Saturday, January 30, 2010
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Scurfield, an 18-year-old Midland native, has played in 39 games with Flint, scoring 15 goals and 30 assists to sit second in team scoring.
"Nate sees the ice very well and is a very strong skater," said Jr. Generals coach George Dritsas. "Nate should do well at the next level."
Nate's older brother, Brad, also played two seasons for the Jr. Generals and is now playing for D-III Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Chicago Steel announced this week that forward Greg Wolfe has committed to Western Michigan University and will attend the school beginning in the fall of 2010.
The 19-year-old native of Canton ranks third on the Steel in scoring with 30 points (15g, 15a) through 36 games this season. Wolfe was named team captain for 2009-10 and is second in goals (15) while leading the club with a plus-six rating. He began this season scoring a goal in each of Chicago's first four games. Wolfe is playing in his second USHL season after recording 27 points (21g, 6a) in 41 games during the 2008-09 campaign.
Wolfe will be joined by Steel teammate Nick Pisellini at Western Michigan. Three other current USHL players are also committed to attend the school following their USHL careers: Dennis Brown (Omaha Lancers), Dan Dekeyser (Algonac/Sioux City Musketeers) and David Donnellan (Youngstown Phantoms).
Photo courtesy USHL Images
Marquette is currently five points behind first place Traverse City heading into this weekend’s action. The Rangers lead third place Janesville by five points, with the Motor City Metal Jackets still well within the hunt in fourth place with 38 points on the season.
Alpena appears to be the odd team out as the IceDiggers are falling further behind as the season plays out. With eight weekends remaining, Alpena is 15 points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the division.
Traverse City plays a one-game set Friday at Motor City before coming to Marquette the following Thursday evening.
Marquette travels to southern Wisconsin this weekend as the Rangers and Janesville battle one another this Friday and Saturday night in a series that may very well set the tone for the remainder of the race. The Jets and the Rangers have played four games this season with Janesville holding a 3-1 record against Kenny Miller’s club.
Despite the struggles against the Jets, Marquette is in the midst of a four-game winning streak having swept both Alpena and Albert Lea.
As the Rangers continue to battle within the division, the battle for scoring leadership on the team has also begun to heat up. Garrett Ladd (14g, 26a, 40 pts) and Andrew Kolb (15g, 24a, 39 pts) continue to lead the team, with Michigan Tech recruit Tanner Kero (36 pts) and Collin Saint-Onge (34 pts) keeping pace.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Admittedly, Jets coach Ryan Skop said he was at the tournament to watch other players he was told about, but after Moeller, then with the Troy Sting, caught his eye, he quickly became the one skater Skop wanted to get signed for this season.
“I really started to notice Moe because he was always stirring the pot,” Skop said. “It seemed like he was under the skin of every guy on the opposing team. He finished every check and just played with an intensity nobody else out there did. He has a pretty good skill set and he was one of the younger ones out there, too.”
Still just 16, Moeller is the youngest player on the Jets and one of the youngest in the Central States Hockey League. While he started out slow and then had to battle back from an early-season knee injury, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Moeller has picked up his game as of late and scored his first goal of the season last weekend in Peoria.
“Being the youngest on the team comes with a lot of responsibility because I have to work extra hard to keep up with the older guys,” said Moeller. “I think by looking up to the older, more experienced vets, I have learned a lot about the game, which has made me a much better, all-around hockey player. I think the vets respect that I look up to them, as I respect them back, which has helped me fit in more this year with the guys.”
“Part of our plan when we set out last year to do some recruiting was to find a way to get a couple of real young guys who we can work and develop and have in the system here,” explained Skop. “Moe certainly plays the part. Coming into the season, I was hoping Moe wouldn't be intimidated playing with guys who were a bit older. I wanted him to keep that edge we like so much. To his credit, he did just that. After the two exhibition games we had with Flint, we were wondering if he would hold up through an entire season playing with the same kind of reckless abandon he was. For the most part, he's been bringing the same energy night in and night out.”
Moeller, a native of Fraser, has played the last few weeks on a line with Joe Rutkowski and Brad Tunesi and has also earned time on special teams
“He's starting to find a more complete game, too,” Skop said. “Moe does have the skill to be more than an energy guy. Lately, he's really had some good chances and he's getting those chances by working hard. He's been given a chance to start killing penalties here the past couple weeks and he's been pretty good with that, too.”
While Moeller still has four years left of junior hockey eligibility, Skop thinks it’s just a matter of time before Moeller makes the jump up the hockey ladder.
“For Moe, it's just a matter of continuing to develop his skills and maintaining the same style of game he plays,” said Skop. “With the work ethic he has, I'm sure in a year or so he'll be ready to move up.”
Moeller agrees with his coach.
“It has always been my dream to play Division I college hockey,” added Moeller. “With my goal in mind, I would hope to move up in my junior career to the NAHL. However, if nothing happens, then I am fully prepared to stay with the Jets and keep pushing myself and working hard until I do accomplish my goals.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Metro swept the Peoria Mustangs on the road last weekend with a 5-2 win Saturday night and a 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon.
