Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saginaw's Jarram signs with Rochester

Saginaw Spirit forward David Jarram has signed a contract with the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers.

Details of the signing were not disclosed.

Jarram arrived in Saginaw via a January trade with the Oshawa Generals (pictured).

The 1987-born native of Kitchener, Ontario, posted 14 goals and 15 assists in his five-year OHL career that saw stops in Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, London, Oshawa and Saginaw. He tallied 11 goals and seven assists during the 2007-2008 season, including five goals and two assists in 29 games with the Spirit.

“The Saginaw Spirit want to win OHL championships, but just as importantly, this organization strives to develop its players into future NHLers,” stated Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin. “The fact that he signed a pro contract immediately following the end of our season is a testament to the fact that the OHL is the top developmental program for the NHL.

"We are thrilled for David and wish him the best of luck. The entire Spirit family will be rooting for his continued success as he works toward the day when he skates with the NHL's Florida Panthers.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Terry also gets AHL deal

In addition to Andrew Fournier getting an AHL tryout in Norfolk (see below), Plymouth center/left wing Chris Terry – a fifth-round draft choice of the Carolina Hurricanes last summer – is expected to spend some time with the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany River Rats.

Terry is eligible to return next season to Plymouth.

Photo courtesy Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Plymouth captain gets AHL tryout

The Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League have signed center Andrew Fournier to an amateur tryout.

Fournier is a 20-year-old, 5-foot-11, 192-pound native of Amherstview, Ontario, and just finished his fourth full season of junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers this season, ranking second on the team in goals and points while finishing third in assists. He also served as team captain.

In 64 games this season, Fournier netted 35 goals and added 40 assists for 75 points and 49 penalty minutes. His 17 power-play goals were tied for the eleventh-most in the OHL and he also netted two shorthanded goals and five game-winning goals. Fournier now ranks in the top 20 of the Plymouth all-time scoring list (19th, 168 points) and goals list (T-12th, 85).

He was a member of the 2006-07 OHL championship Whalers team.

Fournier made his Plymouth debut at the end of the 2003-04 season.

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Whalers banquet set for Monday

The Plymouth Whalers' annual end-of-the-year banquet will be held on Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Ginopolis On The Ice restaurant inside Compuware Arena.

Tickets are $15.

RSVP by calling 734-453-8400.

Saginaw's season over in Soo sweep

The Saginaw Spirit lost 4-2 to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last night at home, ending a 2007-2008 season that saw a regular-season record of 33-25-8-2 with 76 points and a winless post-season record.

Chris Chappell and Nick Crawford notched goals for Saginaw in the effort.

Chappell gave the Spirit a 1-0 lead early in the game with a goal at 10:09 of the first period. The Greyhounds would be quick to respond, scoring two goals to give themselves a 2-1 lead exiting the period. Anthony Peluso notched a goal at 14:03 of the period and Brandon Biggers followed with a goal at the 15:45 mark.

Both teams traded goals in the second period. Crawford fired one in from the blue line at the 11:49 mark and the Greyhounds would answer with a goal from Wayne Simmonds at 18:56.

The two teams would battle into the third period. The Spirit pulled goalie Edward Pasquale in the final seconds for an extra attacker, but Dustin Jeffrey scored an empty-net goal with five seconds left.

Pasquale tallied 28 saves, giving him the second star of the game. Greyhounds goalie Kyle Gajewski earned the first star of the game with 32 saves.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

IceDiggers get Phantoms in first round

The North American Hockey League announced today the schedule of the best-of-five North Division semifinal series of the Robertson Cup Playoffs.

Team USA vs. St. Louis Bandits
Game 1: Friday, April 4 @ St. Louis, 7:15 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, April 5 @ St. Louis, 7:15 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, April 6 @ St. Louis, 5 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday, April 12 @ USA, 7 p.m.*
Game 5: Sunday, April 13 @ USA, TBD*

Alpena IceDiggers vs. Mahoning Valley Phantoms
Game 1: Friday, April 4 @ Mahoning Valley, 7:15 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, April 5 @ Mahoning Valley, 7:15 p.m.
Game 3: Thursday, April 10 @ Alpena, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Friday, April 11 @ Alpena, 7 p.m.*
Game 5: Sunday, April 13 @ Mahoning Valley, 6 p.m.*

* if necessary

The playoff schedules for the Central and South Divisions will be announced when the seeds in each division are determined.

