Thursday, July 31, 2008

Marquette finalizes training camp roster

Collin Saint-Onge and James Gallagher of Marquette will be back for another season with the Marquette Rangers.

They join newcomer Kevin Gravel (pictured) of Kingsford in making the team's preliminary roster for training camp scheduled to open in early September.

Rangers head coach Kenny Miller and his staff picked 25 players for the North American Hockey league squad from a field of 43 hopefuls.

"It was a very competitive camp," the first-year Rangers coach said. "We had to cut some guys who I think can play in this league.

"But at the end of the day, we took what we feel are the best 25 players from the weekend. We're confident we can do very well with this group of guys."

There could still be some revisions to the roster, as off-season trades and acquisitions are expected to continue throughout the NAHL as the season approaches.

In all, nine veterans and 16 newcomers are slated to don the Rangers' jersey this coming season, which begins Sept. 17-20 at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn.

There will be 18 Rangers from Michigan, two from both Wisconsin and Illinois, and one each from Virginia, Minnesota and New York.

The roster (* denotes returning player):

* Jimmy Gallagher, Marquette
* Garrett Ladd, Fenton
* Dustin Partacz, Naperville, Ill.
* Collin Saint-Onge, Marquette
* Chad Pietila, Brighton
* Josh Bussell, LaSalle
Doug Beck, Plymouth
Kent Daavettila, Howell
Kevin Gibson, Grosse Pointe
Kyle Heck, Plover, Wis.
Scott Henegar, Trenton
Ryan Johnson, Blaine, Minn.
Mike Lennon, Reedsburg, Wis.
Nathan Milam, Westland

*Tyler Matthews, Buffalo, N.Y.
*Michael Thompson, Farmington Hills
Austin Accettura, Novi
Evan Accettura, Novi
Brendan Bandyk, Mokina, Ill.
Kevin Gravel, Kingsford
Andrew Chovich, Macomb
Jeff Slusser, Kentwood

*Matt Brooker, Richmond, Va.
Kevin Kissaw, Goodrich
Robert Tadazak, Lapeer

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fournier signs ECHL deal with Everblades

The Florida Everblades announced yesterday that the team has signed forward Andrew Fournier to a contract for the 2008-09 season.

Fournier comes to the Everblades after splitting the 2007-08 season between the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League and the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. The 20-year-old began last season as the captain of the Whalers and wrapped up a five-year junior career by putting together a strong season in notching 35 goals and 40 assists for 75 points, all career-highs, in 64 games. Fournier then jumped to the pro ranks after signing with the Admirals and finished off the season skating in six games.

“Andrew had a tremendous overage year in Plymouth last season putting together a breakout offensive year,” Everblades head coach Malcolm Cameron said. “He’s the kind of player that plays equally well at both ends of the ice and is versatile. Andrew improved every year at the junior level and capped it off by getting a good taste of the pro game in Norfolk. We’re hoping he’s going to transform that into success with the Everblades.”

In Fournier’s last three seasons with Plymouth, the Amherstview, Ontario native registered 152 points (78g, 74a) in 189 games. In addition to his strong regular season numbers, Fournier also impressed in the postseason each of the last three years with the Whalers, tallying 27 points (10g, 17a) in 37 playoff games. In 2006-07, Fournier helped lead the Whalers to the OHL championship and a trip to the Memorial Cup semifinals before losing out to eventual Memorial Cup champion Vancouver.

Overall during his five-year OHL career, Fournier notched 168 points (85g, 83a) in 226 games. At the end of his five-year career with Plymouth, the 5-foot-11, 192 pound center ranked 11th all-time in team history in assists, 12th all-time in goals and 19th all-time in points.

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vets, free agents crack North Stars roster

There was a fair amount of initial consternation on Sunday at Centre ICE arena, but in the end Traverse City North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo was thrilled with the roster he and the coaching staff selected to the 2008-09 roster.

The club capped its summer tryout season with its training camp, which was comprised of athletes from each of the two open camps, drafts, tenders, and those who skated their way onto the Stars’ radar.

“It didn’t get any easier this year – in my mind it was much harder to pick a team,” said Palumbo, who is entering his second season behind the TC bench. “We had a whole year to scout kids, and with four and five guys out there brining us players, we had some very tough decisions. There are at least five or six players we let go who can play in this league.”

