Friday, December 31, 2010

Niagara up next for Woodhaven native

The Des Moines Buccaneers have announced that forward Doug Clifford has committed to play collegiate hockey at Niagara University beginning in the fall of 2011.

The 20-year-old from Woodhaven is currently tied for second on the team in scoring with 15 points (8g, 7a) in 19 games. It is the first USHL season for Clifford who has put up six points (3g, 3a) over his last five games. Clifford, who played last year for the Traverse City North Stars, scored his first career USHL goal in the 3-2 win over Youngstown on October 30.

"Doug has been a major contributor for the Buccaneers, has put in his time in junior hockey and has earned this opportunity," said Des Moines coach-GM Regg Simon. "I think most scouts looked at him as not being fast or big, but he has proven himself as a warrior and a strong hockey player and you can never have enough of those types of players on your team."

Photo by Bryce Loshman

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kovacs picks Northeastern for '11-12

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward Justin Kovacs has committed to play collegiate hockey at Northeastern University beginning in the fall of 2011.

Kovacs is playing in his second USHL season with the Riders and is third on the team in scoring with 18 points (4g, 14a) while also posting a plus-seven rating in 23 games. His 14 assists lead the club and two of his goals have been game-winners. Kovacs recorded a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in the 4-3 win over Indiana on November 17.

The 19-year-old from Grosse Pointe Woods has experienced a breakout season after putting up seven points (3g, 4a) in 24 games during his rookie USHL season in 2009-10.

Kovacs will be joined by RoughRiders teammate Rasmus Juell, who is also committed to Northeastern.

Northeastern University is located in Boston and is a member of Hockey East.

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Brighton's Stewart chooses Broncos

The Green Bay Gamblers have announced that defenseman Matt Stewart will play collegiate hockey at Western Michigan University.

Stewart, 19, has appeared in all 24 games for the Gamblers and recorded four assists during his second USHL season.

In 55 games during the 2009-10 campaign, he tallied 18 points (2g, 16a) and a plus-33 rating which was the seventh best mark in the League.

The Brighton native also appeared in five games, before being lost to injury, during the Gamblers' run to the Clark Cup title in 2010.

Stewart is one of four Gamblers committed to Western Michigan, joining forwards Robert Francis, William Kessel and Nolan LaPorte. Four other current USHL players will attend the school following their USHL careers: Austin Hervey (Lincoln Stars), Jordan Oesterle (Sioux Falls Stampede), Alex Carpenter (Tri-City Storm) and Joe Fiala (U.S. NTDP).

A total of 18 USHL alumni are part of the Broncos roster for the 2010-11 season: Chase Balisy (Team USA), Brett Beebe (Chicago Steel), Shane Berschbach (Indiana Ice), Dennis Brown (Omaha Lancers), J.J. Crew (Lincoln Stars), Dan DeKeyser (Sioux City Musketeers), Dave Donnellan (Youngstown Phantoms), Ross Henry (Lincoln Stars), Jerry Kuhn (Sioux City Musketeers), Ben Miller (Waterloo Black Hawks), Travis Paeth (Des Moines Buccaneers), Nick Pisellini (Chicago Steel), Derek Roehl (Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets), Ian Slater (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Greg Squires (Indiana Ice), Matt Tennyson (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Dane Walters (Sioux Falls Stampede) and Luke Witkowski (Fargo Force).

In addition, the Broncos are led by first-year head coach Jeff Blashill, who spent the last two seasons in the USHL as the head coach of the Indiana Ice, guiding them to their first Clark Cup during the 2008-09 season.

Photo courtesy Green Bay Gamblers

Johnstone will join brother at MTU

Indiana Ice forward David Johnstone has committed to play collegiate hockey at Michigan Tech University.

Johnstone is in his second USHL season with the Indiana Ice and is currently tied for second on the team in scoring with 18 points (4g, 14a) in 22 games played.

The 19-year-old from Grand Ledge appeared in 48 games during the 2009-10 season and collected 20 points (6g, 14a).

Three other players are committed to attend Michigan Tech following their USHL careers: Tanner Kero (Fargo Force), Nick Cecere (Lincoln Stars) and Reid Sturos (Omaha Lancers).

