Thursday, September 30, 2010

CSHL Showcase set for Burton Oct. 22-25

The Central States Hockey League and the Michigan Mountain Cats are pleased to announce the schedule for the 2010-11 CSHL Showcase.

The showcase will be held October 22-25 at the Ice Mountain Arena Complex in Burton.

The four-day showcase will feature the 12 teams from the CSHL in one facility. The purpose is to allow collegiate scouts, and scouts from Tier I juniors and Tier II juniors to gather in one location to view the hundreds of players from the CSHL.

Ice Mountain Arena Complex
5371 Avalanche Drive
Burton, MI 48509

Friday - 10/22
10:00 Metro vs Mountain Cats
10:30 Toledo vs Battle Creek
1:00 Cleveland vs Chicago
1:30 Queen City vs Peoria
4:00 Pittsburgh vs Quad City
4:30 St. Louis vs Flint

Saturday - 10/23
10:00 Peoria vs Metro
10:30 Chicago vs Flint
1:00 Battle Creek vs Pittsburgh
1:30 St. Louis vs Cleveland
4:00 Quad City vs Toledo
4:30 Mountain Cats vs Queen City

Sunday - 10/24
9:00 Pittsburgh vs Quad City
9:30 St. Louis vs Flint
12:00 Cleveland vs Chicago
3:30 Queen City vs Peoria
4:00 Metro vs Mountain Cats
6:00 Toledo vs Battle Creek

Monday - 10/25
9:30 St. Louis vs Cleveland
10:00 Quad City vs Toledo
12:30 Peoria vs Metro
1:00 Chicago vs Flint
3:30 Battle Creek vs Pittsburgh
4:00 Mountain Cats vs Queen City

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saginaw to host former Red Wings

The Saginaw Spirit is proud to start off their ninth season with a home opening weekend celebration for the team’s first two home games – Thursday, September 30, and Saturday, October 2.

The Spirit will be premiering their new Hall of Fame series, which will feature appearances from hockey legends throughout the season. Stanley Cup champions Ted Lindsay and Jim Devellano will be appearing Thursday night and another Stanley Cup champion, Igor Larionov, will be at Saturday’s game.

More details HERE.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Metro coach reflects on pro career

Jason Cirone is one of several Central States Hockey League head coaches that has professional hockey on his resume.

He’s also the only coach with more than 1,000 pro games to his credit, including three games in the National Hockey League.

In looking back on his career that spanned from 1991-2008, Cirone couldn’t help but realize that all the games and all the traveling were all a blur.

“It all went by so quick,” said Cirone, now the Metro Jets’ bench boss. “I literally went all over the world to so many places that I never would have gone, and I owe all those experiences to hockey. I mean, I went on vacation to Egypt and Africa and also went to Moscow, Latvia, Poland, all over Europe. Going all those places was so amazing. Just amazing.”

In looking at Cirone’s career stats, he played overseas for pro teams in Italy and Germany, in Canada and in the United States as far east as Rochester, N.Y., as far west as San Diego and Long Beach, Calif., and all throughout the Midwest.

Cirone played in the International Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, West Coast Hockey League and the Central Hockey League. During his second-to-last season in 2006-2007 with the CHL’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, he was a player-assistant coach. That primed him for an assistant’s job the past two years with the Motor City franchise in the North American Hockey League and ultimately, in Waterford with the Jets,

Cirone’s crowning achievement, though, came during the 1991-1992 season when he earned two different recalls to the Winnipeg Jets (now Phoenix Coyotes) of the NHL. Winnipeg had drafted Cirone in the third round (46th overall) in the 1989 NHL draft.

“Playing hockey and getting to the NHL was all I ever thought about growing up,” Cirone said. “My father and mother supported me so much and I was your typical Canadian kid skating in the backyard rink. I’d get up at five in the morning and skate, then go to school, come home and skate until dinner. I’d be at the dinner table with my skates on and then I’d go back out until it got dark.”

His first call-up to the NHL happened while he was playing in Quebec for the Moncton Hawks in the American Hockey League. Cirone drove to the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, took the warmup with the Jets, but didn’t dress for the game against the Maple Leafs.

