Friday, February 26, 2010

North Stars host Motor City for pair

The last time the Traverse City North Stars and Motor City Metal Jackets met up, the Stars skated into Yack Arena two weeks ago riding a 10-1-2 post-Christmas mark, firmly entrenched in the NAHL North Division’s top spot.

The host Metal Jackets scored a pair of one-goal, come-from-behind victories in that series, precipitating a four-game slide for TC that has the North Division title up for grabs with a dozen games left in the regular season.

The North Stars, who enter the weekend tied for first place with the Marquette Rangers and just three points up on third-lace Janesville, will have a chance to regain their momentum and exact some measure of revenge on the Metal Jackets when the clubs meet up for a Friday-Saturday series at Centre ICE this weekend.

“I’m not sure that we’ll have ‘revenge’ on the agenda,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “But if there’s some of that sentiment among the guys and that helps us to get it done this weekend, that’s fine. We’re at that part of the season, especially given how tight the division is, where every game has to be the focus – and then the next game, and the next game, and so on.

“We can’t get caught up watching the scoreboard, or waiting for someone to help us out by knocking off this team or that team. We have to take care of what we can control, and that’s playing 60 minutes with maximum energy, effort, and execution.”

Since sweeping Traverse City back on Feb. 12-13, the Jackets have dropped five straight games, scoring but four goals in that stretch. Motor City is 19-21-7, and trying to put the clamps on the fourth and final playoff slot in the NAHL North, seven points ahead of fifth-place Alpena.

R.J. Kleiman leads the Jackets with 40 points in 47 contests, including a team-high 17 goals and 23 assists. Cody Wydo has 15 goals and 17 assists, while defenseman Mike Monfredo is the top-scoring Motown defenseman, with 18 assists to go with a club-high 125 penalty minutes. In net, Motor City as three able goalsweeps in Randy Willis (9-8-5), Jason Torf (7-10-2) and Phillip Graveline (3-3-0).

For Traverse City, Doug Clifford leads the way with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) and has scored or assisted in 11 of his last 12 games. Garrett Thompson has been ablaze as well, with 10 points in his last eight games, points in 16 of his last 18 outings, and a career-best 20 goals on the year to go with 21 assists. Not to be outdone, Dan Radke, with a Stars-high 25 assists, has 12 points over his last 13 contests.

Drew Strandberg (17-7-1) made his return from injury to the Traverse City net last weekend against Janesville and is five wins shy of tying the club mark for wins in a season (C.J. Motte, 22), while Chris Paliafito (6-6-2) shouldered the entire load in Strandberg’s absence.

The North Stars will head to Marquette next weekend for a pair of games that could go a long way in deciding the North Division crown, and host a pair of Wednesday affairs on March 10 (Alpena) and March 17 (Motor City).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Schofield getting recognized with Jets

The casual observer might not notice Metro Jets’ defenseman Tyler Schofield, but if that happens, that’s a good thing.

Schofield, one of just a handful of second-year Metro players, has seen his game mature from last season when he looked tentative and hesitant at times. He’s now a confident skater in his own end and plays an ever-improving smart game.

“I feel good this season compared to last season,” said Schofield, an 18-year-old from Clio. “I feel a lot more confident with the puck and I think I have more patience than last year. I haven’t accomplished everything I would have hoped for, but it’s still been a good year.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Metro coach Ryan Skop.

“I think last year when he first started with us, he was a bit unsure of himself and his ability,” Skop said. “He could do some things pretty well, but just didn't have the confidence to make it work. This year, I think Tyler's really found a role that he's comfortable with and he does it very well.”

Just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Schofield will never be mistaken for a big physical presence on the back end, but what he does do is make very good decisions with the puck.

“I’m not a big, strong guy, so I feel it makes me have to play smarter,” Schofield said. “I think my strengths are my vision. I see the ice pretty well and I feel I have good hands, which also help me a lot.”

Skop explained Schofield’s smarts.

“He's a guy who, when given the chance, can really settle our power play unit down and generate some quality chances by simply making the right decision with the puck,” added Skop. “He'll make a good first pass out of our end and for the most part, be in position defensively. He's accepted the fact that quite often, the best play is simply glass and out. He has no problem with that. Keeping it simple defensively is Schoey’s biggest asset.”

Heading into the offseason, Schofield will have a full slate of spring and summer training to get him ready for wherever he may land in 2010-2011.

“During the offseason, I plan on working out and getting stronger,” said Schofield. “I also need to work on my speed, so I plan on doing a lot of quick feet and such for that and try and make myself a better player.”

“For Ty, his focus should be getting to the gym and improving his strength during the offseason,” Skop said. “He's got all the tools between the ears to be a real impact guy at this level and now, it's just about improvement on other areas.

“Ty's a hard worker, though, and I'm sure he'll get it done.”


The Dubuque Thunderbirds jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held on to beat the Jets, 4-3, Friday night at Lakeland Arena.

Dubuque led 2-0 after the first period and 4-2 after 40 minutes as Steve Lockwood and Mike Denston tallied for the Jets to make it a two-goal game going into the final period.

Brett Grech scored at 18:27 of the third period with goalie Ian Mercer on the bench for the extra skater, but Metro couldn't find the equalizer.