Eight USHL alumni are on the roster for the Huskies this season, including Johnstone's older brother, Jacob, who played three seasons in the USHL (2007-10), Corson Cramer (Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets), Rick Doriott (Sioux City Musketeers), Ryan Furne (Green Bay Gamblers), Jacob Johnstone (Sioux Falls Stampede/Green Bay Gamblers), Patrick McCadden (Green Bay Gamblers), Brett Olson (Waterloo Black Hawks/Sioux City Musketeers), Josh Robinson (Sioux City Musketeers), Anthony Schooley (Green Bay/Tri-City/Waterloo) and Dan Sova (Waterloo Black Hawks).

In addition, Michigan Tech assistant coach Pat Mikesch played two seasons in the USHL for the Des Moines Buccaneers (1990-92) and was named All-USHL First Team following the 1991-92 season when he posted 80 points (37g, 43a) in 46 games.

Photo courtesy Whiteshark Photography

Saturday, December 25, 2010

James brings character to Waterford

Morgan James is hoping his last year of junior hockey will be more memorable than the past couple years.

After taking a break from the game after his last year of midget hockey three years ago dealing with personal problems, James signed with the Metro Jets in the offseason and was recently named team captain.

Making the decision to return to hockey was the easy part and once he laced up the skates for the Jets’ training camp, the comeback was complete.

“I signed with the Jets because I wanted to get back into the game that I’ve always played and loved,” said James, a 20-year-old from Commerce Township. “I called (Metro GM) Butch (Wolfe), he had me come out, and that was that. After taking a couple years off going through a rough time in my life, now I’m back and I regret ever stopping (playing hockey). The adjustment hasn’t been a problem.”

With just one assist through 20 games this season, James does lead the team with 103 penalty minutes, also second overall in the North American 3 Hockey League.

More than points, though, are James’ desire to improve on a daily basis and continue playing hockey after this season.

“Morgan’s come a long way since he joined us,” Metro associate coach Jamie Hayden said. “He’s a good leader in the locker room and on the ice, he’ll definitely step up for any one of his teammates. He can also play forward or defense and has done anything we’ve asked of him.

“As for being captain, I think he was a good selection. He’s never been a captain at any level of hockey before and growing up, a lot of teams pick their three best players as captains and Morgan was probably never one of those players. When you get to this level, character plays a big role in who you pick as a captain.”

Racking up the penalty minutes has always been a part of the way James plays the game. He realizes he’s not going to be a 30-goal scorer or a top-four defenseman, so playing the physical side of hockey is the role he fills to a ‘T.’ Being 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds only helps matters.

”I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep playing this game at a competitive level and if that means fighting, then bring it on,” boasted James. “I’ve always been a bigger guy on the ice, so I’ve been pushed to be physical. It’s my strongest and favorite point of ice hockey.”

James wants to come back from the holiday break ready to get back to business and start the Jets’ push for a playoff spot. Looking even further ahead, James reiterated that continuing his career is more than just a hope.

”Come the New Year, we will be better than ever before,” said James. “Everyone has a better feel for each other now and it’s time to dominate. After this season will be a long summer of work and then hopefully some good hockey.”


The Jets stumbled a bit last weekend in getting swept at home by the Peoria Mustangs, but rebounded with a 6-4 win in Flint Tuesday night.

The visitors from Illinois won 3-0 on Saturday night and then 7-2 Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

“Not many positives to take from last weekend,” said Hayden. “Eric Trunick played well Saturday night in the second and third periods, but didn’t show up in the first period and that was pretty much the difference in the game. Sunday, we just didn’t bring the effort we needed to play a team like Peoria, who is in fourth place and battling for one of the top spots in the league.”

Trunick (Commerce Township) made 28 saves in Saturday’s loss and then suffered the loss again Sunday despite playing only 22 seconds.

Matt Braun started in goal, but was pulled for Trunick after Mason Riley scored a shorthanded goal at 11:55 of the first period to give Peoria a 2-0 lead. Kyle Hamilton scored again shorthanded on Trunick at 12:17 and Trunick was yanked for Braun.

With the Jets scoring twice, Peoria’s third goal (Hamilton’s) stood as the game-winner and Trunick the goalie of record.

Cameron Bazin (Troy) and Matt Stirling (Dexter) scored for Metro and Braun finished with 28 stops.

Riley and Brandon Neville each had two goals for Peoria.