The two wins pushed Metro’s record to 9-26-0-3 and give the Jets two more wins than all of last season. The Jets also take the season series from Peoria with three wins and a shootout loss.
Saturday night, Metro used five different goal scorers and a 28-save outing in goal from Ian Mercer to gain the win.
Brett Grech had a goal and an assist for the Jets, while Dylan Mantay and Moeller scored their first goals of the season. Jon Elliott added his tenth of the year and Steve Vandenberghe also lit the lamp.
Sunday afternoon, Elliott scored again to go along with a single from David Merkle and Mercer’s 36 saves.
The Jets play just one game this week, on Friday night on the road against the Motor City Chiefs. Metro returns home on Saturday, Feb. 6 against Queen City.
Grech assisted on Elliott’s goal Sunday to take over the team scoring lead with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists).
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Aaron Davis, a forward with the Jets in the mid-1990s, is now in his eighth professional season after four years at Lake Superior State University.
Davis, a 30-year-old from Dearborn Heights, has 15 goals and 38 points in 37 games this season with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League.
Photo by Walt Dmoch
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A number of factors have played into Plymouth’s resurgence:
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Whalers have moved to the top of the OHL in penalty killing. According to veteran penalty killers Leo Jenner and Joe Gaynor, it's part preparation and a lot of perspiration.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Always with a smile on his face, the 18-year-old from Livonia, hasn’t lit up the score sheet this season, but his value to the team goes beyond numbers.
“Vinny's just a pretty upbeat kid by nature,” said Metro coach Ryan Skop. “Last year, there wasn't a heck of a lot expected from our team and when we were getting blasted every night, he was one of the guys who came to the rink and kept working. This year, to this point anyway, we've fallen short of some goals and expectations we set as a team and Vinny, true to form, still shows up, punches the clock, and gets his work in. He really helps keep the room loose and energetic when some guys might not be so upbeat.”
As a rookie last season, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Vinson posted 13 goals and 29 points, good for third in Jets’ scoring. This year, with just two goals to his credit, Skop credits his decrease in offensive output to Vinson working on other aspects of his game.
“I think the biggest and most positive change in Vinny's game from a year ago is consistency,” explained Skop. “Last year he'd have a good weekend and follow it up with two bad ones. He’d have a good period, then a bad one. This year, although he isn't scoring, he's consistently doing a lot of other things really well. He's showing a real maturity to his game that just wasn't there before.”
Looking to the future, Skop doesn’t see the need for Vinson to be back in Waterford for another season.
“Vinny's kind of intriguing when it comes to the prospects of him advancing,” Skop said. “He's so quick and so fast that I think he'd be a very nice asset for a team at a higher level. He doesn't score much, but his speed and strength are very valuable on the penalty kill and in a checking-type role.
“I really think that, given the opportunity, he'd be able to provide someone with that same type of game at the next level.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets finished up a long weekend Sunday afternoon with a 4-2 loss at Lakeland Arena to the Quad City Jr. Flames.
Quad City beat the Jets, 6-5, Saturday night, while the Toledo Cherokee blanked Metro, 4-0, Friday night in Toledo.
Tim Hooker had a goal and an assist and David Merkle also scored Sunday and Ian Mercer made 30 saves between the pipes.
Saturday night, Brett Grech scored twice to go along with singles from Will Saley, Jon Elliott and Jon Wickersham.
Elliott added an assist for a multi-point game.
R.J. Heath stopped 33 shots in goal.
Friday night, Mercer turned aside 37 shots in a losing effort.
Metro (7-26-0-3) plays a pair in Peoria this weekend against the Mustangs before going to Motor City next Friday night. The next home game for the Jets is Sat. Feb. 6 against the Queen City Steam.
Grech is second among CSHL defensemen in goals with 10. Peoria’s Charles Vasseur leads the league with 11. Grech has also seen time at forward this season for the Jets.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Seth Giersdorf, who played for the Jets during the 1999-2000 season, is now living in Canton with his wife of 5 ½ years, Meghan, and their dog.
His hockey career behind him, Giersdorf is now a regional director for Sterling Management, a real estate and property management company, and oversees properties in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
Giersdorf came to the Jets from Coral Springs, Fla., and met his future wife while playing for the Jets as she was a niece of his host family.
Photo by Andy Grossman
Thursday, January 21, 2010
While the Stars have claimed seven of their last eight contests, the Jackets are winners of four straight and five of six.
When Motor City (15-13-6) makes the journey north for the Friday-Saturday series at Centre ICE arena this weekend, it’ll have a chance to make up some ground on first-place Traverse City. The Metal Jackets are currently in fourth place, 12 points behind the North Stars (23-12-2), with three games in hand.
"I bet they have 8-10 players who didn't start the season with them," Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "They've been a .500 team right out of the gate and this win streak has put them over .500. I know they've played us tough all year."
