Monday, November 30, 2009

Teddy Bear Toss in Plymouth Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLYMOUTH WHALERS RADIO BROADCASTS on 88.1 FM WSDP

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

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

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

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

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, November 27, 2009

Port Huron native commits to Spitfires

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

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

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

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

Photo by Dave Arnold/USA Hockey

Rutkowski out to motivate Jets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And playing bigger than he really is, too.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JET FUEL

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

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

Skop agreed.

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

Alternate captains remain Wickersham and Brett Grech.

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

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

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

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

Photo by Andy Grossman

Rangers host Metal Jackets this weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spirit to welcome fan No. 1 million

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saginaw Guns-n-Hoses game Saturday

The Saginaw Spirit is set to host the third annual Guns -n- Hoses charity hockey game this Saturday, November 28.

The game, sponsored by Gohm Restoration and Mike’s Wrecker, pits local police and firefighters against each other as they raise money for the 100 Club. The charity game starts at 5:30 p.m. at The Dow Event Center in Saginaw, with the Spirit puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. A ticket to the Spirit game gets you into both hockey games.

Fans can purchase an upper level ticket for only $10, with $2.50 going to the 100 Club. These specially priced tickets are available from any of the Guns -n- Hoses players and at the Saginaw Spirit ticket and merchandise store up until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The store is closed for Thanksgiving, but resumes normal business hours Friday. The store is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

“Sponsoring things such as the Guns -n- Hoses is a fun and important way to help out our community,” stated Liz Gohm. “Our firefighters and police organizations are integral parts of our community, and helping them out as they support the various charities in the area is both a pleasure and an honor for myself and the rest of the Gohm family at Gohm Insurance Restoration and the other partners of the Guns -n- Hoses game.”

North Stars host Alpena tonight

The Traverse City North Stars won’t have to go over the river and through the woods to get to their holiday weekend hockey smorgasbord, but after an unscheduled 10-day layoff, it’ll be a happy homecoming on Wednesday at Centre ICE nonetheless.

The Stars and Alpena IceDiggers have been off since Nov. 14 following respective bouts of sickness that forced the postponement of their schedule contest last Friday. They’ll go at it again on Saturday at Centre ICE and Sunday in Alpena to wrap the three-game set.

“We’ve played just four games since Oct. 25,” Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo pointed out. “I’d say we’re ready to play, and they’re probably feeling the same way. It’ll be good to get out there and get it going again.”

The IceDiggers snapped a four-game skid in their last outing with a 3-2 win at Motor City, and presently reside in fifth place in the NAHL North Division at 6-15-0. The North Stars are riding a six-game winning streak into the weekend, and sit atop the North at 14-4-1, three points ahead of second-place Marquette. TC has won both meetings so far this season, sweeping a Nov. 6-7 series from the Diggers.

“One thing I think we learned playing them last time was that they’re going to play hard,” Palumbo said. “They’ve got a lot of talent on their roster, a lot of veterans and newcomers who are contributing right off the bat. We’ll have to be prepared to play at their tempo and then some.”

The North Stars reprised their annual Thanksgiving Eve contest this season after playing in the NAHL North Showcase in 2008, and are 2-1 in the three previous such affairs. Traverse City knocked off Alpena by a 6-1 margin in 2007 on the strength of a Nate Urbaniak hat trick, and a 2-1 count in 2006 as hometown product Mike Glaesmer bagged a goal and an assist. The U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad, led by current NHL star Patrick Kane, scored a 5-1 victory on turkey eve in 2005.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spirit/OHL enjoy league scholarships

The Ontario Hockey League announced Monday that a total of 355 players have been awarded OHL scholarships for the 2009-10 academic year, with a total of 29 scholarships being awarded to active and graduated Saginaw Spirit players.

The OHL Scholarship Program is funded by the member clubs of the OHL.

"The OHL truly is the best of both worlds as a top tier hockey player can come into our league, find out if he has what it takes to get to the NHL, and if he doesn't he can still fall back on an education scholarship package that is paid for and awaiting his arrival,” stated Saginaw Spirit partner and president Craig Goslin. “The OHL scholarship program is an outstanding opportunity for an elite level athlete."

The 355 OHL academic scholarship recipients consist of 164 student athletes that currently play in the league, with another 191 awarded to graduates that are enrolled in 65 different post-secondary institutions across North America. This figure represents the highest number of players that have ever received an OHL scholarship.

Last season, the league awarded 316.

While playing in the OHL, every player is on a full scholarship which covers tuition, textbooks, compulsory fees and room and board as paid by his OHL member team. Once a player graduates from the OHL, he will receive a minimum scholarship of tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees towards an undergraduate degree for each year played in the league. An OHL scholarship can also be applied to technical or trade Schools, firefighting or EMS, in addition to the traditional university or college four-year undergraduate degree or diploma.

Scholarships can be utilized at any recognized university or college in the world.

Saginaw Spirit graduates:
Ryan Berard, Carleton University
Daniel Borges, George Brown College
Sean Courtney, University of Western Ontario
Ryan Daniels, Wilfrid Laurier University
Chris Ferguson, University of Western Ontario
Jesse Gimblett, University of Alberta
Tyson Gimblett, University of PEI
David Jarram, Conestoga College
Jamie Klie, Acadia University
Joe McCann, University of Western Ontario
Jason McDonough, Humber College
Jordan Ogilvie, Mohawk College
Tim Priamo, University of Guelph
Jean-Michel Rizk, Wilfrid Laurier University
Garrett Sinfield, Wilfrid Laurier University
Kyle Tront, University of Windsor
Steven Whitely, University of Waterloo
Jovica Zelenbaba, University of Waterloo

Each of the above played at least one season with the Saginaw Spirit

Active Spirit players attending university:
Mitch Fillman, Northwood University
Stephen Francella, Northwood University
Tyler Murovich, Delta College
Anthony Peters, Northwood University
Joe Pleckaitis, Northwood University
Barry Sanderson, Northwood University
Cody Sol, Northwood University
Jordan Szwarz, Northwood University
Nick Trecapelli, Northwood University
Joe Underwood, Delta College
Brad Walch, Delta College

Monday, November 23, 2009

Marquette captain to Bemidji State

Marquette Rangers forward Garrett Ladd has become the first player from this years’ squad to make a commitment to play college hockey next season as he committed to Bemidji State on Monday.

“I am excited about the chance the coaching staff at Bemidji is giving me,” said Ladd after making his decision. “Like all of us who play juniors, it has been a lifelong dream of mine and my family to play DI hockey, and I am going to make the most of this great opportunity.”

