Tuesday, March 31, 2009

IceDiggers and Stars announce playoff slates

Team USA vs. Alpena IceDiggers
Game 1: Friday, April 3 @ USA, 7:00 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, April 4 @ USA, 5:00 p.m.
Game 3: Friday, April 10 @ Alpena, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday, April 11 @ Alpena, 7:00 p.m.*
Game 5: Sunday, April 12 @ USA, 7:00*

Traverse City North Stars vs. Mahoning Valley Phantoms
Game 1: Friday, April 3 @ Mahoning Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Sunday, April 5 @ Mahoning Valley, 3:00 p.m.
Game 3: Thursday, April 9 @ Traverse City, 7:05 p.m.
Game 4: Friday, April 10 @ Traverse City, 7:05 p.m.*
Game 5: Sunday, April 12 @ Mahoning Valley, TBA*

*if necessary

Monday, March 30, 2009

NAHL North Division playoffs set

With five straight wins to close the season, including four last week, the U.S. National Team won the NAHL’s North Division regular-season championship.

After doubling up the Motor City Machine on Tuesday, 8-4, Team USA skated to victories over Motor City on Friday (6-2) and Saturday (4-2). The U.S. team capped off its regular season on Sunday with a 5-3 triumph over the Alpena IceDiggers.

As the No. 1 seed in the North, Team USA will face off against No. 4 Alpena in the first round of the divisional playoffs. The No. 2-seed Mahoning Valley Phantoms will play the Traverse City North Stars in the other divisional semis.

Motor City and the Marquette Rangers did not qualify for the postseason.

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

North Stars, Father Fred team up for charity

Fans of the Traverse City North Stars can support two of their favorite organizations for the duration of the North American Hockey League playoffs - their North Stars and the Father Fred Foundation.

By donating a non-perishable food item, fans can get $2 off a North Stars general admission playoff ticket. The Stars take on Mahoning Valley in the first round of the postseason, with home dates at Centre ICE arena on Thursday, April 9 and Friday, April 10. Two dollars from each ticket sold to fans without a food item will be donated to the Father Fred Food Pantry and the offer stands for as long as the team chases the Robertson Cup.

“We’re delighted to be able to contribute to an exceedingly beneficent community organization such as the Father Fred Foundation – the spirit and impact of the Foundation are shining examples of what makes living in this area so great,” said North Stars owner-president Steve Fournier. “Basically, for every fan that buys a playoff ticket, the food pantry gets a food item or two bucks – and we’re certainly hoping to have as many home games as it takes to win a championship.”

Founded by namesake Father Edwin Frederick in 1989, the Father Fred Foundation serves Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties by providing food, clothing, household goods, financial assistance and hope to thousands of families and individuals in crisis living in the region.

For tickets or more info, call the North Stars ticket office at (231) 941-9200.

OHL Western Conference semifinal dates

Series "E"
Game 1 - Thu Apr 2 7:05 PM Plymouth at Windsor
Game 2 - Sat Apr 4 7:05 PM Windsor at Plymouth
Game 3 - Sun Apr 5 TBA Plymouth at Windsor
Game 4 - Tue Apr 7 7:05 PM Windsor at Plymouth
Game 5 - Thu Apr 9 7:05 PM * Plymouth at Windsor
Game 6 - Sat Apr 11 7:05 PM * Windsor at Plymouth
Game 7 - Mon Apr 13 7:05 PM * Plymouth at Windsor

Series "F"
Game 1 - Thu Apr 2 7:00 PM Saginaw at London
Game 2 - Sat Apr 4 7:11 PM London at Saginaw
Game 3 - Sun Apr 5 TBA Saginaw at London
Game 4 - Tue Apr 7 7:11 PM London at Saginaw
Game 5 - Thu Apr 9 7:00 PM * Saginaw at London
Game 6 - Sat Apr 11 7:11 PM * London at Saginaw
Game 7 - Mon Apr 13 7:00 PM * Saginaw at London

*if necessary

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Whalers and Spirit both advance

Series C (West)
Saginaw wins series 4 - 0
Game 1 - Sat Mar 21 SAGINAW 6, Guelph 5 (2OT)
Game 2 - Sun Mar 22 Saginaw 3, GUELPH 2
Game 3 - Tue Mar 24 SAGINAW 7, Guelph 6 (2OT)
Game 4 - Thu Mar 26 Saginaw 4, GUELPH 1

Series D (West)
Plymouth wins series 4 - 1
Game 1 - Sat Mar 21 Sarnia 2, PLYMOUTH 0
Game 2 - Sun Mar 22 Plymouth 3, SARNIA 2 (OT)
Game 3 - Tue Mar 24 PLYMOUTH 5, Sarnia 1
Game 4 - Thu Mar 26 Plymouth 5, SARNIA 0
Game 5 - Sat Mar 28 PLYMOUTH 8, Sarnia 1

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Alpena wins Friday, earns last playoff berth

The Alpena IceDiggers clinched the final NAHL playoff spot Friday night with a clutch victory over the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, 5-2.