“When I got the call, you would think I would have been more like, ‘I finally made it to the NHL,’” said Cirone. “But it was nothing like that. I thought more about if I was ready and that I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Once I got to Toronto, I was star-gazing, for sure.”

He was sent back to Moncton after the game, but didn’t stay there long.

“We were in Fredericton (N.B.) and had got in around two or three in the morning,” remembered Cirone. “I was told I had a 7 a.m. flight to Chicago. I didn’t sleep that night.”

And while he didn’t record a point in his brief NHL career, Cirone did record 338 pro goals and more than 700 assists. Those totals also include six seasons in Italy, a country where he holds a passport, and he also played for the Italian national team in the 2006 Olympics on its home turf in Torino.

“To play for Italy, you have to play in the country for two calendar years and I did that,” explained Cirone. “Besides the hockey, it was a great experience being over there. My daughter speaks and writes Italian extremely well and my wife actually has a job now as an Italian translator. It’s more my dad’s country, but I was still very proud to play for Italy.”

The last few years of his career were what he expected, but not necessarily what he wanted to face.

“Guys were faster and younger and I was older and facing physical problems,” admitted Cirone. “It was a lifestyle change when I retired and my son still asks each summer when I’m going to start training. I’m very happy with what I accomplished and am excited to see where this season takes us.”


The Jets traveled to Cincinnati last weekend and came away with a split of their two-game series with the Queen City Steam.

Saturday night, newly-acquired goalie Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) made 41 saves in a 4-2 loss as Cameron Carolus tallied all four goals for Queen City.

Trunick was obtained from Cleveland last Friday for a future draft choice.

Matt Stirling (Dexter) and Dan Hudson (Gregory) scored for Metro.

“We finished the second strong and came out in the third and took the game to them,” Metro assistant coach Peter Flynn said. “We controlled the third, but then ran into penalty problems.”

Sunday afternoon, Trunick stopped 50 shots in a 7-4 win for the Jets, their first ‘W’ of the year.

“It’s good to get the first and good to see the guys put together a full game,” said Cirone. “They definitely earned the win and have finally seemed to have bought into what we’re trying to do here. We didn’t have one good line today; we had four good lines that were all over the ice.”

Mike Moroso (Macomb) and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) each scored twice, while Brian O’Loughlin, Tommy Burns (Pinckney) and Justin Bennett (Brighton) scored the others.

Brett Grech (Hartland) added three assists, Burns tacked on two helpers, and Bennett and Kilgore also added assists to have multi-point games.

This weekend, the Jets play just one game in heading to Canfield Arena in Dearborn tonight to play the Michigan Mountain Cats tonight at 7:50 p.m.

The Mountain Cats have won two of their first three games in their first season in the CSHL and also feature four former Jets players in forwards Erik Bachynsky, Paul Elezaj (Leonard) and Brad Tunesi (Sterling Heights) and defenseman Tyler Schofield (Clio).


In addition to Trunick, the Jets also added defenseman Andrew Shalawylo over the weekend. Shalawylo, an 18-year-old defenseman from Clinton Township, played for the Grosse Pointe Wild Midget AA team last season.


Former Metro forward Sean Hogan (1996-1997) was hired over the summer as a volunteer assistant coach with Western Michigan University.

Hogan coached the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League last year and for four years before that guided the Oakland University ACHA squad, winning two national titles over that span. He also won a national title as an assistant coach with OU prior to assuming the head coaching reins.

Photo by Deanna Bradford

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perani Arena gets $1 million facelift

Firland Management, which assumed operations at the Perani Arena and Event Center early this year, today announced the completion of numerous projects undertaken as part of nearly $1 million in facility renovations.

Investments in the fan experience include updated food service equipment, refreshed concession counters, enhanced ice surface lighting, new concourse lighting, fresh paint and other aesthetic improvements in addition to nearly $500,000 in improvements to the arena’s roof.

“We will continue to invest as we work to restore Perani Arena and Event Center to a point of pride for the Flint community,” said Firland Management CEO Jim Cain, who oversees operations at the facility. “We promised improvements and we’re already delivering them in the aesthetics and functionality of the Arena. We’re confident the people of Flint and the surrounding area will like what they see.”