Bemidji State is in their final season as a member of College Hockey America. The Beavers will join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association starting with the 2010-11 season. The Beavers are currently ranked No. 6 nationally and sport a 10-1-1 record on the season.

Ladd, a Fenton native and team captain, leads the Rangers in scoring so far this season with 22 points on eight goals and 14 assists in 18 games. Ladd is also ranked in the top 20 in overall scoring among all 19 NAHL teams through this week of action. For his career in Marquette, Ladd has 34 goals and 65 assists for a total of 99 points in just over two full seasons.

Ladd is also the first Michigan native to sign with BSU since the program achieved Division I status 10 years ago.

For all of his scoring numbers, Rangers head coach Kenny Miller says Ladd has also become a true leader in the locker room as well as on the ice.

“Garrett is the type of player that every coach loves to coach,” Miller said. “Garrett competes in every way possible both on and off the ice, he is a tireless worker and he deserves this opportunity. As an organization, we couldn’t be happier for Garrett and his family. His hard work these past three seasons both on and off the ice have really paid off for him.

"Not only is Bemidji State getting a top recruit as a player, they are getting an even better young man.”

Photo - RJ Meyer/NAHL

Czarnik leaves Michigan for Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers announced today the acquisition of 19-year-old center Robbie Czarnik from the Oshawa Generals in exchange for a 10th round pick and a conditional second round pick from Windsor in 2011.

Czarnik – from Washington – was originally selected by Oshawa in the sixth round of the 2006 Ontario Hockey League draft. Czarnik never played in Oshawa, opting instead to play for the National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor. In two seasons with the NTDP from 2006-08, Czarnik scored 32 goals with 27 assists for 59 points in 114 games.

Czarnik moved to the University of Michigan program in 2008 and played there through the start of this season. In all, Czarnik scored eight goals with 14 assists for 22 points in 51 games with the Wolverines.

Czarnik was selected in the third round (63rd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

“We are excited to add Robbie to our lineup,” said Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “His greatest asset is his speed and we look forward to developing him for the next level. What a great opportunity this is for Robbie to continue his education and play in the number one developmental league for the National Hockey League.”

Czarnik – who will wear number 27 - will join the Whalers for practice on Tuesday and is expected to make his Plymouth debut on Wednesday when the Whalers host the Windsor Spitfires at 7:05 p.m. at Compuware Arena.

Photo courtesy UM Photo Services

Algonac native commits to Broncos

USHL Press Release

The Sioux City Musketeers have announced that defenseman Dan Dekeyser has committed to Western Michigan University and will attend the school beginning in the fall of 2010.

The 19-year-old native of Algonac has appeared in seven games this season and recorded four points (1g, 3a). He posted a three-game point streak from October 9-16, which included the game-winning goal in the 4-2 win vs. Team USA on October 16th, the Musketeers first win of the season.

"Our organization is extremely happy for Dan and very pleased about the opportunity that Western Michigan has offered him," said Luke Strand, Musketeers head coach. "He has a good upside with unique offensive and defensive skill sets that he brings to the game."

Two other current USHL players are also committed to attend Western Michigan University - Chicago Steel goaltender Nick Pisellini and Omaha Lancers defenseman Dennis Brown.

Photo - USHL Images

Friday, November 20, 2009

Aleardi traded from Rangers to Bulls

The Kitchener Rangers announced today that the team has completed a trade with the Belleville Bulls.

In the deal, the Rangers trade Alex Aleardi (Farmington Hills) and Kitchener's fifth round draft choice in 2011 to Belleville for Matt Tipoff and Belleville's first round CHL Import Draft pick in 2010.

Aleardi was originally Kitchener's third round pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection out of the Compuware minor midget program.

Photo courtesy Walt Dmoch

North Stars-IceDiggers game postponed

The Traverse City North Stars will not be able to extend their current winning streak to seven tonight in Alpena as the game has been postponed.

With a number of players on both teams out impacted by sickness, the contest has been stricken from the NAHL slate and will be made up an a yet-unspecified date.

“Postponing games isn’t something anyone wants to have to do,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “But you have to have players to play a hockey game and there simply weren’t enough available guys to field a full team on either side. There really wasn’t much of a choice here.”

The North Stars (14-4-1) will now have the weekend off to try to get healthy for a pair of Thanksgiving holiday weekend affairs at Centre ICE arena against Alpena (6-15-0). The IceDiggers will visit for the annual Thanksgiving Eve classic and then make a return appearance on Saturday evening. Both games face-off at 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mantay contributing to surging Jets

It’s not everyday that a team can move their best defenseman up front to play forward, but that’s what the Metro Jets have done with veteran Brett Grech.

Much of that has to do with the depth the Jets have on the blue line and also due to the recent emergence of rookie Dylan Mantay.

Mantay, a 2009 draft pick of the Jets and one of 10 draft picks to play for the team this year, only goes 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, but that hasn’t been an issue thus far.

“Dylan is one of the best technical skaters on the team,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “This helps him balance his lack of stature. Most of the time, he’s a very smart hockey player, too.”

Jets coach Ryan Skop also noted that Mantay’s adjustment period to the CSHL level is becoming more and more evident with each game.

“Mants has really started to turn his game on lately,” Skop said. “He's been able to adjust to the speed of the game and the style of the game pretty well, and has really started to become an asset for us on the back end.”

Skop also said that the progression of Mantay, an 18-year-old Troy native, is just what the team expected coming into the season.

“We knew what we were getting with Dylan,” said Skop. “He's one of our more talented guys on the back end. He's got great feet, probably the best feet on our team, and in fact, the kid’s probably one of the best two or three athletes on our team period. He's got good vision, makes a good first pass, and is pretty fundamentally sound.”

Mantay, part of the Summit Plastics Midget AA state championship team of a year ago, has also started to improve in the areas of the game where he needed work.

“Our concern with Mants was the physical side of the game,” explained Skop. “Dylan's really figured out how to deal with that lately and has been much more effective because of it. We've been on him about engaging a bit more and he's really responded to that. He's finishing every check, getting up in every play, and really just playing bigger than he is.

“He's not a monster back there, but pound for pound, he's a pretty strong guy.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

Metro traveled to Dubuque last weekend and came home with a point after losing in a shootout Friday night, 4-3.

Josh Magnan, Jon Wickersham and Jon Elliott scored in regulation and R.J. Heath made 45 saves in goal. Dubuque tied the game with four seconds left in the third period.

