Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saginaw picks Czech, Russian

The Saginaw Spirit drafted the rights to two highly-touted prospects in the 2009 CHL Import Draft Tuesday.

The Spirit plan to have both players attend their training camp in August.

Goalie Tadeas Galansky was drafted by the Spirit 33rd overall. The 1992-born Czech Republic native is eligible for the 2011 NHL Draft and is a prospect for Team Czech and the upcoming Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Under-18 Tournament in August.

“He brings good size to the position and he has a lot of upside,” stated Spirit director of scouting Jim Paliafito. “He had close to a .930 save percentage on a team that struggled in his home league.”

Russian forward Ivan Telegin was selected 42nd overall by the Spirit. The '92-born winger represented Team Russia at the 2009 World Under-17 Challenge, where he recorded two goals and two assists in five games. He is eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

“Ivan plays hard and goes to the net with authority, courtesy his big size," said Paliafito. "He has the potential to bring a lot to a team’s offense.”

Whalers draft Swedish forward Landeskog

The Plymouth Whalers selected Swedish right wing Gabriel Landeskog with the third overall pick in today's Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

The 16-year-old Landeskog is described as "an offensively skilled forward with good speed, technical skills and hockey sense. Landeskog likes to shoot the puck and finish plays himself. Scoring touch is pretty good, but he could pass the puck more often. Does not shy away from physical contact and is a decent penalty killer."

The Whalers also had the 39th (traded to Sudbury for a fifth-round OHL draft pick in 2012) and 102nd pick (will probably pass) in the draft.

Landeskog played for Djurgarden this season, starting in the Under-18 league with four goals and five assists for nine points in five games before being promoted to the U-20 team where he had seven goals and 14 assists in 31 games. He also has international experience, tallying 13 goals and an assist in 20 international games for the Team Sweden U-17 and U-18 teams.

Whalers move up in Import Draft, deal Cooper

The Plymouth Whalers announced the acquisition of the third overall pick in today’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in exchange for veteran center Vern Cooper and the sixth overall selection in today’s Import Draft.

Plymouth also acquires 18-year-old defenseman Kevin Albers in the trade. Albers, from Lake Orion, was originally drafted by Sault Ste. Marie in the 12th round (233rd overall) of the 2007 Ontario Hockey League draft. Albers played last season for Green Bay of the United States Hockey League, scoring two goals with five assists for seven points, 71 penalty minutes and was plus-28 in 46 games for the Gamblers.

Cooper was originally selected by Plymouth in the first round (13th overall) of the 2006 OHL draft and played three seasons for the Whalers. He enjoyed his best offensive season last year for Plymouth, scoring 17 goals with 20 assists for 37 points. In all, Cooper scored 44 goals with 48 assists for 92 points in 189 games for the Whalers.

“This move gives Cooper (from Sudbury, Ont.) a chance to play closer to home,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said.

Yesterday, Vellucci acquired the sixth pick overall from the Kingston Frontenacs in exchange for overage right wing Kaine Geldart and third- and fifth-round selections in the 2011 OHL draft.

The Whalers also have the 39th and 102nd selections in today’s Import Draft. CHL teams can play two imports. Plymouth has veteran defensemen Michal Jordan (a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick).

The Whalers dropped Jan Látal today from the active roster to make room for the third pick.

Geldart, who turns 20 in August, has an opportunity to play his overage season in his hometown of Kingston, Ont. Originally selected by Plymouth in the 12th round (229th overall) of the 2005 OHL draft, Geldart developed into a fan favorite for the Whalers and was awarded the team’s Labatt Blue Collar Player of the Year in 2007-08 for his in-your-face, hard forechecking checking style of play. In three years in Plymouth, Geldart scored 30 goals with 52 assists for 82 points, 280 PIMs and was +3 in 178 games.

Geldart’s trade also brings Plymouth to three overage players and frees up a spot on the roster for returning overagers Joe Gaynor, Ryan Hayes and Leo Jenner. OHL teams can play three overage players at one time.

“We made a commitment to Joe, Ryan and Leo to play this season as our overages and this trade gives Kaine a chance to play at home,” Vellucci said. “Geldy was a wonderful player for the Whalers, so we decided to do things right and let him finish his OHL career in his hometown.”

Vellucci’s acquisition of the third pick in today’s Import Draft gives the Whalers their highest selection ever in the Import Draft. Plymouth’s previous highest selection in the Import Draft came in 1996 when Sergei Fedotov was taken fourth overall. The CHL started the Import Draft in 1992.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Monday, June 29, 2009

Plymouth trades Geldart to hometown Fronts

The Plymouth Whalers announced today the acquisition of the sixth pick in Tuesday’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft from the Kingston Frontenacs in exchange for overage right wing Kaine Geldart, a third-round selection in the 2010 OHL draft and a fifth-round selection in the 2011 draft.

The Whalers also have the 39th and 102nd selections in tomorrow's Import Draft. Canadian Hockey League teams can play two imports and Plymouth has veteran defensemen Michal Jordan and Jan Látal currently on the roster.

