Friday, December 31, 2010

Niagara up next for Woodhaven native

The Des Moines Buccaneers have announced that forward Doug Clifford has committed to play collegiate hockey at Niagara University beginning in the fall of 2011.

The 20-year-old from Woodhaven is currently tied for second on the team in scoring with 15 points (8g, 7a) in 19 games. It is the first USHL season for Clifford who has put up six points (3g, 3a) over his last five games. Clifford, who played last year for the Traverse City North Stars, scored his first career USHL goal in the 3-2 win over Youngstown on October 30.

"Doug has been a major contributor for the Buccaneers, has put in his time in junior hockey and has earned this opportunity," said Des Moines coach-GM Regg Simon. "I think most scouts looked at him as not being fast or big, but he has proven himself as a warrior and a strong hockey player and you can never have enough of those types of players on your team."

Photo by Bryce Loshman

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kovacs picks Northeastern for '11-12

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward Justin Kovacs has committed to play collegiate hockey at Northeastern University beginning in the fall of 2011.

Kovacs is playing in his second USHL season with the Riders and is third on the team in scoring with 18 points (4g, 14a) while also posting a plus-seven rating in 23 games. His 14 assists lead the club and two of his goals have been game-winners. Kovacs recorded a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in the 4-3 win over Indiana on November 17.

The 19-year-old from Grosse Pointe Woods has experienced a breakout season after putting up seven points (3g, 4a) in 24 games during his rookie USHL season in 2009-10.

Kovacs will be joined by RoughRiders teammate Rasmus Juell, who is also committed to Northeastern.

Northeastern University is located in Boston and is a member of Hockey East.

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Brighton's Stewart chooses Broncos

The Green Bay Gamblers have announced that defenseman Matt Stewart will play collegiate hockey at Western Michigan University.

Stewart, 19, has appeared in all 24 games for the Gamblers and recorded four assists during his second USHL season.

In 55 games during the 2009-10 campaign, he tallied 18 points (2g, 16a) and a plus-33 rating which was the seventh best mark in the League.

The Brighton native also appeared in five games, before being lost to injury, during the Gamblers' run to the Clark Cup title in 2010.

Stewart is one of four Gamblers committed to Western Michigan, joining forwards Robert Francis, William Kessel and Nolan LaPorte. Four other current USHL players will attend the school following their USHL careers: Austin Hervey (Lincoln Stars), Jordan Oesterle (Sioux Falls Stampede), Alex Carpenter (Tri-City Storm) and Joe Fiala (U.S. NTDP).

A total of 18 USHL alumni are part of the Broncos roster for the 2010-11 season: Chase Balisy (Team USA), Brett Beebe (Chicago Steel), Shane Berschbach (Indiana Ice), Dennis Brown (Omaha Lancers), J.J. Crew (Lincoln Stars), Dan DeKeyser (Sioux City Musketeers), Dave Donnellan (Youngstown Phantoms), Ross Henry (Lincoln Stars), Jerry Kuhn (Sioux City Musketeers), Ben Miller (Waterloo Black Hawks), Travis Paeth (Des Moines Buccaneers), Nick Pisellini (Chicago Steel), Derek Roehl (Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets), Ian Slater (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Greg Squires (Indiana Ice), Matt Tennyson (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Dane Walters (Sioux Falls Stampede) and Luke Witkowski (Fargo Force).

In addition, the Broncos are led by first-year head coach Jeff Blashill, who spent the last two seasons in the USHL as the head coach of the Indiana Ice, guiding them to their first Clark Cup during the 2008-09 season.

Photo courtesy Green Bay Gamblers

Johnstone will join brother at MTU

Indiana Ice forward David Johnstone has committed to play collegiate hockey at Michigan Tech University.

Johnstone is in his second USHL season with the Indiana Ice and is currently tied for second on the team in scoring with 18 points (4g, 14a) in 22 games played.

The 19-year-old from Grand Ledge appeared in 48 games during the 2009-10 season and collected 20 points (6g, 14a).

Three other players are committed to attend Michigan Tech following their USHL careers: Tanner Kero (Fargo Force), Nick Cecere (Lincoln Stars) and Reid Sturos (Omaha Lancers).

Eight USHL alumni are on the roster for the Huskies this season, including Johnstone's older brother, Jacob, who played three seasons in the USHL (2007-10), Corson Cramer (Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets), Rick Doriott (Sioux City Musketeers), Ryan Furne (Green Bay Gamblers), Jacob Johnstone (Sioux Falls Stampede/Green Bay Gamblers), Patrick McCadden (Green Bay Gamblers), Brett Olson (Waterloo Black Hawks/Sioux City Musketeers), Josh Robinson (Sioux City Musketeers), Anthony Schooley (Green Bay/Tri-City/Waterloo) and Dan Sova (Waterloo Black Hawks).

In addition, Michigan Tech assistant coach Pat Mikesch played two seasons in the USHL for the Des Moines Buccaneers (1990-92) and was named All-USHL First Team following the 1991-92 season when he posted 80 points (37g, 43a) in 46 games.

Photo courtesy Whiteshark Photography

Saturday, December 25, 2010

James brings character to Waterford

Morgan James is hoping his last year of junior hockey will be more memorable than the past couple years.

After taking a break from the game after his last year of midget hockey three years ago dealing with personal problems, James signed with the Metro Jets in the offseason and was recently named team captain.

Making the decision to return to hockey was the easy part and once he laced up the skates for the Jets’ training camp, the comeback was complete.

“I signed with the Jets because I wanted to get back into the game that I’ve always played and loved,” said James, a 20-year-old from Commerce Township. “I called (Metro GM) Butch (Wolfe), he had me come out, and that was that. After taking a couple years off going through a rough time in my life, now I’m back and I regret ever stopping (playing hockey). The adjustment hasn’t been a problem.”

With just one assist through 20 games this season, James does lead the team with 103 penalty minutes, also second overall in the North American 3 Hockey League.

More than points, though, are James’ desire to improve on a daily basis and continue playing hockey after this season.

“Morgan’s come a long way since he joined us,” Metro associate coach Jamie Hayden said. “He’s a good leader in the locker room and on the ice, he’ll definitely step up for any one of his teammates. He can also play forward or defense and has done anything we’ve asked of him.

“As for being captain, I think he was a good selection. He’s never been a captain at any level of hockey before and growing up, a lot of teams pick their three best players as captains and Morgan was probably never one of those players. When you get to this level, character plays a big role in who you pick as a captain.”

Racking up the penalty minutes has always been a part of the way James plays the game. He realizes he’s not going to be a 30-goal scorer or a top-four defenseman, so playing the physical side of hockey is the role he fills to a ‘T.’ Being 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds only helps matters.

”I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep playing this game at a competitive level and if that means fighting, then bring it on,” boasted James. “I’ve always been a bigger guy on the ice, so I’ve been pushed to be physical. It’s my strongest and favorite point of ice hockey.”

James wants to come back from the holiday break ready to get back to business and start the Jets’ push for a playoff spot. Looking even further ahead, James reiterated that continuing his career is more than just a hope.

”Come the New Year, we will be better than ever before,” said James. “Everyone has a better feel for each other now and it’s time to dominate. After this season will be a long summer of work and then hopefully some good hockey.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets stumbled a bit last weekend in getting swept at home by the Peoria Mustangs, but rebounded with a 6-4 win in Flint Tuesday night.

The visitors from Illinois won 3-0 on Saturday night and then 7-2 Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

“Not many positives to take from last weekend,” said Hayden. “Eric Trunick played well Saturday night in the second and third periods, but didn’t show up in the first period and that was pretty much the difference in the game. Sunday, we just didn’t bring the effort we needed to play a team like Peoria, who is in fourth place and battling for one of the top spots in the league.”

Trunick (Commerce Township) made 28 saves in Saturday’s loss and then suffered the loss again Sunday despite playing only 22 seconds.

Matt Braun started in goal, but was pulled for Trunick after Mason Riley scored a shorthanded goal at 11:55 of the first period to give Peoria a 2-0 lead. Kyle Hamilton scored again shorthanded on Trunick at 12:17 and Trunick was yanked for Braun.

With the Jets scoring twice, Peoria’s third goal (Hamilton’s) stood as the game-winner and Trunick the goalie of record.

