is led by Jeremy Morin’s 15 points (11 goals, four assists) on the season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Whalers play three in four this week

With a 13-7-1-1 record, two consecutive sellouts last week and three straight home games at Compuware Arena this week, the Plymouth Whalers look to continue to move up the Ontario Hockey League’s West Division standings.

The Whalers host West Division rivals Saginaw on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and Sault Ste. Marie on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. before hosting the Sudbury Wolves this Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

Here’s a look at each game:

Wednesday – Saginaw (9-9-2-1) at Plymouth (13-7-1-1), 7:05 p.m., Compuware Arena: The Spirit and Whalers meet for the first of eight games this season, and there’s added spice to the rivalry with former Plymouth assistant coach Todd Watson taking over as head coach in Saginaw. The Spirit is getting excellent seasons from veterans Jack Combs (13-20-33), Ryan McDonough (15-11-26) and New York Rangers draft choice Tomas Zaborsky (12-12-24). Detroit Red Wings prospect Jan Mursak (5-16-21) plays with speed.

The Whalers are led offensively by Carolina draft pick Chris Terry (15-26-41, +15) and veteran Andrew Fournier (19-17-36, +7), who comes into the weekend with a 13-game scoring streak (11-12-23) dating back to Oct. 19. Plymouth is led defensively by Wes Cunningham (3-23-26, +6) and Carolina prospect Brett Bellemore (3-6-9, +13 in 10 games). With the trade of Michal Neuvirth last week to Windsor, Brownstown’s Jeremy Smith has taken over the Whalers’ lead goaltending position and has posted a 2.78 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 12 games. Smith is a candidate to represent the United States in the World Junior Championship over the Christmas holidays in the Czech Republic.

Friday – Sault Ste. Marie (16-5-1-1) at Plymouth, 2:00 p.m., Compuware Arena. The Greyhounds are battling with Windsor and Kitchener for the top spot overall in the OHL standings. Head coach Craig Hartsburg is receiving good years from goaltender Kyle Gajewski (2.46, .913 in 19 games), defenseman Josh Godfrey (8-13-21, +9) and leading scorer and center Dustin Jeffrey (14-23-37, +5) – a Pittsburgh Penguins’ draft choice who has already been signed by the Penguins. Sault Ste. Marie defeated Plymouth, 4-2, on Oct. 14 at the Steelback Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

Saturday – Sudbury (7-16-0-0) at Plymouth, 7:05 p.m., Compuware Arena. After playing in the Rogers Ontario Hockey League Championship Series last year and losing to the Whalers in six games, the Wolves are rebuilding under general manager and head coach Mike Foligno. The Wolves depend heavily on veteran goaltender Sebastian Dahm (3.62, .910 in 18 games) and veterans forwards Kevin Baker (13-9-22) and Patrik Lusnak (6-16-22) and second-year right wing Jared Staal (8-7-15). Plymouth defeated Sudbury, 6-5, at the Sudbury Community Arena on Oct. 13.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alpena travels to Traverse City Wednesday

The Alpena IceDiggers will travel to Traverse City to play in the traditional Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving contest against the North Stars for the third straight year. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m.

The IceDiggers are coming off a split with the Marquette Rangers last weekend in Marquette. Traverse City hosted Mahoning Valley for three in a row coming out on top in only one game.

Prior to Saturday's win, the IceDiggers were in the midst of a three-game losing streak - their longest dating back to February of last season.

"We played well enough early in the game to get the win," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "Credit (goalie) Nate (Pellegrino) as he was the difference on Saturday."

Alpena is currently 10-9-1 good for 21 points, while Traverse City sits at 8-6-4 with 20 points.

The IceDiggers wrap up the weekend with a road game in Ann Arbor on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. against the National Team Development Program.


