Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beleski making an impact in Waterford

Josh Beleski had a choice to make last season – come play for the Metro Jets or stay in his hometown of Southgate and play his senior year for the Anderson High School team.

He chose high school and Jets coach Jason Cirone was fine with that decision.

“We drafted him and felt he was ready to make the jump to juniors last season,” Cirone said. “He made a personal decision and wanted to go play high school hockey and we respected that. This year, he’s shown he wants to be here and really been a consistent, steady force for us.”

This year, the 18-year-old Beleski is seventh in team scoring with seven goals (three on the power play) and eight assists for 15 points in 22 games.

“Josh is a guy I can count on in every situation and I know he’s going to do his job,” said Cirone. “He’s been doing it defensively by blocking shots on the penalty kill and also playing on the power play. In certain situations, you usually have kids who can only do certain things, but I think Josh does a lot of things very well and that’s why he plays in all situations.”

Cirone said Beleski has all the makings to be on a North American Hockey League roster next season.

“If he keeps working hard, I think North American League teams will start to take notice,” Cirone said. “Josh is dedicated to improving his game and I think he can definitely play at the next level. It all depends on how much he wants it and from how he’s played so far this season, I can see him playing up there next year.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets are on holiday break, but will get back to practice later this week.

In their last game before the break on Dec. 18, the Flint Jr. Generals topped the Jets 7-6 in a shootout at Iceland Arena in Flint.

Metro’s next game action is at home against Flint on Saturday, Jan. 7 and then the following afternoon in Battle Creek.

JET STREAKS

With a slew of healthy forwards and Tim Perks ready to make his season debut after suffering a shoulder injury before the season, moves may be on the horizon for the Jets.

“We’re very forward-heavy and we need to do something,” said Cirone. “We’ll probably be moving some bodies in the next few weeks.”

The NA3HL trade deadline is the first week in February.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

The Kalamazoo Wings signed Dustin Cloutier, a forward who played for the Jets in 2003-04, last week to an ECHL contract.

Cloutier, a 25-year-old Berkley native, joins the K-Wings after starting this season in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Augusta RiverHawks where he posted 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists) in 20 games.

Before turning pro, Cloutier was a four-year standout at Division I Bentley College (2007-11).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jets' Reid tenders with NAHL's Mustangs

Metro Jets defenseman Adam Reid has excelled in his first season in the North American 3 Hockey League and the New Mexico Mustangs of the North American Hockey League have taken notice.

This past week, the Mustangs offered a tender to Reid for the 2012-13 season and the 19-year-old happily accepted.

A tender is a contract of sorts a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted eight tenders - plus or minus any trades - which become active on Nov. 1. Tendered players are not eligible for the NAHL draft.

“The tender opportunity came up at the showcase in Chicago the first week of December,” explained Reid, a Kalamazoo native who lived the past 14 years in Georgetown, Tex. “After our first game against Quad City, (Jets coach Jason) Cirone said that New Mexico was inquiring about me and that they'd be watching me again in our game the next day. After the second game, their scout and assistant coach Nick Shackford approached me with the offer.”

“I’m very proud of Adam,” said Cirone. “We’re in the business of developing and advancing our players and I think this speaks volumes in Adam’s case. He only played four games of midget hockey last year dealing with a concussion, but came in this year and has been one of our most consistent defensemen.”

Reid has also done his homework on the Mustangs, a second-year NAHL franchise coached by Jason Kersner.

“I know the Mustangs are a solid organization with good ownership and management,” said Reid. “I also know they started out a little rough this season, but have been turning it around lately with all their roster changes. They're only a few points out of the playoffs right now and expect to make it. Cirone also knows their coaches pretty well and has respect for them, and I have a lot of trust in his judgment.”

While the tender doesn’t guarantee Reid a spot in Rio Rancho next fall, he’s going to do all he can to add his name to the growing list of Jets’ advancements.

”To prepare to make the team next year, I want to gain a little more weight and become faster and stronger,” Reid said. “I also have several tactical things that Shackford and Cirone have said I need to improve on.

”Cirone and the Jets get a lot of credit for helping me with this opportunity. Having just missed the (NAHL’s) Port Huron (Fighting Falcons) cut last summer, I think I was a little too confident coming into this league, but Cirone brought me back to reality and showed me all of my deficiencies and how to fix them. He has been a tremendous help.”

This season, Reid has four assists and 27 penalty minutes in 24 games for Metro.

The Jets (15-11-0-1) are off until Saturday, Jan. 7 when they host the Flint Jr. Generals at Lakeland Arena.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

USA Hockey names World Junior team

USA Hockey today announced the 22 members of the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012, in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta.