Cameron Bazin (Troy) and Matt Stirling (Dexter) scored for Metro and Braun finished with 28 stops.

Riley and Brandon Neville each had two goals for Peoria.

Tuesday night at Iceland Arena, it was a 3-2 game in favor of the Jets after two periods before three goals in a 68-second span to start the third period from Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney), Stirling and Brett Grech (Hartland) gave the Jets a four-goal cushion at the time.

Stirling and Kilgore scored in the first period and Dan Hudson (Gregory) added a goal in the middle frame.

Trunick finished with 46 saves between the pipes for the Jets, now 9-17-1-0.

For Flint, Andrew Lay had two goals and an assist, Nate Scurfield a goal and an assist and Stephen Hibbard three assists. Nick Szalacinski also scored in the loss and Dominic Orlando and Andrew Habasevich combined for 24 saves.

Metro’s next action comes Jan. 8-9, 2011 in Pittsburgh before a home-and-home with Battle Creek the following weekend.

JET STREAKS

Grech made his return to the lineup last Saturday night after being out with a deeply lacerated thigh suffered Nov. 7 against St. Louis … The Jets have four players named Matt on the roster (Braun, Elswick, Stemkoski, Stirling) and three players named Mike (Corder, Denston, Moroso). They also have two Jordans (Jones, Reames) and two Tommys (Burns, Kilgore). Burns and Kilgore are also both Pinckney natives … Moroso, Stirling and Kilgore have each played in all 26 games this season.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Chicago native Anthony Cacciatore played on the Jets’ blueline during the 2000-2001 season and after that season, he played two years of Division I club hockey at Robert Morris College and then two years of pro hockey in the United Hockey League with Muskegon and Port Huron.

Cacciatore, now 29, has come full-circle as he now lives and works in Chicago operating his own business as a private and personal chef.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Port Huron names new coach, GM

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons will come back from their holiday break as a very different team, as they today filled their head coaching vacancy.

Bill Warren, who coached last weekend’s games in Flint on an interim basis, has been hired to guide the team through the remainder of this season.

Warren had been the head coach at Port Huron Northern, in the most competitive high school league in Michigan, for the past six seasons before accepting the Fighting Falcons job. The PHN graduate had led the Huskies to a 4-4 record in the early stages of their season. Warren also coaches in the Honeybaked AAA organization and scouted for five years in the Ontario Hockey Association with the Strathroy Rockets.

The coaching position was left vacant after Ernie and Shane Hicke were relieved of their positions with the team last Friday. The Fighting Falcons were just 1-24-1 under the Hickes, and majority owner Maribeth Hayes decided to make a change before the three-week holiday break.

Warren says he’s up to the challenge he’s been presented with and looks forward to showing fans the level of hockey they hoped for when the team was first brought to town this summer.

In two games as interim coach, Warren’s Fighting Falcons showed improvement, setting a team record with six goals in Friday’s 8-6 loss to the Michigan Warriors at Perani Arena. Saturday night the team set another record, as they were whistled for just five penalties, the lowest mark of the season. That game resulted in a 3-1 loss, but the team’s play was encouraging, as they held the Warriors scoreless over the game’s final 51 minutes

Ernie Hicke’s departure also left the general manager position open, which will be filled by former assistant coach Marty Haddad. Haddad will also serve as the team’s associate head coach. A Port Huron native, Haddad has been involved with the Fighting Falcons since training camp, and will take over player personnel decisions while also running the day-to-day operations in the front office.

Port Huron native Chad Noetzel will become the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, and Todd Churchill of Marysville will keep his position as the team’s goaltender coach and equipment manager.

“I can’t speak highly enough of our players for the way they’ve handled this tough situation,” said Haddad. “It would have been easy for them to not be at their best over the weekend and every guy out there played hard and gave it everything they had. Coach Warren and I are extremely excited about the new roles we’re taking on and we look forward to putting a better product on the ice when we come back in January.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lumberjacks play role of holiday heroes

By Christopher Heimerman, Muskegon Lumberjacks

"Candy or video games? Candy or video games?" Lance Fredrickson asked. "You pick. Video games? OK, let's go!"

And away they went.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks players, each with a Muskegon-area youngster and a $100 gift card, jumped into action like it was Game 5 of the Clark Cup finals.

One can only hope Shop With the Jacks, which took place at the Meijer Superstore on Henry Street, will be an annual affair. Meijer donated the gift cards, and the Jacks' players gladly donated their time to help lesser-privileged kids put a few more presents under the Christmas tree this year.

Jordan Masters put aside his distaste for Michigan State long enough to help pick out a Sparty hoodie. Brendan Woods (eventually) learned how to use the price check scanner to add up purchases. Kevin Albers and Jaycob Megna, a couple of the Jacks' more physically imposing defensemen, smiled from ear to ear as they spent a considerable amount of time perusing the Barbie doll aisle.

But the play of the game once again came from Travis Walsh who, when his shopper accidentally overspent, pulled out his debit card to take care of the balance.

The event was a perfect example of pay it forward, and it melted at least one reporter's heart. I'd like to meet anyone who doesn't feel all warm and gooey inside when they see kids given $100 to spend and, for the most part, they want to spend it on their family members. It's the embodiment of the holiday spirit – people being driven by the satisfaction of making others happy.

Detroit native Mingo picks BGSU

The Des Moines Buccaneers have announced that forward Dajon Mingo will attend Bowling Green State University beginning in the fall of 2011.

Mingo is in his first USHL season and has put up 13 points (10g, 3a) in 16 games for the Bucs. He leads the team with 10 goals and ranks tied for first in the USHL with five power play tallies.

The 20-year-old also leads Bucs forwards with a plus-six rating.

Mingo scored a goal in his USHL debut on October 1, a 3-2 overtime loss to Youngstown.

The Detroit native also recorded a hat trick in his home state when he netted three goals, including the game-winner, on November 27 at Muskegon.

"Dajon is an intelligent, hard-working player who complements any unit that he plays on – we've seen great improvement in his game this season," said Des Moines head coach Regg Simon. "He'll be playing in a great program and will have a chance to become a major contributor."

Photo by Bryce Loshman

Soo Eagles d-man signs with Otters

By RANDY RUSSON, RR MEDIA SERVICE


The Erie Otters have signed Soo Eagles defenceman Nathan Glass to an Ontario Hockey League card.

The smooth-skating Glass, a 1994 birth year defender, has four goals and 12 points in 28 games with the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League's Eagles thus far this season. He was Erie's seventh round pick at the 2010 OHL Draft.

According to Eagles coach/general manager Bruno Bragagnolo, Glass is expected to play three games with Erie when the Otters head out on an OHL road trip Dec. 28-31. After that, the Otters will likely determine whether or not Glass will be sent back to the Eagles for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Port Huron names interim coaches

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons have announced that Marty Haddad and Bill Warren have been named the team’s interim coaches.

Haddad was serving as an assistant coach with the Fighting Falcons, while Warren is currently the head coach of the Port Huron Northern High School varsity team.

The Fighting Falcons have begun a search for a permanent head coach.

More from the Port Huron Times-Herald HERE.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Braun hopes first win leads to more

Matt Braun picked a pretty good time to get his first win of the season last Sunday for the Metro Jets.

Playing both ends of a two-game series in Chicago against the North American 3 Hockey League’s top team, the Chicago Hitmen, Braun rebounded from a loss Saturday night to make 31 saves in regulation and overtime and then stop all five shooters in the shootout as the Jets won the game, 3-2.

Braun’s efforts may not have been the material for a Hollywood motion picture, but it was still a great moment for the 18-year-old New Jersey native, Eric Trunick’s backup much of the season.

“It was great finally getting my first win and getting it against the first place team made it even better,” said Braun. “Before the shootout, I was pretty nervous. This was my first shootout in juniors. During the shootout, I calmed down a bit and just did what I had to do and focus on the puck and not fall for any dekes. After the shootout, it felt great knowing that we just beat the first place team.”

The only non-Michigander on the Metro roster, Braun said being away from home for the first time has been “a wonderful experience” and that he hopes the Jets can help him attain higher levels of hockey.

“(Goaltending) coach (Randy) Wilson and (head) coach (Jason) Cirone have been great helping me get my game where it needs to be to move on,” noted Braun. “I don’t feel that I pattern myself after any goalie. I just play how I have to play.”