The Thunderbirds came back Saturday night and blanked the Jets, 5-0.

Heath started and made seven saves in the first period before Ian Mercer took over and stopped 18 of 19 shots in the final 40 minutes.

Metro (5-10-0-2) will now gear up for a three-in-three stretch in Ohio. The Jets play in Toledo tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. and then in Cleveland Saturday night (9:00 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (1:30 p.m.).

Next home action for the Jets back at Lakeland Arena is Sunday, Nov. 29 at 1:20 p.m. versus Motor City.

JET FUEL

Rookie forward Matt Moeller, out since the middle of October with a knee injury, will be back in the lineup this weekend for the Jets.

Tim Hooker, a forward who hasn’t played yet this year recovering from shoulder surgery, has been practicing with the team and should make his season debut in the coming weeks.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Forward Dustin Cloutier, who played for the Jets during the 2002-2003 season, is in his junior year playing Division I hockey at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.

Cloutier, a 23-year-old from Berkley, also played one year with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and another with the NAHL’s Mahoning Valley Phantoms before arriving at Bentley in the fall of 2007.

The IHL’s Fort Wayne Komets signed ex-Metro goalie Tyler Sims, another member of the 2002-2003 team, this week.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two Saginaw forwards ranked by NHL

The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau released its Fall 2009 Preliminary Rankings for the top North American junior hockey players eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft today and the Saginaw Spirit was well represented on the list, with center Ivan Telegin ranked ninth overall and winger Josh Shalla ranked 22nd overall amongst the top 25 eligible Ontario Hockey League skaters.

Telegin is enjoying a breakout rookie season in Saginaw, having notched 16 goals and 10 assists in his first 22 OHL games. The Novokuznetsk, Russia native was selected by the Spirit 42nd overall in the 2009 CHL Import Draft.

Shalla (pictured) is in his third season in the OHL and his first with the Spirit. He has tallied 14 goals and 11 assists in 22 games this season, for an OHL career total of 28 goals and 17 assists in 89 regular season games. The Spirit acquired Shalla via a trade with the Guelph Storm this past summer.

Seguin and Hackett lead the Whalers

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin wanted to get off to a good start this season.

His good start has catapulted him to the top of the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Preliminary Rankings among OHL players for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, held June 25-26, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Plymouth defenseman Austin Levi checks in at #24 and Whalers goaltender Scott Wedgewood is rated sixth among OHL goaltenders in the preliminary rankings.

Even missing a few games because of a lower-body injury hasn’t clouded Seguin’s good start (19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points in 18 games) in the eyes of NHL scouts.

"Tyler Seguin has had a great start to the season," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He has been producing and playing consistently well. He makes things happen every time he is on the ice and he makes his teammates better."

Seguin (pictured), Windsor left wing Taylor Hall and Spitfire defenseman Cam Fowler has gone 1-2-3 all season long among OHL players up for the NHL Entry Draft.

"Hall is a proven player, he won the Memorial Cup MVP last year and for good reason," Edwards said. "Both of these players (Seguin and Hall) will be very good pros."

Central Scouting annually ranks the top 25 skaters and top six goaltenders for the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League and United States Hockey League, which now includes the United States National Team Development Program.

And while Seguin, Levi and Wedgewood are going through the NHL Draft, Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett continues to be the glue around Plymouth’s success.

Drafted in the third round (77th overall) by the Minnesota Wild in the 2009 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Hackett has picked up the pace from October on.

In October, Hackett posted a 2.53 goals against average and .928 percentage in 11 games and was named Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Week for the week ending October 25.
He’s been even better in early November, posting a 2.00 GAA and .953 save percentage through five games.

It’s obvious that Hackett is playing with a lot of confidence this season.

“I felt I had a great year last year,” he said Tuesday. “I went to Minnesota and they said they loved everything about me. They were impressed with how I played (at training camp) and they gave me a shot to play in an NHL exhibition game, so it gave me a lot of confidence knowing they have that much confidence in me.

“Coming in here (this year), I wanted to show the boys that I was ready to play. We’re going to make a push for the playoffs this year and (I feel) we’re going to go deep in the playoffs.”

Hackett wants to be named to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships, held in Regina and Saskatoon, SK from December 26-January 5.

“It’s a big goal of mine,” he admitted. “Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been watching the World Junior Championships at Christmas time. It’s always in the back of my mind, obviously. I want to make big saves at key times. I want to win games right now and prove to them (Hockey Canada) that I can play on that team.”

Watch the Whalers and you’ll see how hard Hackett’s teammates work for him.

“They’re just a bunch of great guys,” Hackett said. “We all get along and we’re all good friends here. We all want to make each other better. We all work hard for each other and in the end, that’s how we win games.”

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kettering trio together again with Jets

The Metro Jets have had their share of local players suit up over the years, but none have shared the bond that Steve Lockwood, Josh Magnan and David Merkle share on and off the ice.

It’s a bond that goes back several years, too.

All three grew up in the area and all graduated from Waterford Kettering High School. They’re also the best of friends.

“Me and Lock started going to middle school together at Mason and throughout high school at Kettering,” said Magnan, who played against Merkle and Lockwood at Lakeland Arena when he was with the USA Eagles. “Me and Merk started at Kettering and we weren’t exactly inseparable, but we were always aound the school together.”

“Me and Lox have been friends since Pee Wee when we played on the Lakeland Hawks together,” added Merkle, a White Lake native. “Mags and I started to be friends when I went to high school and started practicing with Kettering. Once I was in tenth grade and I was on the high school team with them, you could find us in the hallways chatting it up about some puck.”

“Merk and I have been pretty close friends growing up through high schooI,” Lockwood said. “I met Mags in middle school, but we weren’t really good friends until high school when we started to play on the same team.”

Now with the Jets, each has a role they play to a ‘T’ for the suddenly resurgent Jets. Lockwood, a 19-year-old from Clarkston, is the steady second-year defenseman with a knack for keeping the opposition honest, Magnan, also 19 and a Waterford native, is the offesnive catalyst and leads the team with 11 tallies and the 18-year-old Merkle, whose brother, Karl, played for the Jets in the 1996-1997 season, is a solid second-line forward.

Being friends off the ice has helped the on-ice play for all three, who have also all called Lakeland home for more than 10 years.

“I think it’s a good thing because we have built chemistry between us and can read off each other on the ice,” said Lockwood.

“It's nice having some teammates on the Jets that I know,” Merkle said. “It was an easy transition coming to a new team already knowing Mags and Lox.”