Mercer finished with 28 stops between the pipes and Lockwood and Grech each added an assist to finish with two-point games.

The Jets (10-30-0-4) are on the road this weekend for a pair in St. Louis. Metro then closes out the regular season next weekend by hosting Pittsburgh for two games at Lakeland.

St. Louis clinched the CSHL regular season championship last weekend and also secured a berth in the Tier III Junior A national tournament set for next month in suburban Boston.

Remaining games on ’09-10 schedule:
Feb. 27 @ St. Louis
Feb. 28 @ St. Louis
March 6 vs. Pittsburgh
March 7 vs. Pittsburgh


Of Lockwood’s three goals this season, two have come on the power play … Grech has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) over his last 10 games … Mercer has averaged almost 32 saves in his last five starts and also ranks third in the league in minutes played with 1708:50.


Former Metro forward Dominic Osman (2000-2001) started the season with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye and posted 12 goals and 22 points in 47 games before being traded recently to the Florida Everblades.

With Florida, the 28-year-old Dearborn native is averaging a point per game with three goals and three assists in a half-dozen games.

Photo by Andy Grossman

D-man Schmitz stepping up for Plymouth

Generally, Plymouth Whalers defenseman Beau Schmitz doesn’t say much, but his game and talent speaks volumes.

Statistically, there are defensemen in the Ontario Hockey League who have more points than Schmitz’s eight goals and 22 assists for 30 points this season. There are d-men who have a better rating than Schmitz’s +12. There are plenty of guys who are bigger than Schmitz.

But there aren’t too many players in the league who skate as well as Schmitz. And with a year of OHL experience under his belt, Schmitz is learning to pick his spots when to join the rush and when to stay back.

As a result, he’s playing with confidence, getting more ice time, having fun and helping the Whalers win.

“I think I’m moving up more on the rush, in a smart way – instead of being the first guy leading the rush, I’m more the third or fourth guy in the rush,” Schmitz said. “It’s an improvement I’ve made over the last year.

“There’s a time and a place for everything, so if I do jump into the rush, I certainly have to get back.”

Plymouth associate coach Joe Stefan appreciates Schmitz’s development.

“I think he’s grown up this year, in terms of maturity,” Stefan said. “He’s become accustomed to the league this year. It took him a little while, coming from the National Team Development Program. I think he’s more comfortable in the environment this year.”

With veteran defensemen Michal Jordan and Josh Bemis out with injuries and considered day-to-day, the Whalers have asked more from Schmitz and the rest of the defensemen.

“With our current injuries, Beau has taken more of a leadership role,” Stefan said. “He really likes the ice time and has elevated his game with Jordan and Bemis out.”

Schmitz has a penchant for scoring big goals this season. He scored the shootout winner on October 2 in Sudbury in a 6-5 win at the Community Arena, scored the overtime game-winner December 28 in the Whalers’ 3-2 victory over Erie and then scored twice (including the game-winner) last Saturday in Plymouth’s 5-2 victory over Sarnia.

At 12-3-0-1 since January 16, the Whalers move into the end of February as one of the hottest teams in the OHL. The goal is to keep playing that way into the playoffs.

“Everyone’s been playing well,” Schmitz said. “Everyone’s been playing their role, so we have to keep it up (now) and then into the playoffs. It’s playoff hockey from here on out.”

The Whalers play in Windsor on Thursday (6:45pm, 88.1FM, WSDP) before returning home Saturday to host Guelph at 7:05pm at Compuware Arena. While the Whalers take on the Storm, the game marks the return of Mascot Madness, as mascots for several corporate partners of the Whalers will get together for a hockey game during the second intermission.

LOOKING AT WINDSOR: The Spits (45-10-0-5) come into Thursday’s game after losing, 8-5, to Barrie on Saturday. The Colts are now the top team in the OHL with a record of 48-8-0-2, good for 96 points, one more than Windsor.

“So far, they are the better team,” Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner told the Windsor Star. “They outhustled us in all areas.”

After Scott Timmins opened the scoring for Windsor, Darren Archibald, Alex Hutchings and Alex Pietrangelo countered for the Colts. Timmins closed the gap to 3-2 in the second period, but Archibald, Matt Kennedy and Kyle Clifford made it 6-2.

Bryan Cameron pushed Barrie’s lead to 7-2 before Marc Cantin, Greg Nemisz and Stephen Johnston scored in a span of 2:20 to pull Windsor to within two goals with less than five minutes left in a regulation, but Hutchings scored his second into an empty net with goaltender Troy Passingham on the bench and Windsor shorthanded to close it for the Colts.

LOOKING AT GUELPH: The Storm (27-28-3-1) host Peterborough on Friday before playing the Whalers on Saturday. Guelph still has playoff aspirations. Guelph won two-out-of-three last weekend, capping the weekend with a 5-2 win in Sault Ste. Marie at the Essar Centre on Sunday after losing to Sudbury the evening before and defeating Kitchener last Friday.

