Thursday, December 31, 2009

Heard, Myers provide spark for Whalers

Good teams have a way of finding energy to continue to be successful, whether it’s a big hit, effective forecheck, big save, or a goal at the right time.

Like that first cup of coffee in the morning, a jolt of energy can go a long way to a successful day.

Although the Plymouth Whalers don’t have the injury problems of the Detroit Red Wings, the truth is Plymouth hasn’t played with a fully healthy lineup all season long. Facing a stretch of games where AJ Jenks, Michal Jordan and Garrett Meurs were all missing time due to the World Junior Championship and World Under-17 Challenge – and with RJ Mahalak and JR Marsden rehabbing injuries – Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci and associate coach Joe Stefan decided to find some energy.

They decided to bring up Mitchell Heard (pictured above) and Sean Myers (pictured left).

Both players made Plymouth out of training camp, but were sent back down during the season – Heard to the Bowmanville Eagles and Myers to Chatham of the Greater Ontario Hockey League.

Like that good first cup of coffee in the morning, Heard and Myers brought some energy – and more – back to the Whalers.

Recalled before Plymouth’s game on December 18 in Oshawa, Heard scored a goal early in the game and was a factor in the Whalers’ 2-1 win over the Generals. Heard played the game in front of 400 people from his hometown of Bowmanville, not far from Oshawa.

When Heard scored to give the Whalers a 1-0 lead in the first period, he jumped into the glass, right in front of his sister and the cheering group from Bowmanville. Later, the Rogers television crew interviewed Heard after the game as the hometown hero.

Heard will be back in the lineup for Plymouth in Kitchener on January 1.

"I love to bring energy to the rink any time I can," Heard said before the Oshawa game. "I want to get the odd goal and work hard, do what the coaches say and go from there."

Myers had a smile on his face as he strolled into the Whalers’ locker room Tuesday in Sarnia. He was given a warm welcome by his teammates – even though he was just playing in Sarnia and then go back to Chatham.

“It’s great to be back,” Myers said on Tuesday. “It feels like I belong here. You never know, you just work hard and see how it goes.”

Sure enough, Myers figured in on the first Whalers goal, digging the puck from behind the Sarnia net and jamming it towards the goal. The puck caromed to Stefan Noesen, who drilled it into the net from just outside the blue crease to give the Whalers a 1-0 lead.

Plymouth went on the defeat Sarnia, 5-2.

Although Heard and Myers may be back in Bowmanville and Chatham in the short-term, they fit in the long-range plan of the Whalers.

“Both are good young talents and they have a future with the club down the road,” said Stefan. “With our injuries and a few of the guys going away to the various junior tournaments over Christmas, we needed some bodies. They’ve come in and have provided some spark and helped us out with some offense.”

Stefan wasn’t totally surprised by Heard’s and Myers’ contributions.

“Both players can contribute that way,” he said. “They have good offensive skills and fit in real well in terms of chemistry. They are a good fit for our team and hopefully we’ll see them a few more games during the rest of the year.”

Myers currently has six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 17 games for Chatham. Heard – who often plays on a line with another Whaler rookie, Peter Neal - has five goals with two assists for seven points and is +5 in six games in Bowmanville.

Perhaps just as important, Myers and Heard come to the rink with a smile of their face. They love playing the game and look to make Plymouth a more permanent stop.

“They’re both great kids,” Stefan said. When they were here at the start of the year, they fit in real well with the guys. We were all sad to see them go back, but I think they both know they have a future with us. I think they both have a chance to be offensive providers for us in the years to come.”

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Photos courtesy Walt Dmoch

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hooker an 'impact player' for Jets

The Metro Jets sure would have loved to have Tim Hooker on the ice the first half of the season, but with the way he’s played the last nine games, they’ll take him for the second half.

Hooker, a 19-year-old White Lake native, missed about 20 games this year recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He made his season debut Dec. 5 at Queen City and since then has averaged a point a game for the Jets on six goals and three assists. Four of those goals came in the CSHL Showcase Dec. 18-21.

While some may be hesitant to go all-out after major surgery, Hooker has been anything but that so far for Metro.

“The shoulder definitely made a full recovery and I try not to worry about anything on the ice except playing my game,” Hooker said. “It took me awhile to get my wheels back and adjusting to the games, but I feel like I am improving every game and practice.”

Having Hooker in the lineup makes an impact, according to Jets coach Ryan Skop.

“Hook's an impact player for sure,” Skop said. “When he's on the ice, you can't help but notice. He's got great offensive skills, he's quick, he's got great vision, he shoots the puck well, and he's one of those guys who have a knack for putting the puck in the net.”

Hooker is a player the coaching staff is banking on to replace former captain Adam Novack, who wound up scoring 28 goals last season.

“Hook's been on our radar for a while now,” added Skop. “He's good friends with Woody (Metro defenseman Steve Lockwood) and last year, he was over at Ferris State, wanted to come back and play some hockey, so he signed with us and was ready to go, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. He did a good job keeping in contact with us all summer long and let us know he wanted to come back and play. That was big for us because we were looking for a real offensive guy to replace Novy after he moved on.

“A few weeks back in Cincinnati (Queen City), Hook was ready to go, and got his first game action of the season. He had a couple points that first weekend, but you could tell he was still kind of getting his legs back under him, getting his timing back, everything like that. A few weeks later, Hook's doing exactly what we expected him to do. He’s a power-play quarterback, he’s killing penalties and above all, he's putting up points.”

Currently centering a line with two other White Lake natives, Mike Denston and David Merkle, Hooker said the chemistry with that line was apparent from the first shift together.

“I've played with Merk since I was about 12, so the chemistry is always flowing there, and Denny has some good vision on the ice, too, so we fit perfect,” explained the 5-foot-8, 155-pound Hooker. “I've also played with Lockwood since I was about 10, so we can read each other on the ice real good, which helps when you have a defenseman like that to move the puck up on a rush.”

Speaking of moving up, that’s what Hooker intends on doing after this season.

“I hope to use this season to have as much fun as possible,” Hooker said. “I would definitely like to continue my hockey career at the next level, either playing another year of juniors or going to a university team.”

Still, with nine points in nine games, one wonders how many spots north in the standings the Jets might be had Hooker been healthy all season.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets played in the annual league showcase two weeks ago down in the Quad Cities and came up short with two losses each to Toledo and Chicago.

“We definitely had a disappointing performance,” said Skop. “We played well enough to win on Friday (vs. Toledo) and Saturday (vs. Chicago) when we had third period leads in both games and blew them. We simply didn't get the job done when it came time to play lockdown hockey and it cost us four points. Sunday and Monday we were just out-classed. (Goaltender Ian) Mercer stood on his head Monday and gave us a chance to win, but we just didn't put enough pucks in Chicago's net.”

Fri. Dec. 18 – Toledo 6, Metro 4 (Brett Grech two goals)
Sat. Dec. 19 – Chicago 7, Metro 4 (Hooker two goals, assist)
Sun. Dec. 20 – Toledo 7, Metro 1 (Mercer 39 saves)
Mon. Dec. 21 – Chicago 4, Metro 1 (Mercer 56 saves)

The Jets (7-21-0-3) are off this weekend before hosting Chicago next Saturday (7:40 p.m.) and Sunday (1:20 p.m.) at Lakeland Arena.

JET FUEL

Metro released forward Brian Fox last week.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Alec Benson-Dunn, a member of Metro’s national championship team in 2002, where he was the team’s leading scorer and MVP, is now the head coach of the upstart Loyola Marymount University ACHA team in Los Angeles.

It was Benson-Dunn’s goal midway through the third period in the 2002 national finals in Blaine, Minn., against the Phoenix Polar Bears that stood as the game-winner and gave the Jets a 3-2 victory.

After leaving the Jets, Benson-Dunn played for Springfield, Chicago and Helena in the North American Hockey League.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NAHL Top Prospects rosters announced

The North American Hockey League announced today the 20-man rosters for its third annual Top Prospects Tournament, which will be held January 18-20, 2010 at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor.