With the win, Alpena eliminates the Marquette Rangers from the final spot as Marquette lost Friday to the Traverse City North Stars.

The 'Diggers were led by Jon Puskar with two goals and single tallies going to Erik Peterson, Tyler Pilmore and Adam Bristol.

Alpena's next game is Sunday against the USA Under-17 Team, who can clinch the North Division title with a win Saturday or Sunday against Motor City.

Alpena will either play the USA Under-17s or Mahoning Valley in the first round of the division playoffs starting next weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

IceDiggers hoping to make NAHL playoffs

In the run for the final payoff spot in the North Division of the NAHL, five Alpena IceDiggers will be playing their final regular season weekend series.

Ryan Sell, J.C. Gulch, Mike Degrazia, Nick Graves and Erik Peterson will suit up against Mahoning Valley tonight and Friday night and on Sunday against the USA Under-17 Team.

Alpena needs a combination of four points either by Alpena wins or Marquette losses for the final payoff spot.

Graves will leave Alpena as the all-time leader in wins and shutouts with a 42-29-11 record at present and six shutouts.

Peterson, a center, leaves as the the all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, 131 assists and in games played.

Degrazia is second in games played and has scored 33 goals and 56 assists.

Sell and Gulch are both defensemen who have played the last two years after moving up from the Toledo Cherokee of the CSHL. Gulch, an alternate captain, has contributed 11 goals and 31 assists, while Sell has scored six goals and 17 assists.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Partacz not quite ready to leave Marquette

By Mark Evans/Marquette Rangers

Marquette Rangers forward Dustin Partacz says it hasn’t really hit him yet that his time playing junior hockey is coming to a close.

However, the Naperville, Ill., native says that if he had it to do all over again, there are very few things he would change about his time in the Upper Peninsula.

“My time here has gone by unbelievably fast,” Partacz said before his team faced the Motor City Machine this past weekend. “I can’t believe three years came and went this quick, and that it’s time to start looking at the next chapter in my life, but I’ve loved my time in Marquette and with the guys here on the team.”

Partacz is the last remaining member of the original Rangers team which took the ice for the 2006-07 North American Hockey League season. Jim Gallagher, a University of Connecticut recruit, joined the Rangers that year right after the beginning of the season.

Gallagher will also be aged-out of juniors at the end of the season, along with forwards Aaron Pietila and Colin Smith, defenseman Reed Rushing and goaltender Mike Jarboe.

Partacz, who has played in 160 games over his Rangers career (second only to Gallagher’s 166), came to the Rangers after playing high school hockey in the Chicago area, as well as with the Midget AAA Chicago Chill. He said he left Chicago for Marquette not knowing exactly where it was he was going.

“I didn’t even know the U.P. existed before I made the team,” he joked. “I actually had to look it up on the map. I thought it was in Canada at first. But after being here for awhile, getting to know the people and the way of life up here I’m so glad I made Marquette my home for the past three seasons. The people I’ve met here have really helped me grow and become a better person and become who I am today.

“I’m really grateful for the friendships I’ve made both in and out of the locker room during my time here”

Partacz said that the biggest thing to get used to, was the rural setting in Marquette compared to the hustle and bustle of the big city.

“Total culture shock," exclaimed Partacz. "When you grow up in a huge city like Chicago, you never see the same people from day to day. But here you see the same people every day which took some getting used to. It was odd at first with all these trees, too, but I’ve learned to love the outdoors by being here and I think I’ll actually miss the snow.”

Unlike many of his Rangers teammates, Partacz says the next step in his life probably won’t involve organized hockey.

“I had a few offers, but I want to go into radiology, so I’m looking for a school that offers that program; that’s what matters to me most right now," Partacz said. "I could go somewhere and just play hockey, but that wouldn’t be right. As I look at the rest of my life and my education, I want to do what’s going to take me the farthest and that’s getting my degree.”

With his Rangers career winding down, and his team in the midst of a playoff run, Partacz was quick to acknowledge the people in the area who have adopted the team over the years.

“The fans have been great,” he said. “They’ve made playing here a lot of fun and I can’t thank them for all they’ve done for us over the years. I think I’ll be pretty emotional after this Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll be in the playoffs so I’ll have another chance to wear the uniform before I go home.”

Marquette concludes the regular season with two games this Friday and Saturday against the Traverse City North Stars at Lakeview Arena.

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pair of Rangers commit to CCHA schools

The Marquette Rangers now have a total of five NCAA Division I commitments from this year's squad.

Defenseman Reed Rushing has been offered a spot at Bowling Green State University of the CCHA, while Chad Pietila will skate for the CCHA’s Northern Michigan Wildcats in Marquette.

They join Rangers teammates Kevin Gravel (St. Cloud State,) Aaron Pietila (Michigan Tech) and James Gallagher (Connecticut) as Division I commitments from head coach Kenny Miller’s team.

“They’re both going to do well at their schools,” Miller said. “They’ve both worked extremely hard to get to this point, both were able to turn some heads over the course of the season and we couldn’t be happier for these guys and their families. There isn’t a kid playing junior hockey that doesn’t dream of making it to D-I college, so we’re very proud as an organization to do our part and help them realize that dream.”