“I thought we played a lot harder than we did in Sudbury - more like the Kitchener game,” Guelph lead assistant coach Chris Hajt told the Guelph Mercury. “We got second, third and fourth efforts from everyone. It was great to see.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alpena making late-season charge

Courtesy NAHL

Don’t look now, but with a little over a month left in the North American Hockey League’s regular season, there’s a race heating up for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division.

Currently settled in fifth place and out of the playoff picture, the red-hot Alpena IceDiggers - 7-2-1 in their last 10 games - are starting to make their move, thanks in part to a three-game sweep over the Motor City Metal Jackets last weekend.

“Motor City is a great team and they created a lot of good scoring chances,” said IceDiggers head coach Jack Fritsche, whose team improved to 18-28-2 on the season. “All three games could have gone either way with a bounce here or there for either team.”

Goaltender Marco Wieser turned aside all 42 shots he faced as the IceDiggers opened the weekend with a 3-0 victory on Friday.

Michael Henderson (game-winner), Andy Yarber and Jared Williams connected for the Alpena goals.

The next night, Tom Hilbrich’s overtime marker - his second of the game - lifted Alpena to a 4-3 victory over the Metal Jackets. John Fritsche (pictured) and Joel Benson rang up the other IceDigger goals, and Wieser stopped 30 shots between the pipes.

On Sunday, Williams lit the lamp two more times and Jonas Vassalli put home the game-winner as the IceDiggers skated to a 3-1 victory. Wieser made 37 saves to pick up his third win in as many nights.

“Our success right now is because, for the first time since November, we have a full roster of players,” said Fritsche. “For a stretch there we had defensemen playing forward and vice versa, and it’s hard to win games when you’re doing that.

“Having a full complement of players has allowed us to build some chemistry during practice and work on different things over the past two or three weeks that we were unable to do while players were injured.”

Fritsche, whose team sits seven points behind Motor City with 10 games to play (the IceDiggers have four remaining against the Metal Jackets), couldn’t be happier with the production he’s getting throughout his entire lineup.

“Right now, it’s been a total team effort,” he said. “A different guy each night has stepped their game up and provided a spark. Our guys understand the challenge that lies ahead, and they’ve done a tremendous job so far of staying in the moment and not getting ahead of themselves.”

The IceDiggers have also been helped by the arrival of a few fresh faces over the course of the season, all of whom have fit right in, both on and off the ice.

“We were very fortunate with some of the new players we’ve gotten because we have a great group of kids here and the new guys just came in and meshed right away, which was great,” said Fritsche.

And the IceDiggers’ success of late is peaking the interest of a handful of colleges, according to Fritsche, who anticipates a number of his players receiving offers in the not-too-distant future.

“More and more schools have been in contact with our guys throughout the season and I have little doubt that many of them will be getting opportunities here shortly,” he said.

Fritsche is also quick to credit the community and fan support in and around Alpena, which has stood by the IceDiggers despite a fragile economy.

“It hasn’t been easy on them, yet they still come out and support our guys,” he said. “We’ve had some great battles at home this season and have fallen short on some occasions, but they’re still supporting our players which speaks volumes for the character and passion our fans have for the game and our players.”

Photo courtesy RJ Meyer/NAHL

Saturday, February 20, 2010

North Stars host Janesville for two

From friend to foe in just 24 hours.

While the Traverse City North Stars were rooting for the Janesville Jets on Friday night, they’ll face off against their North Division rivals on Saturday and Sunday at Centre ICE arena.

Janesville did the Stars a solid on Friday, knocking off Marquette by a 2-1 margin to help Traverse City maintain a first-place tie with the Rangers. But with the division crown up for grabs, the North Stars will quickly turn to trying to ground the third-place Jets with just 14 games left in the regular season.

Janesville, which has gone 5-8-1 in its last 14 games on the heels of a seven-game winning streak that included a sweep of TC back in December, comes into the weekend series at Centre ICE with an outside shot at the North crown. The Jets are 23-18-3, just seven points behind the Stars and Rangers. Traverse City (26-14-4) dropped a pair of road shows last weekend at Motor City, but has gone 10-3-2 since that pre-Christmas sweep at Janesville.

On offense, the Jets feature University of Connecticut recruit Rui Encarnacao, who is among the league leaders with 24 goals, including five game-winners. He’s the club’s top scorer with 41 points, while Janesville native Ross Mauermann is tops with 24 assists. Matt Wichorek gets the lion’s share of starts for the Jets, and has gotten the nod in nine of the team’s last ten games. The Alaskan is 15-12-3 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.

Doug Clifford is the North Stars top scorer heading into the weekend with 41 points, while Garrett Thompson has 39 – including 13 goals and 15 assists over his last 16 games. Dan Radke leads the club with 24 assists, while Andy Huff has levied 20 goals to date. Drew Strandberg, who was injured in the first period of a game on Jan. 22, might make his return this weekend. Chris Paliafito has stood tall in Strandberg’s absence, going 3-2-2 since assuming full-time duties.

This weekend’s games feature a Labatt Blue night on Saturday night at Centre ICE, with giveaways, a live radio remote, and a $1 off admission for anyone wearing red, white or blue to the contest. Following Sunday’s 1 p.m. matinee, the team will head to Auntie Pasta’s in Logan’s Landing for its tri-annual post-game meal at the Italian eatery.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Griffore biding his time in Metro net

Anthony Griffore hasn’t seen one minute of game action this year for the Metro Jets, but complaints will not come from the rookie goaltender.

