Thursday, July 29, 2010

Boileau hired to lead Warriors' scouting

The Michigan Warriors announced this week additions to the team’s scouting and front office staff.

Moe Mantha has hockey in his blood and the responsibility to develop these players into a winning team ultimately is his, but it’s the people behind the scenes that will really turn Flint’s Michigan Warriors into a source of community pride,” said Pat McEachern, a member of the Michigan Warriors ownership group. “Our new scouting director and front office staff are among the best professionals in hockey.”

Joining the Warriors as scouting director is Tom Boileau, a long-time member of the Southeast Michigan hockey community. He is a certified Level 5 Master Coach and has been behind the bench at nearly every level. Highlights of Boileau’s coaching career include time as the GM and head coach of the Brownstown Bombers Junior A team, an internship at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and three years as director of player personnel for the Marquette Rangers. He also serves as GM and head coach of Michigan Elite High School Hockey.

Many of Boileau’s players have graduated from junior hockey to play at the NCAA level.

Sales director Tory Thompson Newberry joins the Warriors after working as a senior account executive for the Detroit Red Wings, where she handled season tickets, group tickets, suites and corporate advertising. Prior to her work with the Red Wings, Tory spent four seasons as an account executive with the Saginaw Spirit. There, she handled season tickets, group tickets, corporate advertising and hockey school. Tory has spent her entire life around the game of hockey and resides in Saginaw Township.

Warriors director of marketing and promotions Jacob Wesolek most recently served as director of operations for the Port Huron Icehawks of the International Hockey League. A 2002 graduate of Central Michigan University, Wesolek got his start in hockey with the Spirit, coordinating sales initiatives and game-day promotions. He also spent time with the Omaha Knights of the American Hockey League and the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. Wesolek will be responsible for the daily operations including marketing efforts, promotions and public relations. He originally is from Saginaw and currently resides there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warriors to host camp this weekend

The Michigan Warriors today announced the first opportunity for area fans to get a free look Mid-Michigan’s new brand of hockey.

The team has invited its top prospects and draft picks to a camp at the Flint Iceland Arena (1160 S. Elms Rd., Flint) with scrimmage game action Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31 and an All-Star Game Sunday, August 1 at noon.

Fans are welcome to watch as future Warriors players showcase their skills for the team’s scouting and coaching staff during camp activities. Players invited to the camp include the team’s 2010 NAHL draft picks and other prospects. Their performance in camp practice sessions and games will help determine who takes the ice for the team’s inaugural season at Perani Arena, which begins in September. The team expects to have its final 2010-11 roster in place in August.

“Not just any kid off the street is going to make this team,” said Michigan coach-GM Moe Mantha. “This is an extremely competitive league and the scouting staff and I are going to be watching these players very closely in live game situations. We want to be sure the young men who put on the Warriors sweater for Flint’s first NAHL game are highly skilled, have the hunger to win and are going to represent this community the way it deserves to represented.”

Camp Schedule

Friday, July 30
Practice from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to noon
Live-action games from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 31
Practice from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to noon
Live-action games from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, Aug 1
All-Star Game noon to 2:30 pm

Camp activities will take place at Iceland Arena while the team’s home rink, Perani Arena, undergoes a series of continuing renovations in preparation for the upcoming season. Upgrades to the facility’s roof, food service and concessions areas are scheduled for completion by September.

The arena already has seen improved lighting installed since Firland Management began investing in the fan experience after taking over operations at the 4,000-seat facility earlier this year. Additional upgrades are planned.

Fowler signs three-year deal with Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks have signed defenseman Cam Fowler to a three-year entry-level contract.

Per club policy, no terms of the deal were disclosed.

Fowler was selected by the Ducks in the first round (12th overall) of this year's NHL Entry Draft.

Fowler, an 18-year-old Farmington Hills native, collected 8-47=55 points with a +38 rating and 14 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League in 2009-10. Fowler ranked seventh among OHL defensemen in scoring to help Windsor finish first in its conference during the regular season.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound blueliner also added 3-11=14 points with 10 PIM in 19 OHL playoff games, helping the Spitfires to their second consecutive OHL championship and second straight Memorial Cup as junior hockey champions.

As a member of Team USA, Fowler won a gold medal at both the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship and 2009 IIHF U-18 World Championship, where he was named the tournament’s top defenseman. Fowler also played two seasons in Ann Arbor with the U.S. National Training Development Program. In 2008-09, he was a member of the Under-18 team recording 8-32=40 points with 44 PIM in 55 games.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Portage native commits to Broncos

USHL Press Release

Chicago Steel forward Alex Carpenter has committed to play collegiate hockey at the Western Michigan University and will enroll at the school in the fall of 2011.

The Portage native, who turned 19 last week, posted 24 points (14g, 10a) while appearing in all but one of the 60 regular season games for the Steel in 2009-10. He ranked second on the team with 138 shots on goal.

In just his second game of the season, Carpenter tallied a season high four points (2g, 2a) and a plus-four rating in the 10-5 win over Team USA on Oct. 3. It was his first of three multi-goal games for the year. Carpenter also appeared in nine games for the Steel during the 2008-09 USHL season and scored two points (1g, 1a).

Six other USHL players from the 2009-10 season are also committed to attend Western Michigan University: Nick Pisellini (Chicago Steel), Shane Berschbach (Clawson/Indiana Ice), Dennis Brown (Omaha Lancers), Dan DeKeyser (Algonac/Sioux City Musketeers), Chase Balisy (Team USA), David Donnellan (Youngstown Phantoms).