Perani Arena will host the opening game of the inaugural season of Michigan Warriors NAHL hockey in Flint on Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Concession and food service improvements are highlighted by new countertops, new display menu boards and new food and beverage equipment, as well as new point of sale stations. Roof work began recently and is expected to continue through October.

Additionally, today marks the launch of a newly redesigned website for Perani Arena and Events Center. Located here, the new site will feature information about the facility and about upcoming sports, entertainment and community events.

“Flint deserves a first class entertainment venue,” Cain said. “We’re investing in Perani Arena and in the Flint community to make this a destination for all kinds of events, from hockey games to high school graduations and from trade shows to consumer expos.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sgarbossa gets deal with San Jose

The San Jose Sharks have signed Saginaw Spirit forward Michael Sgarbossa to an entry level contact.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sgarbossa is set to return to Saginaw this week in time for the team’s season opener in Kitchener on Friday.

“As an organization we are very happy for Michael as he worked very hard this summer,” stated Saginaw assistant GM Jim Paliafito. “Michael is a very talented young man and the San Jose Sharks see what we saw in him when we traded for him last fall. I expect this to be the beginning of many current Spirit players signing and being drafted by the NHL in the coming seasons.”

“Michael’s signing is a great indication of not only his skill level and dedication, but also of our league’s success in developing players for the next level”, stated Spirit president and partner Craig Goslin. “We are very proud of Michael and of his success at the Sharks’ training camp.”

From the San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the team has signed unrestricted free agent forward Michael Sgarbossa to an entry-level contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sgarbossa, 18, appeared in two of San Jose’s three games during the YoungStars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. from Sept. 12-16 and recorded three goals and one assist, including a hat trick on Sept. 15 vs. Edmonton. His four points were second overall in the tournament.

“We have been watching Michael for a while now and he showed a glimpse of what we feel he is capable of at the YoungStars Tournament,” said Wilson. “We really like the teaching he has received from Saginaw general manager and head coach Todd Watson and we hope to continue his development.”

Sgarbossa was a member of Team Canada’s silver medal-winning squad at the 2010 U-18 World Junior Championships, where he posted two points (one goal, one assist) and four penalty minutes in six games.

The Campbellville, Ont., native split time last season between the Barrie Colts and the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League. In 67 games, Sgarbossa recorded 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) and 63 penalty minutes.

In six postseason games with Saginaw, Sgarbossa tallied two assists.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whalers acquire local product Aleardi

The Plymouth Whalers announced the acquisition of 18-year-old center Alex Aleardi (Farmington Hills) from the Belleville Bulls in exchange for a pair future second-round draft choices – one in 2012 and one in 2013.

Aleardi is a graduate of the Compuware youth program who was originally selected by the Kitchener Rangers in the third round (43rd overall) in the 2008 Ontario Hockey League draft. After playing in 2008-09 for the Rangers, Aleardi came to Belleville last season in a trade for Matt Tipoff and a first round Import Draft selection.

Aleardi enjoyed his best offensive season in the OHL last year split between Kitchener and Belleville, scoring 16 goals with 25 assists for 41 points in 64 games. In all, Aleardi has scored 21 goals with 31 assists for 52 points and 128 penalty minutes in 129 career games.

He scored five goals in a preseason game on September 12 for Belleville in a 5-4 victory over Kingston and was the league-leader in preseason play with seven goals in six games.

“We are very familiar with Alex,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “We’ve already seen him play here at Compuware Arena. It’s great to be able to bring him back home.”

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trenton's Malecki inks with Spitfires

The Windsor Spitfires announced today that the team has signed goaltender Josh Malecki to an OHL contract and education package.

Malecki, a 17-year-old native of Trenton, was drafted by the Spitfires in the 11th round (214th overall) during the 2009 OHL Priority Selection. He attended Windsor's player development camp this summer and was also invited to participate in the team's main camp which started earlier this month. His stellar play during both camps kept him in Windsor for the team's 2010 exhibition season.

Malecki posted impressive numbers with Windsor in four of the team's exhibition games and helped the team earn a 3-0-1 record in his four games played while posting a 2.98 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

"Josh put his neck on the line in joining our club for camp without a contract and played extremely exceptionally well for us in our team's development camp, training camp and also in our recent exhibition games," Windsor GM Warren Rychel said. "He earned his roster spot and deserves this opportunity and I am very proud of the effort he has put forth. Josh will provide our team with depth and also solidify us at the goaltender position."

