Friday, June 27, 2008

Pleckaitis invited to Chicago prospect camp

Saginaw Spirit forward Joe Pleckaitis has been invited to attend the Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp which runs from July 7 through July 11.

Pleckaitis is entering his fourth season in the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted by the Ottawa 67's and spent parts of two seasons there before being traded to the Barrie Colts and then to the Spirit in the early part of the 2007-2008 regular season.

In 64 games in Saginaw, Pleckaitis notched six goals and 15 assists.

Joining Pleckaitis at Chicago's camp is former Spirit captain Patrick Asselin (Oshawa), along with Richard Greenop (Windsor), Adam Perry (Belleville), Andrew Wilkins (London), Shawn Lalonde (Belleville), Sebastian Dahm (Niagara) and Josh Unice (Kitchener).

Whalers trio invited to World Junior camps

Current Plymouth Whalers Jeremy Smith (Brownstown) and AJ Jenks (Wolverine Lake) have been named to the 2008 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, being held in Lake Placid, NY on August 1-9, while Chris Terry has been named to Canada’s National Junior Summer Evaluation Camp, being held July 25-29, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario.

A goaltender, Smith was selected by the Nashville Predators in the second round (54th overall) in the 2007 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He was signed by the Predators last season, but should return to Plymouth for the 2008-09 season. An OHL All-Star last season, Smith was selected by Plymouth in the fourth round (64th overall) in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection and has compiled a 2.82 goals-against average a 46-21-5 won-loss record over 79 career games. He played for the United States in the 2008 World Junior Championship and received USA Hockey's Dave Peterson Award in 2007 as the top junior goaltender in the United States.

A center/left wing, Jenks was recently selected in the fourth round (100th overall) by the Florida Panthers in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Originally selected by the Whalers in the seventh round (132nd overall) in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection, Jenks had his best offensive year with the Whalers last season when he scored 26 goals with 29 assists for 55 points in 68 games. In two seasons with Plymouth, Jenks has scored 35 goals with 43 assists for 78 points over 136 games.

Originally taken by the Whalers in the second round (29th overall) in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection, Terry has improved offensively every season with the Whalers and scored 44 goals with 57 assists for 101 points in 68 games last year. Terry is 13th on Plymouth all-time career scoring list with 75 goals and 120 assists for 195 points in 200 games. An OHL all-star last season, Terry was selected in the fifth round (132nd overall) by Carolina in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

List: All-Time Whalers and Spirit Import picks

The Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit each participated in the annual Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on Thursday.

Each team has had reasonable success in drafting from overseas over the years.

Here is a rundown of Plymouth and Saginaw all-time import picks:

2008 - Jan Latal (55th overall)
2007 - no selections
2006 - Michal Neuvirth (27th overall)
2006 - Jozef Sladok (39th overall)
2005 - Ondrej Otcenas (25th overall)
2004 - Michael Kolarz (38th overall)
2003 - Vaclav Meidl (9th overall)
2002 - Martin Cizek (34th overall)
2001 - Jonas Fiedler (52nd overall)
2000 - no selections
1999 - Tomas Kurka (7th overall),
1999 - Libor Ustrnul (31st overall)
1998 - Tomek Valtonen (14th overall)
1998 - Denis Arkhipov (35th overall, did not report)
1997 - Yuri Babenko (12th overall)
1997 - Steve Lyle (27th overall)
1996 - Sergei Fedotov (4th overall)
1995 - Jan Vodrazka (11th overall)
1994 - Milan Kostolny (38th overall)
1993 - Jozef Kohut (32nd overall, did not report)
1992 - Richard Ujvary (11th overall)

2008 - Jakub Svoboda (28th overall)
2008 - Richard Jarusek (49th overall)
2007 - no selections
2006 - Jan Mursak (33rd overall)
2006 - Tomas Zaborsky (36th overall)
2005 - no selections
2004 - Marek Kvapil (11th overall)
2003 - Grigory Misharin (56th overall)
2002 - Tomas Csabi (13th overall)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Plymouth chooses Czech defenseman Latal

The Plymouth Whalers announced the selection of 18-year-old defenseman Jan Latal in the annual Canadian Hockey League Import Draft Thursday.

Latal – a right-handed shot from the Czech Republic – was taken by the Whalers with the 55th selection of the draft.

The Whalers were scheduled to have the 25th pick in the draft, but GM Mike Vellucci decided to trade down when he moved the pick to Belleville for the Bulls’ 55th selection in the Import Draft. Belleville also sent a fourth-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection to the Whalers to complete the deal.

Plymouth passed on its second selection of the Import Draft (85th overall).

Latal played for Kladno in the Czech Republic last season, scoring three goals with three assists in 28 games. A knee injury (since repaired) cut Latal’s season short last year. Before that, Latal played internationally for the Czech Republic in the Under-16 and Under-17 World Tournaments.