A total of 13 USHL alumni competed for the Broncos during the 2009-10 season.

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Monday, July 26, 2010

Traverse City 24-man roster set Sunday

It was a bittersweet Sunday for Traverse City North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo.

The sweet: Palumbo and his staff hewed their 2010-11 roster from a weekend training camp at Centre ICE Arena that included veterans, tenders, draft picks and the top performers from a summer of tryout camps.

The bitter: The least-favorite job of any coach.

“We had a very competitive camp, with a lot of energy and a lot of talented players,” Palumbo explained. “We’re pretty excited about the new roster and think we have the potential to do very well. At the same time, we had to say good-bye to quite a few outstanding athletes to get down to roster size. It’s hard to tell a kid that he isn’t in your plans and there were more than a few kids that are certainly going to go on to have great years in the sport ahead of them.”

While the North American Hockey League’s summer of expansion precipitated a roster size reduction, the Traverse City coaching staff tabbed 24 players from the field of hopefuls, which included 11 returning veterans, four tenders, five draft picks and four players who played their way onto the roster during the camp season.

Four local players –Eric Rivard (Traverse City West HS), Jared Van Wormer (Traverse City Central HS), Mitchell Snider (TC West) and Matt Zaremba (Gaylord HS) – will don interlocking ‘TC’ sweaters this season. Rivard is a returning veteran, Van Wormer and Zaremba spent time with the North Stars last year and Snider began last season with the now-defunct Alpena IceDiggers.

“We’re looking to our veterans to really step up and take on bigger roles,” Palumbo continued. “But some of these young kids are going to have to contribute as well. We’re not going to be a team built on the superstar principal – we’re going to need production from a lot of different guys every night.”

Veteran winger Doug Clifford, who led the Stars last season with 53 points over 56 games and a +30 plus-minus rating, heads a group of returning forwards that includes Tim Opie (12G/19A), Kelin Ainsworth (30 pts.), Rivard (12 pts.), Taylor Burden (7 pts.) and late-season additions Alec Shields (10 pts. in 22 gms.) and Ryan Amin (8 pts. in 29 gms.). Snider, Van Wormer, Zaremba, Flint Junior Generals product Nate Scurfield, Cody Loyer of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep, Detroit Catholic Central’s Eric Fragoso and Lansing Capitals midget major alum Michael Szmatula round out the front-liners.

Travis White enters his third season leading the Traverse City blue line corps, along with returning vets Curtis Heinz and Trevor Campbell and newcomers Zack Dorer (Lansing Capitals MM), Chris Barile (Compuware MM), Robert Wiener (Lansing Capitals MM), Chris Leibinger (Saginaw Heritage HS) and Connor Schmidt (Little Caesars MM).

Tyler Marble, who appeared in seven games with the Stars last season (3-3-1), and California netkeep Peter Emery are slated to handle goaltending duties.

“I think we’re a team that skates well, that’s pretty skilled and hopefully, is a balanced group,” Palumbo said. “It’s a roster with a ton of potential. Now, we begin to set about turning that potential in production.”

The North Stars will open their practice schedule in late August in advance of their Sept. 11 season-opener at Chicago. Traverse City will host Springfield on Oct. 15.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

North Stars look for big year from Amin

Traverse City North Stars forward Ryan Amin climbed over the boards and onto the ice for the Blue Team during the first half of Saturday’s training camp showdown with the White Team. He immediately skated into a passing lane, swiped the puck and headed up ice, leading a 3-on-1 break that nearly resulted in a goal.

After an exchange of possession, Amin chased an opponent into the corner, delivered a dasher-rattling body check, and dug out the puck.

Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo hopes that shift will be a microcosm of the upcoming season for the Canton product.

“Ryan’s an excellent two-way player,” Palumbo said. “He’s very good on the offensive end and he’s really becoming a shutdown guy in the defensive zone. We’re looking for big things from Ryan this year to say the least.”

Amin signed a tender with Palumbo to play for Traverse City back in December 2007 and played 13 games with the North Stars in 2008 before a trade sent him to Wichita Falls. He opened 2009-10 with the Kenai River Brown Bears before Palumbo pulled the trigger on a three-way deal that brought Amin back to northwest Michigan.

“At the time, I felt like I was ready for a bigger role, to make bigger contributions and we had a pretty stacked roster in TC,” said Amin, who played in 29 games this season with the Stars after being re-acquired. “We kind of agreed that I’d see more ice time on another team. To be honest, it’s nice to be back here – the town, the fans, the organization – but I did get to see some other pretty cool parts of the country and do it while playing hockey. I have no complaints about any of it, it’s been a good experience.”

Amin registered a trio of goals to go with five assists in his most recent stint with Traverse City and played 41 contests overall in 2009-10. He bagged the game-winner at Alpena on Feb. 9, but tore his groin muscle late in the regular season and did not see action in TC’s Robertson Cup playoff chase.

“It was a great playoff run, but at the same time it was pretty hard to be out of the lineup,” he explained. “You want to be in there contributing. Of course the team goals are to get to the playoffs and advance again this year and it’s especially important to me having some unfinished business there.”

While not necessarily an imposing figure at first glance at 5-foot-11 and nearly 200 pounds, Amin is rock solid. A self-admitted workout fanatic, the power forward hopes to one day turn his passion for fitness into a career in kinesiology or exercise science.