Among those on the U.S. roster are seven returning players from the bronze medal-winning 2011 U.S. National Junior Team, including goaltender Jack Campbell (Port Huron, Mich./Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds); defensemen Derek Forbort (Duluth, Minn./Univ. of North Dakota) and Jon Merrill (Brighton, Mich./Univ. of Michigan); and forwards Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Minn./Univ. of Minnesota), Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass./Boston Univ.), Emerson Etem (Long Beach, Calif./Medicine Hat Tigers) and Jason Zucker (Las Vegas, Nev./Univ. of Denver).

Both Campbell (pictured) and Zucker were also members of the gold medal-winning 2010 U.S. National Junior Team.

"Every year this decision seems to get harder," said Jim Johannson, general manager of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team and also the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. "The number of talented players from which we get to form a team says a lot about hockey's growth in the United States as a whole."

"Having been behind the bench when we won the gold medal two years ago, I can't wait to get started again," said Dean Blais, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "This is an incredible group of players whose speed and tenacity should help us succeed in Edmonton and Calgary."

The U.S. will look to earn its third straight medal after capturing the bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., and the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.

NOTES: The U.S. National Junior Team is currently in the midst of a pre-tournament camp taking place in Alberta, Canada. Team USA has already taken part in two pre-tournament games, and will play its final pre-tournament contest tomorrow (Dec. 23) against Slovakia in Three Hills, Alta. ... The U.S. roster includes 15 first- or second-round NHL Entry Draft picks, including eight first-rounders ... NHL Network U.S. will televise all Team USA games in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship and 15 games total in the event. For the complete broadcast schedule, click here... Dean Blais, head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is serving as head coach of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team. He is assisted by Scott Sandelin, head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth; Tom Ward, head ice hockey coach of the Shattuck-St. Mary's School's boys' prep team; and Joe Exter, assistant men's ice hockey coach at Ohio State University ... Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is serving as the general manager of Team USA for the third consecutive year. Tim Taylor (Guilford, Conn.), former U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team head coach and longtime Yale University men's ice hockey team head coach, is also serving his third straight year as Team USA's director of player personnel ... The U.S. National Junior Team blog will include daily updates with game recaps, photos and multimedia content. The blog can be found here... Use the hashtag #USAWJC to join the conversation on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baker loving time with hometown Jets

John Baker is experiencing a homecoming of sorts this season with the Metro Jets.

As a Waterford native, Baker has come home for his last season of junior hockey and said the opportunity to play for the team he followed growing up was a chance he couldn’t turn down.

Last season, Baker played out west for the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League and then started this season with the Leamington Flyers of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League before coming to the Jets, the team that selected him in June’s NA3HL draft.

“I feel lucky to be able to play for the Jets,” said the 20-year-old defenseman. “Junior hockey is a great experience and what better place to play than in your hometown. I think the team has really turned its name around since (Jason) Cirone has been coaching. I remember seeing the Jets grow up winning nationals (in 2002) and see them go through some ups and downs. I'm glad I'm playing here and I feel like this year is the year to restore the team and have a nice winning season and make a big playoff run.

“There's no doubt in my mind that our team can't compete with every team in our league. I feel like we have played well, but nobody has seen us play our best yet. I feel like the second half is going to be really exciting to see how talented the team can be and how dangerous we can be if we’re all going.”

On and off the ice, Baker said it’s been fun to re-connect with players he played with or against in high school and has been “the time of my life.”

“Our team chemistry is different than any other team I've ever been on,” Baker said. “I think it helps us a lot playing with local guys. I've played with a majority of the team growing up and honestly our team chemistry is unreal. Playing with guys like (Chris) Hellebuyck, who I played high school hockey with, I feel like we just connect. Playing a year of juniors last season with (Will) Shier, (Branden) Morganroth and (Mike) MacKinnon (with Yellowstone) has made us more than just teammates. We’re all pretty much best friends on the team and there's nobody we don't not get along with. We can all have fun and joke around.”

As for his role with Metro, Baker plays the vast majority back on the blue line, but can play forward if need be.

“I try my best to do whatever I can to keep us in a game and battle in the corners and get under the other team’s skin,” explained Baker. “I think as a defenseman, I am our most offensive defenseman of the group and can contribute, but it’s all coach’s call if he wants me to play a few shifts on forward and bring some energy with a couple big hits; I like to do that, too.”

Baker isn’t sure if this will be his last season of competitive hockey, but if it is, he’ll have no hard feelings and will also have his hockey apparel company to fall back on.

When looking ahead, Baker is as realistic as he can be.

“If I can play more hockey next year, I will for sure be playing, but if not, then I'm just planning on working,” Baker said. “I’m hoping the rest of the season goes well and I keep progressing. I still think we can play better and I think I can still improve even though it’s my last year. I'm not going to have any regrets at the end of this year and with the amount of 91s and 92s, I know we can make it far this season with the talent and heart our team has.”

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets suffered a regulation loss and a shootout loss over the weekend.

Metro took a 2-1 lead into the third period Friday night, but the Toledo Cherokee scored twice in the final period to come away with a 3-2 win at the Team Toledo Ice House.