And play he does. Just look at the 2009-2010 season.

Last year, Braun won an NJSIAA/Devils Public B state championship with Ramsey High School (just outside New York City), making 40 saves and posting a shutout in the title game. He had hoped to stay local to play junior hockey, but when that option fell through, he had another opportunity just around the corner.

“I came in contact with the Jets through Randy,” explained Braun. “He has helped me out a lot this past summer with finding a team to play for and when things weren’t going so well for me back in New Jersey, I decided to give him a call and he said he would call coach Cirone. As soon as I know it, I’m packing up my stuff to come and play out here.”

Now with a boatload of confidence, Braun is hoping that rubs off on his teammates going into the final three games of the calendar year.

”I feel that our team is on the upswing now and we’re going to do a lot better in the second half of the season,” Braun said. As for myself, I just hope to be the best I can and help my team out as much as possible.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets ended their losing streak Sunday afternoon in the shootout win over the Chicago Hitmen.

After Mike Moroso (Macomb) and Tommy Burns (Pinckney) scored in the second period, Matt Stirling (Dexter) tallied the only goal in the shootout

Saturday night, the Hitmen topped the Jets, 6-2.

Moroso and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) each had a goal and an assist and Stirling assisted on both goals.

Braun made 43 stops between the pipes.

The Jets (8-15-1-0) host the Peoria Mustangs this weekend at Lakeland Arena for two games. Game time Saturday night is 7:40 p.m. with a 1:20 p.m. Sunday matinee. Metro then plays Tuesday night in Flint before breaking for the holidays.

“Beating Chicago let us know that we can put it to any team out there,” Metro captain Morgan James said. “We are a good team and we are going to let it be known. Sunday’s game was very exciting, but that’s over now. We've got other games ahead. Peoria is solid team and it will take the same effort to beat them.”

JET STREAKS

Forward Matt Stemkoski (Novi) has two goals and two assists in six games since being acquired from Toledo on Nov. 12 … Moroso, Metro’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 25 points, has six of those points (two goals, four assists) over his last five games … Stirling is also on a mini-streak with six points (goal, five assists) in his last three games.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Karl Merkle, a forward on the 1995-1996 Jets team, still lives in Waterford is now an area manager for Honeybaked Ham.

Merkle’s younger brother, David, played for the Jets last season.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Warriors to assist with food drive today

Members of the Michigan Warriors will be helping out with a food drive at a local elementary school Thursday.

A food truck will be at the Richfield Public School Academy tomorrow to provide meals to community families who may not have a fresh meal this time of year.

Krista Ketterer, a teacher at Richfield, explained how this opportunity came about and how the Warriors got involved.

“My school has been working with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for over a year now,” said Ketterer. “Over a month ago, Joni Clemons, the director of the after-school program at RPSA, was approached about having a mobile food pantry come to our building since we have had such a great partnership over the past year. Joni said that we did not have the $600 to purchase the mobile food pantry and the food bank said that they were donating it because we've been such great supporters.

“The only condition is that they needed 25 volunteers to unload the truck – that is where the Warriors came into play. We may have the numbers when it comes to staff, but we do not have the time. There is no way that we could have the food truck arrive after school, unload it and then serve families. We would be there until midnight.”

“Here in Flint, we are not only grooming these kids to be excellent players, but to also go a step further and be excellent and honorable human beings,” said Warriors’ head coach Moe Mantha. “These boys didn’t even think twice when we brought it to their attention. Maturity and respect is definitely an asset all of our players have and this proves it.”

Richfield has a very high percentage of students that receive free and/or reduced lunch. This food truck will not only help out the families at the school, but also anyone from the community. Flyers have been distributed to all of the schools where Warriors’ players volunteer and also to local churches. There is also a sign out in front of the school promoting tomorrow’s event

“Without the help and support of the Warriors, we would not be able to participate in this program that our families so desperately need,” added Ketterer. “We would have needed to decline the wonderful offer that the food bank had given us. It's a win-win for everyone.”

In addition, the Warriors are giving each family that receives food from the food truck a four-pack of tickets to Sunday’s home game against the Traverse City North Stars.

Richfield Public School Academy is located at 3807 N. Center Road in Flint, just three miles north of Perani Arena.

For more information, call the RPSA at 810-736-1281 or Krista Ketterer at 810-287-3581.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Albertini, Dennis recalled to Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers announced the recall today of 17-year-old defenseman Chris Albertini and 16-year-old left wing Jared Dennis.

Both are joining the Whalers on the road this weekend, starting Thursday on Barrie, Friday in Oshawa and Saturday in Belleville.

Albertini (pictured) - 6-feet-3 inches and 200 pounds - was playing for the Cobourg Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he had a goal and two assists for three points and 75 penalty minutes in 25 games. Albertini was selected by the Whalers in 14th round (273rd overall) of the 2009 Ontario Hockey League draft.

Dennis - 6-feet-1 inch and 180 pounds - was playing for the Leamington Flyers of Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he had four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 29 games. Dennis was selected by the Whalers in the 10th round (190th overall) of the 2010 OHL draft.

Dennis will practice with the Whalers on Wednesday, while Albertini will join the Whalers Thursday in Barrie.

Several Whalers are expected to miss part or all of the road trip.

RJ Mahalak remains out with an upper body injury and Jamie Devane was assessed a two-game suspension on Sunday for his part of a second fight in the same sequence. Devane is expected to return Saturday in Belleville.

In addition, Rickard Rakell is currently in Sweden trying out for the Swedish National Team for the upcoming World Junior Championship. Dario Trutmann leaves Saturday for St. Catharines, Ont., to try out for the Swiss World Junior team.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saginaw acquires McFarland, Chiarot

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Sudbury Wolves, acquiring two top-flight veterans in forward John McFarland and defenseman Ben Chiarot in return for forward Michael Sgarbossa, forward Alex Racino and defenseman Frank Schumacher.

The two teams also swapped draft picks, with the Spirit getting a third round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection and the Wolves getting a fourth round pick in the 2011 selection.

McFarland is a three-year veteran of the Ontario Hockey League, the first overall pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection. McFarland has tallied six goals and four assists for ten points in 12 regular season games this season, and 47 goals and 65 assists for 112 points in 134 regular season games in his OHL career. The 1992-born Richmond Hill, Ont., native has notched four goals and three assists for seven points in 10 post-season appearances with the Wolves.

McFarland was selected 33rd overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Chiarot is playing in his fourth OHL season, second with the Wolves after spending two and a half seasons with the Guelph Storm. He has posted five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 25 regular season games this season, and 15 goals and 31 assists for 46 points in his 190 regular season games in his OHL career. Chiarot has visited the post-season twice, notching three assists in four games with the Storm in the 2009 playoffs and one goal and one assists for two points in four games with the Wolves in the 2010 playoffs.

The 1991-born Hamilton, Ont., native was selected 120th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Both McFarland and Chiarot are expected to join the Spirit for this weekend’s home games against the Kingston Frontenacs tonight and the Plymouth Whalers on Sunday.

Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Denston keeping Jets loose during slump

Mike Denston may not have a letter on his jersey, but he speaks like a true leader.

He knows that there is a difference between winning and losing, but also knows that at the end of the day, hockey is just a game. Denston has been trying to exude that attitude onto his Metro Jets teammates recently as the team is stuck in a losing streak.

“I've just been trying to make sure that everyone is still having fun,” said Denston, a 19-year-old forward. “Whether it's going to team dinners or coming over to my house to play NHL (video games) or just hanging out with the team, we can't beat ourselves up too bad mentally because that's what happened last year and it wasn't fun.

“We've got to keep working hard and do as (head) coach (Jason Cirone) tells us, but we also need to have fun and not lose our heads.”

Even as it seems the Jets’ last win was eons ago, Denston feels more are just around the corner.

“You can definitely tell that we’re not happy with the way things have been going for us, but that hasn't stopped us from working harder every time we get on the ice,” Denston said. “We just have to go back to doing the things that coach has taught us and we'll start winning again.”

A native of nearby White Lake, Denston grew up following the Jets and started his junior hockey career last season with a 17-point output for his hometown team.

This season, Denston is on pace to eclipse his 2009-2010 point total. More than that, though, is the notion that Denston wants to become a better all-around player on the ice.