“Ryan takes very, very good care of himself,” Palumbo added. “And it’s shows when he’s on the ice. He goes about his business in a quiet but very professional manner. He’s such an important part of this team, really for all the same reasons we tendered him the first time. He’s a leader on and off the ice. He leads by example, his teammates love him, and we’re really looking to Ryan to be a key contributor.”

Amin, for one, accepts the mantle of ‘veteran’ with open arms.

“Of course everybody wants to do well personally, but this is a team game,” he pointed out. “And the guys who have been here, been around, have a certain responsibility to pass on the things to the new guys that will help lead to team success. Guys let me know what was expected and what it took to do well at this level when I came into the league from midget majors. Now it’s our turn to try to do the same.”

Amin and the rest of the weekend campers will wrap up the North Stars’ annual training camp with Sunday morning’s Blue & White all-star game. Following that contest, Palumbo and his staff will select the 2010-11 roster from a group that includes returning veterans, draft picks, tenders, and the top talent from a summer of tryout camps.

Photo by John L. Russell/Great Lakes Images

Friday, July 23, 2010

Final camp in Traverse City this weekend

At this time last year, Traverse City North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo was looking forward to a North American Hockey League season stocked with a veteran-laden roster.

The club remained at or near the top of the North Division throughout the year, rolled through a pair of playoff sweeps and landed the franchise’s first-ever berth to the Robertson Cup championships.

This weekend at the team’s annual training camp, Palumbo will map a return trip to the Robertson Cup, selecting the 2010-11 roster from a group that includes returning vets, draft picks, tenders and the top talent from a summer of tryout camps. The yearly personnel turnover may well have been a bigger exodus than in previous summers, but Palumbo and his staff are optimistic about the new crop of players.

“We’ll be a younger team than last year,” he explained. “But we’re also looking for some of our current veterans to take on some added responsibility. We want to see guys work hard this weekend, we want to see them compete, because we do have some key roles to fill.”

The players will report to Centre ICE on Friday, split into three teams and go head-to-head. Following Saturday morning’s game, Palumbo and his staff will trim the field to two teams and a pair of all-star contests will ensue on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The final roster will be announced following Sunday’s 11 a.m. game.

“We’re looking to see who has put in their work this summer, who is ready to earn a position,” Palumbo added. “We have spots in net, on defense and at forward.”

Veterans attending this weekend’s camp include captain Travis White, fellow defensemen Curtis Heinz and Trevor Campbell and forwards Tim Opie, Ryan Amin, Alec Shields, Taylor Burden, Eric Rivard and Kelin Ainsworth. Doug Clifford, the team’s leading scorer in 2009-10, will not participate due to an off-season medical procedure. Six of the Stars’ 10 tenders will be among the weekend hopefuls, as will six of seven draft choices.

With a re-tooled roster, Palumbo & Co. will have a stacked North Division to contend with this year. The group swelled to eight – including perennial power St. Louis – and only the top four clubs will advance to the playoffs.

“With a team of so many veteran players last year, I think we took a night off here and there, knowing we would probably be one of the four-out-of-five teams that made it (to the playoffs),” Palumbo said. “They were able to turn it on when needed, especially in the playoffs, but I don’t think this year’s team will be able to take any nights off and be able to score a 7-0 win in the playoffs like that group did. We’ll have to bring it every night if we even want to qualify.”


Friday, July 23
10:00 am - Player check-in
11:00 am - Noon: Team Blue Practice
Noon - 1:30 pm: White vs Red Game
3:30 - 4:30 pm: Team White Practice
4:40 - 6:00 pm: Red vs Blue Game

Saturday, July 24
7:30 - 8:30 am: Team Red Practice
8:30 - 10:00 am: White vs Blue Game

-First Cuts - following 8:30 am game-
4:00 - 6:00 pm: White vs Red

Sunday, July 25
11:00 am - 1:00 pm: White vs Red

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Excitement building in Flint for Warriors


Professional hockey had been played in Flint for all but two of the past 40 years in one league or another.

Starting this fall, the city will become home to the North American Hockey League as the Michigan Warriors get set to play at Perani Arena.

And ever since the team’s arrival was announced in the spring, Warriors head coach and general manager Moe Mantha, also part of the team’s ownership group, has been busy selling the community on the NAHL brand.

“We fully intend to keep the respect and tradition of hockey in Flint alive and to get the fans accustomed to the junior game,” he said. “Changing the culture of the game in a city like this will take time. I think the fans just need to give the younger guys a chance and they’ll be surprised.

“Look at the (International Hockey League’s) Flint Generals team that played here last season; they had three guys that played in the NAHL. Then you look at the (NHL’s Detroit) Red Wings and they had a couple guys that played here, too. Everyone had to start somewhere and the NAHL is definitely a great place to develop.”

This spring when Mantha and co-owners Pat McEachern and Bob Bryant purchased the Marquette Rangers organization and moved the team downstate, the Flint locale was one of several the group surveyed, but in the end, the only one that fit.

“We did look at other areas, but Flint made the most sense because it’s so centrally located,” said Mantha. “You’re an hour from Detroit, two hours from Grand Rapids and a couple hours from the northern cities like Gaylord.

“The other part that made sense for us to come to Flint is the arena and its capacity to hold 4,000 fans. That will make for some good entertainment on a nightly basis. They’ve already started the renovations on the arena and when people get in there this fall, it’s going to have the look and feel of a new arena.”

One aspect of the team that won’t be new, per se, come this fall will be Mantha. A 12-year veteran of the NHL, Mantha also coached in the ECHL, American Hockey League and with the U.S. National Team Development Program for four seasons. He also played in three World Championships and one Winter Olympics for Team USA.