The team’s third goaltender behind Ian Mercer and R.J. Heath, Griffore has dressed for games when one of Mercer or Heath has had the night off, but the most rubber he sees is in practice or pre-game warm-ups.

Griffore’s attitude on being the No. 3 goalie is one that has rubbed off on his teammates and the Metro coaching staff.

“I’ve never once heard Anthony complain about playing time,” said Metro GM Butch Wolfe. “He works hard in practice and keeps the players loose in the locker room. He came from a well-run AAA program (Lansing Capitals) and has the knowledge and potential to play in this league. Problem is, he got stuck behind two NAHL-caliber goalies this year and has had to bide his time. And he’s been OK with that.”

Griffore, an 18-year-old from Milford, may see his first start in one of the Jets’ last five games. Metro is not going to the CSHL playoffs and to play against Dubuque, St. Louis or Pittsburgh may be an audition for next season, according to Wolfe.

“I’d love to see him at game speed and see what he can do,” Wolfe said. “The potential is definitely there and to see how he performs against one of the league’s top teams would be a huge measuring stick for us to see what he may be able to do for us next season.”


The Jets earned three points last weekend with a win and a heartbreaking shootout loss.

Jon Wickersham recorded three points and Mercer stopped all 30 shots he faced as the Jets blanked the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls, 4-0, Friday night on the road.

Wickersham scored twice and added an assist as the Jets earned their tenth win of the season.

Justin Vinson and Jon Elliott also scored for Metro, while Brett Grech and captain Mike Corder each chipped in with two assists.

The shutout was the Jets' third this season and Mercer has been in net for all of them.

Metro carried a 5-2 lead into the middle of the third period Saturday night at Lakeland Arena, but the Flint Jr. Generals scored three straight over the final 10 minutes to tie the game and then won it in the shootout.

Mercer made 49 saves for the Jets, now 10-29-0-4.

Tim Hooker led the Jets' offense with a goal and two assists. His shorthanded goal at 8:21 of the third period gave Metro their 5-2 lead, but then Brent Duwe (9:05), Nathan Scurfield (power play at 17:56) and ex-Jets' defenseman Ryan Eby (19:26) rallied Flint to send the game to overtime.

After a scoreless five-minute overtime, Thomas Friedrich's goal in the ninth round of the shootout gave the Jr. Generals the win. Grech and Wickersham scored shootout goals for the Jets.

Vinson, David Merkle and Mike Denston each posted a goal and an assist for the Jets, while Joe Rutkowski scored the other and Will Saley chipped in two assists.

The Jets host the Dubuque Thunderbirds tonight at Lakeland at 8:10 p.m. in their only game this week.

Remaining games on ’09-10 schedule:
Fri. Feb. 19 vs. Dubuque
Sat. Feb. 27 @ St. Louis
Sun. Feb. 28 @ St. Louis
Sat. Mar. 6 vs. Pittsburgh
Sun. Mar. 7 vs. Pittsburgh


With his two goals Friday night, Wickersham became the fourth Jets’ player with 10 or more goals this season. Wickersham now has 10, while Josh Magnan has 16, Elliott has 14 and Grech has posted 11.


Defenseman Steven Oleksy, who started this season in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye and then scored his first professional goal with the IHL’s Port Huron Icehawks, has caught on with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads and has one assist in 11 games thus far.

Oleksy, a 24-year-old native of Chesterfield, played for the Jets during the 2003-2004 season.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marquette hosts Janesville Friday night

There’s an old saying in sports that says “getting to first place is the easy part, staying in first place is much more difficult.”

The Marquette Rangers will get their first chance to stay in first place in the North American Hockey League North Division race this Friday as they host the Janesville Jets at Lakeview Arena.

Marquette and Traverse City top the division with 56 points each. Janesville is in third and Motor City is fourth with Alpena a distant fifth

The climb into first place has actually been anything but easy for Kenny Miller’s club as the team has played only five home games since the first of the year. However, the team has managed to go 9-4 in that stretch with road sweeps against Albert Lea of the Central Division and Motor City, as well as a key split at Janesville three weeks ago.

Marquette has also gone 4-1 in their five home games at Lakeview Arena since January 1. On the season, the Rangers are 17-5 on home ice.

In the process, the Rangers have also broken the franchise record for wins in the season with 28 so far, topping the old total of 26 wins set in both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Marquette has 14 games left in the regular season, including this Friday’s matchup with Janesville.

In six games this season between the two clubs, Janesville holds a 4-2 advantage against Marquette.

The Rangers are led in scoring by Andrew Kolb’s 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists) with Garrett Ladd right behind at 50 points on 17 goals and 33 assists. Newcomer Jimmy McCusker has been a significant factor offensively for the club since coming to Marquette in a trade with Alpena. In five games, the fourth-year forward has scored five goals to accompany three assists since becoming a Ranger.

Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m.