Whalers eliminated by Rangers in four

Last season, the Plymouth Whalers won the Ontario Hockey League championship playing the opposition any way they wanted to play. This season, the Kitchener Rangers used the same formula in eliminating Plymouth from the OHL playoffs in four games.

Led by Justin Azevedo’s four assists, the Rangers led from start to finish in a 7-4 victory over Plymouth in Game 4 of the best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarterfinal series. The Rangers led most of the series in winning all four games.

Although he scored only one goal in the series, Azevedo racked up 13 assists and leads the OHL playoffs in scoring with 14 points in four games. Azevedo also led the OHL in scoring during the regular season with 43 goals and 81 assists for 124 points in 67 games. Utilizing a balanced scoring attack, Kitchener received single goals in the game from Mikkel Boedker (second of the playoffs), Scott Timmins (1), Matt Halischuk (team-leading sixth), Nick Spaling (4), Ben Shutron (2), Mike Duco (3) and Scott Tregunna (1).

Plymouth received goals from Jordon O’Neill and Tyler J. Brown (both with their first-ever OHL playoff goals), captain Andrew Fournier (1) and Patrick Lee (3). Plymouth was behind the entire game, cutting into Kitchener leads of 2-0, 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Kitchener built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Boekder (one-timer from the right circle at 1:57) and Timmins (wrap around right wing side at 3:00). The Whalers cut the Kitchener lead to 2-1 on O’Neill’s snap shot from the slot at 12:55.

The Rangers led, 2-1, after one period.

Rangers took a 3-1 lead on Halishuck’s penalty shot goal at 8:19, but Lee scored for Plymouth on a deflection of a Chris Terry point shot at 13:17. Kitchener took a 4-2 lead on Spaling’s shot of a rebound from the right crease area at 15:40.

Kitchener led, 4-2, after forty minutes.

Plymouth battled back, cutting the Kitchener lead to 4-3 12 seconds into the third period when Brown scored from the left circle after Kitchener goaltender Josh Unice made a save on Brett Bellemore’s shot from the right point. Kitchener came right back 36 seconds later on Shutron’s shot from the left point to regain a 5-3 lead. The Whalers cut into the Kitchener lead again at 5-4 at 8:45 when Fournier scored on a scramble at the right wing side of the Kitchener goal. But Duco (15:09) and Tregunna (15:47) scored for the Rangers and they pulled away to win.

Kitchener outshot Plymouth, 55-36.

Jeremy Smith made 48 saves for Plymouth, while Unice finished with 32 for the Rangers.

PHOTO: Plymouth's Patrick Lee scores in the second period Wednesday night at Compuware Arena. Photo by Walt Dmoch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rangers finish season against North Stars

Despite the fact that neither the Marquette Rangers or the Traverse City North Stars qualified for the North American Hockey League playoffs this year, you’ll be hard pressed to convince members of either team that there’s nothing left to play for this season.

The two NAHL North Division rivals will square-off this Friday and Saturday at Lakeview Arena to decide the champion of the inaugural Smith-Barney Challenge Cup between the two clubs.

The Challenge Cup was formed as a way to promote the rivalry between the two teams and is sponsored by Smith-Barney offices in both Marquette and Traverse City.

“Of course we’re disappointed in not making the playoffs this year,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “It’s the goal of every team to make the post-season, so coming up short does leave a bad taste in our mouths.

“The goal of having this Challenge Cup though was to ensure that both teams, regardless of playoff status, would have an extra something to play for every year. I know our guys don’t want to lose this thing this weekend, so I expect them to really fight to keep it in our offices during the offseason.”

Enders also pointed out that weekends like this one will go a long way in defining the character of his young players.

“We may not be a playoff team, but we still have the challenge of these two games in front of us," said Enders. "I’ll be looking for these guys to give it their all and really show their true character this weekend. Some guys may just go through the motions and those guys will be easy to spot. It’s the players who come to play this weekend that can, and will, make a difference.”

The Smith-Barney Challenge Cup race is as close as the regular-season series between the two teams. Going into this weekend, Marquette is in fifth place in the NAHL North at 26-27-3 while the North Stars are one point back with a record of 21-23-12.