Tuesday night at Iceland Arena, it was a 3-2 game in favor of the Jets after two periods before three goals in a 68-second span to start the third period from Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney), Stirling and Brett Grech (Hartland) gave the Jets a four-goal cushion at the time.

Stirling and Kilgore scored in the first period and Dan Hudson (Gregory) added a goal in the middle frame.

Trunick finished with 46 saves between the pipes for the Jets, now 9-17-1-0.

For Flint, Andrew Lay had two goals and an assist, Nate Scurfield a goal and an assist and Stephen Hibbard three assists. Nick Szalacinski also scored in the loss and Dominic Orlando and Andrew Habasevich combined for 24 saves.

Metro’s next action comes Jan. 8-9, 2011 in Pittsburgh before a home-and-home with Battle Creek the following weekend.


Grech made his return to the lineup last Saturday night after being out with a deeply lacerated thigh suffered Nov. 7 against St. Louis … The Jets have four players named Matt on the roster (Braun, Elswick, Stemkoski, Stirling) and three players named Mike (Corder, Denston, Moroso). They also have two Jordans (Jones, Reames) and two Tommys (Burns, Kilgore). Burns and Kilgore are also both Pinckney natives … Moroso, Stirling and Kilgore have each played in all 26 games this season.


Chicago native Anthony Cacciatore played on the Jets’ blueline during the 2000-2001 season and after that season, he played two years of Division I club hockey at Robert Morris College and then two years of pro hockey in the United Hockey League with Muskegon and Port Huron.

Cacciatore, now 29, has come full-circle as he now lives and works in Chicago operating his own business as a private and personal chef.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Port Huron names new coach, GM

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons will come back from their holiday break as a very different team, as they today filled their head coaching vacancy.

Bill Warren, who coached last weekend’s games in Flint on an interim basis, has been hired to guide the team through the remainder of this season.

Warren had been the head coach at Port Huron Northern, in the most competitive high school league in Michigan, for the past six seasons before accepting the Fighting Falcons job. The PHN graduate had led the Huskies to a 4-4 record in the early stages of their season. Warren also coaches in the Honeybaked AAA organization and scouted for five years in the Ontario Hockey Association with the Strathroy Rockets.

The coaching position was left vacant after Ernie and Shane Hicke were relieved of their positions with the team last Friday. The Fighting Falcons were just 1-24-1 under the Hickes, and majority owner Maribeth Hayes decided to make a change before the three-week holiday break.

Warren says he’s up to the challenge he’s been presented with and looks forward to showing fans the level of hockey they hoped for when the team was first brought to town this summer.

In two games as interim coach, Warren’s Fighting Falcons showed improvement, setting a team record with six goals in Friday’s 8-6 loss to the Michigan Warriors at Perani Arena. Saturday night the team set another record, as they were whistled for just five penalties, the lowest mark of the season. That game resulted in a 3-1 loss, but the team’s play was encouraging, as they held the Warriors scoreless over the game’s final 51 minutes

Ernie Hicke’s departure also left the general manager position open, which will be filled by former assistant coach Marty Haddad. Haddad will also serve as the team’s associate head coach. A Port Huron native, Haddad has been involved with the Fighting Falcons since training camp, and will take over player personnel decisions while also running the day-to-day operations in the front office.

Port Huron native Chad Noetzel will become the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, and Todd Churchill of Marysville will keep his position as the team’s goaltender coach and equipment manager.

“I can’t speak highly enough of our players for the way they’ve handled this tough situation,” said Haddad. “It would have been easy for them to not be at their best over the weekend and every guy out there played hard and gave it everything they had. Coach Warren and I are extremely excited about the new roles we’re taking on and we look forward to putting a better product on the ice when we come back in January.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lumberjacks play role of holiday heroes

By Christopher Heimerman, Muskegon Lumberjacks

"Candy or video games? Candy or video games?" Lance Fredrickson asked. "You pick. Video games? OK, let's go!"

And away they went.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks players, each with a Muskegon-area youngster and a $100 gift card, jumped into action like it was Game 5 of the Clark Cup finals.

One can only hope Shop With the Jacks, which took place at the Meijer Superstore on Henry Street, will be an annual affair. Meijer donated the gift cards, and the Jacks' players gladly donated their time to help lesser-privileged kids put a few more presents under the Christmas tree this year.