Kolb photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

USHL makes Muskegon entry official

USHL Press Release

The United States Hockey League today announced that it will expand to Muskegon and a new membership will begin play in the 2010-11 season, bringing the league’s total to 16 member clubs.

“This is a red-letter day for the USHL,” said USHL commissioner Skip Prince. “Together with USA’s Hockey’s NTDP team out of Ann Arbor, the entry of Muskegon into the USHL places us squarely in the midst of one of hockey’s hotbeds in Michigan, and in front of some of the most knowledgeable fans in the game.”

The new Muskegon organization, which will be known as the Muskegon Lumberjacks, will be owned and operated by Blue Ox Hockey and Lou and Josh Mervis. Part of the USHL since the League acquired its exclusive Tier I designation by USA Hockey in 2002, the Mervis family originally operated the USHL Danville (Ill.) Wings. Mervis Industries, the family’s principal business, is a leader in manufacturing and recycling of industrial by-product which operates in 12 cities throughout the Midwest.

“We spent a lot of time and effort exploring multiple cities that would be a solid USHL market, but Muskegon clearly established itself as not only the right fit for us, but for the League,” said Josh Mervis. “The city has a rich tradition of hockey and a knowledgeable fan base whose passion and loyalty rivals hockey fans anywhere in North America."

The new Muskegon team will play its home games at L.C. Walker Arena, a multi-purpose facility which seats 5,100 for hockey games. Blue Ox Hockey will also operate L.C. Walker Arena in a joint venture with Jeff and Stacey Patulski, who have managed the building in addition to holding ownership of a hockey organization in Muskegon for the past two seasons. Tim Taylor, a well-respected hockey executive and native of Muskegon, will assume the position of COO of the USHL Lumberjacks.

“The opportunity for the USHL to have strong, committed, experienced local management in Muskegon, a city that has hosted this great game in numerous leagues for fifty years, is a statement by all of us – the League, the city and its great fans, and the Mervis family – that the pinnacle of USA Hockey’s development model has a home here,” said Prince.

Muskegon becomes the second Michigan entry into the USHL, as the NTDP became a full-time member of the league prior to this season. With the recent addition of the Dubuque (Ia.) Fighting Saints and the expansion to Muskegon, the USHL will have an all-time high of 16 member clubs for the 2010-11 season.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rangers face Jackets Monday, Tuesday

The Marquette Rangers’ schedule this week proves that sometimes even junior hockey players have to face a curve ball.

The second place Rangers travel to downstate Wyandotte to battle the Motor City Metal Jackets in North American Hockey League North Division play Monday afternoon and Tuesday evening. The rare Monday-Tuesday series is part of three games for Marquette this week as the team will return to Lakeview Arena Friday for a single game against the Janesville Jets.

The Rangers trail first place Traverse City by four points heading into the games this week, while Motor City is locked in a tight battle for third place with Janesville in the division race.

Marquette and Motor City split their last series at Lakeview Arena on February 5-6. The teams have played eight times this season and are 4-4-0 against one another head-to-head.

Forward Garrett Ladd continues to lead the team in overall scoring with 48 points on 16 goals and 32 assists.

Hancock native Tanner Kero leads the team in goal production with 28 on the season, which is the most of any player in the entire NAHL. The second leading goal producers in the league behind Kero are Brian Sheehan of Wichita Falls and Rui Encarnacao of Janesville, each with 24.

Monday afternoon’s game starts at 2:30 p.m., while the Tuesday game begins at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jets fly high with local Cub Scout pack

The Metro Jets' players see themselves as regular, ordinary people, but last weekend, they became heroes to a local group of Cub Scouts.

A group of kids from the first grade Tiger Den from Pack 126, based out of the Clarkston United Methodist Church and Clarkston Elementary School, came to the game Saturday night and took in the action from Lakeland Arena.

Metro’s captains – Brett Grech, Mike Corder and Jon Wickersham – were three of the players that met the kids before the game (pictured) and the scouts also got a tour of the rink and the Jets’ locker room.

Tiger Den leader Jeff Waite brought several from his troop to a game last year and had such a fun time that he said he and the kids wanted an encore this season.

“The kids last year had a great time and many said that it was their favorite outside-event of the year,” said Waite, a former scout with the pack himself. “Also, as part of the Cub Scout program, we are required to see a live sporting event. Some groups go to a high school basketball game or to professional sporting events as well, but we like the intimacy of the arena and the opportunity that the Jets organization gives to the kids to meet the players, see the locker room and stuff like that. I think it adds another level to the experience rather than just getting a ticket and sitting down to watch a game. Not only can they get closer to the game than they could at those other games, but they also get to relate to the players.

“The kids all seemed to have a great time again this year. Although they weren’t real sure about the smells of the locker room, they enjoyed getting to meet the players and immediately started to root for the player who autographed the puck that they received before the game.”

Grech said that meeting the kids made him feel proud.

“When I was younger, I always looked up to older guys and it’s cool to be the other way around,” said Grech. “If we have any positive influence on these kids, it’s a huge deal and hopefully, we can be just that.”

“If kids can look at me and want to play hockey and try their best, that is great,” Corder added. “Any team activity is important because it helps to teach kids team building lessons so that later in life they can work in society. If I can inspire someone to want to give their best all the time, even when things don't go the way you want them to, that is a good thing.”