“Our scouts knew about him,” said Vellucci. “Latal’s a steady, stay-at-home defenseman. Although we traded down, he was still available and we were able to get a fourth-round pick as well.”

“Latal’s got an excellent shot,” said Plymouth scout Willy Langer. “He’s a good skater with good vision. He’s not afraid to play in traffic in front of the net or along the boards.”

Latal comes from a hockey-playing family. His brother, Martin, is a Phoenix Coyotes draft choice who has played the last two seasons for Prince Edward Island in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Latal’s uncle, Jiri, played from 1989-92 for the Philadelphia Flyers.

CHL teams can play with two imports. The Whalers currently have three, and all defensemen – Carolina prospect Michal Jordan, overager Jozef Sladok and now Latal. Jordan, Sladok and Latal are expected to report to Plymouth’s training camp in late August.

Imports Svoboda, Jarusek taken by Saginaw

The Saginaw Spirit drafted Czech forwards Jakub Svoboda (28th overall) and Richard Jarusek (49th overall) in the 2008 CHL Import Draft today.

Svoboda and Jarusek were teammates with Kometo Brno last season.

Jakub Svoboda
POS: Right Wing
DOB: December 27, 1989
HT: 6’1”
WT: 186

Richard Jarusek
POS: Center/Left Wing
DOB: August 8, 1991
HT: 6'2"
WT: 190

Whalers deal CHL Import pick to Bulls

The Plymouth Whalers announced a CHL Import Draft deal with Belleville today.

The Whalers send their first pick in the Import Draft - 25th overall - to Belleville for the Bulls' first pick (55th overall). The Whalers also receive a fourth-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection from Belleville.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Machine coach featured on

By Dave Merchant
Downriver News Herald

The Downriver area of Michigan is about to join one of the nation's elite junior hockey leagues, and a man with local ties will be behind the bench when the first puck drops.

Belleville resident Matt Romaniski is the head coach and general manager of the Motor City Machine, which will play out of the Ice Box in Brownstown.

Last season as head coach and general manager of the North American Hockey League's Southern Minnesota Express, he was chosen as an assistant coach of the Central Division team at the league's Top Prospects Tournament.

Just like the man dictating shifts, the team will have a heavy local presence.

"We carry 25 guys on the team," he said. "I want to carry between 10-12 from Michigan. There could be kids from Sweden, Germany and Canada ."

The players are not paid to play, but receive all their equipment, ice time and room and board, if needed. This allows them to play while retaining NCAA eligibility.

Romaniski has been living in Belleville for the last 10 years. He has playing experience at the junior, college and professional levels and has parlayed that into a coaching career in Michigan for the past nine years at the Midget AAA and AA levels.

Romaniski, a graduate of Eastern Michigan University , also owns and operates a training school in the summer that has helped develop players at some of the top Division I universities in the country.

"Hockey is huge in Michigan ," he added. "I think it has the largest number of people playing hockey in any state. It is huge here."

Playing out of Brownstown, he said, should be a perfect fit.

"The Downriver community loves ice hockey," he said. "It is a great environment to see a true arena."

The Ice Box is set to undergo $1 million to $1.5 million in renovations.

"It will have a new facelift," Romaniski said. "People can come see a game for $8 and get a beer for $2."

He hopes to have as many players as possible make the jump from his team to Division I college programs.

Romaniski led the Team Michigan program in Detroit for three years. In that time, it developed 28 Division I players and more than 50 United States Hockey League and NAHL players.
His summer training program includes many professional, collegiate, junior and aspiring players.
Romaniski said his emphasis always has been to develop the athlete. An avid boxing participant and coach, he spent time on the NBC program "The Contender" as a coach.

The team will be hosting minicamps and tryouts next month. The club also is looking for sponsors and host families for players who are not from the area.

In addition to their time on the ice, players will go to school and work part time. Host families are paid $300 a month.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saginaw's Underwood invited to Blues camp

Saginaw Spirit defenseman and Canton native Joe Underwood has been invited to attend the St. Louis Blues development camp as a free agent starting today.

“We are excited for Joe and the opportunity he has been given,” stated Spirit GM Don Edwards. “We wish him the best of luck in camp.”

Underwood, 18, was picked up through a trade with the Guelph Storm last season. He notched seven assists last year, including five in 38 games with the Spirit.

Joining Underwood at camp are fellow OHLers James Livingston (Sault Ste. Marie), Anthony Nigro (Guelph), Vladimir Nikiforov (Sarnia), Anthony Peluso (Erie), Mark Cundari (Windsor) and Tony Dehart (London). All but Livingston are free agents.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

List: All-Time Plymouth/Saginaw NHL picks

Below is a comprehensive listing of all Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit players who were drafted by NHL teams while playing for the Plymouth/Detroit franchise and/or Saginaw (not including North Bay Centennials' draft picks). This list does not include NHL picks who were later acquired by Plymouth or Saginaw.