The event will feature all-star teams from the NAHL's Central, North, South and West Divisions competing in a three-game, round-robin tournament.

"I give a lot of credit to our Top Prospects Tournament Selection Committee for their efforts in evaluating and selecting the best our league has to offer to compete in this prestigious event," said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. "In short time, Top Prospects has evolved into one of North America's premier scouting showcases, and, like the previous two years, we expect a number of our student-athletes to receive deserved college opportunities following the event."

In the three five-team divisions - the Central, North and South - six players were selected from the first-place teams as of December 20 (Bismarck Bobcats, Marquette Rangers, St. Louis Bandits); five from the second-place teams (Owatonna Express, Janesville Jets, Topeka RoadRunners); three from the third- and fourth-place teams (North Iowa Outlaws/Alexandria Blizzard, Traverse City North Stars/Motor City Metal Jackets, Texas Tornado/Springfield Jr. Blues); and two from the fifth-place teams (Albert Lea Thunder, Alpena IceDiggers, Wichita Falls Wildcats).

One wildcard player was also selected from each of the three divisions (Owatonna/Marquette/Topeka).

In the four-team West Division, six players were chosen from the first-place team as of December 20 (Wenatchee Wild); five from the second-place team (Alaska Avalanche); and four from the third- and fourth-place teams (Fairbanks Ice Dogs/Kenai River Brown Bears).

One wildcard player was also selected from the division (Wenatchee).

Nearly 30 players who participated in last year's Top Prospects Tournament earned scholarships to Division I schools.

In conjunction with the Top Prospects Tournament, the fourth event of the North American Prospects Hockey League season will be played at the Ice Cube from January 15-18.

2010 NAHL Top Prospects Rosters

Monday, December 28, 2009

North Stars host Rangers today, Tuesday

If nothing else, this week’s Monday-Tuesday afternoon series between the Traverse City North Stars and visiting Marquette Rangers will be an unveiling – of exactly what, Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo is anxious to discover.

“It’s put up or shut up time,” said Palumbo, whose club has dropped seven of its last eight contests, sliding from first place into a second-place tie with Janesville. “We have to decide if we’re going to stay in this race or if we’re going to just get out of the way and let these other teams fight it out for the division (title).”

The Rangers come into the contests with a two-point cushion in the NAHL North Division standings over the North Stars and Jets, and have a game in hand against TC. Marquette claimed two out of three games in an early-December series in the U.P. after the Stars swept a Centre ICE homestand from the Rangers in late October.

“They have a good team, no doubt about it, and we’ll have to come prepared to play at a fairly high level,” Palumbo asserted. “For us, simply playing well is the most important thing. I don’t think we’re coming in looking for two or four points or anything like that – we just need to play a solid 60-minute game and see where that can get us.”

Traverse City will field a revamped lineup for Monday’s series opener, getting back all-star defenseman and team captain Travis White, who missed the past 10 games with an upper-body injury. Kelin Ainsworth will also suit up after being sidelined for the last six contests, while Matt Zaremba will make his NAHL debut on Monday, skating on a line between Ainsworth and Taylor Burden. Zaremba, who previously starred for the Gaylord High squad, was fifth among Central States Hockey League skaters this season, scoring 17 goals and assisting on 30 others through 29 games with Cleveland. He had more than 100 points in his distinguished prep career with the Blue Devils that ended last spring.

“We’re looking at different guys, different combinations of guys, trying to find where the pieces best fit,” Palumbo explained. “It’s a results-oriented business, and we’re going to find the guys that give us the best chance to succeed.”

Chris Paliafito will make his first Centre ICE arena start since March 22, 2008 on Monday, with Drew Strandberg tentatively slated for Tuesday afternoon duty. Strandberg, who is returning from a lower-body injury that held him out of the Stars’ last series in Janesville, was stranded in an Ontario airport this week while en route to Traverse City.

With the holiday break behind them, Palumbo says his team’s focus can now shift to the three-month, 28-game stretch run to the Robertson Cup playoffs.

“We’d better be ready because there are no easy nights in the North Division,” he said. “Maximum effort, energy and execution for 60 minutes is the way to be successful, and it starts on Monday.”

The Stars and Rangers will drop the puck at 3 p.m. on both Monday and Tuesday, contests which precede the Traverse City Central Holiday Hockey Tournament at Centre ICE arena. The Trojans, TC West High Titans and Grand Traverse Bay Reps are among the participants in that three-day, eight-school event.

White photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL

Eagles name Formolo team captain

The Soo Eagles are pleased to announce their team captain and assistant captains for the 2009-2010 season.

Wearing the 'C' will be Pete Formolo, a Sault Ste. Marie native.

“Pete has been a solid contributor on our team the past couple seasons and has shown leadership both on and off the ice,” said Eagles head coach Paul Theriault. “He brings a lot of experience to our lineup and is an excellent role model in our dressing room and also in the community. Pete is actively involved in local minor sports as a coach in football, baseball and hockey.”

The Eagles' assistant captains will be Anthony Raymond (Grosse Pointe Woods), Aaron Leonard (Allen Park) and Kevin Michelcavage (Sterling Heights).

“All three players have been key to our program in a short period of time and bring a lot of playing experience and positive energy to our lineup,” said Theriault. "I look for these guys to be impact players this season as we look to make it back to the playoffs.”

Information provided by Randy Russon for the Soo Eagles

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Telegin named to Russian WJHC squad

Saginaw Spirit forward Ivan Telegin has been named to Team Russia’s roster for the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships taking place in Saskatchewan.

Telegin has tallied 18 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with the Spirit this season and will re-join the Spirit following the tournament.

The Ontario Hockey League is well represented in the tournament, with 20 of its players representing their countries on the international stage. Telegin is joined on the Team Russia roster by goalie Ramis Sadikov (Erie Otters) and forward Alexander Burmistrov (Barrie Colts).

Rangers scheduled for three straight

For the third consecutive week, the Marquette Rangers will play a three-game set in North American Hockey League North Division play.

The Rangers travel to take on Traverse City Monday and Tuesday at Centre Ice Arena before returning home to host Alpena at Lakeview Arena Wednesday evening.

Marquette leads the North Division by two points over Traverse City and Janesville heading into the weekend. Janesville is idle until January 2-3 when they travel to Alpena to battle the IceDiggers.

Being in first-place has several obvious advantages for the club. It also brings with it added opportunities for members of this years’ team as Marquette will send six players to this season’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.

This year’s event, which annually attracts over 100 college and professional coaches and scouts, will be held January 18-20 at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, and will again feature all-star teams from the NAHL's Central, North, South and West Divisions competing in a three-game, round-robin tournament.The number of invites each team gets to Top Prospects is based on each team’s winning percentage as of December 20, with higher percentages translating into more representation.

The NAHL will announce the rosters, which will be comprised of 20 players each, on Tuesday.

“It's quite an honor for our entire organization to be where we’re at in the standings heading into the holiday break,” said Rangers head coach Kenny Miller. “Although only a handful of our guys will play in the event, every player from our club deserves credit for this accomplishment.

“I’m proud of all our guys, the coaching staff and the support staff we have in place for their hard work up to this point in the season.”

With two current Rangers committed to Division I schools, Miller is confident Top Prospects will open a lot more doors for a handful of his deserving student-athletes.

“Because this event is so popular with the college scouts, it’ll be a great opportunity for our players to showcase their talents,” said Miller who will also coach the North Division at the event.

Marquette continues to be led in scoring by captain Garrett Ladd (12-19--31) and Andrew Kolb (13-17--30).

Kolb photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Four Michigan reps at World Juniors

Three Michigan players were named yesterday for the United States team that will compete in the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships and another Michigan-based player will also play at the tournament.

Defenseman Cam Fowler (Windsor Spitfires) of Farmington Hills, forward AJ Jenks (Plymouth Whalers) of Wolverine Lake and goalie Jack Campbell (U.S. National Under-18 Team) of Port Huron will represent Old Glory in Regina and Saskatoon, Sask., starting Saturday.