Jordan Masters put aside his distaste for Michigan State long enough to help pick out a Sparty hoodie. Brendan Woods (eventually) learned how to use the price check scanner to add up purchases. Kevin Albers and Jaycob Megna, a couple of the Jacks' more physically imposing defensemen, smiled from ear to ear as they spent a considerable amount of time perusing the Barbie doll aisle.

But the play of the game once again came from Travis Walsh who, when his shopper accidentally overspent, pulled out his debit card to take care of the balance.

The event was a perfect example of pay it forward, and it melted at least one reporter's heart. I'd like to meet anyone who doesn't feel all warm and gooey inside when they see kids given $100 to spend and, for the most part, they want to spend it on their family members. It's the embodiment of the holiday spirit – people being driven by the satisfaction of making others happy.

Detroit native Mingo picks BGSU

The Des Moines Buccaneers have announced that forward Dajon Mingo will attend Bowling Green State University beginning in the fall of 2011.

Mingo is in his first USHL season and has put up 13 points (10g, 3a) in 16 games for the Bucs. He leads the team with 10 goals and ranks tied for first in the USHL with five power play tallies.

The 20-year-old also leads Bucs forwards with a plus-six rating.

Mingo scored a goal in his USHL debut on October 1, a 3-2 overtime loss to Youngstown.

The Detroit native also recorded a hat trick in his home state when he netted three goals, including the game-winner, on November 27 at Muskegon.

"Dajon is an intelligent, hard-working player who complements any unit that he plays on – we've seen great improvement in his game this season," said Des Moines head coach Regg Simon. "He'll be playing in a great program and will have a chance to become a major contributor."

Photo by Bryce Loshman

Soo Eagles d-man signs with Otters


The Erie Otters have signed Soo Eagles defenceman Nathan Glass to an Ontario Hockey League card.

The smooth-skating Glass, a 1994 birth year defender, has four goals and 12 points in 28 games with the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League's Eagles thus far this season. He was Erie's seventh round pick at the 2010 OHL Draft.

According to Eagles coach/general manager Bruno Bragagnolo, Glass is expected to play three games with Erie when the Otters head out on an OHL road trip Dec. 28-31. After that, the Otters will likely determine whether or not Glass will be sent back to the Eagles for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Port Huron names interim coaches

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons have announced that Marty Haddad and Bill Warren have been named the team’s interim coaches.

Haddad was serving as an assistant coach with the Fighting Falcons, while Warren is currently the head coach of the Port Huron Northern High School varsity team.

The Fighting Falcons have begun a search for a permanent head coach.

More from the Port Huron Times-Herald HERE.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Braun hopes first win leads to more

Matt Braun picked a pretty good time to get his first win of the season last Sunday for the Metro Jets.

Playing both ends of a two-game series in Chicago against the North American 3 Hockey League’s top team, the Chicago Hitmen, Braun rebounded from a loss Saturday night to make 31 saves in regulation and overtime and then stop all five shooters in the shootout as the Jets won the game, 3-2.

Braun’s efforts may not have been the material for a Hollywood motion picture, but it was still a great moment for the 18-year-old New Jersey native, Eric Trunick’s backup much of the season.

“It was great finally getting my first win and getting it against the first place team made it even better,” said Braun. “Before the shootout, I was pretty nervous. This was my first shootout in juniors. During the shootout, I calmed down a bit and just did what I had to do and focus on the puck and not fall for any dekes. After the shootout, it felt great knowing that we just beat the first place team.”

The only non-Michigander on the Metro roster, Braun said being away from home for the first time has been “a wonderful experience” and that he hopes the Jets can help him attain higher levels of hockey.

“(Goaltending) coach (Randy) Wilson and (head) coach (Jason) Cirone have been great helping me get my game where it needs to be to move on,” noted Braun. “I don’t feel that I pattern myself after any goalie. I just play how I have to play.”

And play he does. Just look at the 2009-2010 season.

Last year, Braun won an NJSIAA/Devils Public B state championship with Ramsey High School (just outside New York City), making 40 saves and posting a shutout in the title game. He had hoped to stay local to play junior hockey, but when that option fell through, he had another opportunity just around the corner.