Magnan said he almost didn’t get the chance to get to know Lakeland and his future buddies.

“My dad always loved the game of hockey, so he was going to start me up at Lakeland, but back in the day there was a two-year waiting list, so I started off my hockey career at Southfield,” remembered Magnan. “I played there till Pee Wee AA. Then I came to Lakeland and played for the USA Eagles travel team until Bantam A and then I started playing varsity hockey for Waterford Kettering.”

After this season, each one has different aspirations as to what they are shooting for hockey-wise.”I'm not too sure what’s next in store for me as far as hockey goes,” Merkle said. “I'm just working hard day to day and wherever that takes me I guess that's where I'll end up.”

“I'd like to play in the NAHL next season, but hard work comes first,” added Lockwood. “I have things I need to work on to improve so I can make it to that next level.”

“I’d really like to find a decent D-III school where I could play because I’m already two years behind my graduating class,” said Magnan. “If that falls through, maybe I might just go to college, but the NAHL is never out of the equation.”

Wherever these three lifelong friends wind up, you can bet they will always stay in touch and pick up where they left off.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets took both games last weekend as they topped Motor City Friday night on the road, 4-3, and then defeated Grand Rapids, 4-3, in an overtime thriller as Magnan completed his hat trick 2:05 into OT.

Goaltender R.J. Heath won both games for the Jets.

Metro (5-10-0-1), winners of four of their last five games, heads to Dubuque this weekend for two with the defending Hurster Cup champs tonight and Saturday night. The Thunderbirds blanked the Jets, 6-0, at Lakeland back on Oct. 18.

The Jets stay on the road next weekend for three games in three days as they play in Toledo next Friday night and then follow that up with two in Cleveland.

Metro’s next home game is Sunday, Nov. 29 against Motor City.

JET FUEL

Forward Mike Herter was released Monday. The 18-year-old was held pointless in six games for the Jets.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Former head coach Jon Cooper, who guided the Jets to the 2002 Silver Cup Junior B national championship, is now coaching the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. In 2007 and 2008, Cooper led the NAHL’s St. Louis Bandits to the Robertson Cup title.

Photo (l-r) - Lockwood, Magnan, Merkle

O'Connor named to Team OHL roster

New Saginaw Spirit defenseman Ryan O’Connor has been added to the Team OHL roster for the 2009 Subway Super Series, which will see Team Russia squaring off against the Canadian Hockey League’s best.

O’Connor will participate in the Windsor game of the six game series, taking place on November 23.

The announcement by Team OHL came on the heels of Team Russia’s naming of Spirit forward Ivan Telegin to their roster for the event, pitting the two teammates against each other as they represent their respective countries.

O’Connor is no stranger to international play, having participated in the 2009 World Hockey Challenge with Team Ontario’s Under-17 squad and winning a gold medal with Team Canada’s Under-18 team in the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

The Hamilton, Ont., native has tallied two goals and 10 assists in 20 games this season.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rangers hosting Outlaws this weekend

The Marquette Rangers' schedule for 2009-10 has some new faces for fans to see this year and this weekend is a prime example as the Rangers will host the North Iowa Outlaws of the North American Hockey League Central Division.

The two teams have met before, at the NAHL Showcase in 2007 and 2008, and are 1-1 against each other over that span.

Regardless of the opponent, the Rangers are in need of a solid weekend having gone 1-5 in their last six games, including a split last weekend with the Janesville Jets at Lakeview Arena.

Despite the recent setbacks, Marquette remains in second place in the North Division, three points behind first place Traverse City. The Rangers are two points ahead of Janesville for third in the division.

Marquette continues to be led in scoring by Garrett Ladd (6g 12a, 18pts) and Andrew Kolb (8g 10a, 18pts), with Brent Bain (17 pts), Collin Saint-Onge (13 pts) and Tanner Kero (11 pts) all reaching double digits in scoring for the team.

The Outlaws currently share first place in the Central Division with the Owatonna Express.

Several events are planned for fans during the weekend, including the team’s third annual “Save A Buck Night” on Saturday evening. Friday is “Scary Movie Night” in celebration of Friday the 13th.

Spirit rookie named to Team Russia

Saginaw Spirit forward Ivan Telegin has been named to Team Russia’s roster for the 2009 Subway Super Series, which will pit Team Russia against the Canadian Hockey League’s best.

Telegin will play in the Windsor game of the six-game series, on November 23.

Telegin enters the week as the top scoring rookie in the Ontario Hockey League with 14 goals and 10 assists in 20 games.

The Novokuznetsk, Russia native is also considered a top prosepct for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Saginaw makes big trade with Barrie

The Saginaw Spirit completed a trade with the Eastern Conference’s Barrie Colts today.

Saginaw has acquired defenseman Ryan O’Connor (right) and forward Michael Sgarbossa (left) in the deal that sees Barrie receive defensemen T.J. Brodie and Nick Crawford. The Colts also received a third-round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.

“We are excited for this deal and feel that it is a great trade for all parties,” stated Spirit coach-GM Todd Watson. “We are getting additional years of service with this trade that will pay dividends this season and beyond. Ryan and Michael are highly-talented skaters that will contribute instantly. Brodie and Crawford have played significant roles with the Spirit these past seasons and we are happy that they are going to a great program like the Barrie Colts where they will continue to find success on and off the ice.”

O’Connor enjoyed a successful rookie season that saw him post 10 goals and 25 assists in 62 games. The Hamilton, Ont., native has tallied two goals and 10 assists in 19 games this season. O’Connor posted a four-point game (two goals and two assists) against the Kingston Frontenacs on December 12, 2008, and a three-point game (goal and two assists) against the Oshawa Generals on October 8, 2009.

“Ryan is a highly-skilled defenseman that can really move the puck, as evident by him being named to the OHL All-Rookie Second Team last season," noted Watson.

Barrie selected O’Connor sixth overall in the 2008 Priority Selection after a stint with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens minor midgets. O’Connor scored two goals and five assists to help the Canadiens win the 2008 OHL Cup Showcase Tournament. He was selected to Team Ontario’s roster for the 2009 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and helped Team Canada’s Under-18 squad win the gold medal in the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament. O’Connor is eligible for 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Sgarbossa had a prolific rookie season as well, notching 10 goals and 33 assists in 67 games. The Campbellville, Ont., native has tallied seven goals and 13 assists in 19 games this season. He posted two goals in Barrie’s home opener against the Owen Sound Attack on September 17, 2009, and had a four-point effort (two goals and two assists) against the Erie Otters on October 10, 2009.