Waite also said that coming to Lakeland Arena gave him a chance to reflect on the past.

“In the late 1980s and early ‘90s while I was in high school, my younger brother and I used to come to the arena to watch the Jets play on Friday and Saturday nights,” explained Waite. “It was a fun way to spend time together, while getting out of the house by ourselves. When I became a den leader for my own sons and saw the requirement that we attend a live sporting event, the Jets were one of the first teams that I thought of. After coming to see the team a few months ago, my youngest son decided that he wanted to play hockey, and is now involved in the Atoms program offered through the arena.”

Corder said he enjoyed the experience so much that he thinks the Jets have the potential to do more in the Waterford area to drum-up more interest in the team.

“Having special themed games like inviting the Cub Scouts and the local youth hockey teams I think would bring more of the community to the rink,” said Corder. “Maybe helping with some of the events of local groups would be a good idea also.”

Waite is already looking ahead to next season and wants to pack the stands at Lakeland.

“I would like to plan a little further ahead than we have in the past, however, and possibly bring the entire pack of about 60 kids,” Waite said. “I would like to explore the possibility of that with (Jets GM) Butch (Wolfe). Everyone had a great time again this year and we look forward to returning in the future.

“I think it would be fun if we could make this an annual event.”


Metro faltered in back-to-back games last weekend, effectively eliminating the Jets from playoff contention.

The Queen City Steam defeated the Jets, 6-3, Saturday night at Lakeland Arena.

The Jets actually had a lead in the game in the first period when Corder banked a clearing attempt off the boards and it squirted past Steam goalie Justin Camuto. The goal was Corder's first of the season.

Tim Hooker scored a highlight-reel goal in the second period when he went high on Camuto while on his back.

Steve Vandenberghe ended the Jets' scoring with a late power-play goal in the third period on a blast from the point.

Between the pipes, Ian Mercer finished with 28 saves in the loss.

Jon Elliott scored a pair of goals for Metro, but the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls got two goals in the third period to take a 5-3 win at Southside Ice Community Center Sunday afternoon.

Elliott now has 13 goals on the year, good for second on the team behind Josh Magnan's 16 tallies.

Mike Denston also scored for the Jets and Mercer made 24 saves in goal.

The Jets (9-29-0-3) play in Grand Rapids again Friday night before hosting the Flint Jr. Generals Saturday night at Lakeland Arena for a 7:40 p.m. faceoff.

Remaining games on ’09-10 schedule:
Fri. Feb. 12 @ Grand Rapids
Sat. Feb. 13 vs. Flint
Fri. Feb. 19 vs. Dubuque
Sat. Feb. 27 @ St. Louis
Sun. Feb. 28 @ St. Louis
Sat. Mar. 6 vs. Pittsburgh
Sun. Mar. 7 vs. Pittsburgh


Mercer has been in net for six of the Jets’ nine wins this season.


Brent Agrusa, head coach of the Jets during the 1999-2000 season and the first half of the 2000-2001 season, is now co-head coach of the California Stars 18AAA Midget team.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brittain giving back with LTS program

It’s easy to spot Plymouth Whalers left wing Josh Brittain during any game.

At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Brittain is a power forward who has found a home on a line with Joe Gaynor and James Livingston.

The veteran line excels in forechecking and crashing deep in the offensive zone, creating scoring chances by wearing down opposing defensemen. That’s how Brittain scored his 15th goal of the season last night in Guelph – converting Livingston’s shot from the severe angle, right wing, and potting home the rebound just outside the blue crease.

Brittain has another job on the ice that utilizes a softer, kinder approach. He’s currently one of the lead instructors at Compuware Arena’s Learn-to-Skate program. Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10-11am and most Wednesday nights from 5-7pm, Brittain is out on the ice, patiently instructing young children that are around just six years old.

Brittain has taken to the LTS program much like he forechecks for the Whalers – straight ahead.

But instead of wearing down defensemen, he’s nurturing young skaters and potential hockey players.

He’s receiving rave reviews.

“Josh stepped right in when we needed someone,” said Compuware Arena Learn-to-Skate Director Jennifer Hancock. “We’ve received great feedback from parents and the kids. The kids say, ’Bring Josh back every week, we really want (to work with) him.’

“Just standing back and watching him – he’s great. He gets right in there with the details of skating and helps with puck handling drills. He’s just a great all-around instructor. We’re really happy to have him on board.”

During a recent session, Brittain instructed youngsters Fernando Gonzales, Dorian Diewald and Joel Fonovic. As big as Brittain is, he uses one part comedy, one part body language (often kneeling on the ice to get his points across) and one part strength to teach his students.

Brittain – a draft choice of the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks – grew up in Milton, Ont., and remembers the lessons he learned growing up.

“Growing up, I did a lot of programs like our Learn-to-Skate,” Brittain said. “I worked with some older guys who were assistants and not exactly instructors, but I looked up to them – how they shot the puck, scored goals and the whole aspect of it when you are younger. It’s pretty cool.”

Brittain decided to work for the Learn-to-Skate program as a way to give back.