Alpena IceDiggers' goalie Marco Weiser (pictured) was named to the Austrian contingent.

More on Weiser HERE.

Photo courtesy RJ Meyer/NAHL

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Telegin, Seguin named Top Prospects

Saginaw Spirit center Ivan Telegin and Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin have been named to the roster for the 2010 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, taking place on January 20 in Windsor.

Farmington Hills native and Windsor defenseman Cam Fowler will also play in the game.

Canadian Hockey League press release

Seguin photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gordie Howe protégé working with Jets

When opposing players go to the penalty box during Metro Jets games at Lakeland Arena, very few, if any, realize that they are in the presence of a Gordie Howe protégé.

It’s true.

Dale Hinton grew up in Portland, Ore., and after his father was transferred to Omaha, Neb., in the 1940s, he took up hockey as a hobby.

“My father was a traveling man and I had started skating when we lived in Fargo (N.D.),” explained Hinton, a retired City of Wayne department of public works employee. “When we moved to Omaha, I used to go out to the Ak-Sar-Ben Field and watch the Omaha Knights. I helped with the sticks, opened the door, stuff like that.

“Then one day, Gordie Howe, who was playing with the Omaha team, asked me if I played hockey and I told him no, and then he asked me to come out and he’d teach me to skate and shoot. When he came up here to Detroit, I played high school hockey Omaha. During my last year, five of us got picked to go play a professional game in Vancouver. They paid us $50, but we can all honestly say we played a professional game.”

After high school, Hinton had a chance to play hockey at Colorado College, only a war was going on in Korea and his hockey career stalled for a couple year.

“I applied for a scholarship to CC and got it, but Uncle Sam said he had dibbs on me,” Hinton said. “When I got back, I knew I would never play hockey in college, so I started playing in a seniors league and coaching and stuff like that.”

Once Hinton came to Michigan in 1954, he was married in 1955 and then moved to Wayne, where he started coaching kids to play hockey – on tennis courts.

“I said, ‘You know what? This is bologna. You can’t play hockey like this,’” said Hinton. “So we started a learn to play deal, and I was in charge of that, and then we had a rink built and started the Wayne Hockey Association. I coached until 1990 when I retired.”

Hinton’s three grandchildren play out of Lakeland Arena, so seeing them play, coupled with his work with Jets, Hinton is “in (his) element.”

“(Metro GM) Butch (Wolfe) put up a sign for minor officials and I thought I could do that,” said Hinton, explaining how he caught on with the Jets. “I was a goal judge, and did that once at Olympia Stadium, and now I’ve been here two years with Jets working in the opponents’ penalty box.”

And it’s a volunteer position he loves.

“I get to talk with opponents and they’re all a good bunch of young men, just peaches,” said Hinton. “Most kids in this league, their goal is hockey, and that’s the name of the game. They all want to go as far as they can.”

As for the Jets, “they’re all a good bunch of kids, but they can’t stay out of penalty box. If they do that, they can beat anybody,” assessed Hinton. “They’ve got some good coaches and they have the team on the right track.”

Still living in Wayne, Hinton said he tries not to miss any of his grandkid’s games at Lakeland, but driving 45 miles one way and having a sick wife at home can be difficult.

“I tried to talk to Mr. (Urban) Rice (Lakeland Arena owner) into giving me an apartment and letting me live here,” laughed Hinton.

“I’ve been a rink rat my whole life – I just love the sport.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets had a rough weekend at home and were swept Saturday night and Sunday afternoon by the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks.

Saturday night, Tim Hooker scored his first two goals of the season, while Todd Knaus and Brett Grech each had a goal and an assist in a 7-4 loss.

Ian Mercer made 36 saves in goal for Metro.

Sunday afternoon, the Jets suffered a 13-2 defeat, but did get goals from Jon Elliott and Will Saley.

Mercer and R.J. Heath combined to make 49 saves.

The Jets (7-17-0-3) play in the CSHL Showcase in Moline, Ill., this weekend at the Quad City Sports Center. Metro plays Friday and Sunday against Toledo and Saturday and Monday versus Chicago. The team then breaks for the holidays before returning to action Jan. 9-10 at Lakeland Arena for a two-game set with Chicago.

JET FUEL

Metro added 20-year-old forward Brian Fox this week. A New Jersey native, Fox “should add depth and a veteran presence,” according to Wolfe.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

John Burkart, assistant coach and head recruiter on the 2001-2002 Jets national championship team, has his hands full these days.

Burkart is the director of player personnel for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, an area scout for the NHL and also a firefighter for the city of Detroit.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Rangers down to Alpena for three games

The Marquette Rangers face their second three-game series in as many weekends as they travel to Northern Lights Arena in Alpena to battle the IceDiggers in North American Hockey League North Division play.

Marquette continues to trail first-place Traverse City by two points heading into the weekend, while the IceDiggers sit in fifth place in the North Division with 20 points on 10 wins against 16 losses.

Despite their fifth-place standing, Alpena has been the hot team in the North, winning four of their last five games – all against Traverse City. Janesville remains in third place heading into the weekend, two points behind Marquette, while Motor City is in fourth place, five points behind the Jets.

The Rangers continue to be led in scoring by Garrett Ladd and Andrew Kolb, each with 26 points on the season. Tanner Kero leads the team in goal production with 12, while Collin Saint-Onge and Brent Bain also continue to lead the team offensively.

Goaltender Kevin Kissaw continues to work his way back from knee surgery, and played two out of the three games last week against Traverse City. Kissaw remains in the top 10 among goaltenders league-wide with a goals against average of 2.16 and save percentage of .938. Kissaw’s numbers place him as the top goaltender in the North Division heading into this weekend’s action.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seguin, Hackett cut from Team Canada

Plymouth
Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett was sent back to Plymouth on Wednesday as Canada announced its final roster for the upcoming World Junior Campionship.

Earlier, Tyler Seguin was sent back to the Whalers.

Meanwhile, AJ Jenks is trying out for Team USA in Grand Forks, N.D., and
Michal Jordan has been selected as captain for the Czech Republic team.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dallas Drake appearing in Saginaw

Detroit Red Wings alumni and Stanley Cup champion Dallas Drake will be appearing at the Saginaw Spirit home game scheduled for December 29.

The former NHLer will be participating in a ceremonial puck drop and signing autographs for fans during the game when the Spirit hosts the Erie Otters at 7:11 p.m.

"The Saginaw Spirit are honored to host Dallas Drake and are thankful to our sponsor, Causley Trucking, for allowing us to present another Stanley Cup champion," said Spirit president Craig Goslin. "Dallas was the first Red Wing player that captain Nicklas Lidstrom handed the Cup to for the Stanley Cup celebration skate.

"We invite our fans to come down to the Dow Event Center on December 29 to hear a few stories from him regarding the Red Wings '07-08 Stanley Cup championship season."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pinkston looks ahead, goes Ivy League

Tri-City Storm defenseman Rick Pinkston has committed to play hockey for Dartmouth College beginning in the fall of 2011.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound defenseman is in his second season with the Storm and has two points (1g, 1a) in 19 games while leading the team with 61 penalty minutes. The Trenton native played 37 games for the Storm during the 2008-09 season, recording five points (2g, 3a).

"I felt it was the best decision for me, not only for the next four to five years, but the next 40 as well," said Pinkston. "It's a supreme education and with an excellent hockey program that has a rich tradition. It has always been a dream of mine to play for an Ivy League school."

"We are excited and proud of Rick and his decision to commit to Dartmouth," Storm head coach-GM Drew Schoneck said. "He has made great strides this season as a player, and we look forward to his continued development."

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saginaw makes trade with Wolves

The Saginaw Spirit completed a trade with the Sudbury Wolves today, adding defenseman Peter Hermenegildo in exchange for defenseman Nick Trecapelli, Sudbury’s fourth round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection (acquired by Saginaw via an earlier trade) and Saginaw’s fifth round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.