The Rangers lead the Challenge Cup race by two points after 10 games, and must win one of the two games this weekend to claim the Cup as their own. Currently, Marquette has 12 points in the series and Traverse City has 10.

Traverse City, meanwhile, needs to sweep Marquette in regulation both nights to win the Cup outright.

Should the North Stars win both nights in an overtime or shoot-out situation, the Rangers will earn one point each night to go with the two points for a Traverse City win, thus forcing a tie at 14 points apiece for the Challenge Cup series title.

“Given the history between these teams over the past two seasons anything’s possible,” Enders added. “Who knows how we’ll determine things if that happens, but we’ll find a way to settle it. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NAHL returning to Detroit area this fall

The North American Hockey League announced Monday that its Board of Governors has approved the relocation of BAM, LLC’s membership to the Detroit area for the 2008-2009 season.

BAM currently owns and operates the NAHL’s Southern Minnesota Express.

More information on the relocation of membership will be announced in the coming weeks.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spirit-Soo playoff games rescheduled

The Saginaw Spirit will be hosting the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for two playoff games this week – Wednesday, March 26 and Thursday, March 27.

Both games will take place at 7:11 PM at TheDow Event Center in Saginaw. Saturday night's home game was postponed due to unsafe ice conditions, but the team found better conditions when they hit the ice Monday morning for practice.

“The ice is getting better and should be in good shape when Wednesday comes around," stated Spirit captain Ryan McDonough. “TheDow has done a good job getting the ice in shape for the next game."

Fans can turn in their ticket stub from Saturday's contest for admittance into Thursday's home game or get a full refund in-person at TheDow Event Center box office or the Saginaw Spirit merchandise store.

“We came out of the locker room after a two-hour delay Saturday night and still found the building packed," added McDonough. "The guys (Spirit players) really appreciated the show of support and we look forward to seeing everyone back at TheDow Wednesday and Thursday night."

The Spirit and TheDow Event Center are pleased to announce beer and concession specials for Wednesday and Thursday night's games. TheDow will be selling 22-ounce draft beers for $2.50 each – regularly priced at $5 each. Popcorn, medium soft drinks and king size candy bars will be sold for $1 each, plus fans can receive a special $1 off coupon for a frozen drink at TheDow Event Center's Frosty Coconut Bar.

The revised series schedule:

Game 2: Monday, March 24th in Sault Ste. Marie; 7:00 PM
Game 3: Wednesday, March 26th in Saginaw; 7:11 PM
Game 4: Thursday, March 27th in Saginaw; 7:11 PM
Game 5: Saturday, March 29th in Sault Ste. Marie; 7:00 PM*
Game 6: Monday, March 31st in Saginaw; 7:11 PM*
Game 7: Tuesday, April 1st in Sault Ste. Marie; 7:00 PM*

*if necessary

Alpena's Miller in jail - for charity

On Wednesday, Alpena IceDiggers head coach Kenny Miller will go to jail to help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. All proceeds of Miller's bail will go to the MDA.

"This is great a cause and I am happy to help in any way I can," said Miller

Anyone interested in helping coach Miller make bail can click HERE and pledge a donation.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bandits invade Traverse City this weekend

Just when the Traverse City North Stars need to grab every single available point in their pursuit of the fourth and final playoff spot in the NAHL North, along come the defending champs.

The St. Louis Bandits come into the final weekend homestand of the regular season at Centre ICE arena, toting the NAHL’s best record (44-9-2), a roster that is chock-full of NCAA Division I commitments and the Robertson Cup.

“They’re pretty much the top team in the league no matter how you look at it,” surmised North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “We’re going to compete hard and play our best hockey to get what we need to get out of this series.”

The North Stars’ late-season combustion was quelled – but not extinguished – last weekend in Mahoning Valley, as Traverse City’s seven-game win streak was halted. The Stars are two points behind the fourth-place U.S. National Team Development Program for the last postseason spot, with Marquette a point up on TC in fifth. Marquette and Team USA embark on a two-game series this weekend, with the North Stars heading to Marquette next weekend to cap the regular season.

“There are a lot of computations and scenarios there, but if we don’t take care of our end, it won’t matter much,” Palumbo added. “We’re already in playoff mode, essentially. These last games are every bit as must-win as any playoff series would be.”