Thirteen North Stars players who were age-eligible to return made the final round of cuts, while six tenders, draft pick Cody Walsh, and a trio of free agent performers – along with recent trade acquisition Travis White – comprise the club’s fourth opening roster.

“I’d like to think it’s a group with a good balance,” Palumbo explained. “We are definitely stronger up front 1 through 15. We don’t want to have just one or two lines doing most of the damage. We’d like to have a bunch of 40-point guys, but so would everyone.”

The three free agents who came from Midwest Elite league midget major programs and played onto the roster include David Johnstone, a high-scoring forward from Team nXi (42 goals, 85 points in 65 games), Belle Tire’s Dean Pawlaczyk (28 goals, 30 assists over 59 contests), and goalie C.J. Motte (pictured) of Honeybaked (7-3-4, 2.23 goals-against average).

Johnstone, already committed to Michigan State University, had at least a point in each of the weekend scrimmages at Centre ICE, while the 16-year old Pawlaczyk was a spirited match for third-year TC blueliner Chris Heineman during a Sunday morning fracas.

Motte did not permit a goal during a 5-0 victory over the Red Team in Sunday’s camp finale.

“We have guys that we think can play the sniper/goal-scorer role, guys that can bang and dig the puck out, and a bunch of defensemen with the skills to be a force at both ends of the ice,” Palumbo beamed. “And we also think we have quite a few that can do all of those things and play with the edge you need in the (NAHL’s) North Division.”

The North Stars open the 2008-09 season at the annual North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn. Former North Division rival and reigning league champ St. Louis is the first opponent at the four-day event, followed by Alaska, Bismarck, and Fairbanks. TC opens its home schedule on Sept. 27 at Centre ICE against Marquette.

“It feels pretty good to have that part of the off-season behind us and to be able to know the personnel heading into the year,” Palumbo said. “It gives you something concrete to work with.”

WHITE 5, RED 0: Ryan Amin bagged a pair of goals, while Motte and Tyler Marble combined to help the White Team blank the Red Team in Sunday’s camp finale all-star game. Amin, a tender who poured in 16 points in 25 MWEHL contests last year for Compuware, also landed on the final roster.

Motte photo courtesy Honeybaked

Sunday, July 27, 2008

O'Hearn enters final season in Traverse City

Just about the time the Traverse City North Stars were enjoying their first season in the North American Hockey League, Eric O’Hearn was singing a sweet swan song across town at Traverse City Central High School, leading the Trojans to the city’s first-ever state hockey championship.

Soon after O’Hearn’s aria – a pair of goals and an assist in the state semifinals, and the opening salvo in the title game against Saline – he headed off to play for the midget Soo Indians and signed a tender to return the following season with the North Stars.

“It’s a privilege to get to play juniors in the town you grew up in,” said O’Hearn, a product of the youth Grand Traverse Hockey Association program and brother of TC West High School assistant coach and ex-Wayne State University forward Charlie O'Hearn. “It’s an honor to get to play Junior A hockey, but to get to do it in front of family and friends is an exciting added bonus.”

O’Hearn posted six goals and five assists in his first junior season, helping the Stars to a franchise-best 23 wins. TC head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo, observing this weekend’s training camp at Centre ICE arena, said O’Hearn appears fleet afoot.

“Last year was a pretty solid first year for him,” said Palumbo. “He was defensively responsible, a very good penalty-killer, and chipped in with some offense. From what I have seen this summer, his skating has improved tremendously, even from where he was at the end of the season – which was much better than at the start of the year. We’re looking for some big things from Eric, no question about it.”

Most hockey players are reticent to publicly target personal statistical goals, and the 6-1, 185-pound centerman is no different. But while others might be quick to cite an NAHL crown as the primary team focus, O’Hearn assumes a more progressive, incremental posture.

“Obviously, we want to improve on our record,” he explained. “We want to make the playoffs, then make a deep run. And I would not rule out a national championship if all those things fall into place.”

As Sunday’s summer camp finale approaches, O’Hearn and his fellow Stars hopefuls will find out which players will comprise the North Stars’ 2008-09 roster. Regardless of the make-up of the club, O’Hearn says that everyone begins the year on equal footing.

“Once the team is named, each player is an equal, a teammate, and North Star – not a rookie or a vet or anything like that. Guys are going to earn respect according to how they comport themselves on and off the ice.”