“Michael is a tough competitor that can put up some big points with his scoring ability,” said Watson.

Barrie selected Sgarbossa 54th overall in 2008 after a campaign with the Halton Hurricanes minor midgets. He tallied three goals and two assists in four games during the 2008 OHL Cup. Sgarbossa is also eligible for 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Brodie is playing in his fourth Ontario Hockey League season and was signed by the Calgary Flames over the summer. Crawford, also playing his fourth OHL season, was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

“The Barrie Colts will love the talent, leadership and character, both on and off the ice, of Nick Crawford and T.J. Brodie," said Spirit president and partner Craig Goslin. "We wish both of these fine young men all the best with their new opportunity in Barrie and in the rest of their hockey careers. We, too, are equally as excited to be welcoming Michael Sgarbossa and Ryan O’Connor to the Saginaw Spirit. From all reports, if our fans like the moves that Watson has made to date with Ivan Telegin, Anthony Camara, Vince Trocheck, Josh Shalla, Garret Ross and more, then you will also like our new additions of Michael Sgarbossa and Ryan O’Connor.

"Dick (Garber) and I are confident that Todd and his staff are building a championship quality contender one piece at a time.”

“It’s tough losing two guys that were a big part of the team on and off the ice, but we are excited for them and us as this trade provides a whole new dynamic,” stated Spirit captain Tyler Murovich. “It sounds like both guys will jump right in and help us continue our successful start to the season."

Photos by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Drake & Co. a benefit for North Stars

Courtesy NAHL

When Dallas Drake skated around Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena with the Stanley Cup back in June of 2008 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings, he knew his NHL career was going out on a high note.

But even as a summer-long party ensued in Detroit, Drake (pictured) quietly announced his retirement and made his way to his new home in Traverse City.

One year later, he’s a part owner of the Traverse City North Stars and enjoying his time staying in hockey, but without the spotlight.

“I love being at the rink,” said Drake. “I’m really a hockey geek and just love watching games and coaching the kids at the younger levels.”

Drake gets out into the Traverse City community to promote the North Stars and help get fans into Centre ICE arena. He said he initially came on board when founding owner Steve Fournier approached him to buy into the team.

“I’m here to help in any way I can,” said Drake, who played 15 years in the NHL. “Whether it’s sponsorships or just getting more people to the rink, I’ll do whatever I can. We have a great group of kids here who all want to play Division I hockey and the North American League is a very exciting league to watch.”

Drake was one of several new pieces brought into the North Stars’ expanded ownership group. The husband-wife team of Richard and Raj Wiener, lawyers based out of Lansing, are also new to the fold. Raj is more of the hands-on owner while Richard keeps things running at their law office in Lansing. When asked why she decided to get involved with owning a hockey team, Raj showed her sense of humor right from the start.

“Well, I’m questioning my sanity,” she laughed. “I do a lot of the mundane stuff, like the financial aspects and not any of the on-ice things. It costs money to run a team like this; it doesn’t happen on its own.”

Over the summer, North Stars head coach and general manager Anthony Palumbo called Lansing Capitals Midget Major coach Dean Dixon for help in finding ways to keep the North Stars in Traverse City. Dixon then contacted the Wieners.

“We’ve had a home in Traverse City for 30 years, so to help out was really an easy step,” Wiener said. “Anthony runs a great program and has really built a strong team this year. He believes in getting the kids out into the community; whether it’s with Big Brothers/Big Sisters or Habitat For Humanity, everyone is always ready to help."

Raj also credits Drake for his passion for the community, the team and the NAHL.

“Dallas has just been wonderful,” said Wiener. “He brings so much knowledge to the team and really does more for the team than he lets on. Dallas is a very humble person.”

So far, Traverse City has shown it’s a contender in the league (the North Stars sit atop the North Division standings with 25 points after 17 games) and that in itself has impressed Drake, who admitted he hasn’t watched a whole lot of junior hockey the past 15 years or so.

“The teams I’ve seen come in here, like Wenatchee and Janesville, have looked very solid,” said Drake. “I think from top to bottom, the whole league has a lot of good players and they have a lot of good opportunities in this league.”

And while most teams prepare on a season-to-season basis, when it comes to ownership, that’s a totally different story.

“We came in here with a three-year plan,” explained Wiener. “The foundation for what we have now was laid by the Fourniers and we’re excited to build off of it.”

Sunday, November 08, 2009

U.S. Junior Selects defend world title

Eamonn McDermott
tallied a goal and an assist as the U.S. Junior Select Team captured its second straight World Junior A Challenge championship with a 2-1 win over Canada West tonight at Credit Union Place in Summerside, P.E.I.

Team USA finished the tournament with a 4-0-1-0 record.

"The team showed some great resiliency, not only tonight, but for the entire tournament," said Mark Carlson, head coach of the 2009 U.S. Junior Select Team. "They continued to fight when trailing tonight and the coaching staff is extremely proud of their effort. It's a great feeling winning the championship for the second straight year."

After a scoreless opening period, Kellen Jones netted a power-play goal at 10:01 of the second period to give Canada West a 1-0 lead.

The U.S. tied the game with McDermott's power-play marker at 16:07 of the middle frame. Shane Berschbach passed to David Gerths in the slot, who fired the puck on net. McDermott slid down from his defensive spot and knocked the rebound past Canadian West goaltender Sean Bonar.

In the final stanza, Matt Leitner scored the game-winning goal 50 seconds into the period. After collecting a Nick Mattson pass, McDermott passed to Leitner up the left wing. He beat a defenseman and fired the puck through Bonar's five-hole while falling to the ice.

U.S. netminder Eric Mihalik turned aside 28 shots in the championship-winning effort.

USA Under-18s win Four Nations Cup

Nick Shore
scored a pair of goals in the first period as the U.S. National Under-18 Team dropped Switzerland, 3-2, tonight in the finale of the 2009 Under-18 Four Nations Cup in Pori, Finland.

Team USA finished with a perfect 3-0-0-0 record to capture the tournament title.

"This was a good week for us," said Kurt Kleinendorst, head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. "Playing three games in three nights is always tough. Switzerland battled hard the whole way tonight, but we did what we had to do to win. We're definitely happy to come out of this tournament on top."

Switzerland stunned the U.S. just 10 seconds into the game when Joel Vermin put the puck past Andy Iles. Just 13 seconds after falling behind, 1-0, Jason Zucker's feed from behind the net found Shore who fired the puck into the top corner to knot the score. In a similar style as Team USA's first goal, Brandon Saad's pass from behind the Finland cage found Shore who put the puck past netminder Dennis Saikkonen at 12:06 to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.