Doug Andrews and Zach Mohr scored in the second period for Metro, who saw its three-game winning streak come to an end.

“We should have won this game,” said Cirone. “I think for two periods, we outplayed them, but then we fell asleep. You can’t win a game in this league, or hold onto a lead when you take just two shots in the first 18 minutes. It was a great win for Toledo; they took a lot of shots and worked hard and we paid for it.”

In net, Devin Williams finished with 32 saves.

Sunday afternoon in Flint, the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to see the Jr. Generals score the next six.

No matter, the Jets scored the next four to tie the game at 6-all.

After the five-minute overtime didn't solve anything, the game went to a shootout where Flint escaped with a 7-6 win at Iceland Arena.

"Flintis a good hockey team and I believe we're a good hockey team," said Cirone. "We usually have a cleaner game against them, but sooner or later, you have defensive breakdowns and both teams have a lot of guys that can score goals. That's what (Sunday) was - a lot of breakdowns and a lot of goals."

MacKinnon and Josh Beleski staked the Jets to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Cody Damon answered with two of his own to send the game into the first intermission tied at 2-2.

In the second, Hayden Hanson, Anthony Terzo, Luke Dmytro and James Odom made it 6-2 Flint.

Metro starting goalie Dillon Kelley was pulled after Terzo's goal for Williams, but went back in after Dmytro's goal.

Cameron Bazin made it 6-3 at 19:34and then as time expired, Hellebuyck scored to bring the Jets to within a pair.

"I thought overall that Cam was our catalyst and he's the one that really got it started by scoring the goal and drawing a penalty at the same time," said Cirone. "With him making that play happen and then with our power play stepping up at the end of the period, I thought our kids did a great job responding."

Beleski and Matt Stirling scored the only goals in the third period, making it a 6-6 game.

Flint came close to winning the game late in the third and in the overtime as co-captain Warren Carter hit the crossbar twice behind Kelley.

In the shootout, Flint goalie Ben Myers stopped Steve Klisz, Andrews and MacKinnon. Hellebuyck was the only player to score.

Jr. Generals co-captain Andrew Lay, Richard Jansson and Carter solved Kelley, whose only save came on Eddie Osowski's attempt.

Kelley finished with 34 saves, while Williams had three.

Myers earned the win with a 26-save outing.

The Jets (15-11-0-1) now break for the holidays and return to action on Jan. 7 at Lakeland Arena against Flint. Metro finishes the first half of the season with as many wins as it had all of last season and in third place in the NA3HL's East Division, 10 points behind second-place Flint.

"I'm actually welcoming the break," said Cirone. "We have a lot of first-year juniors that are finding out that junior hockey is a grind and I think this is going to be refreshing to them. I think it'll give them time to reflect and get a little bit of rest and get ready for the second half."

JET STREAKS

Forward Matt Stemkoski saw time on defense against Flint and fared well.

“Stemmer is a very versatile player for us,” said Cirone. “He played defense the first period, then forward the second and back on D in the third. There were no complaints from him and that shows the type of leader he is. He just wants to do what it takes to help this team win.”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Goaltender Colin Greeley was in net for four of the Jets’ seven wins in 2008-09 and for the past two seasons, the 19-year-old Howell native has played for Leamington.

Greeley was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit in 2008.

Thus far this season for the Flyers, Greeley is 10-5-1-0 with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lubanski commits to play for Holy Cross

The Kenai River Brown Bears are pleased to announce that forward and captain Brett Lubanski has announced his commitment to Holy Cross, where he will continue his hockey career playing for the Crusaders.

Holy Cross is a member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Hockey Association.

Lubanski (5-foot-11/185 lbs.) is in his third year in the NAHL, all with the Brown Bears. He currently leads the Brown Bears in scoring with 32 points in 26 games and also is currently tied for fifth this season in the NAHL with 23 assists.

Last season, Lubanski tied for 3rd in the NAHL with 48 assists.

A native of Farmington Hills, Lubanski said he is thrilled with the commitment to Holy Cross.

“It is a dream come true for me personally," Lubanski said. "My goal when I came to the NAHL was to obtain a Division I scholarship, so I am very happy I was able to accomplish that. I also think that the Brown Bears organization has really become one of the better ones in the league and I am proud to have had a hand in that.”

Lubanski, 20, played in the 2011 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor this past February and like so many players who play in the event, Lubanski said he felt like interest from colleges really started to pick up then.

“It was a great and fun event for me and all the guys and I knew the interest was there from several Division I schools,” said Lubanski. “However, after the Showcase in September is when Holy Cross really came to the forefront of schools I wanted to attend."

Lubanski is on track to eclipse his 63-point season last year, thanks in large part to playing on a Kenai River team that he considers a true Robertson Cup contender.