Palumbo says O’Hearn should make an impact in both areas.

“Eric’s one of the leaders of this team. I like the way he goes about his business – he’s always got a smile on his face, and his work ethic is outstanding.”

RED 3, WHITE 2: Kyle Bonis had a goal and an assist, Nate Urbaniak set up a pair of scores, and Brandon Stephenson pitched just under 30 minutes of shutout hockey as the Red Team overcame a two-goal deficit to post a 3-0 win in the first of two all-star games this weekend. The final contest is slated for 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by the final round of personnel decisions.

O'Hearn photo by

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bonis ready for '08-09 with North Stars

Over the course of his 39 games with the Traverse City North Stars last season, Kyle Bonis became one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the North American Hockey League.

His 25 tallies tied a team record, he was first among TC skaters with 10 power-play markers, and accrued a paltry Lady Byng-esque eight minutes of penalty time.

Despite the eye-popping numbers, Bonis isn’t taking aim at a certain number of lamplighters this season. As the Lindsay, Ont., native was gearing up for this weekend’s North Stars training camp at Centre ICE arena, he only spoke of team success.

“Our goal here, from day one, is to win a national championship,” said Bonis, who is toiling for the White Team at this weekend’s 52-player, invite-only camp. “We learned a lot in the second half of last year about what it takes to win. We do have a lot of vets coming back, and hopefully we can carry that momentum right into this season.”

Bonis isn’t the only one who won’t attach a number to expectations. Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says that Bonis will end up on the scoresheet simply by doing the things he’s capable of.

“I would never want to saddle a kid with some kind of magic number that he’s supposed to attain,” Palumbo explained. “We need Kyle to be a leader, to play both ends of the ice, and utilize his considerable offensive abilities. If he does all that, the numbers are going to take care of themselves.”

Palumbo also says that Bonis will assume additional responsibilities this season.

“Toward the end of last year, we put Kyle out on the (penalty) kill and he was very effective. He’s always been great on the power play, and we’ll continue to expand his role this year.”

Bonis and linemate Nate Urbaniak – who also posted a team-record 25 goals last year – are likely to be re-united this season. The third member of their forward triad is yet to be determined, but Urbaniak is pleased that at least two-thirds of the club’s top scoring line is back.

“We talked a lot over the summer, and I was among those who were trying to get Kyle to come back here,” said Urbaniak, who enters his third season in Traverse City. “I was very excited when he said he’d be back. He should tear it up this year.”

Palumbo, who used Harrison Niemann and Kory Kaunisto with the tandem in 2007-08, says he hasn’t decided which player will fill that role.

“It will have to be a guy who has the offensive skill and unselfishness,” he said.

Bonis, who has yet to commit to a college program, plans to major in business. He posted a 3.3 grade-point average at Lindsay Collegiate Vocational, and says he very much enjoys living in Traverse City during the season.

“The atmosphere here is great – much better than I expected when I first came in,” he said. “I’ve been to northern towns that didn’t care so much about their teams. Here, if you give a good effort, they respond.”

While Bonis came out of the proverbial box ablaze – he had seven points in his first five games with TC – he also closed out the campaign strong, registering at least a point in 14 of the Stars’ final 17 games last year, including a hat trick (three goals) and a playmaker (three assists) in back-to-back games during a sweep of North Division rival Marquette on Feb. 29-March 1. But Palumbo says the winger is every bit as productive in the locker room.

“Kyle bring an infectious attitude to the team – a pure love for the game of hockey. That rubs off on guys. That’s the kind of mindset you look for from your veteran leaders.”

Bonis and the rest of the Stars hopefuls are set for another two days of training camp this weekend at Centre ICE, at the conclusion of which the club’s roster will be selected. The first round of cuts are slated for mid-day on Saturday, followed by a pair of all-star games pitting the best of the summer camps against one another. Following Sunday’s all-star finale, Palumbo and his staff will pick the 23-25 players that will don the interlocking ‘TC’ when the team heads to Blaine, Minn., in the season-opening NAHL Showcase on Sept. 17. Bonis, for one, is well aware which team the Stars face in that opener.

“I’m looking forward to playing St. Louis,” he said. “They’re the team that knocked us out of the playoff race last year, they’re the champions, and they’re the first team standing between us and a successful season.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Traverse City to set '08-09 roster Sunday

The 2008-09 edition of the Traverse City North Stars will come together this weekend at Centre ICE arena.