Malecki will be splitting time with Windsor and the Detroit Compuware Major Midgets this season.

McIlrath leaves post as Thunder coach

When the Alpena Thunder take the ice again this season, it will have a new coach behind the bench.

Todd McIlrath has left his position as head coach of the Thunder to make another attempt at playing professional hockey.

Thunder general manager Joseph Kolodziej said that the team's new coach will be announced Monday.

"I think that Todd's departure was a timely departure for him and for the team. I'm looking forward to working with our new coach and moving forward with our season," Kolodziej said Friday.

More from the Alpena News HERE.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cirone 'fortunate' to be coaching Jets

When Jason Cirone played his final junior hockey game for the Windsor Spitfires back in 1991, he sat in his locker room stall after the game and wondered what was next.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2008 and Cirone was again sitting in the locker room wondering what was next. His Italian national team had just been eliminated from the World Championships by France and for the first time in his career, Cirone wasn’t upset about a season coming to a close.

“That’s when I knew it was time,” said Cirone, now the Metro Jets’ head coach. “Nobody had ever said anything about retiring, but as I sat there in Quebec City, I had a sense of accomplishment. I had been asked to play another year in Flint (with the since-folded Generals of the International Hockey League), but my family had given enough of themselves to me that it was time to give back. When I told my wife, Kristen, that it was over, we argued back and forth and even now, my son asks me every summer when I’m going to start training.

“It’s been quite a lifestyle change since I retired, but it’s better for all of us. In hockey, you tend to be selfish a lot, but at the end of the day, your family is always there to give you endless love. For hockey, as I got older, it was harder to keep up and the physical strains were getting to be too much. I can honestly say that I have no regrets.”

When Cirone was about 10 years into his pro career, he set himself a goal that may have seemed farfetched at the time, but came to fruition at the 2008 World Championships. And it didn’t involve playing in the NHL, even though he did play three games for the Winnipeg Jets in 1991-1992.

“I always said that I wanted to play my last game close to home and I wanted that to be in Canada,” said Cirone. “I was fortunate in that both happened at the same time.”

Now behind the bench as a rookie head coach, the 39-year-old Toronto native has brought his no-nonsense style of coaching to the team and hopes to turn around Metro’s fortunes. Cirone started coaching the season after he retired and has brought valuable experience to Lakeland Arena.

“I was actually running a gym and the Motor City Machine (now Metal Jackets) had a coaching change in the middle of the season and the assistant there, Sean Clark (also a former Metro assistant coach), gave me a call and asked if I wanted to be his new assistant,” explained Cirone. “Then when the team changed ownership last year and brought in David Cole, I was fortunate enough to be retained for that following season. I wouldn’t have had the chances I’ve had if certain people wouldn’t have given me the chance – guys like Sean and (Metro owner-GM) Butch (Wolfe) here. I’ve just been very fortunate. Hockey has done so much for me that now, it’s time for me to give back to hockey.”

Giving back to hockey is one thing, but giving back to his family is just as important. Married for 16 years to Kristen (they eloped to Las Vegas in March 1994 while Cirone was finishing up the season with the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones), the couple has a 12-year-old daughter, Brooke, and a 10-year-old son, Mason.

“I give a lot of credit to my family, especially Kristen, for dealing with me being on the road playing so much,” Cirone said. “She’s a good woman and a great mom.

“Like I said, it’s time for me to give back.”

Watch for Part 2 of this extensive look at Jason Cirone in next week’s release.


The Jets opened their 22nd season in the CSHL last weekend with two losses.

Saturday night at home, the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks topped the Jets, 1-0, in a very tight game.

Allan Dowler stopped 24 shots between the pipes for Metro and the Jets also held Cleveland scoreless in four power play chances.

Then Sunday afternoon, the Jets suffered a 7-2 setback on the road to the Toledo Cherokee.

Metro captain Mike Corder and Dan Hudson scored late third period goals for the Jets, while Dowler and Mitchel Leist combined for 38 saves in goal.