The two players, however, had very different paths to their college destinations. For Rushing, it was more of a process over time, whereas Pietila’s journey from Lakeview Arena across the street to the Berry Events Center was much shorter in both distance and time.

“We started talking seriously about a week ago,” Pietila said of his conversations with NMU. “We talked and they told me where things stood and I decided to take it. It’s such a great opportunity for me as a player, plus I’ve got a lot of family here in the U.P., so it really is a dream for me to be able to stay in Marquette and play for Northern.”

Pietila, a native of Milford, added that playing for the Rangers in Marquette, in such close proximity to NMU, played a part in his becoming a Wildcat.

“Our schedules don’t match up very often, but they had a chance to follow me and see me from time-to-time, which I’m sure played a part in me winding up there," Pietila said. "Coach (Miller) was real helpful in making this happen, too, so I’m grateful to him and everyone in the organization for helping make this happen for me.”

Rushing, a Seattle, Wash., native echoed Pietila on the help he received from Miller and the Rangers.

“Coach was great,” Rushing said. “He communicated with Coach (Scott) Paluch at BG a lot about me and really helped me get in front of them at the right times," said Rushing. "They (BGSU) came to the Future Prospects to watch me play and Coach (Miller) talked to them after that and it all fell in to place from there. I’m grateful to him and the Rangers for helping me to get to this point and I’m excited to be going to BG next year”

Rushing said he’s excited to be a part of a rebuilding process with the Falcons.

“They’ve been down for awhile, but they’re rebuilding and it’ll be exciting to be a part of that," he said. "They have a national championship (1984) already and I hope to be able to get in there and make a difference right away.”

Rushing is in his final year of junior eligibility and came to Marquette from the Motor City Machine last fall in a three-player deal. Pietila is completing his second full season with the Rangers and is currently the team’s leading scorer with 60 points (24g, 36a) on the season.

Pietila photo (top) by Daryl Jarvinen

Friday, March 20, 2009

Motor City's Misiak commits to Mercyhurst

The Motor City Machine has announced that first-year forward Ryan Misiak has committed to Mercyhurst College for the 2011-12 season.

Misiak, a 17-year-old from Shelby Township, is the tenth player who competed in January's NAHL Top Prospects Tournament (pictured above) to commit to a Division I program following the event.

“We couldn’t be happier for Ryan,” said Machine head coach Sean Clark. “He’s worked hard for this opportunity and we have no doubt he’ll be a great fit for the Mercyhurst program.”

Misiak, who ranks second in team scoring with 12 goals among 32 points after 52 games, is the fourth player from this year’s Machine team to commit to an NCAA program, joining Jon Bobb (Army), Trevor John (Tufts University) and Joe Rogers (University of Notre Dame).

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Marquette needs to keep winning games

As the final two weeks of the North American Hockey League regular season unfold this weekend and next, the Marquette Rangers find themselves in a rather unenviable position.

The team must win and then wait and hope for some help if they are to make the North Division playoffs.

Marquette (23-23-8, 54 pts.) trails the Alpena IceDiggers by three points after splitting an interdivisional series with Alexandria at Lakeview Arena last weekend. The Rangers face the Motor City Machine this weekend before ending the regular season next weekend with two games at home against Traverse City.

Help, however, may lie in the daunting schedule faced by Alpena as they head into the final six games of their season.

The IceDiggers, who also have two games in hand on Marquette, are facing their first of two very difficult weekends this Friday and Saturday facing the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 squad at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor.

The USNTDP is currently in the process of preparing for the International Ice Hockey Federation World U-18 tournament April 8-18 in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.

After the two games this weekend in Ann Arbor, Alpena then travels home to face Traverse City for a one-game series against the North Stars on Sunday afternoon.

Alpena wraps up their regular season the following Thursday and Friday with games at North Division champions Mahoning Valley and then a Sunday game March 29 at the USNTDP U-17s in Ann Arbor.

For Marquette, the Rangers and the Machine have played six times so far this season, with Marquette leading the season series five games to one. Marquette took two from the Machine at Lakeview in October by scores of 6-3 and 6-2.

The Rangers continue to be led in scoring by Chad Pietila (21g 33a, 54 pts.), along with Marquette native James Gallagher (22g 26a, 48pts.). Kevin Kissaw has been splitting time in net the past few weekends with newcomer Mike Jarboe, who was acquired prior to the trade deadline from Wichita Falls of the South Division. Kissaw is 14-10-2 on the year with a 2.48 goals-against average and a save percentage of .918.

Motor City (11-40-2, 24pts.) have been led during their inaugural season in Wyandotte by Nick Taurence (8g 25a, 33 pts.) and Ryan Misiak (12g 20a, 32pts.).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rangers tender U.P. native, Tech recruit Kero

The Marquette Rangers continued their efforts to piece together potential prospects for next season by tendering Hancock native Tanner Kero today.