Hermenegildo is a 1991-born defenseman from Thornhill, Ont., that was selected by the Wolves 47th overall in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. He has tallied three goals and seven assists in 20 games this season with 21 goals and 41 assists in his three-year Ontario Hockey League career.

He had a two-goal game against the Guelph Storm last season on November 29, 2008, and a two-point game this season against the Kingston Frontenacs on November 3.

Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

No games in Wyandotte this weekend

The North American Hockey League announced that this weekend’s Motor City Metal Jackets-Janesville Jets series scheduled for Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12 has been postponed due to inclement weather.

The two games will be rescheduled at a later date.

Czarnowczan gives nod to Ferris State

Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Scott Czarnowczan has committed to play collegiate hockey at Ferris State University following his USHL career.

Playing in his first USHL season, the native of Macomb has collected eight points (all assists) in 21 games for the Gamblers. He ranks third on the club with a plus-9 rating. Czarnowczan, 18, recorded an assist in his USHL debut on October 3, and then collected an assist in his second league game on October 9.

The Bulldogs are a member of the CCHA and currently have nine former USHL players on the roster this season: Scott Wietecha (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Chad Billins (Waterloo Black Hawks), Aaron Schmit (Chicago Steel), Cody Chupp (Waterloo Black Hawks), Matt Case (Green Bay Gamblers), Eric Alexander (Lincoln Stars), Zach Redmond (Sioux Falls Stampede), Mike Embach (Indiana Ice) and Brett Wysopal (Tri-City Storm).

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alpena-Motor City game postponed

The North American Hockey League announced today that tonight’s game between the Alpena IceDiggers and the Motor City Metal Jackets in Wyandotte (see post below) has been postponed due to inclement weather.

The game has been rescheduled for Sunday, February 21. Game time has yet to be announced.

Tonight in Wyandotte - Santa Claus!!!


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Farmington Hills native picks Niagara

Sioux City Musketeers forward Ryan Rashid has committed to play collegiately at Niagara University following his USHL career.

The 19-year-old native of Farmington Hills has posted seven points (4g, 3a) playing in all 20 games for the Musketeers this season. Rashid is playing in his first USHL season and registered his first point, an assist, in just his second game on October 9.

Rashid is the second USHL player to commit to Niagara University this season. Waterloo Black Hawks forward Patrick Divjak committed to play hockey for the Purple Eagles last month.

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Jenks hoping for Team USA spot

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Plymouth Whalers veteran AJ Jenks has a lot to play for this season.

Selected by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round (100th overall) in the 2008 National Hockey league Entry Draft, Jenks is in his signing year with Florida. If the Panthers don’t sign him before the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Jenks could go back into the upcoming draft or become a free agent.

Jenks also has a chance to play for his country. He is one of the 29 players named to the preliminary roster for the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that will participate in a three-day pre-tournament training camp December 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D.

“I’m definitely excited about it,” Jenks said. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for me. It’s been a goal of mine to play on that team for many years, so I’m going to go there and give it everything I have. Hopefully, I get a chance to represent our country.”

Jenks is no stranger to international competition. He has played for Team USA before at the 2007 Under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, recording a goal and an assist with 16 penalty minutes. He has also attended Team USA's 2008 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, New York, as well as the 2009 National Junior Evaluation Camp.

Jenks wants to play well for Plymouth before going to Grand Forks.

“It (the selection) definitely gives you a little more motivation,” he said. “I want to make sure my game is staying where it should be. I want to be in good shape going into the camp.”

Jenks has been watched all season, whether it’s by officials from USA Hockey, Panthers’ scouting director Scott Luce or other Florida scouts. Jenks takes a logical approach to the scrutiny.

“Obviously, it’s there in your mind, but I just try to put it behind me,” he explained. “I’m not playing for USA Hockey now, or Florida – I’m playing for the Whalers. And if I do well here, that will carry me to do well in other places, too.”

Jenks saw that in 2006-07 as a rookie on the Whalers championship team. Seven players signed NHL contracts from that team.

The Whalers continue to battle injuries and haven’t had a set roster all year long.

“I think our team is going to surprise a lot of people once we get fully healthy and on the same page again," Jenks said. "Once that happens, I think we’re going to shock some teams.”

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Kero stays up north, signs with MTU

Marquette Rangers
forward Tanner Kero has become the second player from this year's squad to make a Division I college commitment, agreeing to play for the Michigan Tech Huskies of the WCHA.

Kero, a Hancock native, is in his first year of junior hockey and has made the most of the early part of the season. He currently leads the Rangers in goal production with 12 on the year to go with five assists for 17 points, placing him fifth in overall scoring for the club.

Rangers head coach Kenny Miller said the organization couldn’t be happier to see Kero make the commitment to play in Houghton.

“Tanner is a very skilled player that deserves the chance to play at the Division I level,” Miller said. “He works hard every day and he has been rightly rewarded for that effort. Not only is Michigan Tech getting a high-end player, they are getting a great student and an even better young man. We’re all very happy for him and his family.”

Kero joins teammate Garrett Ladd (Bemidji State) as players from this year’s Rangers squad to make commitments to play college hockey. Kero also joins Aaron Pietila (2007-09) as players from the Rangers to commit to MTU.

Rangers host North Stars for three-pack

The Marquette Rangers host first place Traverse City this Thursday through Saturday in a key three-game series for both North American Hockey League clubs.

The North Stars lead the Rangers by three points in the NAHL North Division race, with six points up for grabs this weekend.

The Rangers currently sit in third place in the division race two points behind the Janesville Jets. Marquette is only three points ahead of Motor City for fourth place in the division race.

Rangers head coach Kenny Miller says his team is anxious to get on the ice following two off-weeks over the past 20 days.

“We’ve had a really good week of practice so far,” Miller said. “Sometimes as a coach you worry about guys not coming back mentally ready to go, but the fact that we’ve looked pretty sharp so far shows me we’re ready to get back to playing.”

Miller added that the break was very well-timed for his club, as some players nursing injuries have had time to heal.

“For the first time in a while we’ll have our full lineup to choose from," Miller said. "Kevin Kissaw is healthy after his (meniscus) surgery so he’ll be ready to go this weekend and our other guys who were a little banged-up have had enough time to heal, so we feel good heading into this stretch of our schedule.”

Marquette, coming off a two game split with Motor City two weeks ago, continues to be led in scoring by Garrett Ladd and Marquette native Collin Saint-Onge. Four other Rangers are in double-digit scoring after 22 games this season.

Kissaw, who last played in Marquette’s 4-1 loss at Janesville on October 25, continues to be in the top five statistically among NAHL goaltenders with a goals-against of 2.11 per game and a save percentage of .941.

“Kevin brings a lot to the table for our club,” Miller added. “He’s our ‘go to guy’ and having him back and healthy should help us the rest of the way."

Traverse City swept two games from Marquette earlier this season at Centre Ice Arena and holds a four-point lead in the teams’ annual battle for the Charter Communications Challenge Cup the clubs have played for since the 2007 -08 season.

Face-off all three nights is at 7:30 p.m.

Rangers Hosting Several Events

Fans who attend games this weekend between the Marquette Rangers and the Traverse City North Stars will have several specials and chances to win during the three game series at Lakeview Arena.

Thursday night is “NMU Exam Night” as the team will offer special concession prices in the arena to celebrate the end of the semester. Fans need not be an NMU student to take advantage of the reduced prices.

On Friday, the Rangers will again team with Holiday Station Stores throughout Upper Michigan and host another “Rangers Hockey Gives Me Gas Night” with up to $300 of free gasoline up for grabs.

The popular promotion, now in its third year, has been a fan favorite, according to Rangers spokesman Mark Evans.

“We start the game with a $50 gift card,” Evans said. “For every goal the Rangers score, we add another $50 to the grand prize all the way up to $300. Our goal is to give it all away because that guarantees five goals being scored, and it gets the crowd into the game knowing that if they push the team to play well, someone in the crowd will benefit.