“I think we are a team of competitors this year and there isn’t a lot of quit in that locker room," Lubanski said. "We are going to show up every night and give a 100 percent effort and leave it all on this ice. As a captain, it gives you 100 percent confidence in your teammates and makes you feel good that going into the playoffs that we have a very good chance to represent our division at the Robertson Cup.”

Kenai River head coach Oliver David said he takes pride with a player like Lubanski committing to an NCAA Division I school.

“He has always been a player that has done things the right way and he comes to the rink every day and competes,” said David. “He plays with a lot of confidence and he has been a great leader for this team during his three seasons. During my three years here, he is who I built the team around, he is the cornerstone of what we are all about, and he has been one of the biggest reasons that this program has improved each season, so it gives all of us a great sense of pride to see him be able to take the next step in his life and hockey career.”

Lubanski said he hopes what he learned playing in the NAHL will help him be an impact player right away at Holy Cross.

“The NAHL is a league of maturity," said Lubanski. "The more experience you gain in the league, the better off you are going to be at the next level. I think players going onto the NCAA from the NAHL are prepared better because they have learned how to live away from home and understand what it’s like playing hockey every day during a season that lasts 8-9 months.

"I think Holy Cross has a great coaching staff and a very prestigious academic and athletic tradition, so it was a very easy and gratifying choice to make.”

Photo/NAHL

Friday, December 16, 2011

Toman makes Slovakian WJC team

Michal Toman isn’t going home for the holidays – he’s going to Alberta.

The Traverse City North Stars forward was selected to represent his native Slovakia at the World Junior Championships pre-tournament camp, which opens today near Calgary.

Thirty-five players were invited to the camp by the Slovakian Ice Hockey Association, which will gear up a WJC tune-up against Finland on Dec. 21.

“Obviously, it’s a tremendous honor,” said Toman, who leads the North Stars with 10 assists through 20 contests. “To be asked to be a part of your country’s national team is something that means a lot to all the players.”

After a second friendly against the U.S. national team is slated for Dec. 23, with the tourney kicking off on Dec. 26 and wrapping up on Jan. 5. The Slovaks’ camp roster includes six returning players from a team that placed eighth at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y., and six players who have already been drafted by an NHL team.

“I know a lot of the guys – three of them I worked out with all summer,” Toman added. “It’s a very skilled group of players with the talent to compete with the top teams in the world. It should be an exciting tournament.”

Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier will be missing one of his top playmakers while Toman is on international hiatus, but recognizes the rarified air of the WJC.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for Michal,” Fournier said. “These are the best junior players in the world, there will be a ton of scouts, and guys are playing for national pride. It’s the best of the best against the best of the best, and what a great experience for him.”

The Slovaks drew a Group A assignment, and will face Latvia, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland in pool play. Group B is comprised of Team USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Finland. Russia is the defending champion.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whalers sign Compuware d-man Jones

The Plymouth Whalers have a long history of signing players from within the Compuware youth hockey program.

Today, the Whalers added another player to the list as Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci announced the signing of 16-year-old defenseman Mitch Jones.

Jones, who was playing this season for the Compuware Under-18 team in the High Performance Hockey League, was originally selected by the Whalers in the 11th round (213th overall) of the 2011 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Jones played last season for the Detroit Honeybaked U-16s, where he scored two goals for five assists for seven points in 33 games. He played from 2007-09 with Belle Tire, scoring 24 goals with 11 assists for 35 points in 59 games.

Jones and his parents, Brad and Mary, attended the Whalers rookie orientation last spring.

Mitch's father, Brad, played hockey at the University of Michigan from 1983-87 and was selected in the eighth round (156th overall) in the 1984 National Hockey League Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. He also played in the NHL with Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Jones will wear No. 6 and is expected to make his Plymouth debut this weekend when the Whalers play in Oshawa on Friday and in Belleville on Saturday.

Plymouth's next home game is Weds. Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. against the top-rated London Knights in the annual Kid's Day game.

TOM WILSON SELECTED FOR 2012 HOME HARDWARE CHL/NHL TOP PROSPECTS GAME: Plymouth right wing Tom Wilson has been selected to play in the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which will be held Feb. 1, 2012 in Kelowna, B.C.

“The Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game showcases 40 of the league’s top prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft,” said CHL president David Branch. “Congratulations to all 40 players selected for this event representing the next wave of talent to the NHL, with the opportunity to showcase their skills before hundreds of NHL scouts in attendance and for fans in Kelowna and CHL fans watching live across Canada on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.”

Photo from left - Vellucci, Jones and assistant GM Brian Sommariva. Photo/Mary Jones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wedgewood, Oleksiak to play for Canada

Plymouth Whalers goalie Scott Wedgewood and Saginaw Spirit defenseman Jamie Oleksiak have made Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton and Calgary that starts Dec. 26.