The Bandits would have some cause to enter the weekend without a sense of urgency, having locked up the league’s top overall record/seed, the North Division regular season crown, and sit squarely in the catbird seat heading into the Robertson Cup playoffs. However, the club is laden with top-college talent, as no fewer than seven D-1 signatories dot the St. Louis roster: Sam Bozoian (Harvard), Tom Brooks (Robert Morris), Nick Condon (Notre Dame), Andrew Hamburg (Colorado College), Mike Hull (Army), Mike Merrifield (Michigan State) and Ben Warda (Michigan State).

Warda leads the Bandits with 71 points – good enough for fourth overall in the NAHL – while Kyle O’Kane is tops in goals (38) and Mike Leone first with 44 assists. In net, both all-star Cal Heeter (22-6-1) and Mike Johnson (21-3-1) are essentially impermeable, permitting just over 2.5 goals per outing.

For the host Stars, Nate Urbaniak continues to re-write the club’s single-season scoring records for goals (25) and points (60), while Kyle Bonis has 12 points in his past six outings. Goalkeepers Chris Paliafito and Brandon Stephenson are each a series removed from their first career shutouts.

Both weekend contests get underway at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beverly Hills native Merrifield commits to MSU

St. Louis Bandits forward Mike Merrifield has committed to Michigan State University for the 2009-10 season.

Merrifield, from Beverly Hills, leads all first-year NAHL players in scoring with 18 goals and 56 points after 55 games. The 18-year-old’s plus-33 rating ranks second in the league.

"Playing hockey for Michigan State has been a dream of mine since I was seven years old,” said Merrifield. “I can't be happier. I want to thank the Bandits organization for helping this become a reality.”

"One thing you never have to worry about with Mike is his work ethic and commitment to play, and play hard,” said Bandits coach-GM Jon Cooper. “The fact that he has exceptional skill and speed is icing on the cake.”

Merrifield is the seventh Bandit from this year’s team to commit to a Division I program this season.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saginaw draws Greyhounds in playoffs

The Saginaw Spirit are preparing for their upcoming playoff series against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this week. The first round match-up with the Greyhounds is one that the Spirit know all too well, as they squared off against the West Division rival in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Saginaw will travel to Sault Ste. Marie on Friday to take on the Greyhounds at 7:30 p.m. The team will then return home to the Dow Event Center to play the first home playoff game of the series on Saturday at 7:11 p.m.

The Spirit compiled a record of 3-3-2-0 against the Greyhounds this season.

Game 1 – Fri., March 21 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30
Game 2 - Sat., March 22 at Saginaw, 7:11
Game 3 - Mon., March 24 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:00
Game 4 - Wed., March 26 at Saginaw, 7:11
Game 5 - Fri., March 28 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30*
Game 6 - Sat., March 29 at Saginaw, 7:11*
Game 7- Tues., April 1 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:00*

*If Necessary

Monday, March 17, 2008

Whalers get Rangers in first round

The Plymouth Whalers have drawn the Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, starting Friday night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

The dates of the Whalers-Rangers Western Conference Quarterfinal series are as follows:

Game 1 - Friday, March 21 at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2 - Saturday, March 22 at Plymouth, 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 - Monday, March 24 at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 – Wednesday, March 26 at Plymouth 7:05 p.m.
Game 5 (*) - Friday, March 28 at Kitchener 7:30 p.m.
Game 6 (*) - Saturday, March 29 at Plymouth 7:05 p.m.
Game 7 (*) - Tuesday, April 1 at Kitchener 7:30 p.m.

(*) if necessary

Kitchener (league-best 53-11-1-3, 110 points) is the top team in the Canadian Hockey League rankings and will host the Mastercard Memorial Cup in May. Plymouth (34-28-2-4, 74 points) finished the regular season as the eighth seed in the OHL’s Western Confrence playoff race.

2007 – Western Conference Semifinals – Plymouth eliminated Kitchener, 4-games-to-1.
2004 – Western Conference Quarterfinals – Plymouth eliminated Kitchener, 4-games-to-1.
2003 – Western Conference Finals – Kitchener eliminated Plymouth, 4-games-to-3.
1996 – West Division Quarterfinals – Detroit Whalers eliminated Kitchener, 4-games-to-1.