Needless to say, Mantha is well connected within the hockey community. He plans to use his vast knowledge of the game to give the NAHL even more muscle within mid-Michigan.

“We’re going to go out into the community and educate people on the league,” Mantha said. “This isn’t a league that’s been around two years; this is a league that’s been around 30-plus years. It has a history and it’s long been a steppingstone for many, many players to move up to the next level.

“In the Michigan market, the people here are very familiar with the league. The league started here and now we have four teams here (the Port Huron Fighting Falcons, Traverse City North Stars and Motor City Metal Jackets, in addition to the Warriors). When Compuware had a team in the league, they were always at or near the top each season.

“Kids that play in this league are the up-and-coming stars of college and pro hockey. They’re motivated to get to the highest level they possibly can. They might make mistakes, but they’ll make mistakes for the right reasons. There’ll be scouts in the stands every night and that in itself is pretty good motivation, knowing college recruiters and NHL scouts will be watching you on a nightly basis.”

With the new Port Huron organization starting this fall, a geographic rivalry with the Warriors should provide a lot of excitement for fans of the NAHL.

When Flint and Port Huron had teams in the same minor pro league, many of those games were always worth watching. Mantha is confident that same level of intensity will exist in the NAHL version of the rivalry.

“I think in due time, the rivalry will develop,” said Mantha. “I think it’s only a matter of time that will happen and, when it does, the fans will get in tune with it, too. Fans on both sides should bring that competitive spirit. Right now, it’s a cat-and-mouse game where neither one of the teams knows what it has. Once the season starts, we’ll know more.”

At the end of last season - a season in which the Rangers won the North Division title - 17 players were eligible to return this year and many expressed an interest of making the move to Flint.

“At our first camp, we had one returning goalie, six returning defensemen and eight returning forwards,” noted Mantha. “As the spring and summer went on, a lot of these guys had opportunities with other junior leagues. At one of our most recent camps, we had just two returning D, six forwards and no goalie. All that means is that we need to continue developing these kids. The door is now open for others to come in and take advantage of the opportunity.

“We should have a pretty solid base to work with. We’ll be a team that plays hard, is very competitive and competes every shift. That much I can tell you will be for certain.”

Two 'Jacks named to U-17 Select Team

Two members of the Muskegon Lumberjacks have been selected for the 2010 US Under-17 Select Team that will compete at the 2010 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament August 18-22 in Huttwil, Switzerland.

The players were selected to the team after participating in the USA Hockey’s Select 16 Player Development Camp from June 25-July 1 in Rochester, N.Y.

Joseph Cox from Chelsea was drafted by the Lumberjacks in the 2010 Futures Draft in May. Cox had four goals and three assists for a total of seven points at the Select 16 Camp. He is on the Lumberjacks affiliate list for 2010-2011. Players on the affiliate list are usually not quite ready to make the active roster, but can be called up to play in up to six games before they must be added to the active roster.

Cox will be joined by Jordan Masters from Rochester, N.Y. He finished the Select 16 Camp with six goals and one assist for seven points. Masters is on the Lumberjacks active roster for 2010-2011.

Both players were in the top 10 in scoring for the Select 16 Camp.

After returning from Switzerland, Masters will arrive in Muskegon at the end of August along with the rest of the Lumberjacks. The team will train six days a week to prepare for the upcoming season.

The 2010-2011 schedule will be announced soon.

Auburn Hills native commits to Sioux

USHL Press Release

Team USA forward Rocco Grimaldi has committed to attend the University of North Dakota following his USHL career.

During the 2009-10 season, Grimaldi posted 20 points (11g, 9a) in 32 USHL games for Team USA's U17 squad while serving as team captain. The 17-year-old native of Auburn Hills tied for the lead on Team USA with six power play goals.

Grimaldi joins Team USA defenseman Derek Forbort, who is also committed to the University of North Dakota. Four other USHL players from the 2009-10 season are also committed to the school; Michael Parks (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Colten St. Clair (Fargo Force), Danny Mattson (Chicago Steel) and Nick Mattson (Indiana Ice).

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saginaw adds to net depth with Paterson

The Saginaw Spirit announced the signing today of goalie Jake Paterson, the 32nd overall pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.

The Mississauga, Ont., native posted 15 shutouts and allowed only 70 goals in 50 games last season with the Minor Midget Toronto Marlboros. During the 2010 OHL Cup, he posted a 1.56 goals-against average in six games.

Paterson, who comes in at 6-feet-1 and 175 pounds, will wear No. 57 for the Spirit.

“Jake has great character, attitude and work ethic,” stated Spirit goaltending coach Randy Wilson following Paterson’s selection in May's draft. "He is your atypical butterfly goalie with decent size and good net discipline. He maintains his focus throughout the game to shutdown the opponent."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Plymouth inks rookie forward Wilson

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward Tom Wilson to an OHL contract and education package.

Wilson was the Whalers 2nd round pick (27th overall) in the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

"I am a versatile player that can play every part of the game," stated Wilson, who tallied 44 goals and 61 assists for 105 points and 140 penalty minutes in 73 games last season for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. "I love to hit and hope to be able to make the players around me better."

"He's the best power forward in his age group," Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. "We're looking forward to having him make a positive impact on our club and contribute right away."