“There’s a lesson to be learned in every game,” said Cirone. “Saturday night, we worked hard, but didn’t win. I can’t say I was satisfied we lost, but we did play Cleveland hard. Sunday was just the opposite.”

This weekend, the Jets travel to suburban Cincinnati to play a pair against the Queen City Steam, a team that split their opening weekend with the Chicago Hitmen. Zach Olson had a three-point weekend for Queen City with a goal and two assists, while Matt Leon and Oliver McNeill each played a game in net and fared well.

Queen City coach Don Biggs is a former teammate of Cirone’s and to play against each other’s teams should be a special experience for both.

“Biggsy was one of the best captains I ever played for,” said Cirone. “Once I got older and became a captain, I incorporated certain tendencies he had as a captain into the way I was a leader. All I’ve heard about his team now is that they work extremely hard. This weekend will be a big measuring stick, but if they work as hard as I hear they do, I would hope our guys would see that and realize what can happen when you work hard.”

Last season, Metro split with the Steam in Cincinnati in early December and was also swept in two separate home games at Lakeland Arena.


Rookie forwards Matt Stirling and Justin Bennett will serve as alternate captains this season under Corder, now in his second season with the ‘C.’ … Leist is the second-youngest player in the CSHL this season. He doesn’t turn 16 under Oct. 29. Only Peoria Mustangs forward Josh Maciejewski (Sept. 20, 1995) is younger … Rookie defenseman Brian O’Loughlin is the first Tennessee native to play for the Jets since forward Matt Noe played 31 games during the 2008-2009 season … Metro added defenseman Morgan James this week and also acquired forward Tommy Burns from Flint for an undisclosed draft pick next year.


Jon Cooper, the head coach of the Jets’ 2001-2002 Silver Cup national Junior B championship team, led the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers to the Clark Cup last spring and then was hired in the offseason to coach the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, the top affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mountain Cats in shape, winning games


And to think how good the Michigan Mountain Cats would be if they actually had a full roster.

Even goaltender Schuyler Ferguson got on the score sheet last weekend as the Mountain Cats swept the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution in two games on the road, outscoring Battle Creek by a 15-5 mark.

Mountain Cats head coach Chad Grills acknowledged that last weekend was just two games, but hopes his squad can keep the momentum going this weekend against Toledo.

“We had a very good weekend and that was with a ton of new faces,” said Grills, who also made his head coaching debut against Battle Creek. “It’s been difficult for teams in this league to field half-decent teams with NAHL teams keeping guys until the October 1 deadline. But last weekend against Battle Creek, I did expect to win those games, but I didn’t expect to win as big as we did. I wasn’t too nervous, but I hoped we would play well and we did. Maybe if I was in my 20’s and coaching I would have been nervous, but I’m 35 now and I felt fine.”

The Mountain Cats won 8-5 on Saturday night and then Ferguson made 25 saves and had an assist in a 7-0 shutout Sunday afternoon.

Grills played pro hockey in mid-Michigan for several years with the Flint Generals of the old Colonial Hockey League, later the United Hockey League. He was part of championship teams in Flint in 1996 and 2000 and also has a ring from an Ontario Hockey League title in 1993 with the Peterborough Petes.

Playing on those successful teams meant Grills had coaches he learned from and even took some of their coaching style to mold into his style with the Mountain Cats.

“In the OHL, I had Dick Todd and Ted Nolan, two guys that eventually coached inthe NHL,” said Grills. “With Flint, Doug Shedden was the first coach I ever had that really stressed the importance of conditioning. We used to ride the bike for an hour after practices and even though we didn’t want to, once the playoffs came, we were as conditioned then as we were in December. That’s what I am teaching these guys here –that we will not be outworked and we will have fun and make this team a brotherhood.

“There will be changes over the course of the season, there always is, but if we can keep it exciting like last night, where we had a 45-minute skate in our first full practice, I think we will be alright. We skated for 45 minutes and the whole time, guys were yelling and cheering each other on. These guys really want to be in shape and want to stay in shape.”

Even with a short roster, Grills is happy with what he has even though he was only hired a little more than two weeks ago.