“I think the biggest difference this year compared to last year is how serious everyone is taking the season,” said Denston. “It seemed like last year, a lot of guys just showed up to be here. This year, we have a team that comes to the rink looking to get better whether it's a practice or game.

“I'm expecting us to finish hard and win a lot of games. We've been working very hard in practice and we just have to transfer it all to a game for the full 60 minutes and we'll be fine.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

After being off last weekend, the Jets (7-14-1-0) travel to suburban Chicago this weekend to take on the league’s top team, the Chicago Hitmen, in a two-game series Saturday and Sunday.

Game time Saturday is 5:30 p.m. EST, while Sunday’s game goes at 3:00 p.m.

Chicago is 18-5-1-0 this year and has scored an NA3HL-best 132 goals, with captain Quentin Bicknase accounting for 21 of them. In goal, Nick Clarke has fashioned an 11-1-0 record with a 1.94 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.

The Hitmen swept the Jets in a two-game set in Waterford back on Oct. 30-31.

This time, the Jets are looking for opposite results.

“I can tell you we are physically ready,” Metro captain Morgan James said. “We've worked our tails off the last two weeks prepping for these games. The mental part, which we have, is what it’s going to take to pull it off. We just need to make sure everyone brings it to Chicago.”

Metro returns home next weekend for two games with the Peoria Mustangs at Lakeland Arena. After a road game against the Flint Jr. Generals on Dec. 21, the Jets sit idle for the holiday break, next playing in Pittsburgh Jan. 8-9.

JET STREAKS

The Jets released defenseman Brennan Borowiak (Gaylord) last Saturday and forward Ryan Kelly on Tuesday and signed defenseman Will Shier (Sterling Heights) on Monday.

Borowiak had three assists in 18 games for Metro, while Kelly tallied three assists in six games.

Shier, 18, started the season in the Northern Pacific Hockey League with the Yellowstone Quake and recorded a goal and four assists in 14 games.

Defenseman Austin Shipaila (Wyoming), released by the Jets on Nov. 25, signed with Battle Creek last Friday.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Forward Dominic Osman, who played for Metro during the 1999-2000 season, is now in his fourth pro season and second with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.

After playing for the Jets, the 28-year-old Dearborn native played for the Soo Indians, Capital Centre Pride and Cleveland Barons in the North American Hockey League and then four years of Division I college hockey at Lake Superior State University.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Jacks to 'pay their fortune forward'

The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ players are very aware of how fortunate they are to play in a premier league like the United States Hockey League. That is why they are eager to pay their fortune forward next Monday and Tuesday.

After ringing bells for the Salvation Army at several locations Monday night, the Lumberjacks’ players and coaches will accompany underprivileged children from the area in shopping at the Meijer Superstore, 3267 Henry St., on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Meijer will be donating individual $100 gift cards to 25 kids, and the Jacks will help them from the time they start filling their carts until they load up the groceries to bring them home.

“What started out as a simple request to get our players out in the community has turned into an opportunity to reach out and positively impact 25 young people and their families,” Lumberjacks president Tim Taylor said. “We’re grateful for the chance to work with Meijer on such a great initiative.”

On Monday night from 7-9 p.m., the Lumberjacks will be ringing bells for the Salvation Army at numerous locations throughout the city. The players will pair up, and you can spot them at the Plumbs Market locations on Apple Avenue and West Sherman Boulevard; Kmart on Apple Avenue; the Walgreens locations on Apple Avenue, Holton Road and East Sherman Boulevard; Sam’s Club on East Sherman Boulevard; the Lakes Mall, and Walmart on Henry Street. The players will also be handing out Salvation Army pins

“When you have the given ability and opportunity to play sports and be in the public eye, there needs to be a realization that it’s about something bigger than yourself,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “You need to carry yourself and be a role model. To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Metro's Elswick finding scoring touch

Matt Elswick started this season for the Metro Jets going 17 games before scoring his first goal.

He followed that milestone up with two more goals in the next three games.

Elswick’s confidence, obviously, is peaking and he’s admitted to not gripping his stick as tightly after scoring goal No. 1 on Nov. 20 at home against Pittsburgh.

“It was definitely a huge relief to finally put the puck in the net,” said Elswick, an 18-year-old native of Gaylord. “We all talk about how we plan on celebrating our next goal, but that was the last thing on my mind at the time. I was just so overwhelmed to finally bury one.

“This has been a big jump from high school hockey – much faster, much tougher, and a lot more talent.”

Still, being put on a forward line with Justin Bennett and Mike Denston has been paying off in recent games.

“I get along with both of them really well both on and off the ice,” Elswick said. “The two of them talk to me on the ice, which is a big help to me knowing where they are.”

Looking ahead, Elswick has both short-term and long-term aspirations in mind.

“I would enjoy shooting for college hockey and be able to study and get my education as well,” noted Elswick. “I expect as a team to start winning again and make the playoffs. Personally, I would like to continue getting my points and help my team win some games and complete our goals.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets played a strong game, but fell to the Toledo Cherokee, 8-5, Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

Five different players scored for the Jets, including newcomer Bryan Marks (Milford), who scored Metro’s first goal at 15:20 of the first period.

Marks, 18, signed with Metro last Friday after starting the season in Toledo.

Elswick added a goal and an assist, while Bennett, Matt Stemkoski (Novi) and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) also scored.

Denston and Matt Stirling (Dexter) each recorded two assists and Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) finished with 35 saves in goal.

For Toledo, Cameron Rossman scored three goals and Cory Bastian had two goals and an assist in the win.

The Jets (7-14-1-0) are off idle this weekend and don't play again until Dec. 11-12 when they hit the road to play the Chicago Hitmen.

JET STREAKS

Defenseman Austin Shipaila (Wyoming) was released last Thursday. Shipaila was acquired from Pittsburgh on Oct. 15 and had one assist in 11 games with Metro … Marks tallied a goal and an assist during his 12-game stint with Toledo … Goalie Rick Ice (Sterling Heights), released by the Jets on Nov. 23, signed with Toledo two days later.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Vinny Pietrangelo, a defenseman on last year’s Metro team, is in his freshman season at Finlandia University in Hancock, Mich.

Finlandia is one of two Division III schools in Michigan with Adrian College being the other.

Pietrangelo, a Traverse City native who turns 20 on Dec. 26, leads the Lions with a plus-3 plus/minus rating and recorded his first collegiate point with an assist against Lake Forest College on Nov. 5.

Last season, Pietrangelo registered a goal and eight assists in 47 games for the Jets.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Dearborn Heights native picks Broncos

The Sioux Falls Stampede announced Wednesday that defenseman Jordan Oesterle has committed to Western Michigan University.

He becomes the ninth Stampede player to commit to a Division I program this season.

The Dearborn Heights native has tallied seven points (1g, 6a) in 16 games and is a team best plus-6 on the year.

Oesterle spent last year playing Midget Major hockey with Belle Tire in Detroit, where he recorded 58 points (8g, 50a) in 71 games.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Metal Jackets to partner with FHHA

The Motor City Metal Jackets and the Farmington Hills Hockey Association have formed a partnership called the Junior Metal Jackets of Farmington Hills.

The Metal Jackets and the executive board of the Farmington Hills Hockey Association have announced a mutual partnership starting in the spring of 2011.

The Metal Jackets are going to utilize the resources on and off the ice in their Junior A program in the NAHL to enhance the opportunity for players and parents of the FHHA. The Motor City organization will offer support at every level, including player skill development, coaching development and education on hockey fundamentals for both parents and players. The goals and philosophy of this organization align completely with those of the FHHA strengthening all aspects of their programs.

The FHHA has been a forerunner in the area youth hockey organizations for over a decade.

“We believe this partnership will enhance and strengthen the program and together, we will become a powerhouse in amateur hockey,” stated Kelly Moran, president of the Farmington Hills Hockey Association.

The FHHA has steadily declined participation in the past due to the emergence of associations to the west of that it originally drew players from, as well as to the economic recession. What the Metal Jackets have to offer in conjunction with the FHHA can only strengthen and grow the game of hockey in the area. The city of Farmington Hills and the rink management fully support this venture.