“I came in contact with the Jets through Randy,” explained Braun. “He has helped me out a lot this past summer with finding a team to play for and when things weren’t going so well for me back in New Jersey, I decided to give him a call and he said he would call coach Cirone. As soon as I know it, I’m packing up my stuff to come and play out here.”

Now with a boatload of confidence, Braun is hoping that rubs off on his teammates going into the final three games of the calendar year.

”I feel that our team is on the upswing now and we’re going to do a lot better in the second half of the season,” Braun said. As for myself, I just hope to be the best I can and help my team out as much as possible.”


The Jets ended their losing streak Sunday afternoon in the shootout win over the Chicago Hitmen.

After Mike Moroso (Macomb) and Tommy Burns (Pinckney) scored in the second period, Matt Stirling (Dexter) tallied the only goal in the shootout

Saturday night, the Hitmen topped the Jets, 6-2.

Moroso and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) each had a goal and an assist and Stirling assisted on both goals.

Braun made 43 stops between the pipes.

The Jets (8-15-1-0) host the Peoria Mustangs this weekend at Lakeland Arena for two games. Game time Saturday night is 7:40 p.m. with a 1:20 p.m. Sunday matinee. Metro then plays Tuesday night in Flint before breaking for the holidays.

“Beating Chicago let us know that we can put it to any team out there,” Metro captain Morgan James said. “We are a good team and we are going to let it be known. Sunday’s game was very exciting, but that’s over now. We've got other games ahead. Peoria is solid team and it will take the same effort to beat them.”


Forward Matt Stemkoski (Novi) has two goals and two assists in six games since being acquired from Toledo on Nov. 12 … Moroso, Metro’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 25 points, has six of those points (two goals, four assists) over his last five games … Stirling is also on a mini-streak with six points (goal, five assists) in his last three games.


Karl Merkle, a forward on the 1995-1996 Jets team, still lives in Waterford is now an area manager for Honeybaked Ham.

Merkle’s younger brother, David, played for the Jets last season.

Photo by Andy Grossman

Warriors to assist with food drive today

Members of the Michigan Warriors will be helping out with a food drive at a local elementary school Thursday.

A food truck will be at the Richfield Public School Academy tomorrow to provide meals to community families who may not have a fresh meal this time of year.

Krista Ketterer, a teacher at Richfield, explained how this opportunity came about and how the Warriors got involved.

“My school has been working with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for over a year now,” said Ketterer. “Over a month ago, Joni Clemons, the director of the after-school program at RPSA, was approached about having a mobile food pantry come to our building since we have had such a great partnership over the past year. Joni said that we did not have the $600 to purchase the mobile food pantry and the food bank said that they were donating it because we've been such great supporters.

“The only condition is that they needed 25 volunteers to unload the truck – that is where the Warriors came into play. We may have the numbers when it comes to staff, but we do not have the time. There is no way that we could have the food truck arrive after school, unload it and then serve families. We would be there until midnight.”

“Here in Flint, we are not only grooming these kids to be excellent players, but to also go a step further and be excellent and honorable human beings,” said Warriors’ head coach Moe Mantha. “These boys didn’t even think twice when we brought it to their attention. Maturity and respect is definitely an asset all of our players have and this proves it.”

Richfield has a very high percentage of students that receive free and/or reduced lunch. This food truck will not only help out the families at the school, but also anyone from the community. Flyers have been distributed to all of the schools where Warriors’ players volunteer and also to local churches. There is also a sign out in front of the school promoting tomorrow’s event

“Without the help and support of the Warriors, we would not be able to participate in this program that our families so desperately need,” added Ketterer. “We would have needed to decline the wonderful offer that the food bank had given us. It's a win-win for everyone.”

In addition, the Warriors are giving each family that receives food from the food truck a four-pack of tickets to Sunday’s home game against the Traverse City North Stars.

Richfield Public School Academy is located at 3807 N. Center Road in Flint, just three miles north of Perani Arena.

For more information, call the RPSA at 810-736-1281 or Krista Ketterer at 810-287-3581.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Albertini, Dennis recalled to Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers announced the recall today of 17-year-old defenseman Chris Albertini and 16-year-old left wing Jared Dennis.

Both are joining the Whalers on the road this weekend, starting Thursday on Barrie, Friday in Oshawa and Saturday in Belleville.