AJ Jenks - 4th round (100th overall), Florida Panthers
Michal Jordan - 4th round (105th overall), Carolina Hurricanes

Jeremy Smith - 2nd round (54th overall), Nashville Predators
Chris Terry - 5th round (132nd overall), Carolina Hurricanes
Brett Bellemore - 6th round (162nd overall), Carolina Hurricanes

Tom Sestito - 3rd round (85th overall), Columbus Blue Jackets
John Armstrong - 3rd round (87th overall), Calgary Flames

James Neal - 2nd round (33rd overall), Dallas Stars
Dan Collins - 3rd round (90th overall), Florida Panthers
Ryan McGinnis - 6th round (184th overall), Los Angeles Kings

Vaclav Meidl - 3rd round (81st overall), Nashville Predators
Gino Pisellini - 5th round (149th overall), Philadelphia Flyers
Jonas Fiedler - 8th round (235th overall), Carolina Hurricanes

David Liffiton - 2nd round (63rd overall), Colorado Avalanche
John Mitchell - 5th round (158th overall), Toronto Maple Leafs
Jeff Weber - 8th round (235th overall), Buffalo Sabres

Gregory Campbell - 3rd round (67th overall), Florida Panthers
Jonas Fiedler - 3rd round (86th overall), San Jose Sharks
James Wisniewski - 5th round (156th overall), Chicago Blackhawks

Stephen Weiss - 1st round (4th overall), Florida Panthers
Rob Zepp - 4th round (110th overall), Carolina Hurricanes
Cole Jarrett - 5th round (141st overall), Columbus Blue Jackets

Justin Williams - 1st round (28th overall), Philadelphia Flyers
Tomas Kurka - 2nd round (32nd overall), Carolina Hurricanes
Libor Ustrnul - 2nd round (42nd overall), Atlanta Thrashers
Kris Vernarsky - 2nd round (51st overall), Toronto Maple Leafs
Jared Newman - 4th round (110th overall), Carolina Hurricanes
Nate Kiser - 5th round (160th overall), Phoenix Coyotes

Rob Zepp - 4th round (99th overall), Atlanta Thrashers
Damian Surma - 6th round (174th overall), Carolina Hurricanes

David Legwand - 1st round (2nd overall), Nashville Predators
Kevin Holdridge - 3rd round (70th overall), Carolina Hurricanes

Harold Druken - 2nd round (36th overall), Vancouver Canucks
Pat Parthenais - 5th round (127th overall), Florida Panthers
Eric Gooldy - 6th round (138th overall), Toronto Maple Leafs
Randy Fitzgerald - 8th round (199th overall), Carolina Hurricanes

Steve Wasylko - 4th round (104th overall), Hartford Whalers
Jesse Boulerice - 5th round (133rd overall), Philadelphia Flyers
Robert Esche - 6th round (139th overall), Phoenix Coyotes

Bryan Berard - 1st round (1st overall), Ottawa Senators
Nic Beaudoin - 2nd round (51st overall), Colorado Avalanche
Bill McCauley - 3rd round (73rd overall), Boston Bruins
Andrew Taylor - 7th round (158th overall), New York Islanders
Milan Kostolny - 8th round (191st overall), Hartford Whalers
Mike Rucinski - 9th round (217th overall), Hartford Whalers

Sean Haggerty - 2nd round (48th overall), Toronto Maple Leafs
Matt Ball - 9th round (230th overall), Hartford Whalers

Todd Harvey - 1st round (9th overall), Dallas Stars
Jamie Allison - 2nd round (44th overall), Calgary Flames
Kevin Paden - 3rd round (59th overall), Edmonton Oilers
Jeff Mitchell - 3rd round (68th overall), Los Angeles Kings
Bill McCauley - 4th round (83rd overall), Florida Panthers
Bob Wren - 4th round (94th overall), Los Angeles Kings
Jason Saal - 5th round, (117th overall), Los Angeles Kings

Eric Cairns - 3rd round (72nd overall), New York Rangers
Derek Wilkinson - 7th round (145th overall), Tampa Bay Lightning

Pat Peake - 1st round (14th overall), Washington Capitals
Mark Lawrence - 6th round (118th overall), Minnesota North Stars


Adam Comrie - 3rd round (80th overall), Florida Panthers
TJ Brodie - 4th round (114th overall), Calgary Flames
Nick Crawford - 6th round (164th overall), Buffalo Sabres