The IceDigger players and coaching staff will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with family members as the team will be giving the holiday off to travel home and return for Sunday's game in Ann Arbor. "We all know how much these guys sacrifice to play hockey at this level, so to be able to let them go home and enjoy some time with their families will mean a lot to them," said Miller. Players that are unable to travel home for the holiday will travel with their teammates or enjoy the holiday with their billet families.

Pellegrino is ranked tenth in the NAHL among goaltenders with a 8-4-1 record, one shutout and a .906 save percentage.

Assistant captain Erik Peterson has a point in 16 of Alpena's 20 games so far this season for a total of 28 points.

Carl Nielsen is ranked 16th in scoring among defensemen with four goals and six assists for 10 points.

Jerrod Hartman was recruited this summer to add scoring to the IceDiggers lineup, but now the first-year player is going to be counted on to help stop the other team from scoring as Miller has moved Hartman to defense. "Jerrod is one of our best skaters," Miller said. "He can make a difference back there with his skill." Hartman played defense in both games last week in Marquette.

The IceDiggers are ranked third overall on the power-play with a 19.69%. Alpena has scored 25 of their 62 goals with the man advantage. However, the team has allowed five shorthanded goals.

The penalty kill is a different story. Alpena has allowed 23 power-play goals against and has a rating of 79.46%. Alpena has one shorthanded goal to their credit.

Kaunisto back with North Stars

When Kory Kaunsito decided this summer to play for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League this season, Traverse City North Stars coach-GM Anthony Palumbo left the door open a crack.

On Monday, Kaunisto came back through that door, and into the Stars’ dressing room.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. native – who played for Traverse City last season - will be in a TC sweater again on Wednesday when the Alpena IceDiggers visit Centre ICE arena for the clubs’ traditional Thanksgiving Eve clash.

“We’re thrilled to get Kory back,” Palumbo said. “He instantly adds another dimension to our club, especially offensively. He will step in and help this team right away, no question about it. He’s also a guy with tremendous character, which is among the chief reasons we were so eager to have him back.”

Kaunisto, who had a goal and a pair of assists in seven games this season in Waterloo, played 61 contests for the North Stars in 2006-07 and recorded six goals and 16 assists. A tremendous student, Kaunisto was tabbed as the league’s top scholar, winning the NAHL Academic Achievement Awards following the season.

“I like the town and I have a lot of friends here,” said Kaunisto, who is likely to head to Northern Michigan University to play for the Wildcats on scholarship in 2008-09. “I’m excited to be back. There are a lot of veteran guys here, and a lot of younger talents, too. I think this is a group that can contend for a title, and I just want to be a part of it.”

Kaunisto said a lack of ice time in Waterloo prompted his decision to return.

“Waterloo wouldn’t give me my outright release, and their price was too high for other teams to trade for me,” he explained. “Basically, I just want to play hockey, and I’m looking forward to just getting out there again and try to contribute to team success.”

Palumbo says that ice time won’t be a problem in Traverse City, where Kaunisto will start off on a line with leading goal-scorer Matt Hughes and Joe Greener.

“He’ll see time on the power play, on the penalty kill – we’ll make sure we get some minutes out of him. I know Joe and Matt will be excited.”

The North Stars-IceDiggers contest on Wednesday is slated for a 7 p.m. face-off.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IceDiggers travel to Marquette this weekend

When the Alpena IceDiggers head north on Friday for a two-game set against the Marquette Rangers, some will wonder if they should be called the road warriors.

Nine of their next 13 games are away from Northern Lights Arena with six in a row starting on Friday.

The IceDiggers will not return for another home game until Dec. 6 when they play host to the USA Under-17 Team. That is a span of 21 days without a home game.

"This road swing is very important for our season," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "We have not been the best at home, so going on the road may be a good thing for us. This will give us a chance to spend a lot of time together as a team."

This weekend's trip to Marquette marks the first back-to-back road games for the 'Diggers since the NAHL Showcase in mid-September. During this six game road trip, the IceDiggers will travel to every team in the division except St. Louis.