Exactly how that mosaic of hockey talent comes together remains to be seen.

“There are 25 spots up for grabs out there,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “Nothing is guaranteed. I expect a very up-tempo, high-energy camp as guys look to make our team.”

As many as 52 players are divided into three teams for a day and a half of round-robin action. On Saturday, that number is pared to two teams, as the first round of cuts are made. Following the Sunday morning all-star game, Palumbo and staff will award North Stars sweaters to the top performers.

The free weekend event will be the first off-season camp for veteran Stars forward Kyle Bonis, as well as TC tender and reigning "Mr. Hockey" Josh Miller of Trenton High.

“We’re really looking forward to having all the top guys together this weekend and let them go at it,” Palumbo added. “There will be a lot of talent on the ice.”

11 A.M.-12 P.M.: Check-in
Noon-12:15 P.M.: Player/Parent Meeting
1-2 P.M.: RED practice
2-4 P.M.: WHITE vs. BLUE
7-8 P.M.: WHITE practice
8-10 P.M.: RED vs. BLUE

9-10 A.M.: BLUE practice
10 A.M.-Noon: RED vs. WHITE
Noon-12:30 P.M.: CUTS
6-8:30 P.M.: ALL-STAR GAME #1

9:30 A.M.-Noon: ALL-STAR GAME #2
Noon-?: Player conferences/final cuts
12:15-2 P.M.: Lunch/Player orientation

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

North Stars get White, trade Bourbonais

One way or another, Travis White was destined to become a Traverse City North Star.

The team originally selected the Sterling Heights defenseman in the 2006 NAHL Entry Draft, and re-acquired White in a trade with St. Louis last week in exchange for forward Clinton Bourbonais.

“We graduated four of our top defensemen and we’ve been working all summer to re-stock,” explained Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “We had to give a quality player to get one, and we like what Travis brings to the table. He’s a tough, gritty defenseman who plays with an edge, is very good on the penalty kill, and was an integral part of a team that just won a national championship.”

White, a 5-foot-7, 170-pound blueliner, came up through the Honeybaked and Victory Honda midget programs before spending 2007-08 with St. Louis. He had a goal and eight assists in 47 regular season games with the Bandits to go with 57 penalty minutes and a +20 plus-minus rating. The Stars’ fifth-round pick (67th overall) in 2006, White was also drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 2008 United States Hockey League draft.

Bourbonais registered seven goals and 23 assists in 54 contests last season, good enough for fourth among TC skaters.

The North Stars and Bandits will open the 2008-09 season at the NAHL Showcase in suburban Minneapolis on Sept. 17.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ann Arbor native Duddy off to Ohio State

The Wichita Falls Wildcats of the North American Hockey League announced today that defenseman Sean Duddy has committed to Ohio State University for this coming fall.

In 56 regular-season games with the Wildcats in 2007-08, Duddy, from Ann Arbor, posted two goals and five points. He was also a plus-7.

“I’m excited to play in the CCHA which will allow my family and friends the opportunity to come and watch me play,” said Duddy, who turned 19 last week. “Ohio State was one of my top choices; they not only have a great hockey tradition, but were also one of the few schools that has the academic programs that are right for me.”

Duddy credits the organization and Wildcats coach-GM John Bowkus (Lansing) for helping mold him into a Division I player.

“Wichita Falls and Coach Bowkus played a huge role in my development,” said Duddy. “I’m grateful I had the opportunity to play for the city of Wichita Falls and Coach Bowkus.”

“Ohio State is getting a solid defenseman, but even more than that it’s getting a great character kid as well,” said Bowkus. “Sean has made huge strides in his development and we’re going to miss him.”

Duddy was slated to return to Wichita Falls this season, most likely as the team’s No. 1 defenseman.

“Sean would have been the top defenseman in the NAHL,” Bowkus added. “He’s worked his whole hockey life for an opportunity like this and I couldn’t be happier about his decision.”

Photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL

Brown and Schmitz named to Team USA squad

Plymouth Whalers forward Tyler J. Brown (Westland) and defenseman Beau Schmitz (Howell) were among 21 players selected by USA Hockey today for the USA Under-18 team to play in the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament August 12-16 in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.