“In three years, we’ve given away the maximum amount four times, so we’re hoping for another big night on Friday.”

The Rangers are asking fans on Saturday to bring a stuffed animal to the game for the teams’ annual teddy bear toss. Fans are to hold on to the toy until the Rangers score their first goal of the game, then toss the stuffed animal on to the ice to celebrate the goal. Rangers players will then collect the toys, which will be distributed to local pediatric medical providers in Marquette County.

“Last year the animals were used in the area hospitals and were a huge hit," Evans added. "We’re hoping to top last year's success with this promotion."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Kienzle adds character to Metro lineup

Chris Kienzle
has a limited role for the Metro Jets, but he’ll never be one to complain, even with this being his final season of junior eligibility.

The 20-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., came to the Jets during the summer on a recommendation from Metro’s Eastern United States scout Chris Werstine, also a former Jets coach. That was all the Jets needed to use a draft pick on Kienzle last May.

“Stine called me and suggested we take a look at Kenzy,” Metro coach Ryan Skop said. “He told me he's a very responsible forward, good in his own end, not flashy, just a good blue-collar guy. He has a good understanding of the game and most importantly, Stine really talked up Kenzy's character. Because of Stiner's recommendation, we kind of took a flyer on Kenzy, sight unseen. I'm glad we did.

Kienzle, who played Junior C last season for the Metro (N.J.) Fighting Moose, made the Jets’ roster out of training camp and now is the lone 1989 birthdate and the lone non-Michigan-born player. Hard work has been the name of his game since settling in with Metro.

“He's always getting on the ice early, staying on the ice late after practice, and working on his game,” said Skop. “That type of stuff is infectious. He does a great job of pushing everyone to put their work in. It's because of this that Kenz's importance to us isn't something that shows up on the scoresheet. He's a guy that comes in and whether he plays two minutes, or 20 minutes, he's punching the clock and going to work. He's one of the guys that set the standard for our team.”

Being a mentor to the younger players on the Jets is also a role Kienzle has assumed innocently. It’s also the role Skop feels is Kienzle’s biggest asset.

“What I like most about what Chris is doing with us this year is the relationship he's formed with some of the younger guys on the squad, in particular with Matt Moeller (Metro’s youngest player and only 1993 birthdate),” noted Skop. “Kenz has taken Moe under his wing a bit. They're right next to each other in the room and Kenz is always talking to him, showing him the ropes. He does a real good job with that.”

Though he has yet to record a point this season, that’s not what Kienzle is in Waterford to do.

“Kenz brings a little bit of everything to our team," Skop said. "He plays well positionally, gets back defensively and gets at the forecheck. He does all the little things. And when we started putting the roster together this season, we were looking for good character guys. And honestly, there's nobody with better character than Kenz.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

With the Jets earning a split over the weekend on the road at Queen City, the Jets have now equaled their win total from a year ago at the halfway point of this season.

Sunday afternoon, Metro goaltender Ian Mercer recorded his second shutout of the season as he stopped all 47 shots he faced in the 3-0 whitewash of the Steam.

"Mercer was solid," said Skop. "I think we did a good job of limiting their quality shots and even though there were a lot, we held them to few quality scoring chances. When they did get them, though, Merc stood tall."

Mike Denston and David Merkle added power-play goals after Brett Grech opened the scoring for the Jets. Tim Hooker, in just his second game of the year after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason, added an assist on each of the power-play tallies.

"Hook looked good," added Skop. "He's still getting his legs, but his on-ice vision and creativity is very apparent. He was good, but we all know he's going to get better."

Defenseman Tyler Schofield assisted on Denston's goal for his first point of the season.

On Saturday night, it was all Queen City as goaltender Justin Camuto allowed just a Will Saley power-play goal with 66 seconds left in the third period in a 6-1 victory.

R.J. Heath made 40 saves in the loss.

Metro (7-14-0-3) plays in Flint Wednesday night before hosting Cleveland Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

JET FUEL

Rookie forward Anthony Marrocco was traded to the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League on Monday. Marrocco, a 2009 draft pick of the Jets, was held pointless in 15 games.

Ex-Jets forward Sean Hogan (1996-1997) coaches the Cody, Wyo.-based Quake.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Ryan Compeau, a forward-turned-defenseman who played with the Jets from 2005-2007, is currently a sophomore on the Marian University Division III team in Fond du Lac, Wis.

Compeau, a 21-year-old Romeo native, has an assist in eight games this season with the Sabres.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Whalers active in local community

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

The hockey business is measured in numbers.

The Plymouth Whalers have a record of 17-14-0-0, Myles McCauley has 17 goals and Leo Jenner leads the Whalers with a +14 plus/minus rating.

The Whalers play 34 home games, each OHL playoff series is the best four-of-seven games and Plymouth is playing in its 20th season in the Ontario Hockey League.

But there are some impressive numbers that measure the Whalers' success off the ice and in the community.

37 BAGS: That’s the number of large plastic bags needed to corral all the teddy bears and stuffed animals donated by Plymouth fans on Saturday, December 5 during the Whalers’ 10th annual teddy bear toss when Plymouth hosted the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

The Whalers collected over 1,100 stuffed animals for families when Michal Jordan scored with 28 seconds left in the second period to tie the score at 1-1. When Jordan scored, the animals rained down in earnest from the 2,837 who attended the game.

The timing of the goal couldn’t have been better and referees Bob Langdon and TJ Luxmore sent the Whalers and ‘Hounds to their dressing rooms (tacking on the final 28 seconds to the third period) while members of the Compuware 96 AAA Hockey Team and Whalers staff collected the loot. The 18-minute intermission (the standard for the second intermission in the OHL) allowed enough time for the animals to be collected with no delay in the game.

The Plymouth United Way sent over a courtesy ambulance to transport the animals Monday morning from Compuware Arena. Now, the stuffed animals will find a safe home with needy families this season.

“We thank the fans for their support of the teddy bear toss,” said Char Merckel, Plymouth’s director of ticket sales. “The fans set a record for stuffed animals this year and we sincerely appreciate their contribution.”

ONE TON: That’s the amount of non-perishable food items the Whalers collected on November 28 during a food drive when Plymouth hosted the Kingston Frontenacs. One ton is an all-time Plymouth record.

$8,000: That’s the amount of money raised by the Whalers during their annual Pink Out! For Breast Cancer Awareness on October 24 against the Belleville Bulls. The Plymouth players dyed their hair pink and the Whalers wore specially designed jerseys for the event.

The pink, game-worn jerseys were auctioned off to fans later. Fans were able to bid anywhere between $200 and $1000 for the distinctive jerseys. As expected, Tyler Seguin’s game-worn jersey garnered the highest bid.

In addition, breast cancer survivors Sandy Schoenheide, Leza Ivezaj and Blanche Mack dropped the puck at center ice in a ceremonial faceoff before the start of the game.

The proceeds from the jersey auction, along with the 50/50 raffle and Hines Park Chuck-a-Puck all were donated to the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

132: This is the amazing amount of events the Whalers have done appearances at this season through December 5.

The Whalers go to schools, visit church groups, conduct Learn-to-Skate sessions, go to and participate in youth teams’ practices and conduct a cross-section of activities designed to raise awareness and connect with the community.

While the Whalers have their own set of statistics based on their performance on the ice, there is a separate set of data measuring off-ice activity. Ryan Hayes (pictured) currently leads the Whalers with 27 different appearances, followed by RJ Mahalak (21), Austin Levi and Jamie Devane (20) and Josh Bemis (19).

"The players have definitely been busy,” said Natalie Shaver, Plymouth sales and marketing administrator. “We're just starting December and it doesn't look like we're slowing down either. The Whalers attending youth hockey practices program is picking up in popularity and they participate in Learn-to-Skate classes all year long.

“Plus, we're still busy in schools, especially for March is Reading Month. The players have been great and definitely have a positive impact in the community – especially with kids."

All totaled, Whalers players have teammed up for over 400 individual player appearances this season.