The Hancock High School standout was recently named First Team All-State in Division III and scored 36 goals for the Bulldogs to go along with 31 assists for 67 points.

Kero has also verbally committed to Michigan Tech University after his junior hockey career.

“Tanner is an offensive minded player that had a great high school career,” said Rangers head coach Kenny Miller. “We will look for him to step in an add scoring to what is already an impressive group of tenders we have signed so far this offseason.”

Kero joins four players already tendered by the club for 2009-10 - forwards Brent Bain, Bobby Bodette, Will Ford and Andrew Kolb.

TC's Radke commits to Lake Superior State

By Lance-Michael Correia/Traverse City North Stars

It’s a long way from northern California to the Upper Peninsula, but Dan Radke has always felt right at home in the Soo.

The Traverse City North Stars center and Orinda, Calif., native spent the previous two seasons plying his trade for the midget major Soo Indians – just across the river from his father’s hometown.

Now, Radke will be able to keep the home fires burning for at least four more years, having committed to play collegiately at Lake Superior State University.

“The Soo is like a second home to me,” said Radke, who is tentatively slated to join the CCHA’s Lakers in 2010-11 along with fellow Stars forward Kyle Jean. “Lots of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends there. Growing up in California, I never got to play in front of them, but when I got to the Indians, they were very supportive, always coming out to the games.

“When I came to the Soo, the goal was to earn a college scholarship. It’s been a bit of a journey, but it all seems worth it now that college hockey is a reality. It’s pretty exciting to get the chance to do that so close to family and friends.”

North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo – an LSSU alum and two-time national champion with the Lakers – says his alma mater is getting a dynamic contributor.

“I think they (LSSU) saw what we saw as a midget major – and that was the day-in, day-out best player on the rink,” Palumbo opined. “He has great vision and great skill – he sees the entire ice. With his great sense of anticipation, he’s an offensive performer and is really starting to come into his own at the junior level.”

Radke has six goals and 19 assists through 33 games this year for Traverse City, but has 11 points in his last 11 games – including three in a 3-1 win at Alpena on Feb. 28 where he bagged the game-winning tally. The recent increase in statsheet ink coincides with a more frequent shift – something that Radke had grown accustomed to playing in sport-diverse California.

“Out there, playing time was never really an issue,” said the Traverse City Central senior. “The term ‘healthy scratch’ was a whole new thing when I got to the Soo, and again when I got to Traverse City. It’s tough, and no competitor likes it. I just tried to keep working hard and to make the most of my opportunities when they came along.”

Radke led the Indians in scoring last season, with 32 goals and 31 assists in 58 games, including six multiple-point outings in the Soo’s 26 league contests. He was tendered along with fellow Indians stalwart and current North Stars defenseman Bo Jacobs.

“I try to be a complete player at both ends of the ice, but like most guys, it’s fun to try to score goals, to make plays,” Radke explained. “Things were a lot faster and a lot more physical when I got here (to juniors) – you have to do everything out there a little bit faster at this level.”

While his formidable acumen has emerged at the junior level, Radke may well have caught the eye of Lake State coach Jim Roque as a midget.

“We practiced in the same rink, right after them, all the time,” he explained. “Their staff would see us practice, see our games. I thought maybe someday there’d be a chance of going there, given all that exposure.”

Radke, who sports a 3.71 grade-point average and scored a 28 on the ACT, plans to major in math at Lake Superior with an eye on graduate school. His father, a professor of geographic information sciences at Cal-Berkley, is also a LSSU alum. While there are sure to be many happy homecomings for the Radke family, Dan’s Soo relations will almost certainly help slake his college-caliber appetite.

“I have one aunt who’s an especially awesome cook,” he added. “My favorite is this lemon-poppy loaf – and she makes a mean bean salad, too.”

Photo by John L. Russell/Great Lakes Images

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Plymouth and Saginaw playoff dates set

OHL Western Conference Quarterfinals

Series "C" - SAGINAW vs. GUELPH
Sat., March 21, at Saginaw 7:11
Sun., March 22, at Guelph 7:00
Tues., March 24 at Saginaw 7:11
Thurs., March 26, at Guelph 7:00
Sat. March 28, at Saginaw 7:11 *
Sun., March 29, at Guelph 7:00 *
Tues., March 31, at Saginaw 7:11 *

Series "D" - PLYMOUTH vs. SARNIA
Sat., March 21, at Plymouth 7:00
Sun., March 22, at Sarnia 6:00
Tues., March 24, at Plymouth 7:00
Thurs., March 26, at Sarnia 7:30,
Sat., March 28, at Plymouth 7:00 *
Sun., March 29, at Sarnia 6:00 *
Tues., March 31 at Plymouth 7:00 *

* denotes if necessary games

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jets' season forgettable, positive all in one

The Metro Jets finished the 2008-2009 season with just seven wins in 45 games, down from their nine wins of a year ago, but still found plenty of reasons to walk away from their 20th anniversary season with their collective heads held high.

Individually, several players achieved success on the ice with third-year defenseman Brett Grech notching 40 points to finish second on the team and second among all Central States Hockey League blueliners.