Matt Corrente - 1st round (30th overall), New Jersey Devils
Ryan Daniels - 5th round (151st overall), Ottawa Senators

Tom Pyatt - 4th round (107th overall), New York Rangers
Patrick McNeill - 4th round (118th overall), Washington Capitals
Marek Kvapil - 6th round (163rd overall), Tampa Bay Lightning

Jean-Michel Rizk - 7th round (195th overall), Minnesota Wild

Paul Bissonnette - 4th round (121st overall), Pittsburgh Penguins
Mike Brown - 5th round (153rd overall), Boston Bruins

OHL, NTDP players drafted in Ottawa

Three Saginaw Spirit players and a pair from the Plymouth Whalers heard their names called Saturday in Ottawa, Ontario, at the NHL Entry Draft.

Adam Comrie, D, Florida (80th overall), Saginaw

AJ Jenks, F, Florida (100th overall), Plymouth
Michal Jordan, D, Carolina (105th overall), Plymouth
TJ Brodie, D, Calgary (114th overall), Saginaw

Nick Crawford, D, Buffalo (164th overall), Saginaw

*Forward Zac Dalpe, Plymouth's second-round draft pick from May's OHL Priority Selection who has committed to Ohio State, was taken by Carolina in the second round (45th overall).

In addition, 11 players who competed for the U.S. National Team Development Program were drafted over the two-day event.

With the seventh overall pick, the Nashville Predators selected forward Colin Wilson, who recently completed his freshman season at Boston University.

The other NTDP selections included forward Philip McRae (second round, 33rd overall, St Louis Blues); forward Danny Kristo (second round, 56th overall, Montreal Canadiens); forward Jimmy Hayes (second round, 60th overall, Toronto Maple Leafs); forward Robbie Czarnik (third round, 63rd overall, Los Angeles Kings); forward Vinny Saponari (fourth round, 94th overall, Atlanta Thrashers); defenseman David Warsofsky (fourth round, 95th overall, St. Louis Blues); defenseman Ryan Hegarty (fouth round, 113th overall, Anaheim Ducks); defenseman Sean Lorenz (fourth round, 115th overall, Minnesota Wild); forward David Wohlberg (sixth round, 172nd overall, New Jersey Devils); and defenseman Nick Pryor (seventh round, 208 overall, Anaheim).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spirit moves ownership group downtown

The Garber Automotive Group, the parent company of the Saginaw Spirit, has moved its management offices to the downtown Saginaw river front.

The new office complex is located next to MCVI and St. Mary’s of Michigan Marketing. The move is reflective of the commitment made by Spirit owner Richard J. Garber and the Garber Automotive Group to bettering downtown Saginaw.

The Spirit are pleased to announce that in addition to the Saginaw Spirit Ticket and Merchandise Store and TheDow Event Center Box Office, fans can purchase individual game tickets at the new Garber Automotive Group offices.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spirit prospects vying for Team Ontario spots

Team Ontario is holding a evaluation camp in preparation for naming its roster for the 2009 World Under-17 Challenge and four Saginaw Spirit draftees are among the camp invites.

Spirit prospects Matt Braun, Dylan Fitze, Kyle Flemington and Ian Lavigne were invited to the camp, which boasts the top 84 1992-born players in Ontario. The camp will be held June 27-29 in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

All four players were recently selected by the Spirit in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection.

Michigan trio invited to World Junior camp

Two Plymouth Whalers and one Saginaw Spirit player have been invited to the 2008 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp Aug. 1-9 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Participating players are candidates for the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2008-Jan. 5, 2009, in Ottawa, Ontario.

Whalers goaltender Jeremy Smith (Brownstown), Team USA's starting goalie at the 2007 World Junior Championship, got the call along with Wolverine Lake native AJ Jenks, a forward.

Spirit defenseman Adam Comrie will also attend the August camp.

The full evaluation camp roster is HERE (Word document).

Smith photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Rolston to head U.S. World Junior squad

Ron Rolston, currently one of two head coaches at USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, will serve as head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2008-Jan. 5, 2009, in Ottawa.

"We're extremely pleased to have Ron Rolston lead our team in the World Junior Championship," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "He's done an excellent job as a head coach at our National Team Development Program and is clearly the right person to coach our team in Ottawa."

Rolston, a Flint native, led the U.S. National Junior Team to the bronze medal at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship in Leksand and Mora, Sweden. He also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team that placed fourth at the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship in Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"Ron is an exceptional coach," said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. "He is very much in tune with both the talent pool in our country and what it takes to be successful in international competition."