The IceDiggers are 4-1-1 on the road this season, 3-0-1 in division play and 1-1 at the NAHL Showcase.

"We have played well on the road so far this season," added Miller. "Our hockey club has a point in every game expect one and that was at the showcase."

Alpena has an overall record of 9-8-1 for 19 points, while Marquette is sitting one point ahead of the IceDiggers with 20 points and a record of 10-7-0.


Bryan Ross has eight points in six games since being acquired from the St. Louis Bandits.

Newly-acquired goaltender Matt Ferraro will wear No. 37 this weekend.

Several IceDiggers spent the afternoon on Thursday at Northern Lights Arena with students from Immanuel Lutheran School. Over 150 students participated in the open skate and enjoyed lunch with the players.

Alpena native Erik Peterson leads the team in scoring with 26 points in 19 games.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Alpena adds goaltender Ferraro

The Alpena IceDiggers added goaltender Matt Ferraro today from the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the British Columbia Hockey League.

"We felt we needed to bring in a new guy," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "Not all of our defensive struggles have not been a result of our goaltending, but we think we can be better in goal and that is why we have added Matt."

The Trail, B.C., native played in 10 games for Cowichan Valley, recording a record of 4-3-0 after starting the season with three straight wins. Prior to playing in the BCHL, the 19-year-old spent three seasons playing Junior B in Canada with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and the Castlegar Rebels in the KIJHL.

Ferraro arrived in Alpena for practice on Tuesday and will travel with the team this weekend to Marquette for a two-game set against the Rangers Friday and Saturday. Both games start at 7:30 p.m. at Lakeview Arena.

"As an organization, we are always trying to make our hockey team better and by adding Matt we think we have done that." added Miller. "We will take a hard look at our goaltending situation and make a decision that is best for the entire club."

Matt's father, Ray, spent 18 years playing in the National Hockey League and his younger bother Landon, 16, is a member of the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

O'Connor dealt from Plymouth to London

The Plymouth Whalers announced the trade of 20-year-old right wing Sean O’Connor to the London Knights today in exchange for a fifth-round draft choice in 2009.

Ontario Hockey League teams have until tomorrow to cut down to four 1987 birthdays on their respective rosters. The Whalers started the season with five overagers on the roster – defenseman Wes Cunningham, center Andrew Fournier, right wing Joe McCann, defenseman Zack Shepley and O’Connor on the roster. Teams can play only three overagers at one time and Shepley is currently hurt.

OHL teams have to cut to three overagers by Jan. 10.

Plymouth acquired O’Connor last season on Jan. 9 at the trading deadline from Erie for defenseman Frank Grzeszczak. O’Connor helped the Whalers win the OHL championship, scoring nine goals with 17 assists for 26 points in 28 regular-season games. He also scored seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 25 playoff games for Plymouth.

O’Connor underwent shoulder surgery last summer and made his season debut this season for Plymouth on Oct. 11 in Barrie. In eight games this season, O’Connor had two assists for the Whalers.

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rangers ready for battle with Alpena

After splitting their series at Fargo-Moorhead this past weekend, the Marquette Rangers return home to Lakeview Arena this Friday and Saturday to battle North Division rivals, the Alpena IceDiggers.

Marquette leads Alpena by one point in the race for third place in the division.

“It’s a great rivalry” said Rangers forward and assistant captain Dustin Partacz. “You always have to be ready when Alpena comes to town because it’s really intense when we play one another. We see them so many times during the year (12 games in the regular season) that we know each others’ game plan so the games will always be tight and close.”

Marquette lost last Friday at Fargo-Moorhead 6-3, but came back to win on Saturday, 5-2, behind two goals from Josh Bussell and a 30-save effort by goaltender Matt Brooker.

Alpena, meanwhile, was swept at home by Mahoning Valley by scores of 4-3 and 2-1.

The Rangers and IceDiggers have played three times this season, with Marquette winning two times, Alpena once. The home team has yet to win a game in the series this year.