R.J. Kleiman leads Motown with 16 goals and 20 assists through 34 games, while Cody Wydo (14), Steve Brancheau (10) and Billy Ballent (10) are each double-digit goal-scorers.
Defenseman Mike Monfredo has 14 assists and is among the league leaders with a plus-minus rating of +17. Randy Willis (9-6-5) and Jason Torf (6-7-1) have split time in net 60/40 so far this season.
Traverse City will get back to action following a two-game sweep of Alpena last weekend and a 7-1 mark since Christmas. Andy Huff, fresh off being named to the NHL Central Scouting’s watch list, has a team-best 20 goals, while Doug Clifford is Traverse City’s top offensive performer with 35 points in 37 contests. Garrett Thompson is in the midst of a nine-point, four-game combustion. Drew Strandberg has worked the majority of Stars games, with a 17-6-1 record, 2.54 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
Clifford tied for the scoring lead at this week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament all-star event in Ann Arbor, setting up five goals in the three-game showcase. Nick Shkreli finished the Top Prospects tourney with four points, while captain Travis White was a plus-3 for undefeated Team North (3-0).
Friday’s series-opener will feature a visit from Kidsville News mascot, Truman the Dragon, and a post-game skate with Truman, the North Stars players, and TC mascot, Wild Cherry.
Both games this weekend face-off at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
For starters, the team has had to practice minus seven players plus their head coach as the group competed in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor over the past three days. Rangers head coach Kenny Miller guided the North Team to a 3-0 record in the round-robin event, while several Rangers players contributed offensively in the tournament.
Marquette netminder Kevin Kissaw split time in the event with Matt Wichorek of the Janesville Jets.
The third annual event is held each season as an all-star game, as well as a one-stop shopping scouting opportunity for college coaches looking for talent.
Meanwhile, back at Lakeview Arena, the rest of the team had to make the best of the situation under the guidance of assistant coach Dan L’Esperance in prepping for this weekend’s matchup with the IceDiggers.
Not to be lost in all of the confusion is the fact the Marquette is coming off a two-game sweep of the Albert Lea Thunder of the Central Division. The Rangers won 5-1 on Friday before holding off the Thunder 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday.
The four-point weekend moved the Rangers into sole possession of second place in the North Division, six points behind Traverse City and four points ahead of Janesville. Marquette travels to play the Jets next weekend.
The Marquette Rangers will conduct their fourth celebrity contest contest of the season Saturday night at Lakeview Arena as the team entertains Alpena. With the event, someone in attendance will win a flat screen television from the Rangers organization by correctly guessing the amount of saves made by this week’s guest goaltender.
So far, Gary Muller of Marquette General Health Systems, John Veight of Public Service Garage and Rangers mascot Rock have all graced the ice attempting to stop 10 shots from various shooters.
Mike Ludlum of TV 6 sports will don the pads this weekend during the game's first intermission facing shots from a variety of shooters, including some fellow employees of TV 6.
When fans arrive at the arena, they will be given a slip to write their name on. They will then place their name in the bucket of their choice numbered 1-10. After the celebrity goalie contest reveals the amount of saves made, a name will be drawn from the bucket consisting of all the correct guesses.
The prize will be awarded at the end of the game and the winner must be present to win.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Forwards Doug Clifford and Nick Shkreli, along with defenseman Travis White, will head to the Ann Arbor Ice Cube for the three-day event, which will pit Team North against interdivisional foes Team South (Monday), Team West (Tuesday), and Team Central (Wednesday).
Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says the threesome is deserving of all the recognition and exposure that’ll come their way.
“We’ve experienced some success this year, and all three of these guys have been important pieces of the puzzle,” he explained. “We had a lot of viable candidates (to go).”
Each NAHL team can send a number of players to the event, based on their positions in the standings of their respective divisions. At the time of selection in December, Traverse City was in third place, which slotted them for three representatives. Since then, the Stars have won seven of eight games and enjoy a six-point cushion in the NAHL North over second-place Marquette.
Clifford and Skhreli came to TC after Mahoning Valley jumped ship to the USHL after last season. Clifford leads the North Stars with 15 goals and 20 assists through 36 games, while Shkreli has returned from an off-season injury to post nine goals and 14 assists in 26 outings.
“They’ve made huge impacts on our team,” Palumbo said. “Doug’s been our most consistent forward all season long, and Nick is really just starting to hit his stride after not skating in the off-season due to his injury. They’re both dynamic, steady performers who truly deserve to be a part of this event.”
White, the Stars’ captain, missed 11 games with a lingering injury, but returned to the lineup just around the time the club bounced back from a mid-season lull. Palumbo says it’s no coincidence.
“Travis missed 11 games and we went 3-8 – then he comes back and we win seven of eight,” Palumbo surmised. “He’s probably the most important player in terms of being a steady guy on the blue line, a stabilizing influence on and off the ice, and a vocal leader in the (dressing) room.”