FULL RELEASE FROM HOCKEY CANADA:

CALGARY, Alta. – Hockey Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), announced Thursday the 22 players that will make up Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The announcement comes at the conclusion of Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp, which ran from Dec. 10-14, 2011 at the WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex in Calgary. A total of 43 players attended camp.

Four members of this year’s roster – Brett Connolly (Prince George, B.C./Tampa Bay, NHL), Quinton Howden (Oak Bank, Man./Moose Jaw, WHL), Jaden Schwartz (Wilcox, Sask./Colorado College, CCHA) and Mark Visentin (Waterdown, Ont./Niagara, OHL) - helped Canada earn the silver medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y.

“On behalf of Hockey Canada, I want to congratulate the players named to the final roster today, along with their club teams, parents and minor hockey coaches that have helped them reach this level,” said Brad Pascall, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations/national teams. “Canada is lucky to have many great young players, and these players should be very proud of their achievement today.”

Canada’s National Junior Team will practice once in Calgary, at the WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex in Calgary, on Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. before moving to Banff, where it will be based through Dec. 22.

Canada will play three pre-competition games in Alberta prior to the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2011 to Jan. 5, 2012 in Calgary and Edmonton.

Canada will play its first game of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship on Boxing Day, Dec. 26 against Finland, a game that will be broadcast LIVE by TSN/RDS and on The FAN Radio Network (check local listings). While the event is officially sold out, tickets are available through a ticket exchange program at www.HockeyCanada.ca/2012juniors.

Canada has medalled at thirteen consecutive IIHF World Junior Championships, including gold medal performances in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, silver medals in 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010 and 2011 and bronze medals in 2000 and 2001.

CANADA ROSTER

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Watson out, Gilbert new Saginaw coach

The Saginaw Spirit announced today that head coach and GM Todd Watson has been relieved of his duties.

The Spirit are also announcing the appointment of Greg Gilbert as the team’s sixth coach in franchise history.

Gilbert was at the helm during two of the best seasons in the history of the Mississauga/Niagara IceDogs franchise, leading them to an appearance in the OHL final in the 2003-04 season where they were defeated by the Guelph Storm, and the following season when the IceDogs won the OHL’s Central Division title and finished first overall in the Eastern Conference in the regular season.

Gilbert has also served as an assistant and head coach of the Calgary Flames for parts of four seasons and has also worked as the head coach of three teams in the American Hockey League.

Spirit assistant GM and head scout Jim Paliafito has been elevated to the team’s GM position.

Watson (pictured) assumed the Spirit’s coaching duties prior to the 2007-08 season and compiled a regular season record of 154-115-20-13. In the playoffs, the Spirit’s record under Watson was 12-18.

“We recognize the many on-ice accomplishments that Todd has achieved while here in Saginaw as head coach and as GM," said Saginaw president Craig Goslin. "Todd has left our on-ice program better than he found it. We wish him all the best in his career."

On the ice, Gilbert suited up for three seasons with the OHA/OHL’s Toronto Marlboros before embarking on a 15-year NHL career where he was on the roster for three Stanley Cup champion teams, twice with the New York Islanders during their run of four straight Cup victories in the early 1980’s and the 1994 edition of the New York Rangers.

Gilbert appeared in 837 career games in the NHL recording 150 goals and 228 assists.

“After playing 15 seasons in the NHL and possessing a strong coaching resume that includes three seasons as a head coach in the NHL, seven seasons as a head coach in the AHL and three seasons as a coach in the OHL, we feel that Greg Gilbert will offer a strong developmental environment for our players and push our franchise to the next level," commented Goslin. "Once our fans get to know him, they will realize that Saginaw has hired one of the best coaches in the 60-team CHL. I am excited for our players and I am excited for our fans."

Gilbert is appreciative of his new coaching assignment.

“I am very honored and thankful for this opportunity that Dick Garber and Craig Goslin have given me," said Gilbert. "I am looking forward to getting to Saginaw and getting the club going in the right direction.”

Reid getting noticed in Waterford

When Adam Reid is on his game, he gets noticed for one of two reasons.

Either the Metro Jets defenseman from Georgetown, Tex., is physical against the opposing team or he plays a steady game that he doesn’t get noticed at all.

In other words, when Reid is on his game, he can be as good as any blueliner in the North American 3 Hockey League.

“Adam is starting to realize that when he’s physical, that’s when he’s at his best,” Jets head coach Jason Cirone said. “I think he played his best stretch of games this week (at the NA3HL Showcase Tournament in Darien, Ill.). He only played four games last year dealing with a concussion, so for him to get up to speed at this level is a slow progress, but he’s progressing and improving everyday.”

Reid skated for the Russell Stover Midget Major AAA team last season in Kansas City only to see his season derailed early on. Now getting another opportunity has made Reid grateful for the time he has spent so far with the Jets.

“Before this season, I didn't really know much about the NA3HL other than its existence and affiliation with the NAHL,” said Reid. “Looking back, I suppose it was a shot in the dark joining this league because I really didn't know what I was getting into. I just wanted to play hockey. But now, in retrospect, I am really happy I joined.”