The tightness of the race between the two teams is no surprise to Rangers head coach Randy Enders.

“When you play a team as often as we play Alpena or Traverse City for that matter; it’s only natural that it will be close every game," Enders said. "It’s sounds like a cliché, but it’s true that in a rivalry like this every second of every shift becomes crucial to our success. It makes the players more focused, and it makes them work harder which will obviously help them grow and be better hockey players.

“It’s also great for the fans because they get the best efforts from both teams every time we play, which guarantees a great night of hockey to come watch.”

Marquette is led in scoring by Bussell’s 20 points (9g, 11a), but the Rangers do boast having ten players on the roster in double figure in point production so far this season.

“That’s huge” Enders added. “When you can achieve balance it makes you more dangerous. We’re harder to defend when we have more than just a few guys scoring goals, it’s a trend I hope we continue for a long time this season because it not only helps us with games it help our guys’ confidence as the grind of the long season kicks in.”

Whalers trade Neuvirth, Kane to Windsor

The Plymouth Whalers acquired 17-year-old Import defenseman Michal Jordan, goaltender Matt Hackett (also 17), Barrie’s second-round selection in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection and a third-round selection in 2009 from the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for goaltender Michal Neuvirth, defenseman Tom Kane and Plymouth’s fourth-round selection in 2009.

The trade alleviates Plymouth’s crowded goaltending situation, with both Neuvirth - a second-round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2006 - and Jeremy Smith (second-round pick of the Nashville Predators last summer) sharing time in goal since the start of last season. Smith will now be the No. 1 goaltender in Plymouth, with Hackett as a promising young backup.

“With two goaltenders that are second-round NHL picks on one team and sharing duties, I felt I owed it to both Jeremy and Michal to find a place for them to play,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “We won a championship with them last year. Now, they both get a chance to play regularly.”

Neuvirth and Smith backstopped Plymouth to the OHL championship last season. The duo won the Dave Pinkney Trophy in allowing a league-low 173 goals. Neuvirth played most of the way in the 2007 playoffs, posting a 2.54 goals-against average and .927 save percentage while going 16-5-2 in 23 games. Neuvirth was awarded the F.W. “Dinty” Moore Award last season when he led all OHL goaltenders with the 2.32 goals-against average in 41 games.

Neuvirth posted a 2.38 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and a 31-12-3-2 won loss record with the Whalers in his career.

Kane – Plymouth’s third-round choice in 2006 – made the Whalers this year and was scoreless in 13 games.

Jordan (pronounced “Mee-kel Yor-DAN”) was selected by Windsor in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2007 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft and is considered a future National Hockey League prospect. Jordan – from Zlin, Czech Republic - has a goal and five assists and is +7 with 12 penalty minutes in 22 games for Windsor this season.

Hackett was selected by Windsor in the fifth round of the 2006 OHL Priority Selection. In 11 career games over two seasons, Hackett has a 4.94 goals-against average and .858 save percentage.

Neuvirth and Kane are expected to report to Windsor in time for the Spitfires’ next game – Thursday night at Windsor Arena against Brampton. Jordan and Hackett are expected to report to Plymouth in time for the Whalers’ next game – Friday night at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena - against Windsor.

Jordan photo courtesy Windsor Spitfires

Saginaw deals captain Asselin to Oshawa

The Oshawa Generals have acquired one of the top veterans in the Ontario Hockey League.

Patrick Asselin, who holds the Saginaw Spirit franchise record for games played with 255, was acquired by the Generals on Tuesday in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in 2008 and a second-round pick in 2009. Asselin will make his debut Friday when the Generals play host to the Belleville Bulls at 7:35 p.m. at the General Motors Centre.

“He’s a perfect fit for our hockey club,” Oshawa coach-GM Brad Selwood said. “He’s a guy that can play in a variety of roles, he does so many things well and he’s the kind of a veteran you need to win in this league.”