Geldart – who turns 20 in August – has an opportunity to play his overage season in his hometown of Kingston. Originally selected by Plymouth in the 12th round (229th overall) of the 2005 OHL draft, Geldart developed into a fan favorite for the Whalers and was awarded the team’s Labatt Blue Collar Player of the Year in 2007-08 for his in-your-face, hard forechecking style of play.

In three years in Plymouth, Geldart scored 30 goals with 52 assists for 82 points, 280 penalty minutes and was plus-3 in 178 games.

Geldart’s trade also brings Plymouth to three overage players and frees up a spot on the roster for returning overagers Joe Gaynor, Ryan Hayes and Leo Jenner. OHL teams can play three overage players at one time.

Vellucci’s acquisition of the sixth pick in Tuesday’s draft gives the Whalers their highest selection in the draft since Sergei Fedotov was taken fourth overall in 1996. The CHL started the Import Draft in 1992.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Whalers, Spirit players drafted in Montreal

The Plymouth Whalers had two players selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, while the Saginaw Spirit had a trio of draft picks.

Tough forward Jamie Devane was selected in the third round (68th overall) by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Matt Hackett - the top-rated North American goaltending prospect in the draft - went later in the third round (77th overall) to the Minnesota Wild.

Saginaw forward Jordan Szwarz was selected in the fourth round (97th overall) by the Phoenix Coyotes, goaltender Edward Pasquale (pictured) was also selected in the fourth round (117th overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers and then defenseman Cody Sol went in the fifth round (125th overall) to Atlanta.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saginaw deals Comrie to Guelph for Shalla

The Saginaw Spirit completed a trade with the Guelph Storm today, acquiring forward Josh Shalla, three picks – a second-, third- and fourth-round - in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, a conditional eighth-round pick in the 2011 draft and the Storm’s first-round pick in the upcoming 2009 CHL Import Draft for defenseman Adam Comrie, the rights to goalie prospect Matt Hoyle and Saginaw’s second-round pick in the Import Draft.

Shalla comes to Saginaw to start his third season in the OHL. He was selected by the Brampton Battalion in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.

The Whitby, Ont., native was then traded to the Storm in the middle of last season, accumulating three goals and two assists in 24 games and tallied a combined 14 goals and six assists during the 2008-2009 regular season.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pawlaczyk leaves TC, signs with OHL's Colts

The Barrie Colts have come to terms with Dean Pawlaczyk, their 2008 fourth-round draft pick.

The Madison Heights native has decided to sign on with Barrie, despite being heavily recruited by several NCAA schools.

Barrie selected the 5-foot-11 forward 66th overall back in 2008. Pawlaczyk spent last season with the Traverse City North Stars of the North American Hockey League.

Pawlaczyk played minor midget hockey with Belle Tire in 2007-2008 where he was an assistant captain and also led the team in goals.

His uncle, Dan Pawlaczyk, played for the Detroit Jr. Red Wings/Detroit Whalers franchise in the OHL from 1993-1996, winning an OHL championship in 1995.

Machine officially now the Metal Jackets

The North American Hockey League’s Motor City membership has announced that it has changed its nickname from the Machine to the Metal Jackets.

The team, which was sold last month to a group headed by Japanese businessman Kenji Yamada, played with the Machine moniker last season, its first in Michigan since relocating from Southern Minnesota after the 2007-08 season.

“We’re excited with our name change and our new look,” said Metal Jackets head coach and general manager David Cole. “We’re looking forward to a fresh start for the entire organization, and this is an important step for us as we develop relationships in the community and with prospective players.”

Motor City, which finished last in the North Division last season, has also altered its logo, ridding of the black and red triangle and text behind the robot.

Metro signs three forwards, tough defenseman

The Metro Jets' roster added more players for the fall as four skaters signed their team contracts last night at Lakeland Arena.

Forwards Michael Denston (Oakland Grizzlies Midget Major/White Lake), David Merkle (Waterford Kettering HS/Waterford) and Matt Moeller (Troy Sting U-16/Fraser) inked on the dotted line, along with veteran defenseman Steve Lockwood (Clarkston), who returns to the Jets for his second season after leading the Central States Hockey League in penalty minutes last year.

All four players bring a combination of skill and attitude that has Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop elated.

Skop on Denston: "Michael is simply a good hockey player. He's a guy who can do a little bit of everything - he can play on our first line and score some goals or he can play on our fourth line and be a shutdown-type guy. He's got good hands around the net, skates well and has good vision. I think he'll be a very important guy for us."

Skop on Merkle: "Merk can flat-out put the puck in the net. He gives us another weapon that other teams are going to have to be conscious of. He doesn't do anything too flashy, but he can score when given the chance. He skates pretty well and it will be a challenge for opponents to slow him down."

Skop on Moeller: "Moe comes in here in a great position. He understands where he fits in with our group and has embraced where he's going to start. Moe's a young guy (only turns 16 in August), but I fully expect him to push and compete with the older guys. He works so hard and if our vets aren't careful, he's going to steal their jobs."

Skop on Lockwood: "This is a big year for Woody. He proved last year he was one of the toughest guys in the league and there's a lot expected of him coming back this year. He knows what he's got to work on to advance and he's been doing that this summer. He's got good leadership skills and we'll be looking for that out of him."