“I had opportunities before to coach, but the time and opportunity for each wasn’t right,”explained Grills. “I was looking for a coaching job and I was actually down in Myrtle Beach and gave (Mountain Cats owner) Jeff (Brayan) a call and told him I was interested. When I got back into town, I met with Jeff for about five or six hours and we hashed things out and I told him what I thought I could do. Once I was hired, it was too late to get a lot of kids as some were already at school or playing in other leagues. I like the guys we have right now and down the line here shortly, we should be adding some more players.”

One of the conditions Brayan accepted when he purchased the Motor City Chiefs franchise over the summer and re-named them the Mountain Cats was that the team’s home rink would remain at Canfield Arena in Dearborn – roughly an hour south of Burton, where the Mountain Cats’ headquarters are. The team practices at Ice Mountain Arena, but home games are at Canfield.

On the ice in Burton or Dearborn, leaders have emerged for the Mountain Cats. Mike Foster wears the ‘C,’ while Zack Soulliere and Dante Delabbio are the alternate captains.

“We have a great mix of young and old players,” said Grills. “Our captains really take charge, especially in the room when I’m not there.”

One place the Mountain Cats will be is at Canfield this Sunday when they host the Cherokee.

“The good thing about not having a full roster right now is that we only have two games the rest of the month,” Grills said. “We played well last weekend and I hope we keep getting better and can stay with Toledo, a team I don’t know a lot about, but a team I know is always in the upper half of the league every year.

“It’ll be a good test for us early in the season, but I like our chances. We’ve looked good so far.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

North Stars ready for NAHL Showcase

When the Traverse City North Stars take to the ice on Wednesday at the Schwan Super Rink in suburban Minneapolis, they’ll see a familiar foe – albeit in different garb.

The Corpus Christ IceRays, the Stars’ opponent in the opening game of the four-day, 26-team NAHL Showcase, relocated from Alpena, where the former IceDiggers and North Stars had forged a regional rivalry for the past five seasons.

Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says even team’s mere modicum of familiarity with the Rays probably won’t afford either side any kind of advantage in preparing for the Showcase opener.

“Yeah, we’ll know 10-11 of their guys,” he said. “And we certainly know they’re strong in net with (Marco) Wieser. They also have a new coach, a new home, and a new approach that comes with making a move across the country like that. I’m not sure it means we know what to expect in terms of their style of play, but we have to be ready for their best.”

The Stars, 1-0-0 after their season-opening 4-1 win over Chicago on Sunday, are still getting to know themselves, let alone another squad, according to Palumbo.

“Number one, the Showcase gives us a chance to engage ourselves against the rest of the league,” he said. “It gives us a pretty short time to work on our game, kind of get an idea who will fill what roles, and try to get a jump on having a good season.”

Corpus Christi will be playing their first game of the 2010-11 campaign on Wednesday, but boast a roster with such veterans as Jason Souva, Kevin Crowe, Kyle Hughes, Brandon Marshall, and Sam Cheraso, in addition to Wieser. The team went 22-34-2 last season as the IceDiggers, finishing fifth in the five-team North Division, nine points behind fourth-place Motor City for the final playoff slot.

“Getting in a game before the Showcase is big for us,” Palumbo said. “We have a lot of guys who were playing in their first junior game on Sunday, and had a chance to work out some of the nerves rather than doing that on the league-wide stage. That’s a good thing.”

The North Stars will play expansion Austin (Minn.) on Thursday in second-day action, but square off with Wenatchee (Wash.) and Alaska to close out the event. Traverse City is 2-1 all-time against Wenatchee – including a thrilling 4-3 victory over the host Wild in the opening game of last season’s Robertson Cup championships – and is also 2-1 all-time against Alaska.

The Stars and Avalanche have played in each of the previous three Showcase events, claiming a 6-1 triumph in 2007, dropping a 4-3 affair in 2008, and blanking the Avs 3-0 last season.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jets 'have a lot of potential' this season

The Metro Jets pretty much have an all-new team this season, but for the staff and players, that is most definitely reason for optimism.

Being mired in the lower echelon of the Central States Hockey League standings the past couple years is in the past and with the crop of new players, along with three returnees from the 2009-2010 squad, moving up the standings is one goal the Jets think is very attainable this season.

“I think a realistic expectation is to make the playoffs and move five players up to the next level,” said first-year head coach Jason Cirone, an assistant coach last year with the Motor City Metal Jackets of the North American Hockey League. “I will lean on all the players nightly. We have a team where everyone will have to show up every night for us to be successful.”