Central Scouting described Wilson as “a big, physical winger who displays a real scoring touch around the net and has the potential to develop into a power forward at the next level. He has legitimate size and a great stick. The strength of his game is his ability to finish and put the puck in the net. He might not be the prettiest, but he could be one of the more natural finishers in this age group. He displays a real ability to put the puck in the net, and he really takes advantage of his chances.”

"It is one of the best feelings in the world to be able to sign a contract like this, especially with such a great organization," the 16-year-old Wilson explained. "It is a dream come true and I can't wait to start. The OHL is known as the best developmental league for young players and my family and I knew that going in. What we didn't realize was that the education support provided is exceptional and something that will allow me to pursue both education and hockey."

"We're happy Tom realized that playing in the OHL would allow him to develop his hockey skills for the NHL while continuing his education," Vellucci added.

A native of Toronto, Wilson will continue his education as a junior next year at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.

Wilson, who will wear No. 10 with the Whalers, will make his Compuware Arena debut during the Whalers home opener on Saturday, September 25 against the Barrie Colts at 7:05 p.m.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Whalers sign first-rounder Iafrate

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 16-year-old defenseman Max Iafrate, who was the Whalers first round pick (15th overall) of the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, to an OHL contract and education package.

Iafrate, who scored 15 goals with 14 assists for 29 points and 167 penalty minutes in 63 games last season for the Belle Tire U-16s, is the son of former National Hockey League defenseman Al Iafrate. His grandmother, Alice Iafrate, worked for the Compuware organization and the Whalers when they were known as the Compuware Ambassadors and Jr. Red Wings.

The Iafrates have season tickets to the Whalers games, so they are familiar with the organization.

"I worked hard for this. This is where I wanted to go, so it's awesome," Iafrate said. "There’s some real history here with (owner) Mr. (Peter) Karmanos, the fact that (coach-GM Mike) Vellucci played with my dad and my grandmother worked here. My dad has been through this before and it's an advantage having him around so he can teach me."

"We are very excited to have Max as a Plymouth Whaler," Vellucci said. "There's a lot of history with the organization and his family, so it's only fitting that he joined us. I couldn't imagine him in a different jersey, and I know the fans will be excited to watch him play and develop here."

“Max Iafrate’s going to be fun to watch,” said former Peterborough Petes GM and current Phoenix Coyotes scout Jeff Twohey. “To me, he’s a clear comparison to PK Subban (now with the Montreal Canadiens). He’s dynamic with his skating ability and his ability to move up the ice. He’ll get the puck up the ice quickly, he’s a player with high skill and has very good quickness.”

“I like to be an offensive defenseman, who likes to rush the puck," Iafrate said. "I like to play defense too, so I'm an all-around defenseman."

The 6-foot-1 and 200 pound native of Livonia will continue his education as a junior next year at Livonia Stevenson High School.

Iafrate is already involved in the Whalers community efforts this summer and will continue to give back as an instructor during the Whalers summer camps that start in August. Fans can catch their first glimpse of Iafrate and his teammates at the "Clash at the Coliseum" on September 4 when the Whalers take on the Windsor Spitfires during an exhibition game at the Arctic Coliseum in Chelsea.

Iafrate, who will wear No. 34 with the Whalers, will patrol the Compuware Arena blueline for the first time during the Whalers home opener on Saturday, September 25 against the Barrie Colts at 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trocheck, Racino to play Ivan Hlinka

Saginaw Spirit forward Vincent Trocheck and Spirit prospect Alex Racino have been named to Team USA’s roster for the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, also known as the Under-18 Junior World Cup.

Since 1991, Team USA has medaled nine times, winning their lone gold medal in 2003. The tournament takes place in early August in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Trocheck is entering his second season of Spirit hockey, posting 15 goals and 28 assists for 43 points in 68 games during his debut season last year. He was fifth in rookie scoring in the OHL during the 2009-2010 regular season. Trocheck tallied two goals and two assists for four points in six games during the 2010 OHL playoffs. The 1993-born Pittsburgh native was selected by Saginaw with the 24th overall pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection.

Racino is tabbed as a top prospect of the Spirit, having attended the team’s rookie camp in May. The Merrill, Wis., native played left wing for the Major Midget Madison Capitals last season, posting six goals and five assists for 11 points in 31 games. Racino, another 1993 birth year, is schedule to attend the Spirit’s fall training camp.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Metro's Pietrangelo commits to Finlandia

When the Metro Jets drafted Vinnie Pietrangelo early on in the 2009 Central States Hockey League draft, the team was banking on the rangy defenseman playing just one season with the Jets and then moving on to a higher level.

That has officially happened as the 19-year-old native of Traverse City has committed to play Division III hockey at Finlandia University, a small school located in the town of Hancock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, starting this fall. The Lions play in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association and the school is just one of two D-III schools in Michigan, with Adrian College being the other.

Pietrangelo played in 47 games last year for the Jets, scoring a power-play goal and adding seven assists for eight points. He said his year in Waterford was a defining year in helping him achieve his dream of playing college hockey.

“When I played at Traverse City West High School, my coaches knew that I wanted to play at the college level, so they contacted the coach at Finlandia and then told me that I needed to play a year of juniors if I wanted to play there,” said Pietrangelo. “The Metro Jets gave me that opportunity.

“The main thing that helped last year was it helped me become a little responsible with my offensive decisions, such as when to (join the rush) and when not to. I could pretty much get away with anything I wanted to at the high school level, but I found out quickly enough that wasn't the case at the junior level.”