Next up for the Jets is their July open tryout camp that runs from July 10-12 at Lakeland Arena.

Photos by Andy Grossman - Top photo is Merkle and Lockwood and bottom photo is Moeller and Denston.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bloomfield's Verbeek off to Sacred Heart

The Springfield Jr. Blues have announced that forward Kyle Verbeek has committed to Sacred Heart University for the upcoming fall.

“We couldn’t be happier for Kyle,” said Jr. Blues head coach Andy Maher. “He’s worked hard for this opportunity and will be a great addition to Sacred Heart, both on and off the ice.”

Verbeek, from Bloomfield, started his NAHL career in 2007-08 with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms before being traded to Springfield in December. The son of former NHLer Pat Verbeek, the 20-year-old totaled 17 goals and 44 points in 53 regular-season games this past season.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Schedule released for Jets' 21st season

The 21st season of Metro Jets hockey will commence with five of the first seven games away from Lakeland Arena, home to the Jets for the last 20 years.

Metro kicks off their schedule with a two-game set against St. Louis at home on Sept. 12-13. After the next five on the road, the Jets have a season-long seven-game homestand from Oct. 10-Oct. 31 when they host Peoria (for two), Grand Rapids (Oct. 14 in Dimondale), Dubuque, Flint, Motor City and Queen City.

The Central States Hockey League schedule, released this week, has a new face this year as the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins have joined the fray. Pittsburgh hosts Metro Sept. 26-27 and then travels to Waterford to close out the regular season March 6-7.

The annual CSHL Showcase runs from Dec. 18-21 and this year will be held in Quad City at the Quad City Sports Center. Metro will face Toledo and Chicago twice each at the event, which was held last year in suburban Flint.

The most popular home date for the Jets continues to be Saturday night, with 11 of their 22 home games at home going at either 7:40 p.m. or 7:50 p.m. Nine games are on Sunday afternoon with a 1:20 p.m. start and the remaining two are weekday games (Weds. Oct. 14 vs. Grand Rapids at 7:30 p.m. at the Summit at the Capital Centre in Dimondale, just outside of Lansing, and Fri. Feb. 19 vs. Dubuque at 8:10 p.m. at Lakeland).

Metro continues to forge in-state rivalries with Flint, Grand Rapids and Motor City and this year will play each team four times.

"After the success of our recent mini-camp, we are looking forward to being much more competitive in the upcoming season,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “If other teams are having the fortune we are getting their draft picks into camp, I look for a great year for the CSHL."

Full schedule HERE.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Whalers sign Chiefs, Rangers alum Mattson

The Plymouth Whalers announced Thursday the signing of 18-year-old right wing Austin Mattson.

Mattson, a Livonia native, comes to the Whalers as a free agent after playing last season with the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, where he scored 12 goals with 16 assists for 28 points and 11 penalty minutes in 53 games.

“We’re excited to get a player of Austin’s caliber,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “He had a great second half last year (27 points over his last 29 games) in the USHL. I feel he’ll give us some offensive punch next year.”

“I’m a fast-skating player,” Mattson said. “I like to create plays and make things happen on the ice. I love the way Darren Helm plays.”

Before playing in Sioux City, Mattson skated in 2007-08 for the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League, where he scored five goals with 14 assists for 19 points and 23 PIMs.

In 2006-07, Mattson played for the Motor City Chiefs of the Central States Hockey League where, as one of the youngest players in the league, he scored 15 goals with 23 assists for 38 points and 22 PIMs in 44 games.

“I actually grew up playing in the Compuware system, so I’m excited to play here,” Mattson said. “I grew up playing with (current Whalers) Beau Schmitz, RJ Mahalak and Tyler J. Brown.”

Jets' open camp sees size, speed, talent

It’s never too early to start gearing up for next season and this week’s open camp at Lakeland Arena was the perfect example of that for the Metro Jets.

More than 40 prospects for next year’s team made the trek to Waterford for the two-day camp held Tuesday and Wednesday night. Several players signed for next season, while others made an impact and may be signed in short order.

“The turnout was very good,” said Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop. “We haven't been focused so much on quantity, as we are quality, and we had 42 very solid players show up. All in all, we saw six veterans, 11 draft picks and 25 free agents. The majority of the free agents we knew and were recruiting already and some we did not know, but were pleasantly surprised by. The games were very good. We had a mix of a little bit of everything – good size, speed and talent.”

Skop added that even for a mid-June camp, the two days had a training camp feel to them.

“What I really liked was the compete level the guys had,” Skop said. “Guys were there to make a hockey team and they worked like it. That's the biggest thing in that we want to get the guys in here that are willing to work and sacrifice, and after this open mini-camp, we've got a bunch of them. We had a number of impact signings who are all good, quality, hockey players who went undrafted that we were able to get a hold of.”

Tim Hooker, an Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School graduate and co-state champion in 2008 (in the epic eight overtime game with Marquette High), was a free agent who has committed to the Jets and will be a definite top-six forward.

“Tim is one of the quickest, smartest players I've seen at our level,” noted Skop. “I'm very excited to have him on board.”

Also signing was Shane Wheatley, a product of Sylvania North High School in Ohio.