The Metal Jackets professional coaching staff will offer many benefits to the FHHA players, including a strength and conditioning coach and guidelines to ensure the kid's development at the right age, off-ice training guides to develop skills, coaching development at all levels to ensure players and coaches are receiving proper training, and weekly skills development sessions.

“Our program at the Junior A level is developed on the endurance of skating like the Japanese, the skill development of the Europeans, and the aggressive play of the United States and Canada," said Metal Jackets owner Kenji Yamada. "We would like to bring this same philosophy to the youth association and develop these young players while having fun each and every time they hit the ice.”

The partnership will create a path of opportunity from Tim Bits through House, Travel and possibly AAA (with the affiliate Jr Metal Jackets Grizzlies who play in the North American Prospects Hockey League) and Junior A that no other youth organization in the area will be able to offer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jets' Burns looking for college chance

Tommy Burns has been in this situation before.

As a 20-year-old playing for the Metro Jets, Burns is fast approaching the end of his junior hockey eligibility.

Two years ago after playing for Pinckney High School, Burns came down with mononucleosis and was forced to take a year off of hockey.

Was that the end of his hockey career? Nope. And he hopes to still be playing the sport he loves this time next season.

“It killed me thinking that that could have been my last year playing competitively,” said Burns. “Before the start of this season, I decided I was going to lace back up the skates in hopes of continuing my hockey career, which I am doing right now. I hope to continue next year playing for a university.”

This year with the Jets, Burns is among the team’s top scorers with nine goals and 20 points in 19 games in Waterford. He started the season in Flint and after one game with the Jr. Generals was acquired by the Jets.

“We had known about Burnsy for a few years and knew he had a decent scoring touch,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “He’s been playing well on a line with Brett Grech and it’s my hope we’ll be seeing both of them move on to the next level next year.”

“All throughout my hockey career I've always been a leader in the points colum,” noted Burns. “I love scoring goals, but making a nice play to get an assist is also a huge part of my game.

"When I came to the Jets after the start of the season, I was a little nervious and I moved through a few lines, but when I got paired up with Grech, there was instent chemistry. I have never been so in sync with a linemate like him. It seems like no matter where we are on the ice, we can find each other.”

And while Metro is currently looking to battle out of a losing skid, Burns feels a little offense from him, as well as others, can help end the slump.

”We have great chemisty as a team and I feel we are about to break through this slump at anytime now,” Burns explained. “As long as we start playing our game and believing in the system, we will turn our record right around.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets took a single point last weekend with an overtime loss and a regulation loss at Lakeland Arena to the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins.

Saturday night, Charles Williams' goal 48 seconds into the extra session won it for Pittsburgh, 3-2, after Dan Hudson (Gregory) had tied the game at 2-all 16:53 into the second period.

Matt Elswick (Gaylord) scored the first goal for the Jets (also his first of the season), while Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) made 32 saves in goal.

Sunday afternoon, Matt Stemkoski (Novi), acquired last week from Toledo, scored his first goal in a Metro uniform in an 11-3 defeat.

Matt Stirling (Dexter) and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) added the other goals for the Jets, Mike Moroso (Macomb) tacked on a pair of assists and Trunick finished with 33 stops.

Then Wednesday night in Flint, the Jets suffered a 6-2 defeat to the Jr. Generals.

Elswick and Burns tallied for Metro and Matt Braun made 44 saves. Newcomer Jake Schlacht (Allen Park) assisted on both goals from the blue line in his Jets’ debut after signing with the team earlier this week.

Metro (7-13-1-0) plays at home next Sunday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. against Toledo.

JET STREAKS

Schlacht started the season in the NAHL with Port Huron, going pointless in two games with 11 penalty minutes, before signing with Toledo where he had four assists and 45 penalty minutes in 12 games with the Cherokee. The 19-year-old Schlacht was released by Toledo last Thursday.

The Jets also acquired defenseman Jordan Jones (Toledo, Ohio) from the Cherokee on Tuesday. Jones had two assists in nine games with Toledothis season and also made his Jets debut Wednesday night in Flint.

In other transactions, defenseman Brian O’Loughlin (Franklin, Tenn.) was released Sunday and goalie Rick Ice (Sterling Heights) was released Tuesday. O’Loughlin had one goal in 12 games with the Jets, while Ice did not see any game action for Metro.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Ex-Jets defenseman Ian Cosgrove (2006-2007) is now in his sophomore season at Division III Fredonia State University and has two assists in eight games thus far for the Blue Devils.

Cosgrove appeared in 13 regular season games for the Jets in ’06-07, amassing eight points on three goals and five assists. He also went pointless in the Jets' two playoff games that spring.

In 2008-2009, the Rochester native recorded five goals and 18 assists for 23 points with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fakler hired to guide Jr. K-Wings

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings announced the hiring of Marc Fakler as general manager and head coach Monday evening.

Fakler, who is currently the associate director of hockey operations/director of player advancement and Bantam Major head coach for the West Michigan Hounds AAA Hockey Club, is no stranger to bench.

For four seasons, Fakler served as assistant coach for Western Michigan University (2006-10) and served for two seasons (2004-06) as an assistant coach for Robert Morris University.

With Robert Morris, Fakler was the team’s academic and recruiting coordinator and helped his players earn a collective GPA of 3.1 or above in every semester he was on the staff. Fakler was also responsible for recruiting the leading scorer in history of Robert Morris (Chris Margott).

“We wanted to bring in a general manager and head coach that could handle more than the x’s and o’s” said Paul L. Pickard, president of Stadium Management Co. “The organization received hundreds of resumes and Marc’s philosophy, understanding of what it will take to get players to the collegiate level made him the perfect choice.”

As general manager/head coach, Fakler will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Jr. K-Wings, including recruiting.

“I am very excited for this opportunity and look forward to reestablishing the Jr. K-Wings tradition,” said Fakler. “Living in southwest Michigan for several years, I know what hockey means to the area and I know the impact of what this program will have not only to our fans about the players that we can bring in to compete for a championship and to get them on a path to reach the collegiate level.”

Getting adjusted to junior hockey won’t be an issue with Fakler. During the 2001-02 Fakler was assistant general manager and assistant coach for the Compuware Ambassadors of the NAHL. Under Fakler’s tutelage, the Ambassadors captured the NAHL regular season crown, the Robertson Cup (playoff championship) and the Junior A national championship.

The last time southwest Michigan had a junior program of its own was 1988-94. During the 1988-89 season, the team was named the West Michigan Wolves. Following the completion of their inaugural season, the Wolves donned the moniker of the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings because the K-Wings brand is interwoven into the fabric of the community of southwest Michigan.

Pickard was the owner, general manager and head coach of the original Jr. K-Wings team that was also a member of the NAHL. Under the direction of Pickard, the Jr. K-Wings in their six-year existence (1988-94) earned a record of 137-86-25-1-0 and hoisted the Robertson Cup on two separate occasions (1991, 1993).

Even more impressive than the two championships, the original Jr. K-Wings’ developed over 50 players for Division I hockey and three NHL draftees in the six seasons they were in the NAHL.

The Jr. K-Wings will begin play in the 27-team NAHL next September and are the fifth NAHL team to call Michigan home, joining the Michigan Warriors (Flint), Motor City Metal Jackets (Trenton), Port Huron Fighting Falcons and Traverse City North Stars.

The Marc Fakler File

Coaching Background
Assistant Coach, Western Michigan University (CCHA) – NCAA Division I
Assistant Coach, Robert Morris University (CHA) - NCAA Division I
Assistant Coach, Wayne State University (CHA) – NCAA Division I
Assistant General Manager/Assistant Coach, Compuware Ambassadors (NAHL)
Assistant Coach, Grand Rapids Owls (CSHL) – Junior B

Additional Coaching Experience
2005, 2009, Coach, USA Hockey Select 16 Festival
2006-2008, Coach, USA Hockey Select 17 Festival
2004, Head Coach, Team Michigan – Select 16 Festival
2004-2006, Coaching Director, Arctic Foxes Youth Hockey (Pittsburgh)

Coaching Highlights
*2002 USA Junior A National Champions
*2002 NAHL Playoff Championship
*2002 NAHL Regular Season Championship
*2003 College Hockey America League Playoff Champions
*2003 NCAA Tournament Qualifier
*Recruited the leading scorer in Robert Morris University NCAA Division I hockey history

Playing Background
*Participant on Western Michigan University NCAA Division I roster
*Played junior hockey for the Danville Wings and Grand Rapids Bear Cats (NAHL) and Petrolia (Ontario) Jets (WOJHL)
*Played Midget AAA for Detroit Compuware

Noteworthy
During the summer of 2009, Fakler was a speaker at the National Hockey Coaches Symposium, which educates coaches seeking USA Hockey’s highest level of coaching certification. Fakler spoke to coaches from across the nation along with presentations from several current and former National Hockey League coaches and general managers, including Ron Wilson and Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs, John Tortorella of the New York Rangers and Peter Laviolette, formerly of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jr. K-Wings to announce GM/coach

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings will be announcing the hiring of their general manager and head coach tonight at 7 p.m. during K-Wings Live, presented by Miller Lite at Center Ice Sports Bar, located inside of Wings West, at 5076 Sports Drive in Kalamazoo.