Brown (pictured) scored four goals with six assists for 10 points and added 18 penalty minutes in 64 games last year in his first season with Plymouth. Brown was selected by Plymouth in the eighth round (159th overall) of the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Schmitz played last season for the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-17 Team in Ann Arbor, scoring six goals with nine assists for 15 points and 108 PIMs in 59 games. Schmitz was taken by the Whalers in the first round (19th overall) of the 2007 OHL draft and will play in his first season this year with the Whalers.

USA Hockey Release

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

Monday, July 14, 2008

Farmington Hills' Levi the latest Whalers' signee

The Plymouth Whalers today signed 16-year-old defenseman Austin Levi, who was taken by the Whalers in the sixth round (110th overall) of the 2008 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

“Austin Levi is a big, strong defenseman,” Plymouth GM Mike Vellucci said. “His midget coach last year (Todd Jenkins) said Austin had the most potential of any of the players on his team. He has a lot of raw ability. We’re very excited to work with him and get him to be the National Hockey League defenseman we think he can be.”

Levi – 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and from Farmington Hills – recorded five assists in 22 games and 33 penalty minutes for the Compuware Under-16 team of the Midwest Elite Hockey League last season. Levi (pronounced LEE-vi) recently participated in USA Hockey’s Under-16 Festival, held June 21-27 in Rochester, NY.

“I’ve been in this rink for two years and I know what the Whalers are like,” Levi said. “I can get my education taken care of right now, so I wanted to go ahead and do this. It’s very comfortable and I know a lot of people here. It’s a good situation and I’m ready to take the next step.”

The Whalers have a long history of drafting and signing local players. There are nine local players on the Whalers current roster – Jeremy Smith (Brownstown), Josh Bemis (Clarkston), Christian Steingraber (Oregon, OH – just outside of Toledo), RJ Mahalak (Monroe), Beau Schmitz (Howell), AJ Jenks (Wolverine Lake), Tyler J. Brown (Westland), Mike Yovanic (Highland) and now Levi (Farmington Hills).

Levi is expected to report to Plymouth’s training camp in late August.

Photo of Levi and Vellucci by Natalie Shaver/Plymouth Whalers

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Machine gearing up for first season

By Phil Colvin, Michigan Hockey

Metro Detroit has a North American Hockey League team again.

The Motor City Machine introduced its coach and general manager, Matt Romaniski, last month at Brownstown’s Ice Box Sports Center, the team’s new home arena.

The Downriver-based franchise relocated from Owatonna, Minn., after playing three seasons in the NAHL as the Southern Minnesota Express.

“This was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” said Romaniski (pictured), who grew up in St. Paul, but moved to Belleville in 1999 and has worked with several top young Michigan-based players in the past. “I’m glad to be back in this area, and we’re really excited about building a team with strong Michigan ties.”

With the wide array of high-level hockey in metro Detroit, Romaniski sees the Machine as a great fit.

“College coaches already come here to watch the (USA Hockey) NTDP, Midget AAA and high school and this will give kids a chance to stay and play at home at a high level and keep their college eligibility,” he said.

The Machine will compete in the NAHL’s six-team North Division along with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, the U.S. National Under-17 Team and the league’s three other Michigan-based franchises, the Traverse City North Stars, Alpena IceDiggers and Marquette Rangers.

Romaniski believes the 33-year old NAHL has grown into a great league for player development, and the proximity to Central Collegiate Hockey Association campuses, the fact that Detroit is direct flight for most Eastern-based colleges and having the high-profile U.S. Under-17 Team in its division ensures high visibility for the Machine’s players.

“The league has changed so much,” he said. “The quality of play is very high, the pace is fast, the players play with passion and the fans will enjoy it.”

After deciding to move from Minnesota, the franchise ownership group looked at other venues, but quickly opted for Brownstown after seeing the arena and meeting Ice Box owner Johno Norian.

“I hit if off with Johno and we really wanted to be here,” said Romaniski.

Brownstown is undergoing an expansion of its downtown area and the Ice Box has plans for a $1 million renovation of the 5/3 Bank Arena that will be the home of the Machine. The planned expansion will have new seating, flooring and locker rooms, including an 1,800 square foot area for the Machine.

“We’re really excited to have the Machine here,” said Norian. “With the expansion of downtown and the arena we can help build up the sport and give back. It’s a win-win for the community and a win-win for the team.”