“Shane is a big body, power forward type,” Skop said. “He's got great strength and loves to play in all the hard areas of the ice. He's still a senior in high school, so he's fairly young, but he's going to be an impact player at our level.”

Draft picks from May’s CSHL draft that signed on the dotted line were forwards Dalton Blenc (Utica Eisenhower HS) and Jonathon Elliott (Brother Rice HS) and defensemen Dave Johnson (Lake Orion HS), Dylan Mantay (Troy Athens HS), Vinnie Pietrangelo (Traverse City West HS), Steve Vandenberghe (De La Salle HS) and Matt Zacharias (Dublin (Oh.) Coffman HS).

“This all sets up our main July camp very well,” boasted Skop. “We have a very solid core to add to and it should be very competitive. Yes, we have signed some guys, but they still have to earn their spots with this team. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Machine now known as the Metal Jackets

Wyandotte’s Motor City Machine is getting a makeover.

The North American Hockey League franchise is now under new ownership and management following an 11-45 season last year.

Japanese businessman Kenji Yamada leads an ownership group from Japan that includes Yuji Iwamoto, head coach of Japan’s U20 National team. Also brand-new is the team’s chief operating officer, general manager and coach David Cole.

While the team’s look will mostly remain the same, the team’s name will change to the Metal Jackets.

Read more from David Komer and the News-Herald.

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

North Stars to play more weekday games

Saturday is still reserved for ‘Hockey Night in Traverse City,' but the Traverse City North Stars will be packing a few more icy battles into the middle of the week this season.

The North Stars, who released the 2009-10 regular season schedule on Tuesday, will drop the puck 13 times between Monday and Thursday this year, including seven home weekeday contests at Centre ICE arena.

North American Hockey League runner-up Wenatchee (Wa.) will visit Traverse City for a pair of early-season Monday-Tuesday contests while on a Midwest road trip, Marquette comes to town for two early-week affairs on Dec. 28-29 as part of the Traverse City Central holiday high school tournament, and the Thanksgiving eve showdown (Nov. 25) with Alpena has been reprised.

Back-to-back Wednesday showdowns with Alpena and Motor City are slated for mid-March.

While the Stars found themselves bus-bound for much of the final two months of 2008-09, the new slate affords plenty of late-season home ice. The club will play 14 of its final 21 games at Centre ICE, including six of the last eight.

“Overall, it’s a very balanced schedule, with a little bit of a downhill slope toward the end,” Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo said. “It’ll be nice not to have to spend a whole month on the road, and having the late-season games at home means more of our hockey families will have their own seasons wrapped up and can come out to our games.”

The North Stars, coming off a franchise-best 34-17-7 record, will face-off against North Division rivals for 52 of the 58 regular season games. Geographic rival Alpena is the Stars’ most common foe, as the clubs will square off 15 times, with Marquette (14) and Motor City (13) right behind. Traverse City will get to help write history to open the season as the first-ever opponent of the expansion Janesville (Wisc.) Jets on Sept. 12.

“What a way to open the year,” Palumbo lamented. “To have to go into their rink with their huge crowd and everyone pumped up. We had better be ready to go.”

The annual NAHL Showcase is slated for Sept. 16-19, and while the matchups have not been determined, Palumbo likes the idea of getting in a pair of games prior to the scout-fest event.

“That’ll give us a chance to get established in a game setting, to get a bit more comfortable than just pulling the warps off for the Showcase,” he opined. “But there are a lot of things to like about the schedule. The pre-Thanksgiving game was always a big hit, we don’t have a lot of long stretches on the road, and getting a team like Wenatchee in here while they’re on their Michigan swing gives fans a chance to see a team from outside the Midwest. It is shaping up to be a pretty exciting season.”

The North Stars will hit the road in search of talent on June 26-28 for the team’s final open tryout camp of the summer at Suburban Ice in East Lansing. The best players from the summer camp season will convene for training camp at Centre ICE on July 31, from which the 2009-10 roster will be hewn.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rohrkemper commits to Wolverines

The Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League announced today that forward Jeff Rohrkemper will attend the University of Michigan for the upcoming 2009-10 season.

The Grosse Pointe native recently completed his second season with the Stampede, posting 25 points (8g, 17a) and was a plus-6 while appearing in all 60 games.

Under legendary head coach Red Berenson, the Wolverines have appeared in the NCAA tournament a record 19 consecutive times, made 10 Frozen Four appearances and captured two national titles (1996 and 1998).

"I think Jeff is a valuable recruit for Michigan,” said Sioux Falls head coach Kevin Hartzell. “He can play the role of a third-line center – meaning he can play against other top lines, win face-offs and be dependable in all situations.”

Rohrkemper will become the third former Stampede player to attend Michigan, joining Eric Werner, who played from 2001-2005 and Anthony Ciraulo, who will be entering his senior season this fall.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quartet of OHLers World Junior hopefuls

The Saginaw Spirit is proud to announce that defenseman Adam Comrie has been invited to attend the 2009 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid.

The camp, which runs from August 7-15, is used to evaluate players for the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete in the 2010 World Junior Championship.