The announcement will occur at the start of the show and the hired general manager and head coach will be on hand for the announcement.

The Jr. K-Wings will begin play in the 27-team NAHL starting next September.

Lumberjacks focus on the fans

The Muskegon Lumberjacks are pumping up the volume for their fans in many ways – some more literal than others.

The organization, in its inaugural season in the United States Hockey League, has paid close attention to the fans’ suggestions, and has already made great strides in order to make Lumberjacks games the premier entertainment option on the Lakeshore.

After an immense upgrade of the L.C. Walker Arena’s sound system during the offseason, the Lumberjacks have further enhanced it, adding thunderous subwoofers while maintaining clarity.

But that’s just the audio. The Lumberjacks have also expanded their brand-new video board’s capabilities. The jumbotron now boasts replay capability so that fans can get another look at the Lumberjacks’ prettiest goals and their most bone-crushing body checks.

Frontier Communications has been brought aboard and is implementing arena-wide Wi-Fi that can be accessed for free by all visitors of the arena.

For the fans’ convenience, six new credit card terminals have been added to the arena’s concession stands this season. After just one stand accepted credit cards last season, all three large stands – the Lumberjacks Café, Fury Café and Walker Café – all three permanent bars and the ice cream stand are plastic-friendly.

The Lumberjacks are proud to play a role in the development of great hockey players. But the organization also takes utmost pride in the best fans in the USHL, and wants to make sure they’re also the most entertained fans around.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bennett more than points for Jets

Justin Bennett
found instant chemistry on his forward line with Mike Denston for a number of reasons.

Though the line for the Metro Jets needed a bit of time to gel, once that happened, it’s been smooth sailing.

“Any time you have new guys from different systems thrown together, there is a rocky start, but me and Denny have picked up each other’s playing styles and know where the other is going to be on the ice at all times,” said Bennett, a native of Brighton. “Plus, Denny and Benny (each of their nicknames) rhyme.”

With just two goals and seven points thus far, Bennett, who turns 20 the day after Christmas, is more than just points for the Jets.

“Benny is a great leader for us and it was an easy decision when the coaches picked the captains before the season started,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “He’s also been improving in his own end of the rink.”

An assistant captain, Bennett said when he was given the ‘A’ it was a bit of a shock at first.

“I was happily surprised to be named a captain of the Jets,” Bennett said. “I had only been a captain before and never an assistant, but I was eager to take on the role. As a leader, my job is to not show panic and to not overextend my role – just lead by example and the rest will fall into place.

After playing last season for a community college in New York, Bennett left school in search of finding a team to play for in his last year of junior eligibility.

Enter veteran Jets forward Brett Grech.

”I knew about the Jets through Grechy, a longtime pal of mine, who lured me here after things went sour with college,” said Bennett. “I’m glad he did that for me.”

Wolfe is glad, too.

“I know Justin wants to play Division III hockey next year and he certainly has the talent to do so,” said Wolfe. “I believe coming here will get him the exposure he needs to reach that goal.”


LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets (7-11-0-0) had last weekend off, but host the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins at Lakeland Arena this weekend for a pair of games.

Game time Saturday night is 7:50 p.m. with a 1:20 p.m. matinee scheduled for Sunday.

“We are fighting to get back to .500, move up in the standings and start a new win streak,” said Metro captain Mike Corder. “Getting all four points is the expectation. I also expect that we will not let up in the games, even for one shift. I expect us to limit their scoring chances. I expect us to throw everything we have at Pittsburgh and then to throw more. Coach (Jason) Cirone expects a lot from the team, the team expects a lot from itself, and I expect a lot from the team.”

Pittsburgh, in just its second season in the NA3HL, won all four meetings last season against the Jets.

“This slump shouldn't continue with all the talent we have,” added Bennett. “We need to just crack down defensively and bury on our opportunities.”


JET STREAKS

Metro acquired defenseman Matt Stemkoski from the Toledo Cherokee last week and the 18-year-old Novi native is expected to make his Jets debut this weekend. Stemkoski had a goal and four assists in 14 games this year in Toledo … Goalie Allan Dowler, released by the Jets last month, was added to the roster of the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution Thursday.


WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Tyler Sims, a goalie on the 2002-2003 Metro team, is now in his third pro season and first with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.

Sims, 25, also played four years at Providence College from 2004-2008 and one season in the North American Hockey League with the Youngstown Phantoms in 2003-2004.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Monday, November 15, 2010

Team USA wins World Junior A Challenge

The U.S. Junior Select Team erased a three-goal deficit en route to a 6-4 victory over Canada East in the championship game of the 2010 World Junior A Challenge on Sunday.

The win gave Team USA its third straight World Junior A Challenge title.

Austin Czarnik (Washington) scored a pair of goals, including the game-tying third-period tally, while Jimmy Mullin netted the game-winning goal with just three minutes remaining to complete the U.S. comeback.

"Our goal for the entire tournament was to 'climb the mountain,'" said P.K. O'Handley, head coach of the U.S. Junior Select Team. "We were naturally concerned, down 4-1. But we stuck with our plan and came out on top. This was one of my best hockey experiences of my coaching career."

After Canada East took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the contest, Team USA knotted the score four minutes later on the power play. Seth Ambroz parked in front of the Canadian net and connected off of a centering feed from Max McCormick. But Canada East notched a power-play goal of its own to take a 2-1 lead after one period.

Canada East extended its lead to 4-1 with a pair of quick backhand goals in the first five minutes of the middle frame. But Team USA responded with two late second-period goals. Sam Warning redirected a Brian Cooper slap shot for his second goal of the tournament at 15:01 of the second.

Then, with just one minute remaining in the period, Czarnik fired a quick snap shot over the glove of Canada East goalie Jordan Ruby to cut the Canada East lead to 4-3 after two.

After 15 scoreless minutes in the third period, Team USA erupted with three goals in less than four minutes. Czarnik potted his second of the night with another high, hard shot from the slot. Then, just 40 seconds later, Mullin chipped his tournament-leading sixth goal between Ruby and the near post to give the U.S. its first lead of the game, 5-4.

Michael Parks' empty-net goal sealed the victory for Team USA.

U.S. goalie Casey DeSmith, who replaced starter Zane Gothberg early in the second period, stopped all eight shots he faced in the win.

Meanwhile, Ruby made 37 saves in the loss.

NOTES: Austin Czarnik was named Team USA's player of the game ... The U.S. was 1-for-4 on the power play, while Canada East went 1-for-5 with the man advantage ... Scott Mayfield and Jimmy Mullin were named to the tournament all-star team. Mayfield was also named the most valuable player of the tournament.

Friday, November 12, 2010

North Stars make roster changes

The Traverse City North Stars made some adjustments to their roster this week, bringing in forward Sean Murphy in a trade with Austin and signing Traverse City West defenseman Chris Dienes. That tandem replaces blueliner Trevor Campbell, who was dealt to Topeka, and forward Taylor Burden, who secured his release from the club.

Traverse City sent future considerations to Austin for Murphy, who had a trio of assists through 12 games for the first-year Bruins. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound winger hails from Cary, N.C., and was also previously a protected player of the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. Murphy previously played for the Russell Stover midget major program.

Dienes, a rugged defenseman who wowed coaches during the Stars’ summer camp circuit, led TC West to a fourth straight Big North Conference championship last season and a berth in the state semifinals after claiming the school’s first-ever regional title.