“Vinnie struggled a bit early on as he found out how quickly the game transitions in our league,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “However, he was able to make that adjustment. This should help him at Finlandia as the D-III game is quicker yet. We wish him all good luck and success over his next four years.”

Pietrangelo will join former Jets forward Troy Storm (2006-2007) on the Lions’ roster, while another ex-Metro forward, Brandon Van Acker (2004-2005), just completed his senior season with Finlandia. Two other Metro alums, Pete Kolasa and Brooks Olson, also saw time playing for Finlandia after playing in Waterford. Kolasa played in the 1990s and Olson was a member of the Jets’ 2002 Silver Cup-winning national Junior B championship squad.

Pietrangelo initially made the decision to play for the Lions before new head coach John McCabe took over in May. When McCabe took over the program, he did some research on Pietrangelo and realized he had a solid incoming recruit.

“Vinnie was one of the guys (whose commitment) I honored because of his character and his upside,” McCabe said. “I have done some background checks on him from his prior coaches and I know I am bringing in a great kid from a quality family. He will be a solid defenseman for us next year.”

When looking back at the fact that he has progressed rapidly through the high school ranks, CSHL and now to the college level, Pietrangelo showed a humble side when he discussed whom he credits most when a decision like this is made to advance his hockey career.

“I really give credit to my high school coaches, Jeremy Rintala and Bob Spence, and of course, Anthony Palumbo of the (North American Hockey League’s) Traverse City North Stars, who coached me in minor hockey and in high school, as well as my family because they have been very supportive of everything throughout the year,” Pietrangelo said. “In the CSHL, there are long bus rides to places like Dubuque and Pittsburgh, and my family traveled to most venues where we played.”

As for the future, Pietrangelo thinks he will be able to succeed at Finlandia, a school where he intends to pursue a degree in the medical field.

“I think my game will fit into the college game because I can adapt to most situations and read the plays that my opponents are making,” noted Pietrangelo. “I also feel my ability to jump up into the play and create something from the back end will fit well in college.

“Short term and long term, my goals are to play well and help the team be successful.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spirit signs '94-born blueliner Ringuette

The Saginaw Spirit is pleased to announce the signing of defenseman Jacob Ringuette, the 33rd overall pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.

The 1994-born Goderich, Ont., native tallied 12 goals and 53 assists for 65 points in 70 games with the Ontario Minor Midget Huron-Perth Lakers last season.

Ringuette, who comes in at 6-feet, 170 pounds, will be wearing No. 79 for the Spirit.

“He is a poised, strong defenseman with great character,” said Spirit scout Frank Robinson following Ringuette’s selection earlier this summer. “One of his best assets is a hard first pass and he is very hard for opposing teams to beat when coming down on the rush.”

According to OHL Central Scouting, Ringuette is a very mobile, high risk/high reward-styled defender who likes to get involved and is very active in the offensive side of the game. He possesses very good feet, displays excellent overall mobility, a smooth stride, speed and quickness, and has the ability to cover a lot of geography while taking away time and space efficiently. He uses his speed and quickness when playing away from the puck, and he keeps his stick very active in attempting to take away shooting and passing lanes. He also shows a willingness to take the body and finish his checks.

Port Huron Fighting Falcons official

The Port Huron team that will begin play in the North American Hockey League this fall has announced its name and the unveiling of its logo.

The team will be called the Port Huron Fighting Falcons.

The name is inspired by the peregrine falcons that were born and live under Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge. Maribeth Hayes, chief executive officer of Hat Trick Hockey, LLC, which owns the team, is an animal lover and was inspired by the falcons and the way they’ve been embraced by the community.

“My partner did a lot of research on Port Huron,” Ernie Hicke, the team’s coach and general manager, told Paul Costanzo of the Port Huron Times Herald. “She was reading the articles about the falcons being born underneath the bridge and fighting for their lives and how they were named after different people.

“We’ve been fighting for the last two or three months to get this franchise, and of course put it into Port Huron. Maribeth came up with the name, and we all thought it was fantastic.”

Larry Smith, of Tag Sports Graphics, designed the logo.

A press conference introducing the Fighting Falcons will be held on Wednesday, July 14 at McMorran Place, the team’s home facility. Those expected to attend include NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld, Port Huron Mayor Steven G. Miller, city council members, McMorran Authority Board members, Costanzo and Rick Jackaki, sports reporters from the Times Herald, local high school hockey coaches and fans.

Hicke also credits Randy Fernandez, general manager of McMorran Place, for his efforts in bringing the NAHL to Port Huron.

“He was tremendous in helping us finalize our plans to make this team a reality,” said Hicke.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Jets' Elliott advances to CJHL's Grads

Jon Elliott was one of the surprise breakout players last season for the Metro Jets and he has parlayed his successful 2009-2010 campaign into a spot with the Cumberland Grads of the Central (Ontario) Junior Hockey League.

For Elliott, a 19-year-old forward from Bloomfield Hills, this opportunity has been one he’s had in the past.

“When I was 16, I went to a CJHL prospects tournament in Ottawa and after that tournament, three teams sent me invitations to their tryout camps,” said Elliott. “One of them happened to be the Cumberland Grads. I attended their camp and they invited me back to their main camp, but over that summer, I made the decision to play for my high school team at Brother Rice. This summer, I made the decision to go back and tryout again.”

Making the move to Canada to play Junior A hockey will not be an issue as Elliott will live with his uncle who lives just 20 minutes from the Cumberland rink. Elliott’s father also grew up in Canada and still has family north of the border.