Returning defenseman and captain Mike Corder agrees with Cirone.

“My expectations are that Coach Cirone will bring a different perspective to the organization and that we will all work together to make the Jets a competitive team, game in and game out,” said Corder. “The team is looking good and we have a lot of potential. With the group of guys this year, I feel we can exceed our potential as a whole.”

And being the one with the ‘C’ on his jersey, Corder plans to take that role to the fullest extent.

“I plan to motivate my teammates by leading by example,” Corder explained. “I will work hard and I will expect that they will work hard. I want the team to gel and become a brotherhood where everyone looks out for everyone else. I will do what it takes to get this group to work hard, play hard, and become a team on the ice, off the ice, in the locker room, during workouts, you name it.”

Another returning skater, forward Mike Denston (White Lake), wants his second year with the Jets to be leaps and bounds better than last season.

“Last year’s season has brought my motivation to a new level,” said Denston. “It wasn't fun losing all those games, especially when we had talent. This year, we have kids who can play the game and want to be here and that has motivated me to push the envelope and try to be better myself.”

“Last season, we fell short of our goal of making the playoffs,” added Corder, a 20-year-old native of Warren. “Personally, it is not easy to relive that disappointment. Setting realistic goals for myself to help improve the team and achieve the overall goals is not difficult. Remembering last season will help push me to stay focused on what is necessary to achieve the team goals.”

Leading the team along with Corder will be alternate captains Matt Stirling (Dexter) and Justin Bennett (Brighton), both forwards.

On the blue line, rookies Blake Blaha (East Lansing), Jordan Reames (Essexville), Ian Costello (Lansing), Brian O’Loughlin (Franklin, Tenn.) and Brennan Borowiak (Gaylord) will join Corder and be thrown right into the mix.

Up front, veteran Brett Grech (Hartland) is back for his final season of junior hockey. Travis Hargett (Clarkston) is just 16 years old and will be one of the youngest players in the CSHL this year. Erik Bachynsky (Windsor, Ont.) played the last two years for Northland College, a Division III school, and will be counted on for leadership and to mentor players like Hargett, Josh Beleski (Southgate), Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney), Joe Matyaszek (Taylor), Matt Elswick (Gaylord) and Mike Moroso (Macomb).

Getting two wins in their two-game exhibition set with the Flint Jr. Generals three weeks ago, the Metro staff had the chance during those two games to evaluate the younger players and see where their strengths lie.

Rookie forward Dan Hudson, an 18-year-old from Gregory, scored three goals in the two games with Flint and showed he has the ability to be a pure goal-scorer in the CSHL.

And while there may be reason to be giddy, Cirone knows the regular season means more than two pre-season contests.

“We have a good crop of rookies and expect them to perform every night,” said Cirone. “Let’s wait and see which ones decide to be impact players.”

Nineteen-year-old goalie Allan Dowler (Oxford, Ohio) is expected to shoulder the workload in net.

“I'm very excited about all the new players this year,” Denston said. “Everyone looked good in our exhibition games and if we all do what were told to do, then we'll be a very good team. I want to give it everything I got and hope that everyone else will want to do the same.”

Friday, September 03, 2010

Traverse City to play four exhibitions

The start of the 2010-11 North American Hockey League season is right around the corner and the Traverse City North Stars are set to gear up for the new campaign with a pair of preseason contests against Blind River of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, including the team’s first-ever contest of any kind at Howe Arena, and another two at the U.S. National Team Development Program squad in Ann Arbor.

Before heading off to play at Chicago against the expansion Hitmen on Sept. 12, the North Stars will square off against Blind River at Howe Arena on Sept. 10 and again on Sept. 11 against the Beavers at Ferris State. After the warm-ups and the regular season opener in Chitown, Traverse City will head to the annual NAHL Showcase in suburban Minneapolis.

“It’s always a good thing to have a couple of games under your belt before jumping into the regular season and certainly the Showcase,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “You’re bringing together a lot of new guys and you want to develop a cohesions as early on as possibly and hit the ground running when the puck drops for real.”