Rolston recently completed his fourth season with USA Hockey's NTDP having served as the head coach for the U.S. National Under-17 Team. He led the squad to 30 wins and second-place finishes at the 2007 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament, 2008 World Under-17 Challenge and the 2008 Vlad Dzurilla Under-18 Tournament. Rolston's successes in international competition also include, leading the U.S. National Under-18 Team to the gold medal at the 2005 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and the silver medal at the 2007 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

Prior to his tenure with USA Hockey's NTDP, Rolston served as an assistant coach at Boston College (2002-04), Harvard University (1999-2002) and Clarkson University (1996-99). He also spent five years at Lake Superior State, four as assistant coach (1990-94) and one as associate head coach (1995). While at Lake Superior State, Rolston helped the Lakers capture NCAA titles in 1992 and 1994.

He played college hockey at Michigan Tech University.

Joining Rolston behind the bench will be assistant coaches Nate Leaman (Union College, ECACHL) and P.K. O'Handley (Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL), and goalie coach Jeff Blashill (Indiana Ice, USHL).

Rolston will lead the 2008 National Junior Evaluation Camp August 1-9 in Lake Placid, N.Y., as a part of the selection process for the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team. The final roster will be announced in early December 2008.

NOTES: Rolston is a USA Hockey Level 5 certified coach, while Leaman, O'Handley and Blashill are all USA Hockey Level 4 certified coaches… Ken Martel, manager of youth ice hockey for USA Hockey, will serve as the video coordinator for the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team… Mark Osiecki from the University of Wisconsin, Jay Varady from the Everett Silvertips and Mike Cavanaugh from Boston College, along with the coaching staff of the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team, will form the coaching staff for the 2008 National Junior Evaluation Camp… The U.S. has played for a medal in the World Junior Championship in each of the last six events.

Photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL

Spirit and Whalers announce '08-09 slates

The Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers each announced their 2008-2009 preseason and regular season schedules over the past week.

Saginaw - HERE

Plymouth - HERE

Monday, June 16, 2008

North Stars open camp comes to a close

The Traverse City North Stars put a cherry on top of their summer open tryout camp on Sunday at Centre ICE arena, as the Blue Team rallied for a come-from-behind, sudden-death shootout victory over the White Team in the camp’s capstone contest.

TC Central product Eric McLintock recorded the game-bagger in the seventh round of the shootout session, just moments after the Blues pulled their goalie and Stars tender Bo Jacobs crammed home the equalizer with less than a minute to play. Sean Burke, a former TC West prep star, assisted on the game-saving marker.

“That all-star game had a great pace, a great feel,” said Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “Both teams went hard, it was entertaining, and then you have the exciting finish. It was a fun way to close it out.”

The Blue & White game put a period on the team’s open tryout season. The top players from both camps were extended invites to the Stars’ training camp (July 23-25), at which the club’s 2008-09 roster will be picked. That group includes the players eligible to return from last season, the club’s tenders, and five draft picks.

“We’re comfortable with the players we have to choose from,” Palumbo continued. “We think we have put together a group of players that can contend for a place on our roster. We have 25 spots open, let’s see who comes to camp ready to earn a spot.”


TITANIC TWOSOME: A pair of current TC West H.S. stars acquitted themselves with distinction in Sunday’s all-star game: Juniors-to-be Mitch Snider and Eric Rivard. Snider, a defenseman by trade, played at center.

One shift after absorbing a crushing body check, Snider corralled a loose puck deep in the Blue Team’s zone and registered an unassisted tally. Rivard got the Blue Team on the board, notching the contest’s first goal.

TREETOP TRIO: Saturday marked the return to Traverse City of towering winger Kyle Jean, who made round on the spring USHL circuit. He joined TC tender Chris Salomone and right wing Garrett Thompson on a forward line that averages 6-feet-2½ and nearly 200 pounds.

“It was good to have Kyle back, and he looked very good,” Palumbo said. “And I think we got exactly what we thought we were getting in Chris. He’s been solid at both camps.”

LOCALS SEEKING SPOTS: In addition to the six local players who are eligible to return – Burke, Dallas Kniss, McLintock, Eric O’Hearn, Garrett Thompson, Marc Thompson – a number of Traverse City products were invited to the Stars training camp. Local hopefuls include TC Central products Eric Swy and Lucas and Tyler Stricker and Bay Reps goalie Andrew Mills.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thompson ready to go for North Stars

They say patience is a virtue.

Traverse City North Stars forward Garrett Thompson has that asset in spades.

After spending much of the first three months of the 2007-08 season watching games from the other side of the glass, Thompson got the call from head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo during a home-and-home series with North Division rival Marquette – and never looked back.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound winger notched his first junior goal on his first shot on Dec. 28 in Marquette, then assisted on another the following night at Centre ICE arena. Thompson rarely came out of the lineup the rest of the way, as the North Stars became one of the hottest teams in the North American Hockey League, going 12-5-4 down the stretch.