The NAHL Top Prospects Tournament also features an online charity jersey auction. A portion of the auction proceeds will benefit the Derek Zike Get Well Fund. Zike, a player with the Chicago Fury hockey team, was seriously injured during a game at a tournament last year in Ann Arbor.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Based on the first four months of the season, Denston has improved his overall game to the point that the Metro coaching staff feels he may be able to jump to the next level next season.
“Denny's still got a couple years left and I wouldn't at all be surprised if he was able to move up to Tier II next year,” Jets coach Ryan Skop said. “He skates well enough, he's got the skill for it, and he's certainly physical enough for it. We'll have to wait and see how things shake out, but he certainly could end up there.”
Denston, a forward from White Lake who turned 19 on Thursday, thinks coming to the Jets will help him continue to climb the hockey ladder.
“I feel that I’ve progressed rather well, actually,” said Denston. “I feel that throughout the season my confidence has increased and that I've gotten the hang of the fast pace of junior hockey. There's always room to get better and improve and that’s what I look to do every time I'm on the ice during practice or a game.”
In recent games, Denston has added an edge to his game that has made him a threat to make a big play at either end of the ice.”It actually wasn't until last year with my previous coach, Terry Christensen (Oakland Grizzlies midgets), that (the rough stuff) became part of my game,” Denston said. “He was an old school type coach that liked the hard hitting and the fighting and built the team around that. If you weren't that type of player, you had to make it a part of you if you wanted ice time and that's what I did.”
It may not show on the scoresheet a ton, but Denston is one of Metro’s more well-rounded players, according to Skop.
“Denny's improved since the beginning of the season by just making himself a more complete and consistent player,” Skop said. “When we picked him up, you could see he always had the talent to be an effective player at this level, but it was just a matter of getting him to do it on a daily basis. He's really worked on that and done it well.”
Denston has also been used in all situations, a testament again to his overall talent level.
“Denny's a guy who's so versatile we've been pretty comfortable putting him just about anywhere,” noted Skop. “He's played on the back end for us on the power play, he's been on the wall for us on the PP, he'll go to the net for us, he plays the penalty kill, there really isn't a spot he can't handle. He started the year in the middle and when (Tim) Hooker came back, we moved him over to the wing and he's done well since the transition. That line (Denston-Hooker-David Merkle) has been real good for us and Denny's a real important piece there.
“He's a skill guy who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty and playing in the hard areas of the ice. He's good on the forecheck and he provides Hook and Merk that other dimension every good line needs. I think the most noticeable part of Denny's game is his puck skills and creativity. He's got good hands and sees the ice really well. We're still working with him as far as finishing goes, but he's got a great ability to create scoring chances. Regardless of who he's on the ice with, he makes them better.”
Growing up just a few miles from Lakeland Arena, Denston said playing for the Jets is something he always envisioned as a young player.
“I've always thought it would be fun to play for the Jets,” Denston said. “When I was younger, I grew up playing at Lakeland and would always be at the Jets games. It's been a great experience playing in front of my friends and family.”
As for the future, like Skop said, it’s all in Denston’s hands.
”My goals are to reach the next level, whether it is the NAHL, USHL, or college,” said Denston. “Those are the places I have my mind set on and I am working hard to try and get myself to those places in the future.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets returned home after a 19-day break and dropped both games to the Chicago Force over the weekend at Lakeland Arena.
Saturday night, Jon Elliott tallied a goal and an assist in a 5-2 loss. Jon Wickersham also scored and Brett Grech added two assists. In goal, Ian Mercer made 39 saves in defeat.
Then Sunday afternoon, Chicago took a 6-1 decision over the Jets.
Elliott scored again and Mercer stopped 24 shots.
Metro (7-23-0-3) plays at Toledo Friday night before hosting Quad City Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Lakeland. Game time Saturday night is 7:40 p.m., while the puck drops at 1:20 p.m. on Sunday.
Of his team-best 16 goals, Josh Magnan has scored 10 at even-strength.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Barry Haber, one of the goalies on the 2002 national championship team, owns his own remodeling company in Tallahassee, Fla. – Haber Remodeling.
Haber started out on his own in the field back in 2002 and three years later moved his family and business down to Florida.
Photo by Andy Grossman
So far this season, Marquette is undefeated against out-of-division opponents having swept both Fairbanks (West) and North Iowa (Central) at Lakeview Arena earlier this year.
The Rangers are currently tied for second place in the North Division with the Janesville Jets. Both teams trail Traverse City by six points heading into this weekend.
Marquette will try and rebound after losing both games at Motor City last weekend.
Albert Lea, in their second year of operation after joining the NAHL last season, currently sits in last place in the Central Division and has dropped three out of their last four games. The Thunder trail North Iowa by 10 points for the final playoff spot in the Central Division race.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
This Friday night at the Dow Event Center, his dream will come true.
He will have his own locker stall, with a nameplate above it, and will get dressed in full Saginaw Spirit gear to skate to center ice as the Saginaw Spirit’s honorary captain when the Spirit entertain the Niagara IceDogs at 7:11 p.m.