Comrie is a two-year veteran with the Spirit. The Ashburn, Va., native tallied nine goals and 21 assists in the 2008-2009 regular season and posted a plus-13 rating in 52 games. Comrie is a prospect of the Florida Panthers.

Other OHL players invited to the camp include Brandon Maxwell (Kitchener), John Carlson (London), Beau Schmitz (Plymouth), Cam Fowler (Windsor), AJ Jenks (Plymouth), Philip McRae (London), Andrew Yogan (Erie) and Jeremy Morin (Kitchener).

Plymouth goaltender Matt Hackett has also been invited to Hockey Canada's National Junior Development Camp that runs Aug 5-10 in Saskatoon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whalers hire Harkins to head scouting

The Plymouth Whalers announced today the hiring of Don Harkins as the Whalers’ new Scouting Director. Harkins replaces Jim Debenham, who resigned on Monday.

“We are fortunate to find someone of Don’s caliber,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He has proven to have a great eye for talent and we have worked well together in the past.”

“Hockey’s been my life,” Harkins said. “The Ontario Hockey League is a great developmental league. I’m very happy to be part of a proven team like Plymouth.”

Harkins worked for Whalers last season as their USA scout and is the Director of Elite Prospects, LLC, a placement service for many top American hockey prospects. Harkins was also the general manger of the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets which entered the United States Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 2006. In two seasons with the Blue Jackets, Harkins built a competitive team that featured 34 NCAA Division I scholarship players and nine NHL draft picks.

Harkins also worked as head coach and general manager of the Cleveland Barons of the North American Hockey League. Before that, Harkins served as the head coach for the Detroit Honeybaked AAA program of the Midwest Elite Hockey League from 2000-04 and then in 2006. During his tenure with the club, Harkins coached a team that featured three first-round National Hockey League draft choices - Peter Mueller (Phoenix Coyotes 2006), 2008 NHL Rookie of the Year Patrick Kane (No. 1 overall pick 2007/Chicago Blackhawks) and Chris Summers (University of Michigan/Phoenix 2006).

The rest of Plymouth’s scouting staff remains for 2009-10, including Rick Boyle, Dave McParlan, Mike Oliverio, Pat Peake Sr. and Tom Watson. Vellucci, associate coach Joe Stefan, assistant coach Brian Sommariva and Harkins also contribute to the Whalers’ scouting efforts.

“I am happy to say all of our area-scouts are staying intact for next year,” Vellucci said. “As a group, they have done a tremendous job for this organization.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Whalers, Spirit release '09-10 schedules

The Plymouth Whalers will start their 2009-10 season with a bang.

The Whalers open the 2009-10 season on Thursday, September 17 at Windsor Family Credit Union Centre in Windsor against the OHL and Canadian Hockey League Champion Spitfires. Plymouth hosts the Oshawa Generals in the home opener on Saturday, September 19 at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena.

The Whalers’ entire 2009-10 preseason and regular season schedule is now online.

Saturday remains the primary home date for the Whalers, with 20 Saturday nights leading the way. Plymouth plays nine home games on Friday, two on Wednesday, two on Monday afternoon and one on Sunday afternoon.

Game time remains 7:05pm for all but three of Plymouth’s 34 home dates. The Whalers will play three matinees at Compuware Arena in 2009-10, all starting at 2pm – Monday, December 28 against Erie in Plymouth annual Kids Day game; Monday, January 18 against Windsor; and Sunday, March 14 against Saginaw in the Whalers’ regular season finale.

Plymouth’s schedule features 48 games against teams within the Western Conference, with 28 of those games within the West Division (eight each against Saginaw and Windsor; six each against Sault Ste. Marie and Sarnia) and 20 against Midwest Division opponents. The remaining 20 games are against Eastern Conference teams.

The Whalers – who started play in the OHL in 1990-91 – are preparing for their 20th season and have the longest active playoff streak of any team in the league. After missing the playoffs as an expansion team in 1990-91, Plymouth has made the playoffs in 18 consecutive seasons.

Last season, the Whalers went 37-26-5-0 and finished fourth overall in the OHL’s Western Conference. After eliminating Sarnia in five games the OHL Western Conference Quarter-Finals, Plymouth was eliminated in six games in the Western Conference Semi-Finals by the OHL Champion Windsor Spitfires.


The Saginaw Spirit is pleased to announce their schedule for the upcoming 2009-2010 regular season.

The Spirit start off their eighth season in Saginaw on the road Friday, September 18 against the Guelph Storm and Saturday, September 19 against the Owen Sound Attack.

The Spirit will host their home opener at TheDow Event Center Thursday, September 24 vs the Plymouth Whalers, then host a home opening encore Saturday, September 26 vs the Erie Otters. Both games start at 7:11 PM.

“This schedule is very friendly for both the team and the fans,” stated Spirit president and partner Craig Goslin. “The OHL is predominantly a weekend league, so to secure 16 Saturday home games is a big victory for us. We only have seven three-in-three’s (three games in three consecutive days), which should be a positive factor coming down the stretch.

“We are thrilled with the schedule and are looking forward to the upcoming season – we can’t wait to welcome our fans back to TheDow Event Center on September 24th for the start of what will be an exciting eighth season of Spirit hockey.”