“I noticed growing up how big of an impact an older person is in teaching,” Brittain said. “It certainly had an impact on me. Helping these little guys is fun for me and fun for them. Hopefully, our time together gives them a positive outlook on hockey while growing up.”

Brittain gave a scouting report of his three students.

“Fernando, Dorian and Joel are excellent skaters for their age,” he said. “We’re just working on their physical aspect of putting the puck in the net and to become the next Plymouth Whalers.”

Brittain’s work has another positive effect on families - they’re becoming Whaler fans.

“It’s cool to see how he works with the kids,” said Catherine Fonovic. “We get Whaler tickets as part of the (Learn-to-Skate) program. (At games) we’re yelling at Josh from our seats and he’s waving at us from the ice.”

New Learn-to-Skate Sessions are forming all the time. Brittain is often assisted by Whalers teammates Ryan Hayes and Matt Hackett.

In addition, the Whalers are offering Mid-Winter Break Clinics on February 15-16 or February 18-19. During the two-day clinics, kids will go through drills and work on their technique as some of the Whalers players and coaches are the instructors during the clinics, plus enjoy a pizza party after one of the days. Each participant will receive a complimentary Whaler game voucher for a game during the 2009-10 regular season.

Full equipment is required and the maximum number of participants is 40 per clinic. Register early to guarantee a spot. Contact Natalie Shaver with any questions at 734-453-3216.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

USHL team coming to Muskegon

The United States Hockey League is expanding by two teams for the 2010-2011 season and the 16th and latest team will call Muskegon home.

An article in the Muskegon Chronicle yesterday confirmed that this season will be the last for pro hockey in Muskegon and that a new junior team will play at L.C. Walker Arena next fall.

The ownership group will include Josh Mervis, former owner of the NAHL's and USHL's Danville Wings.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Seguin, O'Connor earn OHL honors

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the OHL Performers of the Month for January, 2010.

All Weather Windows OHL Player of the Month – Tyler Seguin, Plymouth Whalers

Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers led the OHL with 26 points in 13 January games scoring 10 goals and 16 assists with a plus-minus rating of plus-4 to capture this award for the second straight month. He recorded points in 11 of his 13 games played including nine multi-point games. He was named first star of the game four times this month including twice when named the Boston Pizza OHL and CHL Player of the Week for the week ending January 24 after two consecutive four-point games. He scored two goals and two assists in a 5-1 win over the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors on January 22 and a goal with three assists in a 4-2 win over the Peterborough Petes January 23. Seguin also competed as captain of Team Orr at the 2010 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

Seguin, an 18-year-old from Brampton, Ont., currently leads the OHL in scoring with 37 goals and 47 assists for 84 points in 47 games so far in his second season with the Whalers. He is eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and recently competed for the Western Conference All-Stars at the 2010 OHL All-Star Classic in Kingston.

OHL Defenceman of the Month – Ryan O’Connor, Saginaw Spirit

Ryan O’Connor of the Saginaw Spirit led all OHL defencemen and also led his club with nine goals in January adding six assists for 15 points in 14 games played with a plus-minus rating of plus-2. Five of his goals were scored on the power play and he recorded points in 10 games including five multi-point games. He was named second star of the game twice this month including January 2 with a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers and again on January 29 when he scored two goals, both with the man advantage, as part of a 7-2 victory over the Sarnia Sting in one if the Spirit’s seven wins this month.

O’Connor, an 18-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., is playing in his second OHL season. Originally selected sixth overall by the Barrie Colts in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection, O’Connor is now eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He is ranked 15th in scoring amongst OHL defencemen with 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 50 games.

Seguin photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Livonia's Voran chooses Notre Dame

The Sioux Falls Stampede announced this afternoon that forward Mike Voran has committed to the University of Notre Dame for the 2010-11 season. He becomes the 15th Stampede player to commit to a Division I program this season.

The Livonia native is the Herd’s leading scorer with 47 points in 38 games. Voran, an assistant captain with the Herd, is tied for the team lead in goals (17) and assists (30). He leads the team in power-play assists with 12 and shots on goal with 122.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound forward was the Herd’s first round selection (sixth overall) during the 2009 USHL Entry Draft. He spent last season with the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League where he led the team in scoring during the regular season and led the league in scoring during the playoffs.

Grech staying consistent in Waterford

Brett Grech
has been a constant for the Metro Jets this season and he’s producing from all over the ice.


A defenseman by trade, Grech, a two-year captain, has seen time on the Jets’ top forward line this season and currently leads the team in scoring with 24 points.

“We had him on the back to start and moved him up front to try to help our offense,” explained Metro coach Ryan Skop. “As of late, he's done a good job putting up points.”

A four-year veteran of the Jets, Grech led the team in scoring in 2007-2008 as a 17-year-old and then finished second last season and second among all CSHL blue liners.

Still, Grech, a 6-foot, 200-pounder from Hartland, would give up all the individual accolades for more team success.

“I could certainly understand if Brett were frustrated by the lack of success the team has had during his tenure here, but he's another one who's mostly upbeat and ready to play every night,” Skop said. “Even considering all this, Grechy still continues to be a good role model and ambassador of our program for the younger players who are here and for some of the guys who we are recruiting.”