This past summer, the 19-year-old Reid went to the Port Huron Fighting Falcons’ tryout camp at Hazel Park Ice Arena and while he thought he impressed enough to earn a spot with the NAHL team, it wasn’t meant to be.

“Since I was sidelined for essentially the entirety of last season, I didn't have exposure and was trying to make the most of some NAHL opportunities,” Reid said. “After the camp, (Port Huron coach) Bill Warren called me and said I didn't make their roster, but he had some positive feedback and mentioned Jason's name. A couple days later, I got a call from Jason asking me to play for him.”

“What I liked most about Adam at the Port Huron camp was that he wasn’t the biggest or the toughest on the ice, but he didn’t back down from anything,” added Cirone. “When Bill called and asked if I had room for him, I jumped at the chance.”

In Texas, where Reid lived from 1997-2010 after his father took a job with Dell Computers, he played for the Austin Roadrunners, a AA program.

“We would mostly travel to places like Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City,” explained Reid. “My early hockey influences were guys like Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman. I remember watching them win the back-to-back Stanley Cups when I was just five or six.”

One of two Texas natives on the Metro roster this season (forward Tim Wlodkowski is the other), Reid said this season’s homecoming of sorts is “a very comfortable environment.”

”I didn’t know Timmy prior to this season,” said Reid. “He's from Katy, a suburb of the Houston area, which I am familiar with, but I was living north of Austin at the time. It does help having a fellow Texan on the team, but most of my extended family is up here.”

Aside from Texas, Reid and his family also lived in Singapore from 2005-08. No worries, though, Reid found a local rink. Lucky for him, he also had his skates with him.

“I played hockey there in a beer league with other expatriates,” said Reid.

In 20 games so far this year, Reid has two assists, but is hoping his stay-at-home game will get him noticed by NAHL teams.

“I think my strengths on the ice are my size and skating ability,” said Reid. “I am very confident in my skating, but I have learned that my mind is by far my biggest asset if I use it correctly. My biggest short-term goal is to dress in a game in the NAHL this season should the opportunity present itself. I also want to be someone that my teammates can trust both on and off the ice. My long-term goal is to just see what my limits are. I would love to play college hockey in some form, but ultimately, I want to see how far I can take this.

“If it isn't in the cards for me, then I want to be able to look back and know I did everything I could.”


LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Jets played four games in as many days this week at the showcase in the Chicago suburbs, going 2-2 along the way.

Metro lost to the Quad City Jr. Flames, 8-4, on Sunday, topped the Peoria Mustangs, 2-1, on Monday, was edged by the Minnesota Flying Aces, 4-3, on Tuesday and then defeated the North Iowa Bulls, 4-3, in a shootout on Wednesday.

Chris Hellebuyck scored twice for the Jets, while captain Tommy Kilgore had a goal and an assist against Quad City. Steve Klisz notched the other goal for Metro.

“I think we had more chances than Quad City, but we couldn’t finish and they scored on their chances,” said Cirone. “We had 38 shots on goal, so offense isn’t our problem, never has been at all this season. I thought our defense maybe could have made better decisions with the puck and our goaltending could have been better.”

Dillon Kelley made 31 saves in goal for the Jets.

Zach Mohr scored both goals, including the game-winner with just over five minutes remaining in the third period, to pace the Metro attack against Peoria. Devin Williams picked up the win in goal making 24 saves.

“That was a good bounce-back win for us,” said Cirone. “I thought Devin played really well, too.”

Even in defeat against the Flying Aces, Cirone found a way to put a positive spin on the contest.

“I thought this game was the best of the four,” Cirone said. “Like in the Quad City game, we out-chanced them and outworked them, but we couldn’t finish. I think we had two breakaways and hit two posts. With a little luck and if our guys started to bear down a little bit, I think we win that game.”

John Baker, Mike MacKinnon and Matt Stemkoski tallied for the Jets. Williams posted another 24-win outing in goal.

Wrapping up the event, Hellebuyck scored three goals, including the deciding goal in Metro’s first shootout of the season.

Travis Hargett recorded the Jets’ other goal and Kelley finished with 33 saves. Kelley also stopped three of the four Bulls’ shooters in the shootout.

“Dillon Kelley won that game for us,” said Cirone. “We weren’t prepared at all and maybe that was with the fact we were playing our fourth game. We weren’t mentally ready and that carried over into the warmup.”

With five goals during the week, Hellebuyck now has a team-best 16 on the season.

“I don’t want to say that Chris stepped up because he’s played that way all season and is a guy I’ve come to rely on all season long,” said Cirone. “I think you can also put Doug Andrews in that category with the way he’s been. I don’t think these guys stepped up this week, but they for sure didn’t step down.”

The showcase gave Cirone a chance to meet with scouts and to renew acquaintances with people from the hockey world.