In another event to support the community, older Whaler players will be working as bartenders on Tuesday, December 15 from 7-10pm at Fiamma Grille, located at 380 S. Main in Plymouth. A portion of the proceeds collected will go to the Plymouth Goodfellows for their "No Child Without a Christmas" compaign.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Telegin wins monthly OHL award

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the OHL Performers of the Month for November, 2009.

OHL Rookie of the Month – Ivan Telegin, Saginaw Spirit

Ivan Telegin led all OHL rookies in scoring for the second straight month producing 10 points including a team-high eight goals and also contributing two assists in 11 games with a plus-minus rating of plus-6 for the Saginaw Spirit. He scored goals in seven of his 11 games scoring two goals November 6 as third star of a 5-1 win over the Oshawa Generals. His best performance came on November 18 in a 7-5 win over the Owen Sound Attack where he recorded his third three-point game of the season with a goal and two assists as second star of the game.

Telegin, a 17-year-old from Novokuznetsk, Russia, currently leads all OHL rookies in scoring with 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points in 28 games. His 18 goals have him ranked tied for eighth overall in the league. Eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Telegin was named Player of the Game for Team Russia November 23 at the 2009 SUBWAY Super Series game in Windsor.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Amin acquired by North Stars -- again

The Traverse City North Stars like Ryan Amin so much, they picked him up twice.

The former North Stars tender who signed with the club in December 2007 and played 13 games with Traverse City in 2008-09, was re-acquired from Kenai River on Thursday in a three-way trade that sent forward Sean Keane to Wichita Falls.

Amin, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward from Canton, had a goal and a pair of assists in 12 games this season with the Brown Bears. While he may not arrive from Alaska in time for this weekend’s home-and-home series with Alpena, Amin is expected to play a significant role straight away.

“We’ve got Kellin (Ainsworth) out with an injury, Kyle Jean is home with the flu, and we might have to dress as few as 10 forwards this weekend,” lamented Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “So we’re looking to get Ryan in the mix right away. He’s a strong kid, and brings some more grit and toughness to our team. He’s also a versatile player that can go in at center or play on the wing.”

Amin played his final year of midgets with Compuware prior to signing with TC. He had eight goals and as many assists in 25 league games with that club in 2007-08. Keane, a Honeybaked midget product, appeared in seven games this year for the North Stars, and recorded his first junior goal last weekend in a 4-1 win over Alpena.

“We think the world of Sean, and he’s going somewhere where he’ll have a bigger role,” Palumbo said. “This has the makings of a positive deal for everyone involved.”

North Stars host teddy toss Saturday

The fur will be flying when the Traverse City North Stars host the Alpena IceDiggers on Saturday at Centre ICE arena.

During the first intermission, fans are asked to throw new, unwrapped teddy bears onto the ice to benefit kids in the Munson pediatric ward, as well as for local child interest groups around the area. Fans who bring a teddy bear will receive $2 off admission.

The North Stars are 15-6-1, and in first place in the NAHL North Division, while Alpena is 8-16-0 and in fifth place. Game time is slated for 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pietrangelo getting creative for Metro

The adjustment from high school hockey to the Central States Hockey League is a major jump, and while Vinnie Pietrangelo struggled with that transition earlier this season, he’s now fitting in as a major player on the blueline for the Metro Jets.

Drafted last May out of Traverse City West High School where he was a co-captain his senior year, Pietrangelo was a player the Metro coaching staff knew they had to have after seeing him play in bunches last year.

“We saw him at a few North American Hockey League camps and a few exposure camps and we really liked what he was doing,” Jets coach Ryan Skop said. “We knew we were looking for 6-7 defensemen and Petey was right at the top of our list from day 1.”

Once Pietrangelo arrived in Waterford, it was obvious what the rangy defenseman had in his arsenal and what he’s improved on in the past two months and change.

“First and foremost, when we're talking about Petey, we're talking about a kid who’s anxious to learn,” Skop said. “He's got a great attitude. He wants to soak up any information that's available to him. The kid’s a real student of the game.

“Coming into camp and even as the season started, I was a bit concerned with Petey and the physical side of the game. He's not very big (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) and wasn't overly physical, but once the season started, it really wasn't that big of a concern anymore. He kind of proved me wrong and doesn't mind getting his nose dirty once in a while. He's been paired with Cords (Jets captain Mike Corder) most of the year, so having a guy like that next to you probably doesn’t hurt either.”

Anthony Palumbo, currently the head coach and general manager of the NAHL’s Traverse City North Stars, a team that had Pietrangelo in their summer camp, knows firsthand what the Traverse City native is capable of doing on the ice.

“Vinnie has a great passion for the game and it shows in how hard he plays the game,” Palumbo said. “I had the honor of coaching Vinnie at the minor hockey and high school level and will always remember him as an unselfish player that was more about the team than himself.”

Skop agrees.

“I think the best part of Petey's game on the ice is his offensive talent from the back end,” said Skop. “He's got good wheels and good paws and he really likes to get up in the play a lot. He's someone our opponents have to account for because he's always looking to create.”

And if the creativity continues, it’ll only be a matter of time before Pietrangelo, who turns 19 the day after Christmas, gets the chance to move up the hockey ladder.

“With Petey, he's learning day-by-day and game-by-game how to be a little more responsible with his decisions when and when not to be offensive,” noted Skop. “Last year with TC, he could pretty much get away with anything he wanted to, and he's learning that as you go up the food chain here, it just doesn't work like that. That's really been the biggest thing we've had to work with him on. He's starting to understand when to go and when not.

“I think as he progresses here, and gains more confidence in his decisions, he'll be a guy that teams at the next level should be taking a look at.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

Metro played just one game last weekend, but it was a record-setting affair.

Last Sunday at Lakeland Arena, the Jets and Motor City Chiefs went to a CSHL-record 17-round shootout before losing, 5-4. A spokesman from USA Hockey could not confirm if this was a U.S. junior hockey milestone, as the organization does not keep records regarding shootouts.

In regulation, Josh Magnan scored two power-play goals and now has 16 goals on the season. Brett Grech added a power-play goal and Joe Rutkowski also tallied with the latter’s being his first of the season and also shorthanded.

Ian Mercer started in goal and allowed one goal on three shots before R.J. Heath took over at the 10:21 mark of the first period and stopped 28 shots the rest of the way.

In the shootout, Todd Knaus, Magnan, Mike Denston and Corder scored, but the Chiefs kept pace. In the 17th round, Robert Speer beat Heath and then Motor City goalie Dan Wenner stopped Pietrangelo to end the drama.

Metro plays on the road this weekend with two games at Queen City Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The Jets then stay on the road with a single game in Flint next Wednesday.

Next home action for the Jets is Dec. 12-13 against Cleveland.

JET FUEL

Rookie forward Shane Wheatley was released this week. Wheatley had one assist and 30 penalty minutes in 11 games this season.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Former Jets forward Ian Cosgrove (2006-2007) scored his first collegiate goal for SUNY-Fredonia on Nov. 14 against SUNY-Brockport.

Cosgrove, a 20-year-old Rochester native, recorded three goals and eight points in 13 games for the Jets three seasons ago. He went on to play two years with the Soo (Ont.) Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Seguin, Hackett are Canada hopefuls

Hockey Canada and USA Hockey announced today that a trio of Plymouth Whalers have been named to the preliminary rosters for the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships in Saskatchewan. The players will compete for a spot to represent their country at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, being held from December 26, 2009-January 5, 2010, in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan.

Whalers Tyler Seguin (pictured) and Matt Hackett are two of Canada’s top 36 junior-aged hockey players (born in 1990 or later) that have been invited to take part in Canada’s National Junior selection camp from December 12-16, 2009 in Regina.

Whalers forward AJ Jenks is one of the 29 players named to the preliminary roster for the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that will participate in a three-day pre-tournament training camp December 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D.

Of the 36 Canadian players invited, seven are returning players – having won gold medals at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa, and 31 of the players named to the selection camp roster were drafted in either the 2008 or 2009 NHL Entry Draft, including fourteen first-round selections and six second-round picks.