““He’s our best player and it’s going to be hard to replace him next year when he moves on,” Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop said. “But there isn’t anyone more deserving of advancement than Grechy.”

Finishing first in scoring was captain Adam Novack, whose 57 points were good enough for 13th overall in the CSHL. He finished the year with 19 points in his last seven games, including a four-goal, one-assist game Feb. 14 against Queen City. This all happened, remarkably enough, with an injury to start the season.

“At the beginning of the year, maybe three or four weeks in, Novy broke his foot in practice, but didn’t miss a single game or practice,” said Skop. “He’d walk into the rink with his walking cast on, take it off, jam his skate on and go out and score a couple goals. I think he answered any and all questions right there and just continued to lead by example.”

Novack and rookie Will Saley, one of two 2008 draft picks to make the team, were also the only two players to suit up for all 45 games. Tough defenseman Steve Lockwood emerged as a team leader, led the CSHL in penalty minutes with 216 despite having his season cut short by a shoulder injury.

“Woody’s biggest asset is his size and strength,” said Skop. “At the beginning of the season, he seemed very tentative to use it. He got into a good scrap in Dubuque (against Seth Burrow three seconds into the game Nov. 22), won that fight, and played very confident ever since. Not only did he start winning his fights, but his entire game improved.”

Off the ice, the Jets introduced their new website in September and also brought aboard two new staff members in strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Dunn and communications director Matt Mackinder. Both will return for the 2009-2010 season along with Skop and head coach Jamie Hayden, scout Tim Ross and trainer Dave Ross.

Skop, also new this season, played on Metro’s 2002 Silver Cup-winning Junior B national championship team and has been actively recruiting players for next year.

Jets owner and general manager Butch Wolfe already has ideas on how to put the past behind him and focus on next fall.

“In my opinion, a major contributing factor to our lack of success this year was our misjudging of the character of those players who failed to finish the season with us,” said Wolfe. “Needless to say, we were way off base in our assessments of those players. Without question, next season we need to rethink how we evaluate that trait in prospective players.”

Next up for the Jets will be a tryout camp next month and then the CSHL Priority Selection in late May. More information will be posted on the Metro Jets website when it becomes available.

Machine forge affiliation with Atlanta Knights

The Motor City Machine has announced an affiliation with the Atlanta Knights of the Southeast Junior Hockey League.

The relationship will help identify players in the southeast who desire playing in the NAHL.

This year, the Knights have advanced several players to college.

Machine associate coach Jason Cirone and Knights head coach J.A. Schneider were major junior teammates with the Ontario Hockey League's Cornwall Royals in 1989-1990.

North Stars off to Mahoning Valley for three

Somewhere deep in the regular season schedule, teams enter a transitional phase – where games still count in the regular season standings, but each contest takes on added significance with playoff implications at every turn.

The Traverse City North Stars have entered that post-regular season/pre-playoff chapter, and this weekend’s three-game series at the first-place Mahoning Valley Phantoms is chock-full of postseason repercussions.

The Stars can clinch one of the three remaining playoff berths in the NAHL North Division with a victory in any of their final eight games, and is two points back of Team USA for home ice in the first round.

“At this point, we’re still trying to clinch but every game left is already like a playoff game,” said Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “We always use the cliché that you just play every game to win it and the other stuff will take care of itself, but it’s especially true at this point of the year.”

While the first-place Phantoms have yet to sew up the NAHL North Division regular season crown, they are teetering on the precipice. Mahoning leads second-place Team USA by seven points and is nine up on third-place Traverse City, and is a sterling 10-2-2 in its last 14 outings. The Phantoms took two of three from the North Stars during the teams’ last series, Feb. 6-8 in Youngstown.

TC is coming off a two-game sweep at the hands of the Team USA Under-18s, but Palumbo says a replication of his team’s performance will likely yield better results this weekend.

“I know it sounds a bit strange after losing twice, but if we play the way we did last weekend, we’ll stay with Mahoning all weekend,” he explained. “We had good energy and intensity, and you can pretty much pinpoint the places where we lost those games.

“We knew this was going to be the toughest stretch of the (regular) season with two at the USA-18s and three at Mahoning, and I like the way we came out against USA. We have to maintain that level of play but get the results.”

Mahoning is coming off a two-game lambasting of sixth-place Motor City, outscoring the Machine by a 17-7 margin in the process. Brandon Saad (25 goals) and Jordy Trottier (26 assists) lead the club with 42 points each, while Stefan Salituro (41) and Nick Shkrelli (39) are also dynamic offensive performers. Nick Kenney broke off four goals in his last two versus Traverse City. Jordan Tibbett leads the Phantoms’ goalkeeping crew with a 22-6-2 record, 2.41 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

Traverse City captain Kyle Bonis leads the visitors with 24 goals, 24 assists and 48 points. He is one score from tying the team single-season record he and Nate Urbaniak (pictured) achieved a season ago. Kyle Jean has 19 goals to go with as many assists, while Urbaniak – the Stars’ career leader with 106 points - has 33 this year. Dan Radke has caught fire of late, with nine points over his last six games.