“We saw a lot of different faces this week,” Cirone said. “We also got to play teams we don’t play during the season. We get tired of playing Flint and Cleveland as much as we do, so seeing new teams was a plus for us this week.”

The Jets (13-10-0-0) host the Queen City Steam at Lakeland Arena this weekend. Game time is 7:40 p.m. Saturday night and 11:50 a.m. on Sunday.

“Queen City always plays hard,” said Cirone. “We’ll need to be ready.”


JET STREAKS

Connor Hellebuyck, younger brother of Chris Hellebuyck and one of the Jets’ tenders last offseason, is playing for the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes this season and recently committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for next year.

Hellebuyck, 18, has distinguished himself as one of the NAHL’s best players this season, as he currently leads all NAHL goaltenders in save percentage (.939), ranks eleventh in goals-against average (2.29) and ranks third in saves (728), fourth in minutes played (1232:33) and is 8-9-4 in 21 starts.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Hellebuyck. “Just to sit and think of what’s being offered to you, the situation I’m in [with UMass-Lowell] is phenomenal.”

The Jets will have their other first-round pick from the 2011 NA3HL draft in the lineup this weekend as defenseman Trevor Hillman was signed Thursday.

Hillman, a 17-year-old from Beverly Hills, was taken third overall in June out of the Detroit Falcons 16U team, just one pick before forward Justin Shureb.


WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Jon Elliott, the second-leading scorer with the Jets during the 2009-10 season, is playing his second season with the Cumberland Grads of the Central Canada Hockey League.

The 20-year-old Elliott, an alternate captain with Cumberland, is fourth in team scoring with eight goals and 22 points in 35 games.

Elliott, a Birmingham native who played his high school hockey at Brother Rice, recorded 15 goals and 26 points while playing in all 48 games back in ’09-10.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Muskegon adds Panthers pick Bengtsson

Add another NHL draft pick to the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ blueline.

The Lumberjacks are pleased to announce defenseman Rasmus Bengtsson has been loaned to them by the Rogle BK hockey club in Sweden. The Florida Panthers selected the 6-foot-2, 196-pound prospect in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Bengtsson, the 59th overall selection from this past June, joins fellow left-shooting defenseman Nick Seeler, who went in the fifth round to his hometown Minnesota Wild, on the Muskegon blueline.

“We are very excited to add a player of Rasmus’ caliber,” said Lumberjacks head coach-GM Kevin Patrick. “Rogle BK’s reputation for developing elite players is well-earned and we appreciate their cooperation in giving him this opportunity.”

Rogle BK is part of the HockeyAllsvenskan, one of the top Swedish leagues, where the 18-year-old Bengtsson played 18 games this season and 45 last winter, accumulating 12 points while competing against much more mature players.

“Rasmus is a great talent, and in consensus with our coaches, we welcome this move,” said Rogle BK CEO Peter Hedlund. “It’s about finding an individual development plan for each player and in the USHL he will play many games against America’s best juniors.”

In addition to being held in high regard by the Panthers and Rogle BK, Bengtsson participated in this August’s World Junior Championship evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., as part of Team Sweden.

“Rasmus will have a chance to further develop his talents here in Muskegon and he will certainly bolster our blueline, especially on the offensive end,” Patrick said.

The website Eliteprospects.com calls Bengtsson “very solid on the blueline and with the potential to become a good power-play quarterback. [He] passes the puck well and has good on-ice vision.”

The native of Landskrona, Sweden, has skated for his home nation in international junior competitions in each of the last three seasons. Bengtsson is slated to join the Lumberjacks in the near future.

In other personnel news, two forwards left the Canadian junior ranks for the shore of Lake Michigan this week as Dean Pawlaczyk and Rudy Sulmonte have joined the Jacks. Pawlaczyk, from Madison Heights, most recently skated with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, while Sulmonte left the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats to take on the USHL.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Commerce native chooses UMass-Lowell

Courtesy NAHL

Already one of the North American Hockey League’s finest goaltenders, Odessa Jackalopes backstop Connor Hellebuyck added to his impressive resume on Monday as the team announced that the Commerce native has committed to play Division I college hockey at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell beginning in the 2012-13 season.

UMass-Lowell competes in the 10-team Hockey East conference, featuring several of college hockey’s top programs, including 2008 and 2010 national champion Boston College, 2009 national champion Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont among others.

Hellebuyck, 18, has distinguished himself as one of the league’s best players this season, as he currently leads all NAHL netminders in save percentage (.939), ranks eleventh in goals-against average (2.29) and ranks third in saves (728), fourth in minutes played (1232:33) and is 8-9-4 in 21 starts.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Hellebuyck Monday of the realization that he will have the chance to play college hockey at its highest level. “Just to sit and think of what’s being offered to you, the situation I’m in [with UMass-Lowell] is phenomenal.”