Albertini (pictured) - 6-feet-3 inches and 200 pounds - was playing for the Cobourg Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he had a goal and two assists for three points and 75 penalty minutes in 25 games. Albertini was selected by the Whalers in 14th round (273rd overall) of the 2009 Ontario Hockey League draft.

Dennis - 6-feet-1 inch and 180 pounds - was playing for the Leamington Flyers of Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he had four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 29 games. Dennis was selected by the Whalers in the 10th round (190th overall) of the 2010 OHL draft.

Dennis will practice with the Whalers on Wednesday, while Albertini will join the Whalers Thursday in Barrie.

Several Whalers are expected to miss part or all of the road trip.

RJ Mahalak remains out with an upper body injury and Jamie Devane was assessed a two-game suspension on Sunday for his part of a second fight in the same sequence. Devane is expected to return Saturday in Belleville.

In addition, Rickard Rakell is currently in Sweden trying out for the Swedish National Team for the upcoming World Junior Championship. Dario Trutmann leaves Saturday for St. Catharines, Ont., to try out for the Swiss World Junior team.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saginaw acquires McFarland, Chiarot

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Sudbury Wolves, acquiring two top-flight veterans in forward John McFarland and defenseman Ben Chiarot in return for forward Michael Sgarbossa, forward Alex Racino and defenseman Frank Schumacher.

The two teams also swapped draft picks, with the Spirit getting a third round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection and the Wolves getting a fourth round pick in the 2011 selection.

McFarland is a three-year veteran of the Ontario Hockey League, the first overall pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection. McFarland has tallied six goals and four assists for ten points in 12 regular season games this season, and 47 goals and 65 assists for 112 points in 134 regular season games in his OHL career. The 1992-born Richmond Hill, Ont., native has notched four goals and three assists for seven points in 10 post-season appearances with the Wolves.

McFarland was selected 33rd overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Chiarot is playing in his fourth OHL season, second with the Wolves after spending two and a half seasons with the Guelph Storm. He has posted five goals and eight assists for 13 points in 25 regular season games this season, and 15 goals and 31 assists for 46 points in his 190 regular season games in his OHL career. Chiarot has visited the post-season twice, notching three assists in four games with the Storm in the 2009 playoffs and one goal and one assists for two points in four games with the Wolves in the 2010 playoffs.

The 1991-born Hamilton, Ont., native was selected 120th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Both McFarland and Chiarot are expected to join the Spirit for this weekend’s home games against the Kingston Frontenacs tonight and the Plymouth Whalers on Sunday.

Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Denston keeping Jets loose during slump

Mike Denston may not have a letter on his jersey, but he speaks like a true leader.

He knows that there is a difference between winning and losing, but also knows that at the end of the day, hockey is just a game. Denston has been trying to exude that attitude onto his Metro Jets teammates recently as the team is stuck in a losing streak.

“I've just been trying to make sure that everyone is still having fun,” said Denston, a 19-year-old forward. “Whether it's going to team dinners or coming over to my house to play NHL (video games) or just hanging out with the team, we can't beat ourselves up too bad mentally because that's what happened last year and it wasn't fun.

“We've got to keep working hard and do as (head) coach (Jason Cirone) tells us, but we also need to have fun and not lose our heads.”

Even as it seems the Jets’ last win was eons ago, Denston feels more are just around the corner.

“You can definitely tell that we’re not happy with the way things have been going for us, but that hasn't stopped us from working harder every time we get on the ice,” Denston said. “We just have to go back to doing the things that coach has taught us and we'll start winning again.”

A native of nearby White Lake, Denston grew up following the Jets and started his junior hockey career last season with a 17-point output for his hometown team.

This season, Denston is on pace to eclipse his 2009-2010 point total. More than that, though, is the notion that Denston wants to become a better all-around player on the ice.

“I think the biggest difference this year compared to last year is how serious everyone is taking the season,” said Denston. “It seemed like last year, a lot of guys just showed up to be here. This year, we have a team that comes to the rink looking to get better whether it's a practice or game.

“I'm expecting us to finish hard and win a lot of games. We've been working very hard in practice and we just have to transfer it all to a game for the full 60 minutes and we'll be fine.”


After being off last weekend, the Jets (7-14-1-0) travel to suburban Chicago this weekend to take on the league’s top team, the Chicago Hitmen, in a two-game series Saturday and Sunday.