“There’s not much you can do in that situation except keep working hard and wait for your chance,” said Thompson, who played previously with the Midget AAA Soo Indians of the Midwest Elite Hockey League. “And once you get that chance, you have to try to make the most of it. I’d come to practice every day with the idea that hard work would get me my chance. I didn’t want to go back down (to midget majors) – I wanted to play juniors.”

Thompson – whose family moved to Traverse City while he was still playing in the Soo – scored five goals and assisted on two others in his 24 games of action. His power-play marker on Feb. 27 at the U.S. National Team Development Program turned out to be the game-winner in the club’s franchise-first shutout.

As the rangy forward competes for the Gold Team in this weekend’s final open tryout camp, Palumbo has taken note of Thompson’s progression.

“First and foremost, Garrett just kept working hard and it wasn’t hard to notice,” he explained. “And he’s always had a great attitude – even when he wasn’t playing, he was still a very positive part of the team. So here he is, getting better every practice, until we finally said, ‘he’s ready to go.’”

As the 2008-09 season draws nigh, Thompson has gone from late-season contributor to front line mainstay. He and Phil Wendecker – a defenseman playing at forward this weekend – powered the Gold Team during the June 13-15 summer open tryout at Centre ICE arena. As the camp winds down, Thompson says he’s looking forward to Sunday’s camp culmination.

While Thompson doesn’t require billeting, he lives with a teammate and sometimes linemate – his brother, Marc. The two have played together every season except two since they first laced up their skates. Garrett says his team goals for 2008-09 are the same as every other player on the roster: a national championship. But as for individual goals, Thompson cites effort, not stats.

“I’d like to have schools (colleges) talk to me,” he said. “I want to try to do the smart things, the little things to help us win. And I want to give everything I have when I’m out on the ice.”

Palumbo says he expects big things from his big forward.

“He added to our offense last year, and we’ll look for that even more this year. At 6-3, he skates very well, has good hands and good offensive instincts. Plus, I sense that he just enjoys playing the game of hockey.”

The Thompson brothers will go head-to-head in Sunday’s All-Star game at Centre ICE (10 a.m.), with Garret playing for the Blue Team and Marc donning a White Team sweater.

“The first day of camp, some guys might be nervous trying out,” Garrett assessed. “But by the time you get to Sunday, it’s pretty exciting to see all the top players compete. I think we all look forward to that.”

Local players who earned invitations to the camp finale include Eric Rivard and Mitch Snider of Traverse City West High School and TC Central defenseman Lucas Stricker. The top players from the camp – as well as the May pre-draft tryout – will be invited to the July 25-27 training camp, from which the 2008-09 roster will be culled.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stephenson eyes No. 1 job in TC net

If momentum can carry over from one season to the next, then Traverse City North Stars goalie Brandon Stephenson will flourish in his role as the team’s frontline netminder.

Following a narrow 3-2 loss to eventual North American Hockey League champion St. Louis back on Jan. 18, Stephenson turned a corner. He suffered just a pair of regulation losses over the final two-and-a-half months of the 2007-08 season, engineered the first shutout in North Stars’ history on Feb. 27 and allowed two or fewer goals in six of his final eight starts.

“I got more confidence as we went along,” explained the 20-year-old Stephenson, who backstopped the Gold Team during Friday’s tryout camp opener at Centre ICE arena. “We had a month there where we barley lost at all, and it was a matter of being more confident in myself and my abilities. And when Chris (Paliafito) got here, that pushed me a bit, too.”

While Stephenson cites his renewed poise as the fulcrum of his season, Traverse City goaltending coach Bob Fernandez frames his analysis of Stephenson’s resurgence in terms of technique.

“He did alter his style a bit,” Fernandez said. “We had been telling him to get his rear end down, which he did. He started moving faster to the puck and really limiting the rebounds.”

With Paliafito now playing for the USHL’s Indiana Ice, Stephenson enters 2008-09 as the incumbent in TC. North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo is hopeful that Stephenson’s winning ways will carry over.

“By the end of the year, we had an excellent tandem with Brandon and Chris,” Palumbo said. “There was an initial adjustment period, but once they became acclimated to juniors they finished strong. This year, Brandon won’t have that luxury. He’s a veteran now, and he’ll have to be ready to go from day one.”

Stephenson, who started 26 games last year, says he’s ready for any increase in workload that comes his way.

“I know I won’t be the only guy, but of course I want to be the starting goalie,” he offered. “Like anyone would, I’d love to be a 40- or 45-game workhorse. I just have to come to camp and compete like I’m trying to prove I deserve a spot on this team, that I can be the starter.”

According to Fernandez, it won’t be for a lack of effort on the part of ‘Brando,’ as teammates have dubbed him.