C.J. Motte is in the process of re-writing the team record book for goalies, setting a single-season mark for victories (16), and is on pace to own the single-season goals-against average (2.38) and save percentage (.913) benchmarks.

The Stars and Phantoms will square off at the Chevy Center in downtown Youngstown at 7:15 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee to wrap.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ex-Jet Cosgrove commits to SUNY-Fredonia

Former Metro Jets forward/defenseman Ian Cosgrove has committed to play for the State University of New York at Fredonia beginning in the 2009-2010 season.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Cosgrove appeared in 13 regular-season games for the Jets during the 2006-2007 season, amassing eight points on three goals and five assists. He also went pointless in the Jets' two playoff games that spring.

This year, the 19-year-old Rochester native recorded five goals and 18 assists for 23 points with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Marquette faces Blizzard this weekend

The scenario is quite simple for the Marquette Rangers: Win, and the chances of catching Alpena for the fourth and final North American Hockey League North Division playoff spot are a distinct possibility. Lose, and making the playoffs becomes out of the question.

“We have our last six at home which is key,” said Rangers head coach Kenny Miller. “If we can continue to play like we did last weekend where we took three out of four points on the road, (at Motor City) then I like our chances. The key for this club is to play the full 60 minutes. When we do that, we can beat anyone in our division. When we don’t, anyone can beat us.”

Up first this weekend is the Alexandria (Minn.) Blizzard of the Central Division. The Blizzard swept three games from the Rangers in October, but Alexandria is currently riding a nine-game losing streak coming into Lakeview Arena.

The Blizzard also spent the last three weekends on the road before making the trek to the Upper Peninsula.

“Don’t let that number of losses fool you,” Miller said of Alexandria. “They’re big on defense and have the ability to score goals and be fairly opportunistic, but our focus these next three weekends has to be on what we do. When you’ve already played 52 games of your schedule, it’s really not about x’s and o’s anymore, it’s about attitude and wanting to get the job done.”

Marquette (22-22-8, 52 pts.) currently trails Alpena by a single point for the last playoff spot in the North. The Icediggers also have two games in hand on Marquette.

Complicating things for Alpena though is the fact that only one of those eight remaining games is at home. Alpena has three against the U.S. National Team Development program in Ann Arbor, a two-game series at division-leading Mahoning Valley and a pair in Wyandotte against the Machine. Included in the Icediggers' schedule is a single game at Traverse City in two weeks.

For the Rangers, they play two with Alexandria this weekend before hosting Motor City on the 20th and 21st before wrapping up the regular season with Traverse City on the 27th and 28th. All Rangers games are at Lakeview Arena, a fact that hasn’t been lost on the head coach.

“We need some help,” Miller said. “If we’re going to catch them (Alpena), we need to take care of business in our own building and then hope for the best when we look at the scoreboard after we’re done every night. We can’t worry about Alpena until after we’ve taken care of our own situation each night first.”

The Rangers continue to be led in scoring by Chad Pietila’s 50 points (20g, 30a) and James Gallagher who has 46 points on 22 goals and 24 assists. In all, 14 players have scored in double-digits this season for Marquette.

Alexandria has been led all season in scoring by Grosse Pointe Woods native Jerry Freismuth, who has 53 points in 49 games for the Blizzard the season (15g, 38a).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whalers enter final weekend of OHL season

Fresh off a disappointing 9-4 loss to the top-ranked Windsor Spitfires on March 6, the Plymouth Whalers were looking to bounce back the next night against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Mission accomplished, in a big way, as the Whalers hammered the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 8-2, before 3,369 at Compuware Arena.

The Whalers were led offensively by their top scoring line of first star Matt Caria (three goals and two assists), second star Chris Terry (1-2) and third star Tyler Seguin (1-1). Beau Schmitz scored the game-winning goal (sixth) and recorded three assists. Brett Bellemore (second) and AJ Jenks (21st) added single goals for Plymouth.

James Livingston (20th) and Jake Carrick (10th) replied for Sault Ste. Marie.

Special teams played a major role in the Plymouth victory. Whalers went 5-for-9 on the power play and killed 8-of-9 Soo power plays.

Although Caria scored the only goal of the first period at 2:38 to give Plymouth a 1-0 lead, the Whaler penalty killers were the difference in the first frame and they killed off a continuous 5-on-3 Soo power play for a span of five minutes midway through the first period. Goaltender Matt Hackett (pictured) and defenders Michal Jordan, Joe Gaynor, Schmitz and Bellemore – among others – played a key role during that segment of the game.

“That really set the tone (of the game),” said Plymouth associate coach Joe Stefan. “We were really disappointed with the effort we gave last night (in the loss to Windsor). We wanted to make amends. Our penalty killing has really come on in the second half of the year. The boys stepped up in the first period and killed off those penalties. The momentum changed and we took off from there.”

Whaler penalty killers blocked a lot of shots in front of Hackett and Stefan and assistant coach Brian Sommariva had the Whalers penalty killing unit well-prepared.