Asselin, 20, is a Peterborough, Ont., native who is in his fifth season in the OHL, all of them with the Spirit. He enjoyed his best season in the OHL last year, with 27 goals, 26 assists for 53 points in 68 games. The veteran left winger has 70 goals and 136 points in his OHL career and brings extensive experience in the league to the Eastern Conference leading Generals.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Generals,” Asselin said. “This is a team with a legitimate shot at winning the league title and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Whalers host Majors, Storm this weekend

After spending last weekend on the road, the Plymouth Whalers (10-6-1-0) bring in the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (6-8-1-0) on Friday and the Guelph Storm (8-8-2-0) on Saturday in Ontario Hockey League action at Compuware Arena.

Both games start at 7:05 p.m. and both games will be broadcast on

The Whalers come in to the weekend with a four-game winning streak, the last three victories on the road – a 4-0 shutout of Niagara on Nov. 1, a 3-2 victory in Erie last Saturday and a 5-2 win over Mississauga last Sunday.

WHO’S HOT FOR PLYMOUTH: Co-captains Andrew Fournier (15 goals with 12 assists for 27 points) and Chris Terry (10-20-30) carried the team on the road last week, with Fournier scoring five goals and three assists for eight points over three games and Terry a goal with six assists for seven points…Plymouth goaltenders Jeremy Smith (2.98 GA, .923 save percentage) and Michal Neuvirth (2.60, .928) continue to be among the best netminders in the OHL… Defenseman Brett Bellemore rejoined the team from injury Oct. 26 and has two goals with two assists for four points and in +8 in five games…Veteran Wes Cunningham (3-21-24) is tied with Sarnia’s Ryan Wilson for the league lead among all OHL defensemen with 21 assists…Whaler penalty killers pitched a shutout on the road last weekend when they went 24-for-24.

MISSISSAUGA TOP GUNS: Ottawa-draft Kaspars Daugavins (9-8-17, +5) leads the Majors in scoring and Casey Cizikas (3-7-10) – taken third overall last spring in the OHL Priority Selection – is a quality rookie. Veteran Matt Caria (5-5-10, +6 in five games) has missed the last couple of weeks with an injury.

WHO’S HOT FOR GUELPH: NHL scouts are watching 17-year-old Drew Doughty (5-20-25) with great interest. Doughty and Niagara defenseman Alex Pietrangelo are expected to be the first two OHL defenseman selected in next summer’s National Hockey League Entry Draft. Luke Pither, 18, (11-14-25, +8) leads Guelph in scoring. USA Hockey officials may attend the game on Saturday to evaluate American goaltenders Thomas McCollum (3.26, .901) and Smith. Both are in the running to represent the United States in the upcoming World Junior Championship Dec. 26-Jan.5 in the Czech Republic.

NEXT WEEK: The Whalers remain home, hosting Windsor on Fri. Nov. 16 and London on Sat. Nov. 17.

Cunningham photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Spirit hire Ficorelli as new broadcaster

Terry Ficorelli has accepted the position of Vice President of Broadcasting for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League.

In his new role, he will serve as the team’s Vice President of Communications and the “Voice of the Spirit” for all of the Saginaw Spirits game broadcasts. In addition to broadcasting the OHL contests, Ficorelli will assist with corporate sales, season ticket and group sales efforts.

“We are extremely happy for Terry as he moves on to the OHL,” stated Paul Pickard, IHL President/CEO. “We have enjoyed working with him and wish Terry nothing but the best in his new endeavor.”

Ficorelli has been broadcasting hockey for over 30 years and has called more than 3,000 consecutive games. He began his career with the Kalamazoo Wings in the International Hockey League during the 1974-75 season. The Detroit native will be leaving the Muskegon Fury after 13 years with the organization.

Ficorelli will join the Spirit in early December.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Alpena to sport camo jerseys this weekend

With the opening of deer hunting season only one week away, the Alpena IceDiggers are getting an early start on their hunting gear this weekend when they play host to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms on Friday and Saturday night at Northern Lights Arena.