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Grosse Pointe native picks Bowling Green

The Alexandria Blizzard has announced that third-year forward Jerry Freismuth has committed to Bowling Green State University for the upcoming fall.

He is the 26th player who competed in January’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament to commit to a Division I program following the event.

“I’m excited for Jerry and his family,” said former Blizzard head coach Brad Willner. “He’s earned this opportunity from his hard work both on and off the ice. (Bowling Green head) Coach (Scott) Paluch is getting a great hockey player and a very classy person. Jerry is the kind of student-athlete you want representing your hockey program.”

“Coach Willner and Doc DelCastillo were key in helping me move to the next level, so I’m very grateful to them,” said Freismuth.

Freismuth, a 20-year-old from Grosse Pointe, finished tied for ninth in league scoring this past season with 57 points (15 goals) in 56 regular-season games.

“It feels great achieving one of my goals and I’m very excited about attending Bowling Green University,” Freismuth added. “I just want to say thank you to the Alexandria Blizzard organization for taking me in with open arms, especially my teammates, the ownership and housing parents (Brian and Karen Larson) who made my stay comfortable and were very supportive. That and the fans who have been so great the last three years.

“Lastly, my family has always been there for me. They’ve been very positive, helpful and patient going through the process and always supporting me. I’m looking forward to playing for the Falcons next season and the chance to get a very good education.”

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

Monday, June 08, 2009

Plymouth scouting director resigns

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the resignation of Jim Debenham, the team's director of scouting.

Debenham moved from the OHL's Central Scouting Bureau to the Whalers in 2002, replacing John Lovell.

Plymouth has not yet named a successor to Debenham.

According to the Loose Pucks blog, Debenham will stay in the West Division and take over the scouting department of the Sarnia Sting.

The Spirit and Garber Buick Need Your Help

Dear Saginaw Spirit Season Ticket Holders and Corporate Sponsors,

The Saginaw Spirit Hockey Club requests a very large favor from you today. We wish to join the initiative that Jo Anne Crary and the Saginaw Future Board and our Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce has began with their request to our community to write a letter on behalf of Garber Buick and request that GM reconsider their decision.

As most of you know, recently General Motors made a decision to wind down over the next 16 months Garber Buick, ending in this case its 102 year history with Buick and of providing World Class Service to Mid Michigan.

However, there is a glimmer of hope that General Motors will give to Dick Garber and our community early this week. Dick has represented that the business and his family have a very unique relationship with Saginaw and the Great Lakes Bay Region.

This is where your assistance comes into the picture. We need to arm Dick with "Letters of Support" for Garber Buick and what Garber means to our Great Lakes Bay Region. We need these letters on your company letterhead if you are a business and simple stationary letter-head if you are an individual writing on behalf of yourself and/or your family.

Dick and his family, going back to his 1907, have had a "Significant Positive Effect" on our region's commerce and overall quality of life. All of the residents, who call our community their "Home", have benefited greatly from the Garber Families philanthropic support of many of the good things that have happened and are now happening in our Great Lakes Bay Region. A few such examples are the Mid Michigan Children's Museum, renovated Saginaw YMCA, Dow Event Center, Downtown Development, and Hundreds of Charities they support throughout the region not to mention that without Garber Buick we likely would not have the Saginaw Spirit.

So please take a moment today (Sunday) or on Monday, and write a letter of support of keeping Garber Buick a vital part of our region's future just as it has been an integral ingredient of the success and development of our region during the past 102 years.

Also keep in mind this is one of the top performing GM Dealerships in the country. Top 10 in overall Buick Sales Volume Nationally, Customer Satisfaction Scores in the top 1 or 2% in US, World Class Facilities and location and a balance sheet that allows it to give back like community like few others.

Garber Buick means much more to our region than just "Buick Auto Sales". Garber Buick means "Community", Philanthropy, Regional Commerce and many other things that have been and are "Good" for our past, present and future as the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Address your letter to the attention of: General Motors, Attention Mark Laneve, GM North America Vice President, Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing

Please drop you letter off to the Saginaw Spirit Store at 5789 State St on Monday, June 8th or we can possibly send someone to come to you and pick up your letter of support. Letters can also be sent via email to wkonesko@saginawspirit.com. Please send emails as an attachment

For more information, please contact the Spirit at 989-497-7747 or go to http://www.garbernews.com/

Thank you in advance for taking the time to write your letter on behalf of Garber Buick.

With respect and appreciation,

Craig Goslin
President/Managing Partner
Saginaw Spirit Hockey Club

Saturday, June 06, 2009

North Stars get tryout camp underway

The Traverse City North Stars put the 2009-10 season on ice – quite literally – on Friday, kicking off the team’s first open tryout of the summer at Centre ICE arena.

When the roster shakes out over the next two months, those in a Stars sweater will face off against a registry of North Division foes that no longer includes Mahoning Valley and the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Mahoning and Team USA both defected to the United States Hockey League, leaving Traverse City to contend with Alpena, Marquette, Motor City and the expansion Janesville (Wis.) Jets in a five-team division. According to a trio of North Stars veterans attending Friday workouts, the realignment will have little bearing on the upcoming title chase.