“For most kids, moving would be very difficult and for me it will be a big change, but the support I have from my family will make the transition a lot easier,” Elliott said. “The best part of me playing for this team next year is that I won't have to live with a billet family that I don't know.”

Last season with the Jets, Elliott was second on the team in both goals (15) and points (26). He was also one of three players to play in all 48 games.

“Jon was one of just a few players that, more or less, stuck to our game plan,” said Jets GM Butch Wolfe. “His making Cumberland just shows what can happen if you listen and apply what is being said.”

Elliott said that last year was a tough year team-wise, but it nonetheless steered him in the direction to get ready for the next rung on the hockey ladder.

“The biggest thing that last season helped me prepare to make the jump from the CSHL to the CJHL was the drive and hard work you needed to put in day in and day out no matter if it was practice or a game,” explained Elliott.

As for where he wants to be at this time next year, Elliott’s goals are simple.

“Next season, my goals are to help the Grads win the league championship and personally, to try and have a standout year where I can play college hockey the following year.”

Port Huron's team - the Fighting Falcons

No official word yet from the NAHL, but according to the Times Herald, the Port Huron team that will join the league this fall will be known as the Fighting Falcons.

NAHL team becomes Fighting Falcons

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Heineman off to Wisconsin-Eau Claire

When Chris Heineman signed on with the Traverse City North Stars back in 2006, he became the youngest player in the North American Hockey League outside of the Team USA Under-17 squad.

More than four years and nearly 200 games later, Heineman has officially reached ‘alumni’ status, committing to play at Wisconsin-Eau Claire next fall. The longest-tenured player in team history even had another year of junior eligibility remaining, but was eager to get on with his education.

“I played for four years in Traverse City, and it was a great experience,” said Heineman, a New Boston product. “But it’s time to get on with school. My mom and dad always told me that hockey ends, but education doesn’t. I’m fortunate to get a chance to go to one of the best schools in Wisconsin.”

Heineman appeared in 177 regular season games during his stint in Traverse City, racking up 13 goals and 36 assists over four seasons. His 299 career penalty minutes are second on the Stars’ all-time list and he has the fourth-most power play assists (20) as well. Heineman closed his run with the 11th-most points by any North Stars player (49) and is second in team lore among blueliners.

“The organization was very fortunate to have a player of Chris’s caliber for four years,” said North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “Of course, we’d have loved to have him back again, but Chris made a life decision, and a decision I have a lot of respect for. He had a great opportunity to further his education and play NCAA hockey at the same time. We couldn’t be happier for him.”

Heineman missed the first two-thirds of his 2009-10 campaign after off-season hip surgery, but returned with a vengeance, scoring a goal and assisting on two others in his first game back and compiling five points in his first three outings. He finished the year with 14 points on four goals and 10 helpers, but saved his most exciting fare for the NAHL Robertson Cup championship tournament last May. With the North Stars battling top-seeded and host Wenatchee on the event’s opening night, Heineman issued his coup de grace, blasting home the game-winner with 34 seconds to play in a 5-4 upset of the Wild.

“To be honest, I’ve never really played in a place that was as great as Traverse City,” Heineman reflected. “I had some great billets with the Elliotts and Joneses, who were awesome, treating me like a member of their families. With them, the organization, and the community, it’s not like playing somewhere where you’re a number or a piece of meat. You’re treated like a person who happens to play hockey and I’m thankful for that.”

The longtime Stars defenseman will once again team up with former North Stars Eric O’Hearn and Brandon Stephenson, who played at Eau Claire as freshmen last season. The Blugolds went 8-15-4 last year.

“It’s a younger team, but there’s a lot of talent there, too,” Heineman said. “I just look forward to being a part of it and contributing however I can.”

Heineman says the most important thing he developed during his junior career was discipline – something that didn’t come easy for him initially.

“I came in four years ago and I don’t think I took it as seriously as I should have," Heineman said. "I needed to be in the weight room, working on off-ice conditioning and stuff and I didn’t make that as big a priority as I did when I got older. Playing at this level isn’t something to take for granted and it’s hard to make it on talent alone. You have to put in the work.”

Having staunch backers on the homefront doesn’t hurt, either.

“My parents have been so supportive all the way through, put on a lot of highway miles, and I couldn’t be more grateful to them,” Heineman concluded. “At the end of the day, any successes I might experience really are a reflection of their support from the time I was a little kid. It means a lot to have them behind you all the way.”

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Vail commits to Memorial Cup champions

The Windsor Spitfires today announced the signing of forward Brady Vail, Windsor’s fourth round pick (67th overall) in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection to an OHL contract and education package.

Vail, listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, played 48 games for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League, and at 15 years of age was one of the youngest players to ever suit up for Black Hawks.

The Northville native also played on the 2008-2009 Detroit Compuware Minor Midget team with current Spitfire defenceman Craig Duininck and helped lead the team to the U.S. Under-16 title, as he scored 11 goals and registered 22 points in 31 games.

“We expect big things from Brady this season," said Windsor GM Warren Rychel. "He has the potential to be a premier power forward and a force within the OHL. I’m excited to add a player of his caliber to our lineup and Brady will be a big part of our hockey club in the upcoming seasons."

Photo of Vail and Rychel courtesy Windsor Spitfires

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Eight from state to play for U-17 Selects

Twenty players who participated at USA Hockey's Boys' Select 16 Player Development Camp have been selected for the 2010 U.S. Under-17 Select Team that will compete at the 2010 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament Aug. 18-22, in Huttwil, Switzerland.