Players and staff will travel to Regina on Saturday, December 12. There will be two red-white intrasquad games and one game against a team comprised of CIS players from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. Once the team is named at the conclusion of the selection camp in Regina, Canada’s National Junior Team will play in three exhibition games prior to the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Seguin and Hackett both represented Canada and the OHL in the Canada/Russia Subway Super Series Game in Windsor on November 23. Seguin also represented his country by winning a gold medal with Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge in Port Alberni, British Columbia, where he finished seond in tournament scoring with 11 points on three goals and a tournament-best eight assists in six games, as well as winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic, leading the tournament with four goals and six assists in 4 games. Hackett has never played for Team Canada, but did attend Team Canada's 2009 National Junior Team Development Camp in Saskatoon this past summer.

Canada has medaled at eleven straight IIHF World Junior Championships including gold medal performances in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, silver medals in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004 and bronze medals in 2000 and 2001.

For Team USA, the training camp will be highlighted with an exhibition game against the University of North Dakota men's ice hockey team on December 19. Following the camp, a reduced roster will be play the Czech Republic on December 22 in Regina, in Team USA's final exhibition game.

Jenks has played for Team USA before at the 2007 Under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, recording a 1-1-2 line with 16 penalty minutes. He has also attended Team USA's 2008 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, New York, as well as the 2009 National Junior Evaluation Camp.

Hockey Canada's Release ... Team USA's Release

Also of note, Whalers defenseman Michal Jordan has a good chance to represent his country, the Czech Republic, but they have not announced their roster. Jordan has played for the Czech Republic at the last two World Junior Championships as well as winning a gold medal with the Czech Republic at the 2008 World Under 18 Championships - Division 1A in Poland, where he was named the best defenseman of the tournament after tallying five assists in five games.

Michigan talent World Junior-bound?

USA Hockey today named 29 players to its preliminary roster for the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that will participate in a three-day pre-tournament training camp Dec. 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D.

The 2010 U.S. National Junior Team will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010, in Saskatoon and Regina, Sask.

The training camp will be highlighted with an exhibition game against the University of North Dakota men's ice hockey team on Dec. 19. Following the camp, a reduced roster will be play the Czech Republic on Dec. 22 in Regina, Sask., in Team USA's final exhibition game.

"We are very excited about this group of players and their performance leading up to the tournament," said Dean Blais, head coach of the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team. "Selecting our final team from this list will be difficult, and we're looking forward to Grand Forks to help us get a clearer picture on the team's final makeup."

Among those invited to Grand Forks are three returning forwards from the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team, including Tyler Johnson, Danny Kristo and Jordan Schroeder.

Also highlighting the preliminary roster are nine players from the gold medal-winning 2009 U.S. National Under-18 Team, including forwards Ryan Bourque, Chris Brown, Jerry D'Amigo, Jeremy Morin and Jason Zucker, defensemen Cam Fowler (Farmington Hills), Jon Merrill (Brighton) and John Ramage and goalie Jack Campbell (Port Huron).

Two more Michigan natives are forwards AJ Jenks (Wolverine Lake/Plymouth Whalers) and David Wohlberg, a teammate of Brown's at the University of Michigan and a South Lyon native.

For the complete roster, click here.

NOTES: The final 2010 U.S. National Junior Team roster will be selected following Team USA's exhibition game against the Czech Republic ... Schroeder is the only two-time U.S. National Junior Team member (2008 and 2009) on this year's preliminary roster ... Of the 29 invitees, 20 participated in the 2009 National Junior Evaluation Camp this past August ... Full coverage from the camp can be found here … Four invitees are current members of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, including Campbell, Justin Faulk, Merrill and Zucker ... For a list of the preliminary roster players and their 2009-10 season stats, click here.

Jenks photo courtesy Walt Dmoch

Monday, November 30, 2009

Teddy Bear Toss in Plymouth Saturday

When the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena, they’ll be playing for more than two points in the tight Western Conference standings.

The Whalers are hosting their annual Teddy Bear Toss, in the anticipation of making a child’s Christmas Day a little brighter.

The concept is simple and fun to see. Fans are encouraged to bring a new stuffed animal to Saturday’s game and throw it on the ice the first time the Whalers score (the 2008 event is pictured above). The Whalers – with the assistance of Plymouth United Way – will donate any stuffed animal to various United Way charities.

In addition, the Whalers booster club will be selling stuffed animals at the game to make the situation a little more convenient for fans.

The Teddy Bear Toss is the second special event recently hosted by the Whalers designed to help individuals and families in need. Last Saturday, the Whalers collected over a ton of non-perishable food items for Plymouth United Way – an all-time record. Plymouth United Way will oversee the distribution of the food items with the help of Salvation Army.

An added component of the food donation for fans was the opportunity to win a $500 shopping spree, courtesy of 12 Oaks Mall. Long-time Whalers fan Irene Addison won the shopping spree.

WHALERS MOVE MORE GAMES TO 88.1 FM WSDP: An experiment that started as a trial run with three games in November is moving more quickly in December. The Whalers will be airing more games on 88.1 FM WSDP “The Escape," starting Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. when Plymouth hosts Saginaw. WSDP will be airing 27 of the Whalers remaining games over the rest of the 2009-10 season, with playoffs a viable option as well. Pete Krupsky provides the play-by-play, with WDFN's Sean Baligian providing color on many of the broadcasts.

A complete list of Plymouth games to be aired in WSDP can be found below. In addition, WSDP may be covering the 2010 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game, held Jan. 20 in Windsor.

All other games will be aired online on http://www.plymouthwhalers.com/.

PLYMOUTH WHALERS RADIO BROADCASTS on 88.1 FM WSDP

Wednesday, December 2 Saginaw 7pm
Friday, December 4 at Saginaw 7pm
Thursday, December 10 at Sarnia 7:15pm
Saturday, December 12 Saginaw 7pm
Friday, December 18 at Oshawa 7:30pm
Saturday, December 19 at Guelph 2pm
Monday, December 28 Erie 2pm

Wednesday, January 6 at Erie 7pm
Thursday, January 7 at Niagara 7:30pm
Saturday, January 16 Niagara 7pm
Monday, January 18 Windsor 2pm
Friday, January 22 at Mississauga 7:30pm
Wednesday, January 27 at Owen Sound 7pm
Friday, January 29 Brampton 7pm
Saturday, January 30 London 7pm

Saturday, February 6 Owen Sound 7pm
Wednesday, February 10 at Guelph 7pm
Friday, February 12 at Saginaw 7pm
Friday, February 19 Mississauga 7pm
Saturday, February 20 Sarnia 7pm
Thursday, February 25 at Windsor 7pm

Tuesday, March 2 at Saginaw 10:45am
Friday, March 5 SS Marie 7pm
Saturday, March 6 Saginaw 7pm
Thursday, March 11 at Windsor 7pm
Friday, March 12 at SS Marie 7:30pm

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, November 27, 2009

Port Huron native commits to Spitfires

The Windsor Spitfires are proud to announce that they have signed American goaltender Jack Campbell to join the Spitfires for the 2010-2011 season.

Campbell, a 17-year-old Port Huron native, is currently playing in the U.S. NTDP’s Under-18 program and won a gold medal with Team USA in the IIHF Men’s World Under-18 Championship this past April in Fargo, North Dakota. He was also selected to the All-Tournament team for his outstanding performance in the Under-18’s. He is also the top rated USHL goaltender in the NHL’s 2009 fall preliminary rankings for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Campbell was originally selected by the Spitfires in the sixth round, 108th overall, in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection.

“We are excited to add Jack to our team next season," said Windsor GM Warren Rychel. "He is one of the best goalies in the world in his age and one of the top rated goalies for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Jack is a world-class, high level talent as well as a quality kid who will flourish in the Windsor Spitfires program."

Photo by Dave Arnold/USA Hockey

Rutkowski out to motivate Jets

It’s not the size of the lion in the fight, but the size of the fight in the lion.