“They show us a lot of video before every game – especially late in the season, like this,” said Gaynor. “It’s important to know what teams are going to do, because we need these points."

“We knew they were going to go into a sort of a box-and-one formation,” Stefan said. “When we see that happen, our guys know how to defend it and did it perfectly. We had the right guys out there at the right time. The boys stepped up and did a real good job. Hackett made a few big saves when he had to, but the boys got in the shot lanes and took the passing lanes away and we got the clears when we needed them.”

“I think we did a good job staying in the lanes, so they couldn’t shoot the puck and had to pass it,” Gaynor said about Plymouth’s penalty killing. “We were keeping them to the outside – they weren’t getting very many shots. We did what we do best – stay in the lanes and clear the pucks.”

Plymouth blew the game open on the power play in the second period after Greyhounds’ veteran Jordan Nolan was given a two-minute minor for instigating and a five-minute major in an altercation with RJ Mahalak at 2:26 of the period. Power-play goals by Terry (team-leading 38th of the year at 2:31), Schmitz (3:49), Bellemore (7:07) and Jenks (7:21) extended the Whalers’ lead to 5-0. After Livingston scored at 15:19 to cut the Plymouth lead to 5-1, Caria (15:31) and Seguin (18:59) went back to work to give to Whalers a 7-1 lead after 40 minutes.

By the way, Mahalak is OK, but will be held out of the line-up this week for precautionary reasons. Josh Bemis, however, broke a bone in his foot blocking a shot during the second period Saturday night and will miss about four weeks. Leo Jenner and Ryan Hayes received league suspensions for incidents during Friday's game versus Windsor. Jenner received a two-game suspension and will return to the lineup on Friday in the Soo, while Hayes received a minimum of three games with the league reviewing the incident to determining the length of the suspension.

“Coming out of last night’s game, we wanted to redeem ourselves,” Caria said. “Our penalty killing was outstanding in the first period. Chris Terry and Tyler Seguin are so gifted offensively, so it comes easy to give them the puck. You go to the net and you know you’re either going to get it back or they’re going to beat the goalie. Right now, we’re working for each other.”

The victory sets up a wild final week in the OHL’s Western Conference race. Plymouth will play in Windsor on March 12 and in Sault Ste. Marie on March 13 before finishing the season at home on Sunday against Sarnia.

Plymouth has defeated Windsor twice this year and has played three other one-goal games against the top-ranked Spitfires. There’s plenty of respect on both sides of the rink.

“The Windsor game last night really stung us,” Stefan said. “We’re going to go into Windsor really hungry on Thursday. We want to make amends for the effort last night. I know the boys are going to be ready.”

“When Mike Vellucci came back, his team has gone very aggressive,” Windsor head coach Bob Boughner said. “I think that Mike gets the best out of his players. He’s a great coach and they’re a hard working team and they’re a physical team. That’s how you match up against the Windsor Spitfires, you have to match us physically. They have some good young players and good speed.”

THE WEEK AHEAD: As tight as the Western Conference race is, the Whalers may not know who they’re playing in the first round of the playoffs until the evening of the 15th.

Here are the remaining schedules of the Western Conference’s third through eight seeds (all teams have played 65 games):

SAGINAW (35-23-3-4, 77 points, 3rd): Thursday, home vs. Owen Sound; Saturday at London; Saturday, home vs. Sarnia.
PLYMOUTH (35-25-5-0, 75 points, 4th place): Thursday, at Windsor; Friday at Sault Ste. Marie; Sunday, home vs. Sarnia.
SARNIA (33-25-4-3, 75 points, 5th place): Friday, home vs. Owen Sound; Saturday at Saginaw; Sunday, at Plymouth.
GUELPH (33-25-4-3, 75 points, 5th place): Wednesday, home vs. Kitchener; Friday, home vs. Erie; Sunday, at Erie.
ERIE (32-29-3-1, 68 points, 7th place): Friday at Guelph; Saturday, home vs. Kitchener; Sunday, home vs. Guelph.
OWEN SOUND (25-26-7-7, 8th place): Thursday at Saginaw; Friday at Sarnia; Saturday, home to Windsor.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, March 06, 2009

Grech ready, poised for jump to next level

It’s time for Brett Grech to move on.

The third-year defenseman for the Metro Jets is the longest-tenured player on the Jets and would like to have the chance to make the jump to the North American Hockey League next fall.

But he knows that’s not necessarily a given and accepts the reality of the situation.

“It all depends on how hard I work,” said Grech, an 18-year-old from Hartland.

Grech is second in team scoring this year with seven goals and 33 assists for 40 points. He led Metro in scoring last season as a forward.

Beyond numbers, though, are the intangibles Grech brings to the rink each night. Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop thinks Grech’s well-rounded game would be an asset to any NAHL team

“I think Grechy can be an impact guy in the NAHL,” said Skop. “For the most part, I think he can play in the top four or five on just about any team there is. His value to the league will come from his offense. He’s so good with the puck and so good offensively that I think he’ll be a good power-play guy up there.”

