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.”


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.


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.


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

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.”


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

U.S. military to be honored in Muskegon

It’s only appropriate that Team USA’s Under-18 team will be visiting the L.C. Walker Arena Saturday night to take on the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

While the Lumberjacks try to upend their Eastern Conference rival from Ann Arbor, the Jacks’ organization will pay tribute to those who have served, or currently serve, in the United States Armed Forces. Branches of the military will be present at Saturday night’s game and the first 1,000 fans will receive mini-flags. The doors will open at 6:15 p.m. and the puck will drop at 7:15 p.m.

Anyone with a military ID can purchase tickets for $10, with $1 going to Muskegon’s Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

For tickets, call (231) 726-3879, or visit the L.C. Arena box office.

Warriors raise money for Komen

Last Friday, the Michigan Warriors held their annual breast cancer awareness game, playing host to the Motor City Metal Jackets in front of an excited crowd of 1,742 hockey fans at Perani Arena in Flint.

The Warriors won the game on the ice and then made a successful contribution off it. During the game against the Metal Jackets, the Warriors wore special pink jerseys that were later auctioned off to fans in attendance at the game. Proceeds from the auction, as well as from ticket sales from the game, will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness. Also during the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the globe, Warriors players used pink tape on their sticks during the teams games to show support for breast cancer awareness.

The Warriors partnered with the JB Austin companies, which made a $6 donation per game for each Warriors player who used pink tape on their sticks for each game in October, to help raise money and awareness to fight the battle against breast cancer.

"We'd like to thank all the fans who attended the game, and especially those who stayed after and attended the jersey auction, which was held on the ice after the game," said Warriors head coach and general manager Moe Mantha. "We're already making plans for next season’s breast cancer event to be even more successful and spectacular."

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Zwartynski hired to run Muskegon biz

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced the hiring of Mark Andrew Zwartynski as the team’s general manager of business operations.

Zwartynski, a Perth Amboy, N.J., native, brings a wealth of knowledge to the Jacks during their inaugural season in the United States Hockey League. His experience includes a 13-year stint from 1982-1995 as the Indiana Pacers’ director of marketing, ticket sales and game operations. The following season he served as the senior vice president of business operations for the Milwaukee Admirals, then of the International Hockey League. From 1997-200, Zwartynski was vice president of ticket sales, administration and technology for the Dallas Mavericks. He was also involved in the development of and funding strategy for the American Airlines Center and introduced owner Ross Perot, Jr., to Mark Cuban for the sale of the Dallas Mavericks.

“We’re very fortunate as an organization to have someone like Mark Andrew in our presence,” Lumberjacks president Tim Taylor said. “His impact was immediately felt on day one and his experience and tutelage will help everyone in this organization to become top flight professionals.”

Zwartysnki tandemed with Dale Ratermann to write the book “Two on the Aisle: How to Get Tickets to Any Event, Anytime, Anywhere,” and was an investor in the Grand Haven Golf Club, as well as Traditions Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., its golf learning center and a 120-unit gated residential community.

In 2000, Zwartynski established the Mark Andrew Group to share with a broad range of clients his experience in sports marketing and sports management. Mark Andrew is particularly proud of having recruited, hired, and trained so many people who have gone on to senior management positions in advertising, marketing, sports management, and finance.

Zwartysnki and his wife, Maritta Wagner Zwartynski, have two daughters, Andréa and Sarah, who are both gifted golfers. MAZ, as he’s affectionately known in the industry, graduated from St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J. Following his graduation from St. Joseph's College of Indiana, Mark Andrew established Southern Cross Productions, a concert and event promotions company.

'Jacks raise $3000 for cancer charities

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced that Saturday night’s Pink the Rink Night resulted in more than $3,000 being raised for the Johnson Family Center for Cancer Care and the Feed America Local Food Truck.

The Jacks’ players wore pink jerseys during Saturday’s game against the Waterloo Black Hawks and the team held a jersey auction afterward. All of the money raised during the auction, as well as a portion of the profit from every commemorative pink T-Shirt sold, totaled $2,563.80, and will be donated to the Johnson Family Center for Cancer Care. Also, a portion of the T-Shirt profits is being donated to the Feed American Local Food Truck, which will receive $248.80 from the Lumberjacks.

The Shoreline Inn’s restaurant, The Lake House, teamed up with the Jacks for the promotion, donating $2 for every meal purchased on Friday and Saturday, and raised $380. A grand total of $3,192.60 was raised as a result of Pink the Rink Night.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Whalers' Rakell wants spot with Sweden

Plymouth Whalers right wing Rickard Rakell continues to score goals and acquire frequent flyer miles.

Rakell – 17 years old and from Sollentuna, Sweden – has received an invitation to try out for Team Sweden for the upcoming 2011 World Junior Championship, which will be played on December 26-January 5 in Buffalo, N.Y.

Rakell will be playing in exhibition games starting tonight (Monday, November 1) against Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Sweden will also play Merrimack College on Tuesday, Williams College on Friday, and UMass Amherst on Saturday. Rakell will rejoin the Whalers for their game in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday.

Skating this season as a rookie in Plymouth, Rakell has played on the Whalers top two lines all season long and has five goals with eight assists for 13 points in 15 games. He scored the game-winning goal on Saturday with 41 seconds remaining in the Whalers’ dramatic come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Sault Ste. Marie at Compuware Arena.

Rakell plays with skill, but at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, he also plays with a certain amount of grit.

“90-percent of the goals are scored in front of the net”, Rakell said Saturday after scoring his game-winning goal. “I don’t have a problem crashing the net if that’s what I have to do.”

If Rakell makes Team Sweden, he’ll be the first member of the Whalers ever to represent Sweden in the World Junior Championship in the team’s 21-year history.