Tien is a 16-year-old forward that plays for the Tri City Ice Hawks of the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League and is battling rhabdomyosarcoma, which is an extremely rare form of cancer found mainly in children. It is found in the skeletal and muscular structures of the body and affects 250-300 kids per year throughout North America.
On Wednesday, Tien met with Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin, general manager and head coach Todd Watson and Spirit captain Tyler Murovich before addressing the entire Spirit team in their locker room.
“His message to our team was that he has been battling through a lot during the past seven weeks and feels honored and appreciative of the players allowing him to be their captain for Friday night’s game against Niagara,” stated Watson. “We are the ones that are being honored by him. For a kid to be battling like he is, Eric has the kind of attitude that it takes to be a champion."
Murovich’s thoughts echoed those of Watson.
“It’s obvious after meeting Eric Tien that he is a good person and a great competitor,” said Murovich. “Our entire team hopes that the Spirit crowd will come to their feet to encourage him to beat this disease when he is introduced before Friday night’s game as our honorary captain."
Before hitting the ice at the Dow Friday night, Tien will join his family and close friends as the special guests of the Detroit Red Wings at their Thursday home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Red Wings, in partnership with the Saginaw Spirit Charitable Foundation, will put Tien and guests in a suite complete with food and all the fixings. Spirit partner and local charter company Blue Lakes Charters and Tours will be driving Tien and his guests down to the Joe Louis Arena in one of their limo buses. After the game, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock will greet Tien and escort him through the Red Wings' locker room where he will meet the Red Wings - including one of his favorite hockey players, Todd Bertuzzi.
“He inspired all of us today - what a great, great kid,” said Goslin. “Eric Tien is a champion that has won at competing at things all of his life. Something tells me that he will win the battle that he is currently fighting, too. We have a capacity crowd that is expected for Friday night’s game and the fans are in for a real honor when they get introduced to this fine young man.
"He is an inspiration to us all.”
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
NHL Central Scouting released their mid-term rankings this week and several in-state players made the list:
Tyler Seguin, Plymouth, 2
Cam Fowler, Windsor (Farmington Hills), 3
Jon Merrill, U.S. NTDP (Brighton), 20
Austin Watson, Peterborough (Ann Arbor), 25
Ivan Telegin, Saginaw, 26
Brandon Archibald, Sault Ste. Marie (Port Huron), 58
Josh Shalla, Saginaw, 64
Austin Levi, Plymouth, 117
Jared Knight, London (Battle Creek), 123
Michael Sgarbossa, Saginaw, 183
Andy Huff, Traverse City, 193
Jack Campbell, U.S. NTDP (Port Huron), 2 (goaltenders)
Will Yanakeff, Sioux City (Jerome), 12 (goaltenders)
Scott Wedgewood, Plymouth, 13 (goaltenders)
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Hanging tough in the NAHL's tightly contested North Division, the Motor City Metal Jackets took another step in the right direction last weekend with two victories over the Marquette Rangers.
For the first-year Metal Jackets, it marked the first-ever weekend sweep in the program's history.
"That was an important weekend for our organization," said Metal Jackets head coach David Cole, whose team improved to 13-13-6 on the season. "Getting those divisional points in the standings is obviously huge this time of year, but to get that sweep meant a lot for our morale."
RJ Kleiman struck for two goals and an assist as the Metal Jackets skated to a 5-3 win on Friday. John Scorcia notched the game-winning marker and goaltender Randy Willis turned back 26 shots between the pipes.
The next night, Eric Millisor connected for a pair of goals, including the game-winner, in the Metal Jackets' 3-2 victory over the Rangers. Petrus Sipila notched the other Motor City goal and netminder Jason Torf made 33 saves.
"I think we've been playing better than our record indicates, so we figured it was just a matter of time for us to put some back-to-back wins together," said Cole, whose team has suffered five shootout losses this season. "We're competitive every night; perhaps we just needed a break here and there."
Kleiman, the Metal Jackets' leading scorer, has been a steady offensive force the entire season. The 19-year-old from Dewitt, who will skate in the upcoming Sherwood/NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, now has 14 goals for 31 points through 32 games this season.
"RJ is a very important part of what we're doing here," said Cole. "He's consistently one of our best players, with and without the puck."
Another Top Prospects selection, defenseman Mike Monfredo (pictured), has also impressed. The 19-year-old from Shirley, N.Y., has 16 points (two goals) to his credit after 32 games and his plus-18 rating ranks sixth in the entire NAHL.
"Mike is one of the top defensemen in the league, no question," said Cole. "He's such a versatile player with so much potential."
The Jackets' goaltending tandem of Torf, an 18-year-old from Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Willis, a 20-year-old from Fond du Lac, Wis., is meeting expectations as well. Both hold save percentages of over .900.