The Boys' Select 16 Player Development Camp took place from June 25-July 1 at the Sports Centre at MCC in Rochester, N.Y.

The Five Nations Tournament will include teams from the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland and the United States. Sean Tremblay will serve as head coach and Matt Herr will be the assistant coach for the team.

Of the 20 players named Friday, eight are from Michigan, including both goalies, two defensemen and four forwards.

Brandon Hope, Canton (Honeybaked)
Jimmy Howe, Northville (Little Caesars)

Troy Donnay, Fenton (Belle Tire)
Grant Webermin, Novi (Honeybaked)

Riley Barber, Livonia (Compuware)
Joe Cox, Chelsea (Compuware)
Sheldon Dries, Macomb (Honeybaked)
Nick Schilkey, Smiths Creek (Honeybaked)

Full roster can be found HERE.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Mahalak gives back at Canton library

Watch Plymouth Whalers left wing RJ Mahalak on the ice and you see a gritty forward who plays with passion, intelligence, and a certain edge. He’s not shy about taking hits and giving it back.

Mahalak shows a far different side in the library.

Mahalak was the featured reader in the Canton Public Library’s first session during their annual Summer Reading Program. Mahalak held the attention of about 45 children of all ages throughout the hour-long session - not an easy task for a group with tons of energy.

“The goal of this program is to get kids to read and to make the experience fun,” said Kristen Kostielney, Canton Public Library’s Children’s and Tween Services Program Coordinator. “Today with our first program of the summer and with RJ around, it’s been a great experience for everyone.”

As big as Mahalak is, he shows a kinder, gentler side in the library and the children responded.

“I love coming to the library and hanging out with the kids,” he said. “They’re here during the summer and don’t have anything else to do other than playing sports. Their parents would like to get them into the library, so I like to come here and read them a couple of stories.”

On Monday, Mahalak started reading one of the literary staples whenever the Whalers are involved with children, patiently reading Matt Napier’s “Z is for Zamboni – A Hockey Alphabet.”

In the book, each letter of the alphabet is represented in hockey terms:

“A is for Arena. The game is played in here, a building where the fans all gather to clap and boo and cheer…

“B is for two Bobbys, with the last names of Hull and Orr. Both were skillful players who could truly skate and score…

“C is for the Coach as well as for the Captain. They are respected leaders who can really make things happen….”

Mahalak continued through the book, pausing from time to time to show the children the pictures in the book.

“RJ does a great job,” Kostielney said with a smile. “He’s amazing. I was so excited for him to come in. He’s everyone’s favorite. He’s able to relate to their level at all ages, from as young as two-years-old to as old as 13. I think the older kids relate to him at different stages of their lives.”

Indeed, after reading “Z is for Zamboni,” Mahalak took questions from his crowd. When there wasn’t much response, Mahalak asked his audience questions and told his story about how he got started in hockey.

“When I was about four, I didn’t want to play hockey,” he said. “But if I didn’t play, my parents weren't going to take me to Disney World, so you could say I was bribed to play.”

Although it wasn’t technically part of the program, Mahalak read two more books, enlisting the help of seven-year-old William Cochron of Canton. Mahalak and his young friend read “A Pocket for Corduroy.”

Mahalak comes from a family who believes in education. RJ’s brother, Matt (who will join the Whalers this season) was a co-recipient of the United States Hockey League’s Scholar-Athlete Award while playing for the Youngstown Phantoms.

“In Monroe, I’ve been going to these programs since I was a little kid,” Mahalak said. “I can relate to the kids. You have to keep it (the pace of the program) going. It’s a fun time.”

Lucas and Nora Galante (ages three and five) of Canton had so much fun, they presented Mahalak with a present – two hand-drawn pictures, carefully drawn in crayon.

“Thanks, ‘King’ Lucas,” Mahalak said to Lucas, who was wearing a crown. “These pictures will go in my locker.”

Expect Mahalak to be back on the reading forecheck at the Canton Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, which is going on through August.

"RJ absolutely loves the library appearances," said Natalie Shaver, Sales and Marketing Administrator for the Whalers who is in charge of all the Whalers appearances. "Last summer I was rotating guys throughout the summer, but after RJ attended the library for the first time, he went back every time. This summer, he actually checked to make sure we had the library appearances scheduled and told me he'd do them all. After the first appearance, he sent me a text and asked if he could make it a weekly thing, so we added some more appearances at the library just for him.

"I know education and getting kids involved in reading is a big thing to him, so he takes pride in an event like this. I know it has a big impact on the kids too."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

NAHL announces realignment for '10-11

The North American Hockey League has announced its divisional alignment for the 2010-11 season.

The 26-team league will operate with four divisions: the Central (six teams), North (eight), South (six) and West (six).

Central Division
Aberdeen Wings
Alexandria Blizzard
Austin Bruins
Bismarck Bobcats
Coulee Region Chill
Owatonna Express

North Division
Chicago Hitmen
Janesville Jets
Michigan Warriors
Motor City Metal Jackets
Port Huron
St. Louis Bandits
Springfield Jr. Blues
Traverse City North Stars

South Division
Amarillo Bulls
Corpus Christi IceRays
New Mexico Mustangs
Texas Tornado
Topeka RoadRunners
Wichita Falls Wildcats

West Division
Alaska Avalanche
Dawson Creek Rage
Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Fresno Monsters
Kenai River Brown Bears
Wenatchee Wild

The 2010-11 regular-season schedule, along with the Robertson Cup Playoffs format, will be announced in the coming weeks.