With just seven seconds to play in a hotly contested second stanza, Stephen Johns collected a rebound in front of the net and slid the puck to Charlie Coyle, who wired a shot past Saikkonen from the high slot to give Team USA a 3-1 advantage.

Switzerland battled hard throughout the third period and was able to get back within a goal when Kaj Leuenberger scored with just 3:49 to play in regulation. Iles and the defensive unit held strong the rest of the way, however, to allow Team USA to earn the 3-2 victory.

Iles made 22 saves to earn his second win of the tournament.

USA Under-17s win Four Nations Cup

Rocco Grimaldi
notched three points and Seth Ambroz scored twice as the U.S. National Under-17 Team rolled past Switzerland, 8-2, to capture first place at the 2009 Under-17 Four Nations Cup in Trnava, Slovakia, with a perfect 3-0-0-0 record.

"Obviously this was a great way to end the tournament," said Ron Rolston, head coach of the U.S. National Under-17 Team. "We definitely played our best game today. It's always great to win a championship. We'll look to build off of this week and take this momentum into our USHL competition when we get back."

Ambroz opened the scoring just 1:16 into the contest when he tipped Barrett Kaib's point shot past netminder Patrick Bonvin. After being hauled down one a breakaway at 6:35, Grimaldi was awarded a penalty shot. Grimaldi skated in on Bonvin, deked to open up the five hole and slipped the puck through to double the U.S. lead. Reid Boucher converted on a rebound chance from the right side at 15:16 to make it 3-0. Sven Andrighetto notched a power-play goal at 17:14 to get the Swiss on the board.

It was all Team USA in the second stanza, as it got four goals from four different players. Just 1:35 into the period, Blake Pietila took a stretch pass from Jake McCabe, skated in on a breakaway, deked to his backhand and roofed the puck just under the crossbar to make it 4-1. Just 2:19 later, Michael Paliotta's feed sent J.T. Miller on a breakaway and Miller slipped the puck under new netminder Luca Boltshauser to give the U.S. a four-goal advantage. At 16:16, Miller took a shot that hit both the post and crossbar before bouncing to Ryan Haggerty who tapped it home to make it 6-1. Just 44 seconds later, Grimaldi won a draw back to Tyler Biggs, who snapped it past Boltshauser to give Team USA a 7-1 lead. U.S. goaltender Matt McNeely stopped all nine shots he saw in the stanza to keep Switzerland at a distance.

Robin Leone scored 1:28 into the final frame for Switzerland and Ambroz tallied a power-play marker at 16:45 to account for the 8-2 final.

McNeely made 23 stops to earn his second win of the tournament.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Elliott starting to come around for Metro

When the Metro Jets drafted Jon Elliott last May, the team had hopes for Elliott bringing his high school goal-scoring prowess with him to the Central States Hockey League.

And while the 18-year-old from Bloomfield Hills has just three goals through 14 games, Elliott has started to turn the corner recently.

“When we first picked him up, we could see the potential was there,” Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop said. “In high school (at Brother Rice), he was one of the most talented guys on a nightly basis and could basically do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Now that he’s made a big step up, it’s taken him some time to adapt to the competition.”

“Jon is starting to show in practice and in games his ability to score goals at this level,” said Jets GM Butch Wolfe. “We’re definitely excited by the progress he’s made so far and look forward to seeing how much more he can keep improving.”

In order to kick-start Elliott, the Jets’ coaching staff put him on a line with fellow winger Jon Wickersham and center David Merkle (Brett Grech now centers the line with Elliott and Wickersham).

“He and Wick make for a difficult matchup with their size (Elliott is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and Wickersham is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds) and speed,” noted Skop. “We’ve also been using Jono on the power play. He’s got great vision on the ice and is able to help settle things down and wait for that good chance.”

Hopefully, sooner than later, Elliott’s three-goal total can grow to double digits. If recent practice is any indication, that will happen soon.

“I’m a bit surprised he hasn’t scored more so far, but lately in practice, Jono’s started to get some of that swagger back where he knows he’s going to score and expects to score,” Skop said. “I’m sure that will translate into games here very shortly.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets played just one game last week and it was one they’d like to forget as the Queen City Steam came into Lakeland Arena last Saturday night and blanked Metro, 6-0.

Ian Mercer stopped 25 shots in goal for the Jets, who saw their two-game winning streak snapped.

This weekend, the Jets play two in-state rivals as they travel to Motor City tonight for a 9:20 p.m. start time and then host Grand Rapids tomorrow night at 7:40 p.m.

Last time out against Motor City, the Jets took a 4-1 win at home on Oct. 25, while Grand Rapids beat Metro, 3-2, on Oct. 14.

JET FUEL

After tomorrow night’s game against Grand Rapids, the Jets play just three more games at home in the 2009 calendar year – Nov. 29 vs. Motor City and Dec. 12-13 vs. Cleveland.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Forwards Troy Storm (2006-2007) and Brandon Van Acker (2004-2005) are playing for Finlandia University’s Division III team in the Upper Peninsula.

Storm is a freshman from Livonia, while Van Acker is a senior from Lincoln Park.

Finlandia plays in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association along with Michigan’s other D-III school, Adrian College.

Former Metro defenseman Steven Oleksy (2003-2004) signed with the IHL’s Port Huron Icehawks this week after being released by the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

Bloomfield Hills native commits to CC

The Chicago Steel announced that forward Alex Krushelnyski has committed to Colorado College and will attend the school beginning in the fall of 2010.

The 18-year-old forward has recorded 11 points (4g, 7a) and a plus-seven rating in 10 games for the Steel this season. Krushelnyski began the year registering a point in each of the first seven games. The native of Bloomfield Hills is in his second USHL season after posting 18 points (7g, 11a) in 38 games for the Steel in 2008-09.

Krushelnyski's father, Mike, played 14 seasons in the NHL and won three Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers.

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Spirit alum Pyatt makes NHL debut

Saginaw Spirit
graduate Tom Pyatt made his NHL debut Thursday night for the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first Spirit player that was drafted by the Spirit to play at the NHL level.

He logged 11:27 of ice time in the effort, which saw the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in a shootout.

“Here today, NHL tomorrow! The entire Saginaw Spirit organization is proud of Tom,” stated Spirit president and partner Craig Goslin. “Our team’s mission of developing top-tier players for the National Hockey League is exemplified by him being on the ice Thursday night for the Canadiens."