With one year of junior eligibility remaining, it’s pretty much up to Grech as to what he wants to pursue hockey-wise

“I'm not too sure what the future has in store for Grechy,” said Skop. “I know he's got the talent and ability to move on, whether that is in junior or college, but I think whatever he chooses he’ll make an impact.”


The Jets blew a third period lead and fell to the Motor City Chiefs, 4-3, Friday night on the road.

David Merkle, Jon Wickersham and Matt Moeller scored for Metro for a 3-2 lead going into the final 20 minutes.

Connor Dresser and Chiefs captain Cole Workman tallied in the third period, with Workman's game-winner coming on the power play at 15:39.

In goal, Ian Mercer finished with 22 saves in the loss.

This weekend, the Jets (9-27-0-3) host Queen City Saturday night and then travel to Grand Rapids Sunday afternoon.


Rookie forwards Jon Elliott, Joe Rutkowski and Wickersham have each played in all 39 games this season for the Jets.


Eric Ehn, a 2007 Hobey Baker Award finalist while playing for the U.S. Air Force Academy, graduated from the Academy in 2008 and is now stationed at Minot Air Force Base in Minot, N.D., in the space and missiles field.

Ehn, a 26-year-old native of Dexter, played for the Jets during the 2000-2001 CSHL championship season and also during the national Junior B championship season of 2001-2002.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Thursday, February 04, 2010

IceDiggers deal Timar to Wenatchee

The Wenatchee Wild acquired forward Ryan Timar from Alpena on Tuesday for future considerations.

Timar, 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, was Alpena’s leading scorer. He scored 15 goals and 14 assists (29 points) in 35 games with the IceDiggers this season and scored 11 goals and 26 assists (37 points) in 53 games with Alpena last season.

“We are excited to have Ryan coming to our team,” said Wild associate head coach Ryan McKelvie. “He is a very gifted player that plays hard every night. Even more importantly, he is a high character person that will be a great addition to our locker room.”

Timar, a 20-year-old from Novi, becomes the fourth Wild player that is committed to play for the Air Force Academy next season, joining new teammates Adam McKenzie, Alex McLean and Mitch Torrel. Timar comes to the Wild riding a six-game point streak in which he has scored five goals and five assists.

More from the Alpena News.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Rangers set for three-game weekend

The Marquette Rangers play three games against two different opponents this Thursday through Saturday at Lakeview Arena.

According to head coach Kenny Miller, to be successful, his team will have to play that way: Three different games on three different nights, one at a time.

“It sounds cliché, I know, but we need to play this weekend, and the rest of the season, one shift, one period and one game at a time,” the Rangers skipper said. “We have a big challenge with the top team in our division (Traverse City) on Thursday, so we obviously need to focus on the first opponent first before we start to concern ourselves with the rest of the weekend with Motor City.

“It’s very tempting at this time of year to start looking at the standings and thinking about where we may or may not be. We can’t afford that and I’m confident our guys after five months of playing in this league won’t let that happen. We need to take care of business Thursday, then Friday, and then Saturday, and in that order. It’s the only way for us to have success the rest of the way.”

And the Rangers have had success this season. Marquette trails Traverse City by five points in the North Division race, while Motor City sits in fourth place.

The Rangers have won five of their last six games coming into this weekend, having split with the Janesville Jets in southern Wisconsin this past weekend.

The games Friday and Saturday against Motor City will also mark the team’s second-annual “NASCAR Night,” sponsored by Hoovers Auto Body of Marquette. The team will wear custom racing-themed jerseys on both Friday and Saturday. Fans will have a chance to bid on their favorite player’s jersey during Saturday’s game.

“Other than the ‘Pink Game,' this was by far our most popular jersey auction last season.” said Rangers spokesman Mark Evans. “Hoovers has been a great partner over the years and we’re looking forward to another great night thanks to them and their support.”

All three games begin at 7:30 p.m. at Lakeview Arena.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Marquette trades for Alpena's McCusker

Fans of the Marquette Rangers won’t have Alpena captain Jimmy McCusker to yell at any longer as the fourth-year forward has been traded from the IceDiggers to the Rangers and will be in Kenny Miller's lineup this weekend.

“We’ve been working this one for awhile,” Miller said Monday. “Jimmy’s a team guy who will do really whatever we ask of him. He’s a player who’s been in this league for a long time, so he knows what is expected of him. He’s got the ability to do all the things we need, from killing penalties to putting pressure on the opponent in their zone, to putting the puck in the net.

"He adds a dimension that really fits into our plan of success.”

In return for McCusker, the Rangers sent forward Danny Wood to Alpena.

Miller added that since he and McCucker were also together during the coach’s time in Alpena, the transition to the Rangers should be quite easy.

“We know each other very well from before, he knows what I want and I know what he brings so I’m confident he’ll jump right in and help us down the stretch," Miller said.

So far this season, McCusker has played in 32 games and scored 19 points on six goals and 13 assists to go along with 55 penalty minutes. During his tenure in Alpena, the Novi native had 118 points on 50 goals and 68 helpers in just over 3 1/2 seasons.