The Machine held tryouts in June and has a training camp scheduled for early July.

Defenseman Bennett Schnieder, who played two years at Cranbrook-Kingswood prep school in Bloomfield Hills, spent last season with the Express and will be one of the veterans on the Machine.

“It’s great to be back here,” said Schnieder, who is originally from Fort Myers, Fla. “I am excited about next season. We should have a good team.”

Romaniski expects a total of “five or six” players from last year’s squad to return, but the Machine has drafted, tendered and traded for Michigan natives, including brothers Nate and Nick Taurence of Trenton who played last season with the NAHL’s Bismarck Bobcats.

“We should have very solid goaltending and defense,” said Romaniski, who expects his roster to be on the young side with numerous 1990 and ’91 birthdates. “We’ve got a lot of work to do on and off the ice, but I am looking forward to it.”

MACHINE NOTES: Jesse Davis has assumed the role of assistant general manager and vice president of the Machine’s AAA teams. He will also serve as head coach of the Midget Major AAA squad… Victoria DePalma has been hired as part of the team’s sales and marketing staff… The Ice Box Sports Center has begun its new facelift for the NAHL and AAA teams.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Seguin, Wedgewood sign with Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers announced today the signing of 16-year-old center Tyler Seguin, who was selected by the Whalers in the first round (ninth overall) in this spring’s Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Seguin (pronounced SAY-gann) scored 39 goals and 47 assists for 86 points in 51 games last season for the Toronto Young Nationals.

“We are very fortunate to sign Tyler,” Plymouth GM Mike Vellucci said. “He was a top-five pick in this year’s OHL draft and had several NCAA school offers. In the end, Tyler decided that he would play in the top developmental league in the world and at the same time receive a great education.”

“I’m just glad to get the opportunity to come to this great hockey club,” Seguin said. “I can’t wait to suit up in August. Plymouth is an unbelievable town with unbelievable fans. I got to meet all the rookies on the team from last year. Everyone's a bunch of great guys. I can’t wait to play. The summer’s going by so slow.”

Central Scouting describes Seguin as "a very skilled, offensively minded forward who plays a very prominent role in the success of his team. He is a very good skater that possesses quickness, agility and a great start. He plays the game at top speed and is always moving his feet while handling the puck. He is a great puck handler and an equally adept passer. He displays great vision and the ability to get his teammates the puck anywhere on the ice."

Whaler fans saw flashes of Seguin’s skill at Plymouth’s rookie orientation camp in May when he scored a goal with four assists over two sessions.

As Vellucci said, Seguin considered going to college. His dad, Paul, played from 1984-88 for the University of Vermont.

“All my life, I thought that was the path (college hockey) that I was going to take,” Seguin said. “But two or three weeks before the (OHL) draft, I came to Plymouth, found out about the program, found about the school packages and fell in love with the place. So that’s (Plymouth) where I see myself playing for the next couple of years.”

Seguin, from Brampton, Ont., will report to Plymouth’s training camp in late August and will attend school at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park during the 2008-09 school year.

The Whalers also announced the signing of goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who was taken by Plymouth in the seventh round (130th overall) in the 2008 draft. Wedgewood, who turns 16 next month, compiled a 2.17 goals-against average and recorded two shutouts in 29 games last year for the Mississauga Senators.

Photo by Rena Laverty/Plymouth Whalers

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NAHL North coaches ready for challenges


Between expansion, relocation and just plain old changes of scenery, plenty of head coaches will find themselves behind new NAHL benches this season, and the North Division is no exception.

Three bench bosses will mentor new clubs in the six-team North, all of whom have proven track records of winning and development.

In Marquette, the Rangers have ushered in a respected coach who’s anything but new to the league’s North Division. Kenny Miller, who spent the last three seasons with the Alpena IceDiggers since their move from Toledo after the 2004-05 season, will take the reigns of a third-year Marquette squad that has heightened expectations after missing the playoffs last year.

“My family and I are very happy with our decision to join the Rangers,” said Miller, the NAHL General Manager of the Year in 2007. “This is an organization that does everything first class and I’m looking forward to this coming season. The scouting staff has done a great job of identifying talent.”

A difficult decision to leave Alpena, Miller, who was the architect behind the team’s 46-point turnaround from the 2005-06 season to 2006-07, will miss his old home, but is looking forward to the task of turning the Rangers into a contender.