"These two guys are playing well and the rest of the team has a lot of confidence playing in front of them," Cole said of his netminders. "They make all the saves they need to and some they shouldn't, and that's the sign of a good goaltender."
Forwards Steve Brancheau, a 19-year-old Top Prospects-bound player from River Rouge, and Cody Wydo, an 18-year-old from Allen Park, are also making timely contributions at both ends of the ice.
"This is a very tight-knit team that's been one of the most enjoyable groups I've ever been involved with," said Cole. "We've been fortunate to recruit and acquire athletes who are good people from good families."
In short time, the Metal Jackets, through the enthusiasm and support of team owner Kenji Yamada, have also been able to build a sound following off the ice.
"It's great to see the local community get behind us and everything we're doing, and we're certainly committed to their efforts as well," said Cole. "We've been able to establish a lot of positive relationships since we arrived, and that's only going to continue."
The Metal Jackets have two players committed to Division I schools to date in Brice Geoffrion (University of Alabama-Huntsville) and Patrick Sullivan (Canisius College). Cole expects more players to follow suit, especially with three players heading to Top Prospects.
"There's no question we have a number of student-athletes who have the capabilities of playing Division I hockey, and, if we continue to succeed as a team, those opportunities will come and the guys know that."
And Cole sees no reason why the wins can't keep coming.
"We're in a very competitive division, but I'm optimistic this group will continue to grow together, improve and compete every night," said the coach.
Photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL
Monday, January 11, 2010
The 2010 OHL trade deadline wrapped up at noon today, thus concluding the trade season for the Spirit.
The team announced the acquisition of 19-year-old center Phil McRae from the London Knights in exchange for 18-year-old left wing Tyler J. Brown, third and fourth round picks in 2010 and fifth and eighth round picks in 2012.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Whalers today announced the acquisition of 19-year-old right wing James Livingston from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in exchange for 18-year-old right wing Myles McCauley.
Livingston – who is 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds – was selected by the Soo in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2006 OHL draft and was drafted by the NHL's St. Louis Blues in the third round (70th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. In three and a half seasons with the Greyhounds, Livingston has 57 goals with 57 assists for 114 points and 375 penalty minutes over 230 games.
"Livingston is a power forward that plays hard at both ends of the ice and will contribute offensively for us," said Whalers associate coach Joe Stefan.
Livingston is expected to report to Plymouth on Monday and will make his Whalers debut on Friday when Plymouth hosts the top team in the Eastern Conference, the Barrie Colts, at 7:05 p.m.
Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Hill, formerly Sarnia's captain, is expected to join the Spirit in time for tonight’s home game against the Owen Sound Attack.
Hill is a third-year veteran of the Ontario Hockey League, with a combined 13 goals and 33 assists in 173 regular season games. The 1989-born Sarnia native has tallied four goals and 15 assists in 41 games this season.
After this trade, Pleckaitis was then flipped to Kingston for a fifth round pick in 2011.
Photo - Hill battling Saginaw defenseman Cody Sol last March
Friday, January 08, 2010
That being said, there is no sense of panic at Lakeland Arena these days.
“This is still a playoff-caliber team,” forward Jon Wickersham said. “We have a lot of games coming up that we should and can win. We just need to worry about those first and if we get in the playoffs, I think we can make a good run. Everybody needs to want to win every game from here on out and work hard enough to put us in a position to win those games.”
Heading into this weekend, the Jets are 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. It might seem like an uphill battle, and perhaps it is, but it’s a battle the players are yearning for.
“We have a goal to get 27 points the rest of the regular season – ‘The Road to 27 Points’ as we call it,” Metro defenseman and captain Mike Corder said. “I want to see how well the team can respond to the kind of pinch we are in to make the playoffs. We need to bear down, put some pucks in the net, and win some of the games here in the last 17.”
Metro has been off since Dec. 21, when the Jets lost to Chicago, 4-1, in the final game of the CSHL Showcase. Now that the holidays have passed and it’s a new year, it’s time to get back to work and start adding some wins.
“The second half is here and I'm looking forward to the same things I was at the beginning of the year,” Jets coach Ryan Skop said. “We set some goals as a team and I'm looking forward to the challenge of accomplishing those goals. Yeah, we're a little bit behind where I'd like, or thought we'd be right now as far as the standings go, but we have an opportunity to correct that here. If we want that to happen, we'll have to coach better, they'll play better, work harder, and we'll roll the dice. That's what I'm looking forward to.”
“Under-achievers need to and will be held accountable to raise their game to an acceptable level,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe added. “Other players need to remain on track. However, more players have to step up on a more consistent basis for this to happen. At this point in the season, there are no rookies.”
Skop and Wolfe each singled out a handful of defensive players that helped get the Jets to within striking distance of the playoffs.
“Starting in goal, (Ian) Mercer's been great,” Skop said. “He's given us a chance to win every single night he's been in net. Whether that means making 60 saves or 20 saves, he's been up to the task every single night. If we want to go anywhere, that'll have to continue. Also, on the back end, (Steve) Lockwood and Corder have been tremendous. We're talking about two guys who really take care of their own end and keep opponents honest.