Photo - Plymouth's Vern Cooper shoots on Kitchener goalie Josh Unice in a game Feb. 16 at Compuware Arena. Photo by Rena Laverty.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Plymouth's playoff opponent anyone's guess

The Plymouth Whalers will make the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. They just don’t know where they’ll finish in the Western Conference standings or who they’ll play in the first round of the OHL’s post-season, which starts at the end of next week.

Fifth seed through eighth in the OHL’s Western Conference race looks like this:

#5 Guelph - 66 games - 33-24-5-4, 75 points
#6 Plymouth - 65 games - 34-26-2-3, 73 points
#7 Sarnia - 65 games - 35-28-2-0, 72 points
#8 Saginaw - 65 games - 32-25-6-2, 72 points

The Storm, Whalers, Sting and Spirit will all be in action this weekend as the OHL completes the regular season.

Plymouth may not know who they are playing in the first round until Sunday evening.

After playing in Sault Ste. Marie (42-18-2-4) on Friday against the first-place Greyhounds, Plymouth returns home on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena to host Sarnia. The Sting features 18-year-old center Steven Stamkos, who may be the first player chosen in the National Hockey League Entry Draft this summer. Stamkos rates an excellent chance to play in the NHL next season.

Stamkos – sixth overall in OHL scoring 55 goals and 43 assists for 98 points in 58 games – has been a Whaler killer for two years. The season, Stamkos has scored eight goals (two shorthanded) and an assist for nine points in five games. In 10 games over two seasons against Plymouth, Stamkos has scored 12 goals with four assists for 16 points.

With 55 goals coming into the weekend, Stamkos has a chance to set a Sarnia team record for goals scored in a season. Ivan Novoseltsev currently holds the record with 57 goals scored in 1998-99.

“I know it’s on his mind and his teammates have been talking about it,” Sarnia head coach Dave MacQueen told the Sarnia Observer. “But I’m sure he will tell you he would give up a few goals for a few more wins. And the fact if he does break the record, there’s a good chance we will be winning some more games.”

Saturday’s game is also the Whalers’ annual Green Out, where fans can bid on the popular Plymouth green game-worn jerseys. A silent auction will be held during the game for some of the jerseys, with a public auction held after the game in Ginopolis on Ice restaurant for the rest.

Plymouth finishes up the regular season on Sunday at 4 p.m. in Saginaw.

K-Zoo native tendered by Brown Bears

The Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League have signed Honeybaked defenseman Rob Michalka to a tender for the 2008-09 season.

A solid anchor on Honeybaked’s defensive core this year, Michalka, 18, helped the team to an astounding 46-10-9 record and a second-place finish in the Midwest Elite Hockey League, widely considered one of the top Tier 1 AAA leagues in the U.S.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Michalka, from Kalamazoo, totaled three goals and 16 points along with 118 penalty minutes in 65 games this season. He was also a plus-21.

“Rob adds a certain level of toughness, size and defensive stability to our defensive core,” said Brown Bears coach-GM Mike Flanagan. “He should fit nicely into our returning group and play a very important role in us becoming a more competitive team.

“Rob’s on-ice ability, his strong moral character and his good academics make him the type of young man we want here representing our team and community.”

Michalka is the third tender signed by the Brown Bears this recruiting season – all from the MWEHL - with more expected to follow.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Saginaw finishes regular season this week

The Saginaw Spirit enter the week with three games remaining in a hotly-contested Western Conference – the Spirit, Guelph Storm, Sarnia Sting and Plymouth Whalers are fighting for dominance in the lower half of the conference.

The Spirit now have 72 points and a record of 32-25-6-2 and host the Windsor Spitfires on Friday night, travel to Sault Ste. Marie to play the Greyhounds Saturday night and close out the regular season Sunday afternoon at home against the Whalers.

More details HERE.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Alpena hosts NTDP Friday and Saturday

The Alpena IceDiggers will wrap up their regular-season home schedule this weekend on Friday and Saturday versus the USA Under-17 Team at Northern Lights Arena. Faceoff for both contests is 7:00 p.m.

Alpena is third in the North Division standings heading into the weekend. The IceDiggers trail Mahoning Valley by three points and the Phantoms have two games in-hand on Alpena. Traverse City has moved into fourth place in the tight division standings trailing the IceDiggers by six points.