The IceDiggers will wear special event camouflage jerseys this weekend.

"Hunting is very popular here in northern Michigan, so what better way to bring in deer season than to wear a cool camouflage jersey," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller.

The jerseys will be worn by the players on Friday and Saturday and after Saturday's game auctioneer Ivan Sumrix will auction off all 25 game-worn jerseys to fans in attendance immediately after the final horn sounds. The auction will take place in the main grandstands and the bidding on each jersey will start at $100.

"The fans of Alpena have always supported us and this is a great way for them to get a chance to own their favorite players game-worn jersey," added Miller

OT Sports (Burlington, N.C.) designed the jerseys with help from the IceDiggers staff.

The players always enjoy wearing special event jerseys.

"It is fun to wear a special jersey that you know will be auctioned off to one of your fans, so this is always cool," said third-year veteran forward Erik Peterson.

The IceDiggers have had more than 10 days off since their last home game, a 6-5 win over the USA Under-17 team. Mahoning Valley comes to Alpena for the final time this regular season after beating division leader St. Louis on Friday before falling in a shoot-out on Saturday versus the defending champs.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Former Marquette forward Zuk off to Princeton

Former Marquette Rangers forward Brodie Zuk has committed to play collegiately at Princeton University for the 2008-2009 hockey season.

Zuk, 20, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was a member of the inaugural Rangers’ team in 2006-2007 finishing as the team's second leading scorer with 21 goals and 31 assists in 55 games.

“It’s a great opportunity for Brodie and we couldn’t be happier as an organization” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “Brodie’s a quality guy and a hard worker who’s dedicated to being a successful hockey player. I’m confident he’ll be as big an asset to Princeton’s program as he was for ours while he was here.”

Zuk is currently playing for the Naniamo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League and has scored 10 goals and 10 assists after 20 games.

Rangers travel to Fargo this weekend

The Marquette Rangers return to North American Hockey League action following a bye week, traveling to Fargo, North Dakota for games this Friday and Saturday against the Fargo-Moorhead Jets of the NAHL Central Division.

The two teams split in Marquette in early October with the Jets winning 5-4 on Friday, night; Marquette won the Saturday match-up 6-5.

“It was good for our guys to get some time back home” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “For a lot of our players this is their first experience where their lives are nothing but hockey, and the length of the season can catch-up to the new guys pretty quick, so just getting away from the grind is a valuable thing.

“The great thing about athletes at this level is that we as coaches really don’t need to pester them during the off week, as they all skated and worked-out even while they were at home. Time away not only gives you a mental break, but being away from the game fuels your passion to play so I’m confident we’ll be anxious to get going again and to get ready for the trip to Fargo."

After the bye week, Marquette sits in fifth place in the North Division with a 9-6 record and 18 points. St. Louis continues to lead the division with 28 points, but only five points separate second place from sixth place.

The race being so close isn’t a surprise to Enders.

“We knew going into this year that every weekend was going to be important with the quality of the competition in the North Division” said Enders. “With St. Louis being the defending league champions, and Mahoning Valley having another solid season every point is going to be crucial for the rest of us in the division. But it’s great for our players knowing they have to be ready every night, and great for our fans because they’re going to see everyone’s best effort all season long.”

The Rangers return to Lakeview Arena November 16-17 taking on Alpena in a weekend featuring several game promotions, including a chance to win up to $300 in gasoline from Holiday Station Stores Friday night.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Thurs. Nov. 1

Plymouth 4 at Niagara 0

at Alpena 6, U.S. Under-17 Team 5

Fri. Nov. 2

Owen Sound 4 at Saginaw 1

Traverse City 4 at U.S. Under-18 Team 1

Sat. Nov. 3

Plymouth 3 at Erie 2

at U.S. Under-18 Team 5, Traverse City 1

Sun. Nov. 4

Plymouth 5 at Mississauga 2

Friday, November 02, 2007

North Stars face Team USA this weekend

Anthony Palumbo is hoping for a big letdown this weekend when his team visits the Ann Arbor Ice Cube – just not from his own team.