“Brandon brings a real work ethic to the rink every day," said Fernandez. "He’s willing to put in the work, and it’s intrinsic. You don’t have to ask him to bring it out. He goes hard every time he takes the ice.”

Stephenson and his fellow campers continue their three-day hockey odyssey on Saturday with a pair of round-robin sessions. Following the evening session, Palumbo, Fernandez, and the rest of the Stars staff will select players to participate in Sunday’s camp-culminating all-star game. The top performers from that contest will be invited to the club’s July 25-27 training camp, along with those from the Stars’ May pre-draft camp.

Saginaw deals for Dearborn native Sanderson

Barry Sanderson returns to his home state of Michigan next season as he joins the Saginaw Spirit courtesy of a trade between the Spirit and the Niagara IceDogs completed Friday.

The Spirit sent a 2009 fourth-round pick, previously acquired from the Windsor Spitfires, to the IceDogs in exchange for Sanderson.

“The Saginaw Spirit are excited to add Barry Sanderson to our lineup,” stated Spirit GM Don Edwards. “Acquiring a high-energy forward like Barry adds depth to our right side.”

Sanderson is a 1990-born center from Dearborn. He entered the Ontario Hockey League via the 2006 OHL Priority Selection, being chosen by the IceDogs 65th overall. He accumulated four goals and two assists in 61 games during his rookie season. Sanderson notched 10 goals and 17 assists during the 2007-2008 regular season and tallied a goal in the 2008 postseason.

Prior to joining the OHL, Sanderson spent time in the Honeybaked AAA program.

"Putting another American player in the mix of our roster is a nice element for coach Todd Watson,” said Spirit president Craig Goslin. “Barry Sanderson comes to the Spirit with a great reputation for being a hard worker and a total team player. The Spirit scouts all agree that if our fans like the way Tyler Murovich plays the game, they will like Barry Sanderson, too."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Benefit on June 26 for Whalers fan's family

Redford native Bobby Suvoy was a huge fan of the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers and London Knights.

Sadly, he passed away in May after battling Lou Gehrig's Disease, but not before befriending Whalers star Chris Terry. Suvoy was only 17.

Here is the story that ran earlier this year about the situation.

That leads to the event on June 26 at Joey's Comedy Club in Livonia.

Photo courtesy Natalie Shaver/Plymouth Whalers

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Spitfires get Ann Arbor native Watson

The Windsor Spitfires announced that they have signed their 2008 second-round draft choice (36th overall), left wing Austin Watson.

During the 2007-2008 season with the Detroit Compuware midget minor organization, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Ann Arbor native recorded 45 goals and 104 assists for 149 points in 75 games played.

Watson was rated as a AA player by the OHL’s Central Scouting heading into the 2008 OHL Priority Selection and was also rated as the second-best overall player by the International Scouting Services.

“The Spitfires are ecstatic to get a commitment from a top prospect like Austin,” said Windsor GM Warren Rychel. "I believe that Austin has a bright future ahead of him both on and off the ice.”

Watson, who currently holds an 86 per cent average, is eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He reportedly had verbally committed to the University of Maine for the 2010-2011 season.

Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

North Stars set for final open camp

With the continent-wide round of junior entry drafts and tryout camps now in the books, the Traverse City North Stars can embark on the de facto shaping of their 2008-09 roster.

The club will hold its final open tryout camp of the offseason this weekend at Centre ICE arena looking for the final few pieces to what head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo hopes will be a Robertson Cup contender.

“We didn’t lose anyone to the USHL draft, we have solid group coming back, and we have a strong draft class and group tenders,” Palumbo explained. “But we’re still looking for those guys who can come in and play their way into the training camp on onto our roster. We think we got some at our May (pre-draft) camp, and we think there are some this weekend.”

One player who recently decided to return to Traverse City for next season is goal-happy winger Kyle Bonis, who scored a team-record 25 goals (tied with Nate Urbaniak) through 39 games in a Stars sweater last season. Bonis, a Lindsay, Ont., native, won’t return to northern Michigan until the July 25-27 training camp, but eligible returnee Kyle Jean, and tenders Bo Jacobs and Dan Radke – both defensemen – will be among those to make their first camp appearances of the summer.

The camp will assume the traditional four-team, round-robin format through Saturday night. After player-coach conferences on Saturday evening, selected players will take part in the camp-culminating All-Star Game on Sunday at 10 a.m.


Friday, June 13
10-11 am: Goalie check-in
12-1:20 pm: Goalies on ice
4-5 pm: Player check-in
5-5:15 pm: Player/Parent orientation
6:30-7:50 pm: Teal vs. Black
8-9:20 pm: White vs. Gold

Saturday, June 14
9-10:20 am: Green vs. White
10:30-11:50 am: Black vs. Gold
12-1:20 pm: Goalies on ice
7-8:20 pm: Black vs. White
8:30-9:50 pm: Green vs. Gold

Sunday, June 15
10 am-Noon: All-Star Game

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Port Huron's Archibald chooses OHL route

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have signed defenseman Brandon Archibald.