The Stars will face first-year clubs in Corpus Christi and Austin (Minn.) on the first two days of the Sept. 15-18 Showcase and close out the event with Wenatchee and Alaska. A subsequent two-week hole in the North Stars’ schedule prompted Palumbo to congeal a two-game exhibition series with Team USA at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube on Sept. 24-25.

“A couple things went into setting that up,” he explained. “We had the big gap in the schedule and it’s two more games against a good opponent to help our team get ready without having an effect on the standings. Plus, any time you play against Team USA, there are 5-10 scouts in the stands and that’s great exposure for these kids at the same time.”

The North Stars open the home portion of their schedule on Friday, Oct. 15 against Springfield.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A hockey Revolution in Battle Creek


Changes happen on a yearly basis in junior hockey and that was never more evident recently in the Central States Hockey League when the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls’ franchise decided to cease operations.

However, an ownership group from Battle Creek quickly swooped in, purchased the franchise and will play the Owls’ schedule this season as the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution, an organization that also has a professional team in the All American Hockey League.

The transfer of ownership literally happened overnight.

“We found out through a friend of ours on August 23 that the Owls had decided to cease operations,” said Battle Creek owner Bobby Clouston. “I called (CSHL president) Jim Rufo right away and started the whole process. Jim was an amazing help along with (Grand Rapids owner) Jerry Barber. The whole thing went very smooth and we are truly, truly excited to be a part of the CSHL.”

Nick Bet will coach the Jr. Revolution and when asked how he sees his squad fitting in this year, his response was nothing short of confident.

“I know that the CSHL is the premier Tier III Junior A hockey league in this country and I don't hope just to fit into the league,” said Bet. “I hope to run a standout organization that treats the players well and can place a competitive team into the league year after year.”

Clouston also praised the CSHL and said when the opportunity arose where he could have a team in the league, he jumped at the chance.

“In regards to the CSHL, I have followed it for years,” Clouston said. “We couldn't believe we might have a shot at getting involved. I have known (Metro Jets owner) Butch Wolfe for many years and Jeff Bond, the former coach of the Motor City Chiefs, and I are great friends. I have been to many CSHL games and have been blown away with the level of play.”

In Battle Creek, Bet’s hiring was a typical “no-brainer” for Clouston and the rest of the staff.

“We absolutely know that we have the right guy,” beamed Clouston. “We have set a standard in Battle Creek with our pro team and it will carry down to our junior team that we do everything first-class and Nick Bet fits exactly into our mindset and our goals asa n organization. Nick has been intimately involved with our organization for over a year as a player at the pro level and he knows how we operate and he is willing to carry that out with his junior team. Nick is energetic, optimistic and very knowledgeable about the game and we feel lucky to have him as our coach.”

As a player, Bet played four years of professional hockey, one with the Battle Creek Revolution and parts of three seasons with the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League. He also skated one year of NCAA D-I hockey with Robert Morris University and played five years of junior hockey – three in Ontario with the Petrolia Jets and two out east with the Boston Jr. Bruins.

As a coach, Bet seems to be bringing a level of intensity to the ice.

“My coaching style is to have fun, combative practices with a lot of battling and game situations,” said Bet. “My in-game style would be hard forechecking, putting a lotof pressure on the defense of the other team, and hitting hard all night with a strong emphasis on team defense.”

How will that translate to wins and losses? Both Clouston and Bet have an idea.

“Our team goals for this upcoming season are to run an organization that kids want to play for and parents feel comfortable sending their kids to,” said Clouston. “We also want to win. We feel we have a great coach who knows the game and is very good at recruiting. We want to be a force on the ice and whomever we play they know they are going to have a game opponent every time we touch the ice.”

“My expectations for this season are very high,” added Bet. “I expect to have a winning team and am aiming for a minimum of 25 wins. I also expect to make the playoffs and make a run at the league championship. I hope to move as many players to the next level of hockey as fast as possible, assuming the player is ready to make the jump. Moving up players to the next level of hockey will be my No. 1 priority.”

Goaltenders Rueben Medrano and Karel Popper will be the backbone of the team. The Battle Creek defense will be anchored by Tyler Allen and key forwards will be Maxim Norsov, Radney Ritchie, Brett Menton and Jordan Sabatino.