Such is the case with Metro Jets rookie forward Joe Rutkowski – all 5-feet-9 and 155 pounds of him.

Signed as a free agent out of Metro’s tryout camp at the end of last summer, Rutkowski has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets this season.

“Ruts is a guy who does all the little things for us – that's what makes him so effective,” said Metro coach Ryan Skop. “I think his biggest asset and value to us is that he works hard, he'll do whatever it takes to win, and he's a good competitor. On the bench or when he's on the ice, the guys on our bench take notice. They see Ruts finishing checks, getting pucks deep, blocking shots, doing the dirty work, and it motivates the rest of the guys to follow his lead.”

Rutkowski, an 18-year-old from St. Clair Shores, (not related former Jets forward Chad Rutkowski), has improved in huge strides since early September.

“The difference between now and season's start is that Joe has learned to push himself to get better,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “He’s a tenacious player and competes every night. Maybe not the most gifted player, but he uses everything he has.”

Small in stature, but big on heart, Rutkowski knew before the season started that playing for the Jets could help him develop more of his overall game to find a niche in the Central States Hockey League.

“I remember after the last skate on Saturday at main camp, Ruts sent me a text message and just wanted to let me know how badly he wanted to play for the Jets,” said Skop. “He was willing to do just about anything to get a chance. I let him know what we were looking for and he came out Sunday, flew around the ice and blasted guys all over. He's the type of guy who embodies the personality and character we want. He’s a competitor who wants to be here. I think it’s safe to say that it's worked out well for him and us.”

And if being a part of the Jets means playing on the third and fourth lines and on the penalty kill, Rutkowski accepts that.

“Ruts is great for his role,” Skop said. “Sure, who wouldn't want to score 50? But I really don't think that even crosses his mind. He's not incapable of scoring, though. When he gets chances, he can bury the puck, but he's just as content mucking it up along the walls, chipping the puck deep, blasting an opposing D-man, and going for a change. Every team needs guys like that. You can't win without guys like that.

“I think a good reason for his willingness to do these types of things is his personality. He's a really laid back guy, always relaxed, always laughing. He's great in the room and helps keep things loose, while still staying focused on his job.”

And playing bigger than he really is, too.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets took to the road last weekend for a single game Friday night in Toledo before heading to suburban Cleveland Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

After losing 9-1 to Toledo and then 6-0 to Cleveland in the first game of that series, Metro roared back to beat Cleveland , 3-1, on Sunday afternoon.

“Even after a bad start to the weekend, we were still able to put a good game together Sunday,” said Skop. “Our guys did a good job of forgetting about Friday and Saturday, and putting the work in on Sunday. It was a good character check. It would have been real easy to pack it in on Sunday and go home with our tail tucked between our legs. I like the way we responded in putting a solid 60-minute effort in.”

Josh Magnan scored twice (for a team-best 14 goals) and Ian Mercer stopped all 29 shots he faced after taking over for R.J. Heath after Heath allowed the lone Cleveland goal 39 seconds into the game. Jon Wickersham added an empty-net goal to boost the Jets to 6-13-0-2 on the season.

Skop stopped short, however, in saying that beating Cleveland was the team’s biggest victory this year.

“I don't know if I would call this the biggest win of the season because right now, with where we're at in the standings, they're all big wins,” he said. “What it does do, though, is prove to our guys that if they put the work in, we can compete with and beat the top teams in our league. Now it's just a matter of doing that on a more consistent basis.”

Metro plays just one game this weekend in hosting Motor City on Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena for a 1:20 p.m. faceoff. The Jets have defeated the Chiefs in both of their games this season so far.

JET FUEL

After naming three alternate captains several weeks ago, the Jets have officially named rookie defenseman Mike Corder as the team captain and he will wear the ‘C’ starting this weekend.

“Mike is definitely the team captain,” Wolfe said. “He works extremely hard and is selfless. He challenges his teammates to get on board when they begin to wonder.”

Skop agreed.

“Cords is just a competitor and he'll do anything to win,” said Skop. “He’s a team-first guy. Not the most talented, but he’s the guy I count on to bring his best every night, and he does. He’s also one of our hardest workers and is just a good all-around team guy.”

Alternate captains remain Wickersham and Brett Grech.

In another roster move, the Jets released rookie defenseman Matt Zacharias this week.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Forward Zeke Costello, who played for the Jets during the 2003-2004 season, has one assist in three games thus far as a senior at Division III Nichols College .

Costello, whose father, Fred, is a former coach of the Jets, played for the NAHL’s Traverse City North Stars and Texarkana Bandits after graduating from the CSHL.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Rangers host Metal Jackets this weekend

Following their first off-week of the season, the Marquette Rangers return to Lakeview Arena this Friday and Saturday hosting the Motor City Metal Jackets in North American Hockey League action.

Motor City skated last year as the Motor City Machine and changed their nickname after new owners took over the franchise during this past off-season.

Marquette comes in to the weekend trailing first place Traverse City by three points in the NAHL North Division race, while the Metal Jackets are locked in a battle for third place with the Janesville Jets.

The Metal Jackets and Jets split two games last weekend in Janesville, Wis.

The Rangers and Motor City met earlier this year at Yack Arena in Wyandotte with the Rangers sweeping the Metal Jackets 4-3 in a shootout on Friday October 2 and then shutting out Motor City the next night, 2-0.

Garrett Ladd, who committed earlier this week to play collegiately at Bemidji State University, continues to lead the Rangers is scoring with 22 points on eight goals and 14 assists. Andrew Kolb and Marquette native Collin Saint-Onge share second place in team scoring with 19 points each. Three other Rangers sport double-digit scoring numbers on the year.

Motor City is led by R.J. Klieman’s 22 points on the year with Steve Brancheau and Cody Wydo also putting up double-digits in scoring on the season.

The weekend series will also feature several promotions at Lakeview Arena, including the team's second celebrity goalie contest on Saturday with one lucky fan in attendance winning a flat-screen television by guessing how many saves the celebrity goaltender will make at intermission.
Face off each night is at 7:30 p.m.

Spirit to welcome fan No. 1 million

The Saginaw Spirit is celebrating its eighth season in Saginaw and this Saturday, the team will be recognizing a team milestone in surpassing one million fans.

The team will hold a recognition ceremony at this Saturday’s home game prior to the start of the second period. Eight-year Spirit season ticket holder Barry Chatland will represent all of the Spirit fans that have attended games since the team’s inception in 2002.

"Thanksgiving weekend is certainly the appropriate time to commemorate the Spirit's one millionth fan,” stated Spirit partner and president Craig Goslin. "The Saginaw Spirit ownership and front office staff is grateful, humbled and honored by the support of the loyal base of Spirit fans that are now over one million strong. This milestone is one that has been attained only one other time in our region's history, when the Saginaw Gears were in their heyday in the '70s.”

“It’s no surprise that the fans in Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region have embraced this organization,” stated Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bob Van Deventer. “They have been a terrific addition to the fun and quality of life we have available to us in this region. They are a wonderful option for family entertainment and we energetically promote their success to companies considering expanding or locating to this area. They represent a ‘big time’ entertainment venue and are a valuable tool for economic development for the entire region.”

“Considering the following points the Spirit franchise has attained during the past seven seasons – (1) the Saginaw Spirit fan experience is rated one of the best in the CHL, (2) the economic impact that the Spirit have had on our region has been estimated to be over $11 million annually (SCCVB November 2007), (3) The strength of the season ticket, group ticket and corporate sales base ranks near the top of our league in many categories, (4) The game day operations being recognized as one the best in sports with state of the art laser, light and music shows combined with exciting on ice entertainment and off ice promotions, (5) the Saginaw Spirit Charitable Foundation (501c3) franchise to date gifting of cash, tickets, merchandise and community appearances is estimated at over $400,000 in the past seven seasons and (6) the team’s on-ice product is developing into a championship contender," added Goslin.

"It takes a dedicated community of people to make all of this happen."