Game time Saturday is 5:30 p.m. EST, while Sunday’s game goes at 3:00 p.m.

Chicago is 18-5-1-0 this year and has scored an NA3HL-best 132 goals, with captain Quentin Bicknase accounting for 21 of them. In goal, Nick Clarke has fashioned an 11-1-0 record with a 1.94 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and a pair of shutouts.

The Hitmen swept the Jets in a two-game set in Waterford back on Oct. 30-31.

This time, the Jets are looking for opposite results.

“I can tell you we are physically ready,” Metro captain Morgan James said. “We've worked our tails off the last two weeks prepping for these games. The mental part, which we have, is what it’s going to take to pull it off. We just need to make sure everyone brings it to Chicago.”

Metro returns home next weekend for two games with the Peoria Mustangs at Lakeland Arena. After a road game against the Flint Jr. Generals on Dec. 21, the Jets sit idle for the holiday break, next playing in Pittsburgh Jan. 8-9.


The Jets released defenseman Brennan Borowiak (Gaylord) last Saturday and forward Ryan Kelly on Tuesday and signed defenseman Will Shier (Sterling Heights) on Monday.

Borowiak had three assists in 18 games for Metro, while Kelly tallied three assists in six games.

Shier, 18, started the season in the Northern Pacific Hockey League with the Yellowstone Quake and recorded a goal and four assists in 14 games.

Defenseman Austin Shipaila (Wyoming), released by the Jets on Nov. 25, signed with Battle Creek last Friday.


Forward Dominic Osman, who played for Metro during the 1999-2000 season, is now in his fourth pro season and second with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.

After playing for the Jets, the 28-year-old Dearborn native played for the Soo Indians, Capital Centre Pride and Cleveland Barons in the North American Hockey League and then four years of Division I college hockey at Lake Superior State University.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Jacks to 'pay their fortune forward'

The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ players are very aware of how fortunate they are to play in a premier league like the United States Hockey League. That is why they are eager to pay their fortune forward next Monday and Tuesday.

After ringing bells for the Salvation Army at several locations Monday night, the Lumberjacks’ players and coaches will accompany underprivileged children from the area in shopping at the Meijer Superstore, 3267 Henry St., on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Meijer will be donating individual $100 gift cards to 25 kids, and the Jacks will help them from the time they start filling their carts until they load up the groceries to bring them home.

“What started out as a simple request to get our players out in the community has turned into an opportunity to reach out and positively impact 25 young people and their families,” Lumberjacks president Tim Taylor said. “We’re grateful for the chance to work with Meijer on such a great initiative.”

On Monday night from 7-9 p.m., the Lumberjacks will be ringing bells for the Salvation Army at numerous locations throughout the city. The players will pair up, and you can spot them at the Plumbs Market locations on Apple Avenue and West Sherman Boulevard; Kmart on Apple Avenue; the Walgreens locations on Apple Avenue, Holton Road and East Sherman Boulevard; Sam’s Club on East Sherman Boulevard; the Lakes Mall, and Walmart on Henry Street. The players will also be handing out Salvation Army pins

“When you have the given ability and opportunity to play sports and be in the public eye, there needs to be a realization that it’s about something bigger than yourself,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “You need to carry yourself and be a role model. To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Metro's Elswick finding scoring touch

Matt Elswick started this season for the Metro Jets going 17 games before scoring his first goal.

He followed that milestone up with two more goals in the next three games.

Elswick’s confidence, obviously, is peaking and he’s admitted to not gripping his stick as tightly after scoring goal No. 1 on Nov. 20 at home against Pittsburgh.

“It was definitely a huge relief to finally put the puck in the net,” said Elswick, an 18-year-old native of Gaylord. “We all talk about how we plan on celebrating our next goal, but that was the last thing on my mind at the time. I was just so overwhelmed to finally bury one.

“This has been a big jump from high school hockey – much faster, much tougher, and a lot more talent.”

Still, being put on a forward line with Justin Bennett and Mike Denston has been paying off in recent games.

“I get along with both of them really well both on and off the ice,” Elswick said. “The two of them talk to me on the ice, which is a big help to me knowing where they are.”

Looking ahead, Elswick has both short-term and long-term aspirations in mind.