“We enjoyed our time in Alpena and we still have great friends there, but it was time for change and we’re glad we decided on Marquette,” said Miller, who made the move along with equipment manager Tate Precord.

With the departure of Miller in Alpena enters the highly regarded Jack Fritsche, who is no stranger to success in the NAHL.

Fritsche spent the 2005-06 season with the NAHL’s Cleveland Barons, where, in his first year, he led the team to a 35-19-4 record while guiding it to its first North Division playoff championship. The head coach of the USHL’s Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets last season, Fritsche is one of two coaches to leave the USHL for an NAHL head coaching position this season, joining St. Louis’ Regg Simon, who last season held the head job in Des Moines.

The Detroit area hasn’t seen Junior A hockey since the Compuware Ambassadors left after the 2002-03 season, but the NAHL is back in Hockeytown in the form of the Motor City Machine, which relocated from Southern Minnesota after last season. The Machine is led by Matt Romaniski, a seasoned coach who has strong ties to the Michigan hockey scene. He knows his team has big shoes to fill as it begins to forge its identity in the Motor City.

“The opportunity to coach in one of the country’s biggest hockey markets is great,” said Romaniski, who led the Express to a second-place finish in the NAHL’s Central Division last season. “It’s been along time since the NAHL has had a franchise here and we’re looking to bring back a winning tradition like so many of the old NAHL teams had here in Detroit.”

Three players under Romaniski’s watch last season have made college commitments, and he’s pushing for more of the same as he ushers in a new NAHL era in Detroit.

“My expectations are to have every player who puts on a Machine jersey become a better player and person by the end of the year, and to give them the opportunity to fulfill their goals and aspirations both in hockey and life,” he said.

Among the returning coaches in the North Division is Bob Mainhardt, who is back behind Mahoning Valley’s bench. Mainhardt, who has guided the Phantoms to a Roberson Cup championship tournament appearance the last three seasons, has had a hand in the development of over a dozen Division I players over the past two seasons.

Anthony Palumbo returns for his second season behind the Traverse City North Stars’ bench. The former Lake Superior State University standout guided the North Stars to a 23-23-12 mark last season, narrowly missing a postseason berth. Three of his players have committed to colleges for the upcoming fall.

And in Ann Arbor, USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 Team coach John Hynes and Under-17 Team coach Ron Rolston will also return to their respective posts this coming season.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Spirit ink 2007 eighth-rounder Trecapelli

Defenseman Nick Trecapelli has signed a contract with the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit.

The Spirit made the final contract offer a little more than a week ago and after some back-and-forth between them and the Trecapelli family, the deal was signed.

"It's pretty exciting," said the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Trecapelli, a graduate of the Guelph Minor Hockey Association who played for the Junior B Guelph Dominators last season.

Saginaw selected Trecapelli in the eighth round (145th overall) of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection.

"They came to quite a few of my games last year and they came to the Junior B all-star game where I played in Stratford," Trecapelli said.

He attended the Spirit's rookie and main camps in 2007.

"They had a big draft group last year and only five of us were invited to the main camp," Trecapelli said.

Trecapelli said the OHL was always his No. 1 choice.

"I grew up watching the Storm and the OHL. It was always my main goal growing up," he said.

He heads to Saginaw Aug. 25.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Clark named assistant with Motor City

The Motor City Machine has announced the hiring of Sean Clark as an assistant coach.

Clark, from Troy, spent his college playing days in the WIAC at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire before moving on to the professional level with the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL.

After his playing career, Clark became an assistant coach for the Metro Jets of the Central States Hockey League before serving as head coach of the Michigan Jaguars during the 2006-07 season. After leaving the Jaguars, Clark jumped on board with the USA Hockey Select 17 staff in 2008.

"I'm very excited to be a part of the Motor City Machine organization,” said Clark. “I look forward to working together with (Machine) coach (and GM-Matt) Romaniski and building a solid franchise here in the Detroit area."

Since 2006, Clark has been with CORE Sports Fitness, where he serves as a skating instructor, performance coach and business director. He’s also the creator, director and head instructor of Kris Draper’s CORE Fundamentals Hockey School.