Campbell went to intradivisional rival Topeka, which puts the Kansas City product close to home. He had nine assists over 16 contests for Traverse City, with 14 penalty minutes and an even plus-minus rating.

Burden, the North Stars’ top draft pick in 2009, played in 13 games this season, amassing five goals and two assists.

Traverse City (9-6-1) travels to Springfield on Friday for a pair of games with the Jr. Blues before returning home for a big three-game series against North Division-leading St. Louis on Nov. 19-21 at Centre ICE Arena. That series, dubbed ‘North Stars Never Forget,’ will honor past and present members of the U.S. Military, with the Stars sporting special camouflage jerseys that will be auctioned off. Proceeds benefit the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Memorial and Assistance Fund.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Seven 'Jacks to sign NCAA letters

This evening, several of the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ skaters will put pen to paper on National Signing Day.

Matt Berry, Matt DeBlouw, Travis Walsh, Alexx Privitera, Sebastien Gingras, Mike Conderman and Brendan Woods will all be at the Muskegon Athletic Club, 333 West Western Ave., at 6 p.m. to sign their National Letters of Intent and officially commit to their respective colleges or universities.

Berry, DeBlouw and Walsh will all be committing to Michigan State University. Privitera is committing to Boston University, Gingras to the University of Maine, Conderman to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and Woods to the University of Wisconsin.

Tonight’s event at the M.A.C. is a public one.

Czechs to play Michigan NAHL squads

The North American Hockey League will take on a bit of an international flavor over the next week as three clubs from the North Division will host exhibition games against the Czech Republic’s Under-18 National Team.

The Czechs’ first NAHL stop will be this Thursday when they take on the Motor City Metal Jackets at the Troy Sports Center in Troy (7 p.m. local time).

The Metal Jackets will face off against the Czechs again on Tuesday, Nov. 16 (7 p.m.) at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Trenton.

“It’s a privilege to host a world-class national team,” said Metal Jackets head coach David Cole. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity; it’ll be a positive hockey experience for our organization, our players and our community.”

Between its games against Motor City, the Czech National Team will visit McMorran Arena on Saturday to play the Port Huron Fighting Falcons (7:11 p.m.) followed by a trip to Flint’s Perani Arena on Sunday to take on the Michigan Warriors (2 p.m.).

Both teams are looking forward to the opportunity to face off against world-class competition.

“Our players are very excited and thrilled about playing a European national team like the Czechs,” said Fighting Falcons head coach Ernie Hicke. “Just the experience of playing them is something they’ll remember forever.”

“As a player and coach who took part in many international competitions with USA Hockey, it's always been exciting to play European teams just because of the talent, skating and puckhandling skills they bring to the game,” said Warriors head coach Moe Mantha.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Matyaszek playing 'fearless' for Jets

To have a successful hockey team, each player has to accept and produce in their designated roles.

The Metro Jets are no exception.

Take Joe Matyaszek, for example. The diminutive forward won’t score 30 goals or look like Pavel Datsyuk on the ice, but if the Jets are looking sluggish, it’s a given Matyaszek will come over the boards to instill some energy and life into the team.

“I like to keep everyone going and bring life to the bench,” said Matyaszek, an 18-year-old Taylor native. “It’s a role I’m happy with because every team needs a guy like that on the team to keep everyone going if they’re down.”

“He’s our little Morgan,” Metro associate coach Jamie Hayden said, comparing the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Matyaszek to 6-foot-4, 235-pound teammate Morgan James. “Joey is fearless. If we need a spark, he’s who we want out there. He goes into the dirty areas of the ice and if he gets hit, he’s right back up. Definitely a kid that can really put a spark into our guys.”

This past weekend, Matyaszek’s hard, gritty work resulted in his first goal of the season.

“My goal was a give-and-go from (Mike) Moroso and (Matt) Stirling was screening the goalie,” Matyaszek (pronounced MADDA-zack) explained. “I took it around the top of the slot and took a shot on my back hand and scored. Coach Jason (Cirone) gave the puck to me after the game.”

After playing high school hockey last season for Taylor Unified, Matyaszek was unsure of where he would land this season, but knew he wanted to continue playing.

”I heard about the Jets from a friend because I was also trying out for another CSHL (now North American 3 Hockey League) team with him and did not make it,” explained Matyaszek. “Then I heard the Jets were looking for players, so I came here and found my home.”

Matyaszek said that his long-team goals in hockey are to move up to the North American Hockey League and hopefully, college hockey.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

Metro hosted the defending Tier III Junior A national champion Jr. Blues last weekend and came away with two notches in the loss column.

Tommy Burns (Pinckney) scored both Jets’ goals Saturday night in a 6-2 defeat, while Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) and Matt Braun combined for 19 saves in goal.

Brett Grech (Hartland) assisted on both goals and newcomer Ryan Kelly earned a helper on one for his first point with the Jets since being signed last week.

Sunday afternoon, Matyaszek scored the game’s first goal 3:08 into the first period, only to see St. Louis tally the next four, including a late empty-netter, and take the game by a 4-1 count.

Braun finished with 23 stops in the loss.

“(Sunday’s game) was 2-1 up until about three minutes to play,” Hayden said. “We have shown that we can definitely play with some of the top teams in this league. St. Louis might be third or fourth right now, but they are the defending champions until someone knocks them off. It was nice seeing Joe get his first goal, though.

“We have two weeks off now and I think we’ll be getting back to basics at practice, refining some things before we get back at it and bring in Pittsburgh.”

The Jets (7-11-0-0) host the Jr. Penguins at Lakeland Arena on Nov. 20-21.

JET STREAKS

The Jets signed goalie Rick Ice and added him to the active roster last Friday.

Ice, an 18-year-old from Sterling Heights, started the season with the Toledo Cherokee before being released on Sept. 23.

His only action for Toledo came on Sept. 19 when he started and made eight saves on 12 shots before being pulled 2:57 into the second period in a game the Cherokee would go on to win 11-5 on the road against the Michigan Mountain Cats.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Former Metro forward Brad Townsend, who played for the Jets during the 2005-2006 season, signed with the Lapeer Loggers of the All American Hockey League and made his season debut last weekend, scoring a goal on Friday night against the Indiana Blizzard.

After his season with the Jets, Townsend, 23, played for the Pembroke (Ont.) Lumber Kings in the Central Junior Hockey League and then two years ago, played in the now-defunct International Hockey League with the since-folded Flint Generals.

Townsend, from Davisburg, also had stops with the Indiana Ice Miners of the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (now AAHL) and Chi-Town Shooters of the All American Hockey Association, also now known as the AAHL.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Friday, November 05, 2010

Muskegon radio show set for Monday

Two Muskegon Lumberjacks forwards will make their debut on Monday night’s weekly radio show, “Breaking Out the Lumberjacks.”

Mike Conderman, a Rochester, N.Y., native who will play college hockey at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, scored his first goal of the 2010-11 United States Hockey League season during the Jacks’ 7-1 loss to Waterloo at the L.C. Walker Arena last Saturday.

Travis Belohrad joined the Jacks mere days before the season opened. The Brighton, Colo., native has scored two goals on the season and an even plus/minus rating in six games.

The Monday night radio show airs on 97.5 FM The Champ from 6-7 p.m. Each week’s show is re-broadcast from 9-10 a.m. the following Saturday morning. As always, the show will be hosted by the voice of the Jacks, Christopher Heimerman, and will feature an appearance by Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick. There will be giveaways and the floor will be opened for fans to ask questions of all the guests.

There will be a drawing on Monday, Nov. 22 for a free round trip on the S.S. Badger for two adults and two children. Fans can fill out an enter-to-win form at each radio show leading up.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Kalamazoo to join NAHL in '11-12

The North American Hockey League has announced that its Board of Governors has accepted the membership application for an expansion team in Kalamazoo.

The team, which will be named the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings, will begin play for the 2011-12 season and play its games out of the 1,500-seat Wings West facility.

“The Kalamazoo market is an exciting addition to our league, given our already-strong presence in Michigan and the community’s passion and support for hockey across the local spectrum,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “That, coupled with an experienced ownership group committed to growing the sport of hockey and the success of aspiring student-athletes hoping to reach the collegiate and professional ranks, offers so much potential, on and off the ice.”