The Traverse City North Stars’ head coach-GM is counting on the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad looking past their NAHL North Division rivals. The U-18s are coming off a weekend against two of the top NCAA Div. I programs in the country, and acquitted themselves nicely, falling to No. 8 Minnesota 3-1 and battling No. 19 St. Cloud State to a 1-1 draw.

“And now here we come, the little Traverse City North Stars, tucked in between the University of Minnesota and Harvard on their schedule,” Palumbo quipped. “I don’t think we’re necessarily one of the dates they’ve circled on their calendar. They're stacked, but we don’t mind playing the role of David.”

The Stars gained a split with Mahoning Valley last weekend, and are 6-4-3 – two points behind the USNTDP for fifth place in the North Division standings with four games in hand. The U-17s dropped a 6-5 decision in Alpena on Thursday night.

If Traverse City hopes to gain any ground, they’ll have to do it with five defenders, as Jameson Raymond’s lower body injury will likely keep him out of action in Ann Arbor. Alex Breeden, Tyler Stephens, Phil Wendecker, Chris Heineman and Jonathan Sheridan will get yoked early and often over the course of the two-game set.

“Sometimes, that’s actually a positive,” pointed out Stars associate head coach Mike Matteucci, a defenseman by trade for 11 years in the minor pro ranks. “I think when you’re getting more ice time out there you get into a rhythm that you might not otherwise achieve. You’re cognizant of taking shorter shifts, and you just kind of go into the game knowing you have a little extra responsibility.”

The Under-18s are led by David Warsofsky (3 G – 4 A), Patrick Gaul (2 G – 4 A), and Robbie Czarnik (3 G – 2 A) in the scoring department, while Nick Maricic has allowed just four goals in four games and boasts a .960 save percentage.

“Let’s face it, a lot of these guys are NHL draft picks,” said Palumbo, referring to the USNTDP-to-NHL pipeline that saw 17 USA alums selected in the 2007 NHL Draft. “This is probably the most scouted rink in the league, and they’ll (college and pro scouts) be there this weekend. We have every reason to play our best, to go after it hard. It’s exciting and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

IceDiggers host Team USA tonight

Tonight, the Alpena IceDiggers will play host for the first time this season to the USA Under-17 Team inside Northern Lights Arena.

This meeting will mark the first time the two clubs have hooked up since USA eliminated the IceDiggers from the 2006-2007 playoffs.

Alpena currently sits tied with USA in the North Division standings with 17 points. Alpena is 8-6-1, while USA is 8-7-1. Alpena holds a game in hand.

"In order for us to be successful, we are going to have to be physical," Alpena coach-GM Kenny Miller said. "They are a talented bunch and we will have to be mentally and physically stronger than them in all areas to win."

The IceDiggers had a 9-3-2 record last season versus both the Under-17 Team and the Under-18 Team. This is the first of five home games versus the Under-17 squad.


Veteran forward Erik Peterson remains red-hot for Alpena, recording a goal and three assists last weekend versus Marquette. The Alpena native sits six points out of the NAHL scoring race through 15 games. Peterson has a total of 20 points on the year. The forward was also nominated for North Division player of the week.

Toledo native Tyler Pilmore leads the IceDiggers in plus-minus on the season with a +5 rating. Isaac Viau and JC Gulch are each plus-4.

Russ Anderson remains sidelined with an injury. The IceDiggers training staff expects Anderson to miss up to four weeks.

Newly-acquired forward Bryan Ross has a point in all three games he has suited up for Alpena.

Alpena native Steve Tulgestka is plus-2 in two games played this season. The 16-year-old is in his first year with the IceDiggers after spending the 2006-07 season at Alpena High School.