"This is a big weekend for us," Alpena head coach Kenny Miller said. "The standings are really tight as we get down to the final weeks of the season, so every point is very important."

Team USA comes to Alpena after dropping a 1-0 overtime decision to Traverse City on Tuesday night. USA sits four points out of the fourth and final playoff spot.

On Friday, the IceDiggers will honor the housing families during the first intermission.

"It is very important for us as an organization to show these families on Friday night just how important they are to the team," added Miller


Alpena native Erik Peterson is one assist away from 100 in his three-year career with the IceDiggers.

Jon Puskar missed Tuesday practice due to an injury. The training staff excepts Puskar to play this weekend.

Tyler Pilmore and Tristan Harper missed at least one practice this week due to an illness. Both are excepted to play this weekend.

The IceDiggers and the NTDP are the two least penalized teams in the NAHL. Alpena averages 17.12 PIMs per game, while USA is the least penalized team at 16.94 PIMs per game.

From pucks to pasta in Traverse City

For one night, the Traverse City North Stars are switching specialties – from pucks to pasta.

The second annual ‘Spaghetti on Ice’ event, slated for Thursday, March 20 at Centre ICE arena, will feature North Stars players as skating waiters, serving a piping hot Auntie Pasta’s spaghetti dinner, with all proceeds to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northern Michigan. There will also be games and prizes, and a silent auction. Doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner served at 6 p.m.

Dinner is $10 per adult, $5 for children under 12, and $30 for a family (max. 5). Tickets can be purchased at the North Stars ticket office at Centre ICE arena, or by calling the team at (231) 941-9200.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Nashville signs Plymouth goalie Smith

The Nashville Predators announced today that the club has signed goaltender Jeremy Smith to an entry-level contract.

Smith, is among the Ontario Hockey League leaders in both save percentage (.921) and shutouts (3) in his second full season with the Plymouth Whalers. The 5-foot-11, 161-pound native of Dearborn was also selected to the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic.

“We’re excited for Jeremy,” said Plymouth general manager Mike Vellucci. “He’s worked very hard to develop into one of the best goaltenders in the Ontario Hockey League.”

In 2006-07, Smith helped lead Plymouth to the 2007 OHL championship and shared the OHL’s Dave Pinkney Trophy for the best team goals-against average.

Smith, Nashville’s third choice, 58th overall, in the 2007 Entry Draft, was Team USA’s starting goalie at the 2008 World Junior Championships, posting a 4-2-0 record and a 2.40 goals-against average.

Smith also won USA Hockey’s Dave Peterson Award as the Top Junior Goaltender in the United States and made the OHL’s All-Academic Team last season and finished the season as the No. 1-rated North American goaltender by Central Scouting Services.

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Marquette finally back home at Lakeview

It’s been 34 days since the Marquette Rangers last played at Lakeview Arena.

Since that 6-3 win over Alexandria on Jan. 2, the Rangers have kept alive their playoff hopes in an ever-tightening North Division playoff race.

The only certainty in the division is that St. Louis will win the regular-season crown. The remaining five teams are all very much alive for the remaining three playoff positions. For Marquette (24-23-3), the run continues this Friday and Saturday at home against second-place Mahoning Valley (29-16-4.)

“It’s a very exciting time for all of us,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “Every night is crucial, every shift becomes that much more important, every special-teams opportunity is multiplied in its’ importance. Every team in our division will be looking at the scoreboard every night - it’s a great time of year.”

Enders went on to say that when the schedule was announced last summer, the organization saw this home stretch as possibly being the difference in their season.

“We have six of our last eight at home which is rare, so we have an edge over the teams we’re battling right now," Enders said. "We need to take advantage of our building and our fans and use this opportunity to better our place in the standings.”

Marquette and Traverse City are tied for fourth place going into this weekend with 51 points apiece, six points behind third-place Alpena and three points ahead of the sixth-place U.S. National Team Development Program.

Traverse City, who is 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, is idle this weekend while Alpena hosts the USNTDP Under-17’s.

“We can get some separation this weekend if we play well and get points," said Enders. "It’s that simple."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

IceDiggers to honor host families Friday

With the Alpena IceDiggers playing their final two home games of the regular season this Friday and Saturday night at Northern Lights Arena against the USA Under-17 Team, the team will honor the housing families during the first intermission Friday night.