Pyatt was drafted by the New York Rangers 107th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He played parts of two seasons with the the Hartford Wolf Pack, their AHL affiliate, before seeing his rights traded to Montreal over the summer. He opened the 2009-2010 season with the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, before being called up this past Wednesday by the Canadiens.

Pyatt arrived in Saginaw after being drafted 21st overall in the 2003 OHL Priority Selection. He played for the Spirit from 2003-2007, posting 94 goals and 106 assists in 240 regular-season games. Pyatt is ranked third on both the Spirit’s all-time career points list and the all-time career goals list. He also represented Saginaw in the 2007 OHL All-Star Classic and in several international tournaments for Team Canada.

Pyatt is the first Spirit player drafted by Saginaw since the team’s inception in 2002 to play in the NHL, but several other Spirit alums have played at the top level, including Geoff Platt (Anaheim Ducks), Paul Bissonnette (Phoenix Coyotes) and Cody Bass (Ottawa Senators). Platt and Bissonnette followed the franchise from North Bay when it moved to Saginaw in 2002. Platt played two seasons (2002-2004) and Bissonnette three seasons (2002-2005) with the Spirit. Bass spent the 2006-2007 season with the Spirit after being acquired via a trade with the Mississauga IceDogs.

Over 60 percent of all active NHL players came out of the Canadian Hockey League, with 29 NHL draftees and two NHL-signed free agents having played for the Spirit since 2002.

Saginaw’s T.J. Brodie (Calgary Flames) and Nick Crawford (Buffalo Sabres) were drafted in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, while Jordan Szwarz (Phoenix Coyotes), Edward Pasquale (Atlanta Thrashers) and Cody Sol (Atlanta Thrashers) were chosen in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. An additional four active Spirit players were invited to attend NHL training camps as free agents over the summer.

North Stars readying for IceDiggers

The teams might be at polar opposite ends of the North American Hockey League’s North Division standings, but Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says his North Stars and the Alpena IceDiggers are much closer than their comparative records would seem to indicate.

The Stars – who visit Alpena on Friday before hosting the IceDiggers at Centre ICE arena on Saturday night – enjoyed Halloween weekend off while second-place Marquette was swept at Janesville, keeping TC in the top spot at 10-4-1. Alpena (5-12-0) split a pair with Motor City, and currently hold down fifth place in the five-team North.

“I think they’re absolutely a very dangerous team,” Palumbo offered. “They’ve lost a ton of tough, close games, and they’re ready to break loose at any time. We’ll have to be ready for them to play their best hockey and we know how stocked their roster is. You look at it and see all the veterans and know they’re going to get it going any time.”

The numbers seem to back up Palumbo’s assertions. Alpena has lost seven games by a single goal, and an eighth by two goals. And the Diggers roster is lined with NAHL-tested personnel, including leading scorer Nate Taurence (five goals, 14 points) and fixture Jimmy McCusker (five goals) who is in his fourth season with Alpena. Swedish import Jonas Vassalli leads the way with 11 assists, while Austrian netkeep Marco Wieser has garnered the lion’s share of the crease time, going 4-9-0 with a 3.29 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage.

“I’d say I’m concerned about coming off a week away from game action, being on the road, that we’re going to have some rust,” Palumbo added. “That makes the first period on Friday that much more critical. We need to come out with the same energy and intensity we showed in the Marquette series (Oct. 24-25) to be able to match them.”

Eric McLintock leads the North Stars with 17 points (eight goals) through 15 contests, while Andy Huff is second in the NAHL with 12 goals. Dan Radke has 11 assists for Traverse City, and Kyle Jean is red-hot since returning from injury – with six goals and as many assists through six outings.

In net, Drew Strandberg leads the way with an 8-2-0 mark, a pair of shutouts, a 2.51 GAA and saves on 90.5 percent of his chances.

The Stars and 'Diggers face off at Northern Lights Arena on Friday before the set shifts west for Saturday’s weekend-capper. Both games drop at 7 p.m.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Telegin, Fowler win monthly OHL honors

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

OHL Rookie of the Month – Ivan Telegin, Saginaw Spirit

Ivan Telegin led all OHL rookies in October scoring with 16 points for the Saginaw Spirit including seven goals and nine assists in 12 games with a plus-minus rating of plus-7. He opened the month with points in six straight games forming a nine-game scoring streak that began September 19 in just his second career OHL game. He was held scoreless in just two games and finished October with two straight three-point games including October 30 with a goal and two assists in a 6-1 win over the Sarnia Sting, and on October 31 with two goals and one assist as second star of the 5-4 shootout win over the Windsor Spitfires.

Telegin, a 17-year-old from Novokuznetsk, Russia, currently leads all OHL rookies in scoring with a rookie-best 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points in 16 games played. Eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Telegin was selected by the Spirit in the first round, 42nd overall, in the 2009 CHL Import Draft.

OHL Defenceman of the Month – Cam Fowler, Windsor Spitfires

Cam Fowler led all OHL defencemen in scoring during October with 17 points in 14 games for the Windsor Spitfires. He scored three goals and collected 14 assists and just four penalty minutes with a league-leading plus-minus rating of plus-22 in a month where the Spitfires produced a record of 10-2-0-2. In 14 games Fowler never finished with a negative plus-minus rating and finished a career-best plus-5 on October 23 in an 8-4 win over the Owen Sound Attack where he registered one assist. In addition to being named third star of the game twice this month, he was named first star of the October 12 game against the Sudbury Wolves scoring a goal and two assists in the 7-0 win.

Fowler, a 17-year-old from Farmington Hills, is playing in his first OHL season and currently leads all defencemen in scoring with 25 points in 19 games with three goals and is tied for the league-lead with 22 assists. Fowler is eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Rangers host Jets, Army this weekend

The Marquette Rangers have hit a key portion of their schedule - heading into a nine-game home stand alone in second place in the North American Hockey League North Division.

The Rangers will face the expansion Janesville Jets this weekend at Lakeview Arena, seeking some redemption against the team that handed them a pair of losses last weekend in southern Wisconsin.

“We got off to such a great start this season that it started to be taken for granted by some in our locker room that we’d win just by showing up,” Rangers head coach Kenny Miller said. “We’ve been driving home to the guys this week that every shift, every period of every game, has to be skated one hundred percent or you don’t win in this league. I think they’ve responded well and understand that we need to work to be successful.”

Miller added that although losing is never good, being knocked down a few pegs in November is better than having it happen later in the year.