William D. Johnston, president, director and chairman of Greenleaf Companies, a hospitality group that owns and operates the Stadium Management Company, owns the team. His enterprise includes the Wings Stadium Complex, which is comprised of three facilities, including Wings West, and five sheets of ice, as well as the Kalamazoo Wings’ minor-professional hockey team that plays in the ECHL.

Paul L. Pickard, the ECHL team’s president and governor, will also serve as the Jr. K-Wings’ president. He is also president of Wings Stadium, home of the ECHL team, and Wings West.

The original owner, general manager and head coach of the original Jr. K-Wings team that played in the NAHL from 1988-94, Pickard was an All-CCHA defenseman at Ferris State University before playing two seasons of professional hockey, including time in Kalamazoo with the International Hockey League’s Wings from 1981-83.

Pickard boasts an extensive coaching and executive resume at both the junior and professional levels, having worked for teams in various capacities in the American Hockey League, ECHL, IHL United Hockey League and United States Hockey League, in addition to the NAHL.

He also served as president, commissioner and chief operating officer of the IHL from 2007-09.

“We’re excited to reunite with the NAHL,” said Pickard. “The league has done an outstanding job of emphasizing the importance of education, and bringing the Jr. K-Wings back gives local players who are talented enough an opportunity to use the NAHL as a steppingstone to Division I college hockey.”

The Jr. K-Wings are the fifth NAHL team to call Michigan home, joining the Michigan Warriors (Flint), Motor City Metal Jackets (Trenton), Port Huron Fighting Falcons and Traverse City North Stars.

Not only does Kalamazoo hold a strong tradition of professional hockey - the K-Wings, in various leagues, have played at Wings Stadium since 1974 - it also has a long and storied history in the NAHL. During the original Jr. K-Wings’ existence, the team won two Robertson Cup championships (1991, 1993) while developing over 50 players for Division I hockey.

One of its graduates, Mike Knuble, played four years at the University of Michigan before embarking on a lengthy career in the NHL. He’s currently in his second season with the Washington Capitals.

In addition, Adam Hall, a Kalamazoo native now playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, skated in the NAHL as a member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program during the 1997-98 season.

“It’s no secret that the state of Michigan has been one - if not the top - developers of collegiate and professional talents in the country, and Kalamazoo has certainly experienced its fair share of success,” said Frankenfeld. “Given the NAHL’s commitment to development and exposure to the higher levels, we have little doubt the region will groom even more elite players the American hockey community will hear from for years to come.”

With its close proximity to dozens of other NCAA and junior programs, Kalamazoo, home to Western Michigan University, which ices a team in the CCHA, as well as the West Michigan Hounds, a AAA youth program, offers simple logistical access for coaches and scouts, which adds to the Jr. K-Wings’ appeal in terms of exposure.

“There are so many top-end college hockey programs, not to mention the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, right in Kalamazoo’s backyard,” said Frankenfeld. “As a league, that’s a key element to our model and one the Jr. K-Wings have instantly accomplished given their desirable location.”

“This team will identify our company’s commitment to being a model community in the United States,” Pickard added.

NAHL takes over CSHL, renamed NA3HL

The North American Hockey League (NAHL) has announced that it has assumed operations of the Tier III Junior A Central States Hockey League (CSHL), effective November 1, 2010.

The league, which will restructure to serve as the top training ground in the country by providing the best coaching, exposure and developmental vehicles available for student-athletes in the Tier III Junior A category, will be renamed the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL).

“Our mission, as a league, has always been generate more avenues for all players as they pursue their dreams on the ice and in the classroom, and the creation of the NA3HL, in cooperation with the CSHL and its member clubs, helps foster that initiative,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “For years, the CSHL has undeniably operated as one of the top Tier III leagues in the country, and we’re looking forward to bringing its strong history of development to a new level.”

Rest of the NAHL press release HERE.

Moroso an offensive force for Metro

Mike Moroso
wants to be a difference-maker on the ice and so far this season, he’s been just that for the Metro Jets.

His 11 goals lead the team and of those 11, four have been scored shorthanded – good for tops in the Central States Hockey League.

Needless to say, Moroso is a scoring threat in any situation.

“I've generally always been able to put up points,” said Moroso, a 19-year-old from Macomb. “Sometimes I have slumps, but I feel it happens to the best of players. It feels great to be a go-to guy for the team. There isn't anything much better than having teammates rely on you in certain situations.

“Before coming to the Jets, I didn't know much about the league, but I knew the team hadn't had a lot of success the past few years and I wanted to come in and try and change that.”

Playing on a line mostly with Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) and Matt Stirling (Dexter) and sometimes Joe Matyaszek (Taylor), Moroso gave credit to his linemates for his burst of offensive output.

”There was instant chemistry with our line,” explained Moroso. “Me and Stirling always seem to find each other on the ice and having Kilgore or Joe on our line adds some firepower.”

Moroso’s 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) are second on Metro only to Brett Grech’s (Hartland) nine goals and 20 points.

Jets’ assistant coach Pete Flynn coached Moroso a few years ago at the bantam level and knew then that Moroso would be a solid junior-level player.

“I coached Mike with the Michigan Jaguars and he was a good offensive player even back then 3-4 years ago,” said Flynn. “He had a lot of speed and good hands and one of those guys that tend to find the back of the net and put the points away. You can see by his stats this year that he has an eye for those types of opportunities.”

After this season, Moroso will have one more year of junior eligibility. Looking towards the future never escapes the back of his mind as Moroso wants to keep playing hockey as long as possible.

”I really want to try to make it to the pro level or at least play at a high college level,” Moroso said. “Playing pro hockey has been a dream for me since I first laced up the skates.”

As long as Moroso keeps the momentum going with the Jets, it’s hard to imagine a future opportunity not presenting itself for the goal-scoring forward.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets, after winning five straight games, have now lost five in a row after getting swept in a two-game series by the Chicago Hitmen over the weekend at Lakeland Arena.

However, the first game of the series wound up being forfeited by the Hitmen when it was ruled they played the game with an ineligible player.

Saturday night, Cameron Bazin (Troy) scored the Jets' lone goal in a 7-1 loss.

Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) made 26 saves in goal.

Then Sunday afternoon, the Jets came from behind to tie the game twice, but gave up two late goals in the third period to suffer a 6-4 defeat.

Moroso, Stirling, Tommy Burns (Pinckney) and Grech scored Metro's goals, while Mike Denston (White Lake) tacked on a pair of assists.

In net, Matt Braun finished with 36 saves.

"We started out slow, got it going in the second, and then both teams got into some penalty trouble in the third period," Flynn said. "(Chicago's) special teams proved to be the difference (Sunday)."

This weekend, the Jets (7-9-0-0) play just one game, Sunday afternoon at home against the defending Tier III Junior A national champion St. Louis Jr. Blues. Game time is set for 1:20 p.m.

St. Louis, 9-4-0-0 on the season, is led by forwards Ryan Hogland (six goals, 15 points), Jamie Demarco (four goals, 12 points) and Bo Eastman (seven goals) and defenseman Joe Bowler (goal, six points). Mitch Fernsler and Justin Davis have shared time in goal with Fernsler earning five wins and Davis the other four.

Every St. Louis player has at least one point this season, save for the two goalies.

After last season, longtime head coach Jack Behan stepped down and handed the reins to former Jr. Blues player J.P. Beilsten.

JET STREAKS

Goaltender Alfonse Kolis (Howell) was released late last week. He had not seen any game action this season … Forward Ryan Kelly (Wilton Manor, Fla.) signed with the Jets on Monday. The 19-year-old had played three games in the NAHL this season – two to start the season with Wichita Falls and then one with Port Huron before being released on Oct. 18. Last season, Kelly played for the Victory Honda midget major team … Defenseman Jordan Reames (Essexville) is day-to-day with a separated shoulder suffered last Sunday … Braun is the first New Jersey native to play for the Jets since defenseman Lou Licari (Red Bank) and forward Mick Kolbasowski (Manalapan) played at the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Former Jets’ defenseman Steve Oleksy (2004-2005) is now in his second full pro season and has one assist in seven games thus far with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads.

After playing for the Jets, Oleksy, a 24-year-old from Chesterfield, played for the NAHL’s Traverse City North Stars and then three years at Lake Superior State University. He split last season between the IHL’s Port Huron Icehawks and the Steelheads.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images