Faceoff for both games is 7:00 p.m.

"It is very important for us as an organization to show these families on Friday night just how important they are to the team," said Alpena head coach Kenny Miller. "The billet families are a big piece to the puzzle when you have a junior hockey team. Without great host families like we have, you cannot put a team on the ice."

During the first intermission on Friday, the housing families will be introduced at center ice with their player leading them on the ice in front of the home crowd.

Alpena is coming off a 4-2 win over the USA Under-18 Team on Sunday in Ann Arbor.

"The guys played hard for 60 minutes," Miller said. "It was refreshing as the coach because the two nights before we didn't play well in some areas."

The IceDiggers dropped both games Friday and Saturday in Mahoning Valley.

With the Sunday win, the IceDiggers trail Mahoning Valley by three points in the standings and have an eight-point lead on Marquette and Traverse City, who are tied for fourth place in the tight North Division standings.


Russ Anderson earned honorable mention honors for division player of the week this past week. The Riverside, Calif., native racked up a goal and three assists in three games last week and finished with a plus-1 rating.

Alpena native Erik Peterson is one assist away from 100 in his stint with his hometown team. Peterson has added 51 goals to go along with his 99 assists in 153 games.

After going winless his last five starts, Nick Graves recorded 24 saves in the 4-2 win over USA on Sunday. It was Graves' 13th win with the IceDiggers.

Saginaw has busy week ahead, Kitchener Sunday

The Saginaw Spirit wrapped up a weekend that saw four games in five days. The team posted a record of 2-1-1-0 over the weekend and advanced in the OHL Western Conference rankings with 69 points and a record of 31-24-5-2.

Saginaw will host the Sarnia Sting on Wednesday night for a 7:11 p.m match-up. The Spirit will cap off the weekend with two away games against the Owen Sound Attack on Saturday and the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday.

Details HERE.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

'Shocks and Saves' game a hit in Saginaw

The first annual Shocks and Saves charity game saw former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fisher make his first public skate tonight in Saginaw since he collapsed on the Red Wings' bench on November 21, 2005.

Former NHLers Don Edwards (current Saginaw general manager) and Warren Rychel, as well as several local doctors and medical professionals, also participated in the event that raised over $15,000 for Fischer's Healthy Hope Foundation.

The Foundation will be donating that money to the local community to support the placement of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in mid-Michigan schools and ice rinks.

The Saginaw Spirit lost the OHL game to Windsor, 4-3 in overtime.

Marquette tenders two more from Michigan

The Marquette Rangers have tendered two more players for the 2008-09 NAHL season, bringing the number of draft-protected players to seven for the North Division club.

The Rangers have added forward Kent Daavettila, who is currently playing Midget AAA for Detroit Compuware of the Midwest Elite Hockey League. Scouting reports show the 6-foot, 180-pound winger is strong at crashing the net with the ability to score having registered 65 points so far this year on 27 goals and 38 assists.

Marquette also tendered goaltender Robert Tadazak, who stands 6-foot-2, 165 pounds and is currently playing for the Flint Jr. Generals of the Central States Hockey League. Tadazak is tied for first in the CSHL in shutouts, is second in the CSHL in save percentage (.930) and third amongst goaltenders in both goals-against average (2.38) and wins (20).

“These two players really compliment both the players we’ve already signed to tenders, as well as the guys we’re hoping to have back from this year's team,” Rangers head coach Randy Enders said. “Both guys are big and strong and have been leaders for their current teams. I think both can make a significant impact next year in our league.”

Signing a player to a tender is a team's way of protecting that player from being drafted by another team in May's NAHL draft. It’s also a signal to that player that the team is confident in his abilities and his chances of making the final roster.

“It’s kind of like the early signing period in college sports,” said Enders. “We’re telling these guys that we think they’re good enough to be a part of next year's team, and we’re also telling them we’re willing to back that confidence up by putting it in writing.

“There are no guarantees. Each guy we sign still has to come to tryout camp and win a position on next year's team, but with the talent we’ve signed so far, I don’t think that will be much of an issue as we have now signed seven very strong players.”

Daavettila and Tadazak join five other players already tendered by the club in January.

The Rangers will be holding three tryout camps later this spring in Marquette, Detroit and Stevens Point, Wis., before holding their final camp in Marquette in July.