“We have plenty of time to get back to where we need to be," Miller said. "If we learn from our mistakes and move forward to the games we have this weekend, we’re confident that good things will happen for us. Playing these games at home will be a welcome addition as well.”

Some new faces will be in the lineup for Millers’ club this weekend as the team continues to add talent and searches to improve. Goaltender Kevin Kissaw will be having knee surgery to prepare meniscus damage, so the team has brought in Zac Enstrom from the Tulsa Rampage of the Western States Hockey League to share time with current goaltender Lukas Hafner. Enstrom spent time in the NAHL with Wichita Falls during the early part of the 2009 season, and was recommended to the Rangers by former Northern Michigan netminder Billy Pye.

Marquette has also added a forward Dane Shaugabay, who until this week was a member of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL West, and defenseman Tyler Vanscourt, who comes to Marquette from the Topeka RoadRunners of the NAHL South.

“Both of these guys were in situations where they weren’t getting the ice time they needed with the clubs they were with, so we're bringing them here to see if they can help us be a better hockey team,” Miller said.

The puck drops at Lakeview Arena at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night.

The Rangers will host their third annual “U.S. Army Night” during Saturday’s game.

To honor the men and women who currently serve our nation, as well as all veterans who have performed military service to the United States in the past, the Rangers will be wearing custom-designed camouflage jerseys during the game. The jersey (pictured) features the “Rock” Rangers logo, with the mascot holding an M-16 and wearing military field gear. They also feature both a U.S. Army patch and well as an R.O.T.C. patch on each shoulder.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the U.S. Army over the years,” Rangers spokesman Mark Evans said of the event. “This game continues that relationship and takes it to the next level with our guys wearing camo on Saturday. We’re excited to host the Army and proud to honor all the men and women who are either active military or a veteran.”

Evans added that even though it’s “Army Night,” all branches of the service are encouraged to come.

“Anyone with a military ID, either active or a veteran, will be admitted for free to Saturday’s game," said Evans. "It’s a small gesture on our behalf, but a way for our guys to salute the men and women who have sacrificed and served this great country.”

United States Army personnel will be in attendance at the game that will feature several games and prizes for fans, and will also offer up one of the camouflage-style jerseys the team will be wearing in a free raffle during the game. No purchase is necessary to enter the raffle.

The jerseys will be given away at the conclusion of the game Saturday night.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ross wins monthly OHL academic award

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the OHL Academic Players of the Month for October.

The OHL Academic Player of the Month for October in the West Division is left winger Garret Ross of the Saginaw Spirit.

Ross, 17, a native of Dearborn Heights, is currently enrolled at Heritage High School in Saginaw.

“Garret is carrying an 88 percentaverage in his classes, which leads all Spirit players, while maintaining a full course load,” commented Spirit assistant coach Adam Mattson.

Ross originally had a verbal commitment to Ferris State prior to joining the Spirit this season.

Armada's Battani on move in OHL

The Soo Greyhounds reduced their roster, and overage situation, as a result of a pair of trades (one involving a Michigan native) on Monday afternoon.

Overage forward T.J. Battani was traded to the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.

Battani originally came to the Hounds this past June as part of a transaction that saw the Hounds drop to the ninth overall pick in the CHL Import draft. The Armanda native is in his fourth season in the OHL and in 15 games played for the Hounds had five goals and three assists, eight points and 13 penalty minutes.

“It’s been a tough situation for our four overagers and although this isn’t a perfect scenario, we feel strongly that it allows our club to positively move forward," said Soo GM Dave Torrie. "T.J. is going to a strong club where he will be a valuable addition to coach Dave Cameron. We cannot say enough positives about T.J. and we wish him all the best and feel this will be a great move for his career."

Battani has also played for Windsor and Kitchener, winning an OHL title with Kitchener in 2008.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Monday, November 02, 2009

Whalers get new radio home on WSDP

Fans of the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers will be able to follow their team on the radio again.

Plymouth has signed an agreement with 88.1 FM WSDP, “The Escape,” as the team’s new radio home. The first broadcast on 88.1 FM is set for this Saturday, November 7 at 6:45 p.m. against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

After evaluating the first few broadcasts in November, the Whalers hope to reach a longer-term deal with 88.1 FM.

Long-time Plymouth voice Pete Krupsky provides the play-by-play, working with partner Sean Baligian on the home broadcasts.

“I’m very happy for our fans,” said Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “We’ve been looking to get back into radio at some point in time and working with 88.1 FM makes a lot of sense. Their signal can be heard all over the area.”

WSDP’s broadcast signal effectively reaches a primary target audience of over 100,000 people in Canton, Plymouth and Plymouth Township and can be heard throughout the Detroit-metropolitan area. The station also broadcasts online.

The Whalers have been broadcasting online over the last five years and will continue their partnership with INSINC.com, which has a league-wide agreement with the OHL for streaming content.

Schoolcraft College and the Schoolcraft College Sports Network telecasts most of the Whalers home games and will provide real-world experience on the broadcasts for Plymouth-Canton students interested in learning about the media business. In addition, the Whalers will offer assistance to students interested in finding out about marketing, broadcasting and public relations.

“Moving to 88.1 FM extends the partnership we already have with the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park,” said Denise Ronayne, Whalers director of sales and marketing. “We have players going to school there, so having the broadcasts on 88.1 FM is a natural fit for everyone.”

Nine Whalers attend high school at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.

“A team as well-loved in the area as the Plymouth Whalers only means good things for the radio station,” said 88.1 FM station manager Bill Keith. “I think the broadcasts will bring new people to the radio station as potential listeners. The broadcasts will allow us to promote the radio station to a new audience, which is always a good thing.

“I’m also excited about the educational opportunities for our students, whether they’re helping out behind the scene of the broadcasts, or assisting with the marketing of the Whalers. Any way we can explore those connections with the students is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The Whalers’ agreement on WSDP is not the first time 88.1 FM has ventured outside the Plymouth-Canton high school sports market. The radio station broadcast Detroit Compuware Ambassadors games at one point in the late 1990’s and early in this decade.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NAHL activates tenders November 1

The North American Hockey League has announced that its teams’ tender forms will be become active on Sunday, November 1.

Each NAHL team is granted eight tenders, plus or minus any trades. Each team will receive two additional tenders to use for North American Prospects Hockey League players only.

A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team.

The tender-signing period ends prior to the NAHL Entry Draft. Tendered players are not eligible for the draft, which will be held in May of 2010.