“We didn’t need anybody to leave our division for us to be considered among the contenders,” said forward Josh Miller. “We have a lot of experience coming back, and our goal no matter who is in our division is to go to the (Robertson Cup) finals.”

Winger Tim Opie agreed.

“It doesn’t change how we approach the season,” the Troy native offered. “You have to play who is on your schedule. There may be a change in our travel, but I don’t think anyone is really concerned with that right now.”

“The North Division has been, and probably will continue to be a competitive group of teams that can contend for a national championship,” opined forward Chris Salomone. “We think we can be one of those teams, no matter what division we would play in.”

The Stars had the best record of the five clubs in 2008-09 at 34-17-7, four points out of first place with a 15-point cushion on Alpena and Marquette. Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo dismissed any notion that his team automatically becomes the favorite to capture its first North Division regular season crown.

“There’s no such thing as a favorite at this stage,” said Palumbo, who is entering his third season at the helm. “Last year at this time, we were a fifth-place team, so things change pretty quickly. If you look at the history of the North, the playoffs are usually not decided until the last weekend. There’s so much competitive parity, no one should take anything for granted.”

BACK IN BLACK: The Black Team knocked off the Green Team in a shootout, 4-3, in Friday’s opening scrimmage. The Black roster includes vets Sean Burke, Bo Jacobs, Eric McLintock and Dan Radke, Cadillac prep standout Will Badner and Traverse City West defenseman Vinnie Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo, who was selected by the Metro Jets in last week’s CSHL draft, notched a third period goal for the Black squad.

FINDING KEEPERS: Four of the nine goalies at camp are regional products, including a pair of former Bay Reps: Nick Rausch and Andrew Mills, who spent last season with the Marquette Electricians midget team. Sault H.S. backstop Brody Hess and Petoskey’s Mike Pattulo are also vying for a spot in Sunday’s all-star game and final camp invite. The Stars hopeful with the longest journey to Centre ICE? Belgian backstop Jordi Van Gall.

ICE CHIPS: Three of the first four shots in Friday’s scrimmage shootouts rang of the pipes. … North Stars mascot Wild Cherry is slated to appear at the Traverse City Beach Bums home baseball game on June 26. … TC winger Garrett Thompson was in attendance on Friday, but wearing an immobilizer on a lower extremity following an off-season procedure. He’s expected to recover well in advance of training camp.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

TC captain Bonis commits to Ferris State

From the moment Kyle Bonis pulled on a Traverse City North Stars sweater, scoreboards around the North American Hockey League started lighting up.

The most prolific goal-scorer in the Stars’ four-year history will be taking his lamp-lighting predilections about 100 miles south next fall after committing to play at Ferris State University.

“It actually hasn’t really even hit me yet,” said Bonis, who levied 98 points in 96 career contests with Traverse City. “I’m going through some of the paperwork, getting some things lined up and I still can’t put it into words. It’s an absolute dream come true.”

Bonis, who served as team captain in 2008-09, tied a team mark with 25 goals in 39 games last season, then topped that mark with 30 more in 2008-09. He also led the NAHL with eight game-winners and was second in shots on goal with 216.

“I’ve only been here for two of the seasons, but it’s no stretch to say that Kyle is one of the best – if not THE best – offensive player that has ever played here,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “And people see all the goals and assists and offensive production, but what they don’t necessarily see if how hard of a worker he is, how dedicated he is to the game.”

Bonis enjoyed a stellar two-season run in Hockeytown North, with 26 multiple-point games, seven three-point outings, and nine game-winning goals. He had a career-high four-point night on Mar. 1, 2008 against Marquette – including a hat trick against the Rangers – and collected a ‘playmaker’ (three assists) three times in his career.

His extended 2008-09 holiday season proved historically fruitful, as the ginger-tressed winger compiled 30 points over a 19-game run that spanned from Nov. 28 through Jan. 31.

“I’ve been playing junior hockey since I was 14,” explained Bonis, who graduated with a 3.4 GPA. “I’ve been away from home since I was a junior in high school. Juniors either makes or breaks you, and if there’s one thing you have to learn, it’s time management. So that aspect of college shouldn’t be much of a culture-shock.”

Bonis began his career with the Bancroft of the OPJHL in 2005, scoring 45 goals in 66 games with the Hawks. He spent the last half of 2006-07 with the OPJHL’s Port Hope Predators, collecting 36 points in 35 games before joining the USHL’s Indiana Ice.

“Coming to Traverse City kind of resurrected my career,” said Bonis, a Lindsay, Ont. native. “I went to the USHL with a lot of Division I schools talking to me, and when it didn’t work out there, coach Palumbo took me on a leap of faith. He made me a better player, especially defensively, and deserves a lot of credit. Traverse City really welcomed me with open arms, I had a lot of great teammates and friends, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Bonis will be one of several former and current North Stars slated for duty in the CCHA, including Kyle Jean and Dan Radke (Lake Superior State), Patrick Nagorsen and Travis Paeth (Western Michigan), Kory Kaunisto (Northern Michigan), David Johnstone (Michigan State), Eric Elmblad (Michigan) and Nick Von Bokern (Nebraska-Omaha). Current North Stars tender Tyler Marble is also committed to Lake Superior State, while at least 20 others are already playing for or committed to other NCAA programs.