To play with the Jets the past three years, despite the losing records, hasn’t been a total disappointment for Grech. He said at the end of each year, he wanted to make the trek back to Waterford to further fine-tune his skills.

“Everyone always has options,” the 6-foot, 200-pound Grech said. “It’s fun playing in this league because it’s like you are a pro in that you practice everyday and go on road trips. I also think my confidence and decision-making has improved playing here due to (head coach) Jamie (Hayden) and Ryan pushing me and helping me to become a better hockey player.

“I think I’ve stayed upbeat by just having fun. I just love to play hockey.”

To play in the NAHL, however, Grech either needs to be tendered, drafted, or signed as a free agent via a summer tryout camp. In other words, he just needs an opportunity to showcase his talent that has had him at or near the top of CSHL defensemen scoring all season long. Grech is a single point behind St. Louis’ John Wright entering this weekend’s final regular season games.

“North American League teams are going to want to take a chance on Grechy for a couple reasons,” Skop said. “One is that he’s a good player, obviously, and two, is that he’s got so much junior experience. He’s so young, but it’s hard to believe he’s been playing juniors for three years.”

Once he hopefully lands with one of the 19 NAHL teams next fall, Skop said he should have no trouble staying in the league and finding his way into the lineup each game.

“The most improved part of his game, and the one part that’s going to make him survive in the NAHL, is just his game in his own end,” said Skop. “He doesn’t get beat. He owns the front of the cage. He does all the little things that you would expect out of a guy ready to make the jump to the North American League.”


Last Saturday night, the Jets topped the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls, 9-2 on the road, and in the process swept the season series.

Jets captain Adam Novack tallied a goal and three assists, while Matt McCaig, Sean Carlock and Justin Vinson each recorded two goals and an assist in the win.

Will Saley and Grech had a goal and a helper apiece and Jake Williams chipped in two assists for Metro (7-35-1-1).

In net, Colin Greeley finished with 50 saves for his fourth victory of the season and third versus Grand Rapids.

Carlock's and Williams' points were their first of the season for Metro.

Tonight, Metro closes out the 2008-2009 season against Toledo at the Toledo Ice House. Game time is 8:00 p.m.

The Cherokee are three points behind first-place St. Louis for top spot overall in the CSHL standings and have Dubuque on their tails for second place.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Alpena's Peterson to reach milestone

Veteran Alpena IceDiggers forward Erik Peterson will reach the 200-point milestone with his next point.

Peterson, tendered out of Alpena High School in 2005, has accumulated 69 goals and 130 assists in 202 games for the IceDiggers.

The 20-year-forward is uncommitted for next year.

Alpena hosts the U.S. NTDP for three games this weekend, starting tonight at Northern Lights Arena.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Whalers getting hot at the right time

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Plymouth captain Chris Terry and the Whalers are on a torrid pace as they head into the home stretch of the Ontario Hockey League’s regular season.

Playing most of February with Matt Caria and Tyler Seguin, the line clicked for 24 goals and 43 assists for 67 points over ten games in the month as the Whalers went 9-1-0-0 to move into third place in the OHL’s Western Conference playoff race.

Suddenly, a team that was out of the playoffs in November with a record of 6-11-2-0 has righted the ship in a big way. Nobody wants to face the Whalers in the playoffs.

As captain, Terry realizes the Whalers turnaround is a credit to everyone associated with the team.

"Everyone with the team - the coaches, the players and everyone who works at the rink - has been part of this turnaround," Terry said a day after the Whalers ended February with a 6-3 win in Kitchener. "We aren't done - there's still work to do. We all know that, we know what's at hand and we're going to keep going."

The Whalers first game in March – a 6-3 victory in Erie – showed how Terry’s line can dominate the game.

With Terry (a goal with four assists), Caria (2-1) and Seguin (1-2) leading the way, Plymouth built a 6-0 lead after 40 minutes. Plymouth blew the game open for good with a pair of goals 0:24 apart in the second period to take a 5-0 lead. Terry - at the lower rim of the left circle in the Erie zone - found Caria at the top of the circle. Caria's shot was stopped by Erie goaltender Jaroslav Janus, but the rebound trickled behind him and into the goal at 8:19. Seguin came right back to make it 5-0 at 8:43.

Terry was asked to describe why his line is so effective.

"When our line is going, there's not many defensive pairings that are going to stop us," he said. "There's a certain amount of grit on the line and skill with Matt and Tyler. It just took time for us to start clicking. We're going to need this over the last seven games."

The Whalers have developed into a nice blend of older players and young contributing to a winning effort.

"This is a different team than what I've played on in the past," Terry said. "Usually, it's the older guys who carry the team. But this year, we're getting contributions from everywhere - 19-year-olds and OAs (overagers) are playing their role. You've got a 17-year-old like Seguin helping out and has been unbelievable for us and Beau's (Schmitz) been rock-solid for us and has picked up his offense of late. (Goaltender Matt) Hackett has been consistent, which is what we need from him.

"Everything's going well right now. And we're going to try to keep it going."

Photo by Walt Dmoch