“If we're going to make a run for the playoffs, it'll have to continue to be about defense and goaltending.”
Preventing goals is one thing, but scoring goals is another.
“If we're going to catch Chicago, Quad City or Flint, we're going to have to be more consistent, plain and simple,” said Skop. “We’ve struggled scoring goals thus far, but with (Tim) Hooker back and healthy and a few other guys starting to step up, I expect that to take care of itself. Bottom line is consistency.”
Corder is taking these next 17 games personally.
“I feel I need to hold my team accountable and lead by example,” said Corder. “I have to be an impact player.”
If that intensity rubs off on the rest of the players, the playoffs will become a reality. Until then, however, the Jets have to take it one game at a time.
“We just need to stop talking and start doing,” defenseman Brett Grech said. “We have the players to win hockey games we just need to do it already. I haven’t played to my potential yet and neither have a lot of the guys on our team. Hopefully, things will start to flow in the second half.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
Off last weekend, the Jets host the Chicago Force this weekend for a pair at Lakeland Arena.
Saturday night’s game starts at 7:40 p.m., while Sunday’s matinee gets underway at 1:20 p.m.
Chicago has won both meetings with the Jets this season with those wins coming at the league showcase three weeks ago.
For the Force (14-13-1), forward Louie Educate leads the CSHL with 34 goals, while four other players – Anthony Domico (10), Geno Malone (11), Matt Spica (11) and Edward Schaeffer (16) – have double-digit goals.
Robert Kennedy has eight wins in goal and Louie Ronayne (Northville) has three wins as a very capable backup.
The Jets added huge defenseman Sam Bell (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) this week from the Motor City Metal Jackets of the North American Hockey League.
The 19-year-old native of Munith played for the Jets back in the 2007-2008 season.
Bell had a goal and an assist in 19 games with Motor City this season, along with 65 penalty minutes.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
The Oakland University ACHA D-I team boasts several Metro alumni, including last year’s captain and leading scorer Adam Novack, Kevin Kranker, Mike Simpson, Alex Pikunas, Jake DeSano, Jordan McDonald and Jesse Worrell.
McDonald currently leads the Golden Grizzlies in scoring with 17 goals and 32 points through 23 games.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
That’s the grade Marquette Rangers head coach Kenny Miller gave his club as he looked back on the first half of the North American Hockey League season.
The Rangers begin the second half of their schedule this weekend on the road at Yack Arena in downstate Wyandotte against the Motor City Metal Jackets.
“We’ve been solid,” Miller said as the team was prepping for the trip to suburban Detroit.
“We’ve played well enough to be in the hunt for the top spot in our division, we’ve overcome a few rough patches here and there, and we’re starting to get the leadership we need from our older guys to make a solid run during the second half of the season.”
Although confident in his teams’ ability, Miller was hesitant to talk about any possible success in the months to come due to the nature of the team's schedule.
“We need to come prepared every night, and we’ve struggled with that from time-to-time," said Miller. "Our division is too tough from top to bottom to think we’re ever going to get a night off, so if we’re mentally prepared and ready to work hard, I like possibilities for this team. If not, a lot of goals and hard work could go to waste.”
Marquette sits in second place in the North Division, tied with the Janesville Jets, and four points behind first-place Traverse City. Janesville plays St. Louis of the South Division this weekend.
Marquette is 3-1 against Motor City so far this year with two of those wins coming in Wyandotte back in early October.
The Rangers continue to be led in scoring by a mix of veterans and newcomers, with Andrew Kolb (14g, 19a) and captain Garrett Ladd (12g, 21a) leading the charge with 33 points apiece. In total, 11 Rangers players are in double-digit scoring after 31 games.
With 19 wins, the Rangers are seven victories shy of the team record of 26 set in both 2007-08 and 2008-09.
“We have a long way to go,” Miller added. “But we’re very satisfied with how things have been going so far and we’re looking forward to the second-half of the season.”
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Following a pad save by Jack Campbell (Port Huron), Team USA skated up ice on a three-on-one odd-man rush. Carlson glided in on the wing and fired a quick snap shot past goalie Martin Jones for the championship-winning tally.
"We put the right team together for this tournament, filled with gritty, hard-working players," said Dean Blais, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "Our guys battled the whole tournament, and we're very happy to come away with the gold here in Saskatoon."
Canada took an early 1-0 lead on a backhand goal by Luke Adam two minutes into the game. Team USA responded with back-to-back goals later in the period, however. Chris Kreider fired a wrist shot from the left circle over the glove of Canada starting goalie Jake Allen 14 minutes into the period. Then, just 30 seconds later, Jordan Schroeder gave Team USA a lead with a wrist shot high to the short side.
After Canada tied the game to end the first period, Team USA regained the lead one minute into the second on the power play. Carlson let go a long slap shot from the point that beat Allen low to the stick side. But Canada answered once again, knotting the score, 3-3 after two periods.