The Port Huron native was selected in the fourth round of this past May’s OHL Priority Selection out of the Honeybaked AAA program. Archibald tallied eight goals and 22 assists for 30 points during the 2007-2008 regular and playoff seasons.

Archibald was rated as a AA player by the OHL’s Central Scouting heading into the draft.

“We are very pleased to announce that Brandon Archibald has chosen to join our organization," said Soo GM Dave Torrie. "Coming from the Honeybaked system in Detroit, and being a very strong academic student, Brandon obviously had a lot of options to choose from. For him to choose the Soo Greyhounds and the OHL says a lot about his confidence in our program both on and off the ice."

Archibald visited the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin and also reportedly had a shot at playing for the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor.

Monday, June 09, 2008

TC's Sheridan going pre-med at Lawrence U.

Before he starts fixing others’ teeth, Jonathan Sheridan will be risking his own for the next four years.

The Traverse City North Stars defenseman, who will start work on a pre-med program in the fall en route to dental school, has committed to play for Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc.

“It’s a pretty big relief, to have it finally set in stone where you’re going to play,” said Sheridan, a Midland product who came to the Stars last summer from the Flint Jr. Generals of the Central States Hockey League. “It’s been a dream of mine to go to (the University of) Michigan for dental school, so this is the first step.”

Lawrence, a private liberal arts and science college of 1,400 students, is located about 30 minutes from Green Bay in the Fox River Valley. The Vikings’ NCAA Division III program been a member of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association since 1998.

“We couldn’t be happier for Jonathan – he deserves every good thing that comes his way,” said North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “He’s steady on the ice and brought a real maturity to the team. He’s a leader – the kind of character kid you’re proud to have in your program.”

Sheridan played in 54 games in 2007-08, recording a pair of goals and 12 assists while racking up 70 penalty minutes. Both of his tallies were game-winners, with his Oct. 6 clincher versus Marquette of the shorthanded variety.

“I learned a lot this year – things that are going to help me at the next level,” said Sheridan. “As a defenseman, (associate head coach Mike) Matteucci taught me so many things about playing positionally. I think I’ve been prepared to some extent for the speed of the college game.”

Sheridan, 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds, will be leaving the area for Appleton in a few weeks, albeit regrettably, as he has landed an on-campus job with the Lawrence athletic department as an equipment manager.

“I absolutely love it here in Traverse City,” said Sheridan, who lives with his aunt near town. “The area, the fans, the people – I am going to miss it a lot.”

Monday, June 02, 2008

Whalers deal McDonald to Ottawa for futures

The Plymouth Whalers announced the trade today of right wing Steven McDonald to the Ottawa 67's for future considerations.

McDonald, 18, was selected by the Whalers in the fourth round (76th overall) of the 2006 OHL Priority Selection.

"A lot of teams expected him to go earlier than the fourth round," Plymouth GM Mike Vellucci said on draft day. "He's a tough winger, goes up-and-down his wing, has some hands and can score. Overall, he's a solid player."

However, McDonald did not see any action with the Whalers early last season after making the team out of training camp.

Saginaw's Zaborsky signs with Rangers

Saginaw Spirit forward Tomas Zaborsky has signed with the New York Rangers.

Zaborsky was the Rangers’ fifth-round choice, 137th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and came to the Spirit via the 2006 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

The 1987-born Trencin, Slovakia native wrapped up his second OHL season compiling 31 goals and 39 assists during the 2007-2008 regular season. Zaborsky scored 50 goals and 113 points overall. He also tallied three goals and three assists in 10 postseason games, including two goals and an assist in four games during the 2008 postseason.

“Tomas had an outstanding year and was third in team scoring,” stated Spirit general manager Don Edwards. “He was also one of our best forwards in the postseason. The Spirit family wish this talented young man the best of luck in his pro career.”

Zaborsky also participated in the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships with Slovakia and played parts of the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons with the Hartford Wolfpack, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Rangers.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Machine announce Junior B affiliation

The Motor City Machine has announced a new Junior B affiliation with the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins of the Empire Junior Hockey League.

"The Pens are a developmental program that has advanced players to DI, DIII and the top junior programs throughout the country," Machine coach-GM Matt Romaniski said. "We have been working to bring this relationship to fruition for several months.

"Working with assistant program manager Tony Maggio has been a pleasure. This will help us identify some of the top east coast talent and allow them to move up to the Machine as they develop."

Motor City also announced the hiring of Dave Dorsey and Brian Taibi as scouts.