“I would enjoy shooting for college hockey and be able to study and get my education as well,” noted Elswick. “I expect as a team to start winning again and make the playoffs. Personally, I would like to continue getting my points and help my team win some games and complete our goals.”


The Jets played a strong game, but fell to the Toledo Cherokee, 8-5, Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

Five different players scored for the Jets, including newcomer Bryan Marks (Milford), who scored Metro’s first goal at 15:20 of the first period.

Marks, 18, signed with Metro last Friday after starting the season in Toledo.

Elswick added a goal and an assist, while Bennett, Matt Stemkoski (Novi) and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) also scored.

Denston and Matt Stirling (Dexter) each recorded two assists and Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) finished with 35 saves in goal.

For Toledo, Cameron Rossman scored three goals and Cory Bastian had two goals and an assist in the win.

The Jets (7-14-1-0) are off idle this weekend and don't play again until Dec. 11-12 when they hit the road to play the Chicago Hitmen.


Defenseman Austin Shipaila (Wyoming) was released last Thursday. Shipaila was acquired from Pittsburgh on Oct. 15 and had one assist in 11 games with Metro … Marks tallied a goal and an assist during his 12-game stint with Toledo … Goalie Rick Ice (Sterling Heights), released by the Jets on Nov. 23, signed with Toledo two days later.


Vinny Pietrangelo, a defenseman on last year’s Metro team, is in his freshman season at Finlandia University in Hancock, Mich.

Finlandia is one of two Division III schools in Michigan with Adrian College being the other.

Pietrangelo, a Traverse City native who turns 20 on Dec. 26, leads the Lions with a plus-3 plus/minus rating and recorded his first collegiate point with an assist against Lake Forest College on Nov. 5.

Last season, Pietrangelo registered a goal and eight assists in 47 games for the Jets.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Dearborn Heights native picks Broncos

The Sioux Falls Stampede announced Wednesday that defenseman Jordan Oesterle has committed to Western Michigan University.

He becomes the ninth Stampede player to commit to a Division I program this season.

The Dearborn Heights native has tallied seven points (1g, 6a) in 16 games and is a team best plus-6 on the year.

Oesterle spent last year playing Midget Major hockey with Belle Tire in Detroit, where he recorded 58 points (8g, 50a) in 71 games.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Metal Jackets to partner with FHHA

The Motor City Metal Jackets and the Farmington Hills Hockey Association have formed a partnership called the Junior Metal Jackets of Farmington Hills.

The Metal Jackets and the executive board of the Farmington Hills Hockey Association have announced a mutual partnership starting in the spring of 2011.

The Metal Jackets are going to utilize the resources on and off the ice in their Junior A program in the NAHL to enhance the opportunity for players and parents of the FHHA. The Motor City organization will offer support at every level, including player skill development, coaching development and education on hockey fundamentals for both parents and players. The goals and philosophy of this organization align completely with those of the FHHA strengthening all aspects of their programs.

The FHHA has been a forerunner in the area youth hockey organizations for over a decade.

“We believe this partnership will enhance and strengthen the program and together, we will become a powerhouse in amateur hockey,” stated Kelly Moran, president of the Farmington Hills Hockey Association.

The FHHA has steadily declined participation in the past due to the emergence of associations to the west of that it originally drew players from, as well as to the economic recession. What the Metal Jackets have to offer in conjunction with the FHHA can only strengthen and grow the game of hockey in the area. The city of Farmington Hills and the rink management fully support this venture.

The Metal Jackets professional coaching staff will offer many benefits to the FHHA players, including a strength and conditioning coach and guidelines to ensure the kid's development at the right age, off-ice training guides to develop skills, coaching development at all levels to ensure players and coaches are receiving proper training, and weekly skills development sessions.

“Our program at the Junior A level is developed on the endurance of skating like the Japanese, the skill development of the Europeans, and the aggressive play of the United States and Canada," said Metal Jackets owner Kenji Yamada. "We would like to bring this same philosophy to the youth association and develop these young players while having fun each and every time they hit the ice.”

The partnership will create a path of opportunity from Tim Bits through House, Travel and possibly AAA (with the affiliate Jr Metal Jackets Grizzlies who play in the North American Prospects Hockey League) and Junior A that no other youth organization in the area will be able to offer.