“Through my coaching experience and my training experience at CORE Sports Fitness, I believe that I can contribute both on and off the ice to the success of this team,” Clark added.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Oakland Township native off to WMU

The St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League have announced that second-year forward Ben Miller has committed to Western Michigan University for the 2009-10 season.

Miller, who began his NAHL career with the Texas Tornado, tallied 26 goals and 52 points in 43 regular-season games for the Bandits in 2007-08. The 19-year-old from Oakland Township then netted five goals and 11 points in 11 playoff games.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Top Saginaw pick ready to report?

In the case of 15-year-old Brandon Saad, playing hockey became a huge part of his life at a very early age. His parents took him to their local ice rink in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, and they were surprised to find that two-year-old Brandon was so enthusiastic about skating. After developing his skills a little more, Brandon joined his cousins and brother in the game at the age of four.

Read the rest HERE.

Photo courtesy of the Saginaw Spirit

NOJHL Soo rivalry ready to resume

RR Media Service

Paul Theriault can barely contain his excitement that junior hockey has returned to the Michigan Soo, specifically venerable Pullar Stadium.

And the fact that it revisits a crossborder rivalry with the Soo Thunderbirds is merely a bonus.

"There's a lot of excitement about this team already," Theriault said of the Soo Eagles, an expansion franchise that will debut in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League this coming '08-09 season.

Theriault noted that a recent tryout camp for the Eagles drew several hundred interested spectators.

Hoping to succeed in a town where the Northern Michigan Black Bears couldn't make a go of it as recent as the 2005-06 season and where the Soo Indians had little fan interest during the 2006-07 campaign despite winning the NOJHL title, Theriault is cautiously confident that a move from Big Bear Arena to the downtown Pullar will result in better support for the Eagles.

"The Pullar is the ideal rink for junior hockey," said Theriault. "You can hear everything, you can see everything and the ice is very fast."

No stranger to the junior game on either side of the St. Mary's River, Theriault coached the old Soo Indians of the erstwhile International Junior Hockey League during the mid-1970s.

"We were well supported at the Pullar then and I see no reason why we won't be now," said the 58-year old Theriault, who has had success as a head coach with the Soo Greyhounds, Oshawa Generals and Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and with pro teams in Germany, Italy and Japan.

Theriault also feels that stable ownership led by Michigan Soo native Greg Eagle along with corporate sponsors already on board and an "eager volunteer base committed to helping out" will make the Eagles a viable franchise.

"I'm just one of many who are willing to work hard to try to make this work," added Theriault, who was born on the Canadian side of the St. Mary's River, but has owned a home in the Brimley, Mich. area for many years.

As the Eagles' head coach, Theriault has thus far signed 17 players for the 2008-09 season, including centre Jason Johnson, who skated with the AAA midget Soo Indians during the 2007-08 term.

"Hopefully Jason will be the first of many local kids who'll play for the Eagles," noted Theriault, who said he hopes to assist with the development of the Michigan Soo minor hockey program.

Meantime, Theriault who has added veteran Michigan Soo minor hockey coach David Guisbert as an assistant, said Isaac McKechnie will be the Eagles' administrator with George Nesom performing the duties of manager.

The well-travelled Theriault said he has made a two-year commitment to the Eagles and "after that, we'll see where we are. We did a lot of work over the winter to get ready for this and overcame a lot of obstacles thanks to the efforts of Isaac and others. There's more work ahead, but I'm as excited as I've been about hockey in a long time."

Theriault said that not only is he enthused about coaching junior hockey in the Michigan Soo again but he's looking ahead to the crossriver rivalry with the Thunderbirds.

"I think that will be great for the league and for both teams," he stated emphatically. "I don't need to tell you about the intense rivalry there's been over the years with junior and senior teams from the two Soos."

Meantime, Thunderbirds' general manager Al Jones is eagerly anticipating the return of the Michigan Soo to the NOJHL.

"As an organization, we're pretty thrilled," said Jones. "Hopefully the rivalry will put more fans in both rinks. With Paul at the helm, the Soo Eagles will be a well-coached team."

Neither Jones or Theriault will have to wait long to establish the latest Twin Soo rivalry once the 2008-09 regular season starts. The Thunderbirds will play host to the Eagles on Sat. Sept. 13 at John Rhodes Community Centre. And on Wed. Sept. 17, the Eagles will entertain the Thunderbirds in their Pullar Stadium home opener.

"I can't wait to get started," Theriault concluded.