“It’s that atmosphere that makes college hockey so appealing,” said Bonis, who plans to major in Business Administration. “You’ve got the fans going nuts, the pep band playing, and you walk around campus and everyone knows how the team is doing. I couldn’t be any more excited about it.”

Palumbo says Bonis has the right combination of qualities to make the most of his opportunity.

“He obviously has the ability, but when you combine that with his winning attitude and work ethic, that’s a recipe for success at the next level,” said Palumbo, who captained Lake Superior State to a national title in 1989. “I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone else who has played here, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our record improved from the day that Kyle Bonis showed up. Natural goal-scorers are always hard to find, but when the goal-scorer is a great team guy, too, you know he’s a special player.”

Bonis isn’t certain what his role will be on a Ferris squad that featured former Grand Traverse Hockey Association products Corey Couturier and Zach Redmond, but he says he’s aiming high.

“I’d like to play in a minimum of 25 games, and just try to be the best player that the coaches want me to be,” he explained. “I’m home working on the farm, working out, and will be 100 percent ready to do whatever they ask of me come (fall). It’s a tremendous honor to get this far, I just want to be sure I can make the most of it.”

Bonis also says that realizing his dream of playing D-I college hockey is also a tribute to his family.

“My parents have been sponsors, cheerleaders and psychiatrists – some combination of those depending on the situation,” he said. “My family has been so supportive throughout these years, and I owe them so much. This is as great a victory for them as it is for me.”

-Had seven points in his first five games with Traverse City after joining the team on Nov. 23, 2007, including a pair of goals against Team USA on Dec. 14. Had at least one point in 27 of the 39 games he played that season.
-NAHL North All-Star selection in 2008-09, played in NAHL Top Prospects event Jan. 18-20, 2009 at Ann Arbor Ice Cube. All-NAHL North honoree as voted on at season’s end by division coaches.
-Tied team record for goals in a season (25; t-Nate Urbaniak) in 2007-08, then trumped that mark in 2008-09 with 30 tallies. Finished second all-time in North Stars history with 98 points in 95 career regular season contests. Fifth in team history with 43 career assists.
-Was named NAHL North Player of the Week by the league three times in 2008-09 (Oct. 6, Jan. 26, Mar. 16) and was honorable mention twice (Dec. 1 and Jan. 5).
-Led the NAHL with eight game-winning goals in 2008-09, but a game-tying marker on Jan. 2 against Mahoning Valley is among his most memorable. The Stars trailed the Phantoms by a 4-2 margin with just over a minute to play when Phil Wendecker scored to cut the gap to one, followed by Bonis’ equalizer less than 19 seconds later. TC won in a shootout, 5-4.
-Only career fighting major came on Jan. 4, 2009 when Mahoning Valley’s Trevor Shively jumped Bonis at a faceoff in the waning seconds of a 4-2 Traverse City win at Centre ICE arena. Despite the Pearl Harboring, Bonis turned the tables on Shively with a series of left hands that floored the Phantoms' defenseman.

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

Monday, June 01, 2009

Traverse City goalie Stephenson goes D-III

The most tenured goaltender in the history of the Traverse City North Stars has a new address.

Brandon Stephenson, who logged 56 career games during his two-year stint in Traverse City, will now patrol the crease for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“It’s a relief – a bit of a weight off my back,” said Stephenson, who went 20-21-10 with a trio of shutouts and a 3.24 goals-against average. “I’m grateful for the opportunity and hope to make the most of it.”

Stephenson, a Saline native, blanked Mahoning Valley (1-0) and the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-17 squad (3-0) during a personal five-start win streak early in the season. He won seven of his first eight starts to open the 2008-09 season and made a career-high 45 saves in the final game of the year at Marquette.

“Brandon came in two years ago as part of a group that really helped change the fortunes of the franchise,” explained North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “He helped stabilize the goaltending situation. He’s technically sound and he’s a very competitive kid. Those are things that will serve him well at the next level. We’re very happy for him.”

Eau-Claire, a Division III school tagged with the quizzical ‘Blugold’ nickname – an ostensible nod to the school colors – finished 13-13-1 overall last year, competing in both the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. Stephenson plans to major in Business Marketing at the 10,346-student public university, which is located 92 miles due east of Minneapolis.

“It’s pretty exciting, heading off into the college experience and getting the chance to play college hockey,” said Stephenson, who has amassed a 3.3 grade-point average. “Of course, I’m especially to my parents for helping me get to this point, all the sacrifices and effort that goes into playing junior hockey.

“I hope to come in and get my feet wet next year – not really sure how much they’ll expect from me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Prior to joining the North Stars, Stephenson was a two-time all-state performer at Saline High (2004, 2005), backstopping the school to its first-ever state finals berth in 2006. He went 53-7-0 with 11 shutouts and a .945 save percentage in his prep career.

The following season, Stephenson started 19 games for the Victory Honda midget major program in 2006-07, going 12-6-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average. He also owns the first shutout in North Stars history – a 4-0 win at Team USA on Feb. 27, 2008.

Photo by Alan Newton/Newton Photography