Team USA took its third lead of the night four minutes into the final period. Captain Derek Stepan broke into the Canada zone on a two-on-one break and fed Jerry D'Amigo, who gave the U.S. a 4-3 edge. Stepan then extended his team's lead to 5-3, flicking a backhand shot into the net after Allen failed to handle a long shot cleanly.
Canada scored twice in the period's final three minutes, including once on the power play, to send the game into overtime. But Team USA emerged with the victory, the second-ever gold medal for the U.S. in tournament history.
Campbell earned the win, turning aside 32 of 34 shots faced in just over 40 minutes of work after relieving Mike Lee in the second period. Meanwhile, Jones took the loss, making eight saves after replacing Allen in the third period.
NOTES: Stepan, who finished as the tournament's leading point-getter with 15 (5-10), was named Team USA's Player of the Game. With 15 points, Stepan tied Mike Modano (1989) for the third-most points ever scored by a U.S. player at a World Junior Championship. Stepan's 10 assists tied Phil Kessel (2006) for second most in U.S. single-tournament history ... Stepan and Carlson were named to the tournament's Media All-Star Team ... Team USA's other gold medal at a World Junior Championship came in 2004, when the U.S. defeated Canada, 4-3, in Helsinki, Finland. The gold medal marks Team USA's sixth overall medal at the tournament since 1977 ... Sweden defeated Switzerland earlier Tuesday, 11-4, to win the bronze medal ... Plymouth Whalers forward AJ Jenks (Wolverine Lake) was also a member of Team USA and scored three goals in the tournament.
Photo illustration courtesy Plymouth Whalers
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
"I couldn't be happier for the 22 players in the room," said Ron Rolston, head coach of Team USA. "They went through a lot of adversity to not only win the tournament, but to win every game. This might be one of the toughest international events to win and the players competed hard throughout. I think this is the strongest field I've seen in the three years I've coached at this tournament, so it shows the heart and character of our players."
After a scoreless first period, Team USA wasted little time in getting on the board in the middle frame. Rocco Grimaldi and Reid Boucher (Grand Ledge) won a left-corner battle to get the puck out to Biggs who snapped it into the top-right corner from the left side just 1:51 into the period. Gibson made 10 stops in the second to keep a relentless Ontario attack at bay and allow Team USA to head into the locker room ahead 1-0 after 40 minutes.
Biggs struck again just 31 seconds into the final stanza when he wristed a shot across netminder Tyson Teichmann (son of ex-Detroit Ambassadors goalie Brad Teichmann) and into the upper-left corner from a sharp angle to double the U.S. advantage. Gibson stopped shot after shot and ended up with 18 saves in the third period. However, Daniel Catenacci scored for Ontario off of a rebound with just one second remaining to spoil the shutout. After one final faceoff at center ice, the U.S. National Under-17 Team celebrated its first-place finish.
Team USA won the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for the first time since 2002. It is the third gold medal for the U.S., which also won the event in 2001.
NOTES: Grimaldi was named to the all-tournament team. He led the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with 14 points including a tournament best 10 assists ... Gibson was named U.S. player of the game ... Team USA finished with a 6-0-0 record ... Rolston has taken the U.S. National Under-17 Team to the gold-medal game in each of his three turns at the tournament. He guided Team USA to silver-medal finishes in 2006 and 2008 ... Canada-Ontario was the two-time defending champion ... The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the premier event for the under-17 age group, ran from Dec. 29, 2009 - Jan. 4, 2010 in Timmins, Ont. In addition to the United States, the event included five Canadian regional teams (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Pacific and West), as well as national teams from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden ... Next year's event will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba ... Team Ontario forward Garrett Meurs plays for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers.
Monday, January 04, 2010
With the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline set for January 11, Plymouth Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci decided to get a jump on the annual event.
Vellucci announced the acquisition of 18-year-old defenseman Jay Gilbert from the Niagara IceDogs today in exchange for a fourth round draft choice in 2011. Plymouth acquired the fourth round pick along with a second and an eighth round pick last season in a deal that sent Jeremy Smith and Patrick Lee to the IceDogs. Now, the IceDogs re-acquire the fourth round pick in this deal.
Gilbert – who is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds – was selected by Niagara in the fourth round (68th overall) of the 2007 OHL draft and has developed into a stay-at-home defenseman. In three seasons with Niagara, Gilbert has two goals with 11 assists for 13 points and 76 penalty minutes over 75 games.
Niagara Press Release
Saturday, January 02, 2010
The 1992-born forward spent the first half of the 2009-2010 season with the NAHL's Albert Lea Thunder, where he posted two goals, three assists and 108 penalty minutes in 24 games.
“Michael is a talented power forward that competes very hard and will bring a lot of grit to our offense,” stated Spirit director of scouting Jim Paliafito.
Position: Right Wing
Date of Birth: 02-02-1992
Hometown: Lake Forest, Ill.
NHL Draft Eligible: 2010