Hellebuyck says his decision to commit to Lowell was made easy once he talked to team officials.

“Their facilities and training staff are great and once I talked to the coaching staff there, I knew it was a great fit,” said Hellebuyck. “The big deal is, will I see playing time, and they [UMass-Lowell] made it very clear to me that I will have a great opportunity to earn playing time right away.”

Hellebuyck also pointed to his current team as a major factor in his making this commitment.

“The Jackalopes are a great team and a great organization,” said Hellebuyck. “The professional way they handle things and everything they’ve done to help me improve has led to me getting this opportunity.”

For the Jackalopes, Hellebuyck’s commitment marks an important milestone in the team’s transition from professional to junior hockey.

“We know we had the staff and the wherewithal to expose hockey players to college and pro scouts,” said Jackalopes GM Joe Clark. “We are proud of what Bucky has done with his opportunity here. We told him from the beginning that it’s a two-fold deal - if he plays well and produces, we’ll make sure people find out about him.”

Hellebuyck’s on-ice contributions have led not only to personal opportunities, but also opened doors for his team on the ice this year according to Jackalopes head coach Paul Gillis.

“I think he’s done a great job and he’s been our best player this season,” said Gillis. “He works extremely hard and I think it’s great news.”

Hellebuyck’s decision to commit to the River Hawks could bode well for the Jackalopes for the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

“It helps greatly,” said Hellebuyck. “Now I can focus completely on my game and have the confidence boost of knowing that if I can play at the next level, then I should be able to play really well here [in the NAHL].”

Photo/NAHL

Friday, December 02, 2011

Wlodkowski improving quietly for Jets

Tim Wlodkowski
may not show up on the score sheet on a game-by-game basis, but the little things he does far exceed goals and assists.

Wlodkowski does have a goal and three assists in 17 games thus far, but aside from that, statistics aren’t kept for the intangibles he brings to the table for the Metro Jets.

“He’s probably our most under-appreciated player,” said Jets head coach Jason Cirone. “He works hard and he does all the little things that help a team win. I don’t think he gets enough recognition for what he does, but I notice him and so does the rest of the team.”

Before his father’s job took the family down to Katy, Tex., Wlodkowski grew up in Michigan. His family still in the Lone Star State, he now lives in Riverview with his grandparents.

“I think it’s been a good season so far,” said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Wlodkowski. “I think I keep improving each week and working harder. Before this season, I didn’t know a whole lot about the North American 3 Hockey League. I just knew that Jason was the coach of the Jets and that he was interested in having me play for him. It’s nice living with my grandparents, too, because I don’t really get to see them a lot, but now that I live there, I get to spend time with them.”

Wlodkowski, now 19, played high school hockey in Texas and initially got into hockey in Michigan watching his father play.

“My dad was my big influence growing up and his dedication to make me a better hockey player influenced me a lot,” said Wlodkowski.

Defenseman Adam Reid is also a Texas native with the Jets, a Georgetown native who grew up in Kalamazoo.

When told of Cirone’s “under-appreciated” comment, Wlodkowski felt a sense of humility.

“I feel as though that I keep improving each week and I just leave it all on the ice every game without complaining about anything because that’s just not the player I am,” he said. “And the shifts I do get, I make sure I give it all I got.”

In the model of hard work paying off, Wlodkowski said his short-term goal this season is to “get some time in the NAHL and be up there for good next season.”

After that, Wlodkowski is eyeing college hockey.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

After sitting idle two weekends ago, the Jets lost to the Flint Jr. Generals, 5-2, on Thanksgiving Eve at Flint Iceland Arena.

Cirone wasn't the least bit upset after the game, though, instead praising his team for playing "a heck of a game against a heck of a team."

"I think the whole game was a positive," said Cirone. "We played hard in a building that's a tough building to come into and against a tough team to play against. If you match their intensity and work ethic, you usually get a good result. Unfortunately, (Wednesday) night we didn't."

Dillon Kelley got the call in net with Devin Williams still on a call-up with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters and finished with 27 saves.

"I have complete confidence in Dillon and thought he did a good job again tonight," said Cirone. "Of the five goals, I think just the fifth he'd like to have back, but that goal had no bearing on the game at all."

Doug Andrews and Jordan Jones scored the Jets' goals, with Jones' being his first of the season.

Richard Jansson scored two goals for Flint, while Ben Myers made 34 saves for the win.

Steve Klisz scored his team-best 13th goal of the season with six minutes left in the third period and the Jets held on to defeat the Toledo Cherokee, 4-3, Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

Mike MacKinnon had given the Jets a 3-2 lead at 8:23 of the third, only to have Charles Kingston tie the game for Toledo 44 seconds later.

The Jets (11-8-0-0) played with a short bench after a handful of players were benched for arriving late to practice Saturday and defenseman Andrew Shalawylo left the game with an upper-body injury in the middle of the second period.

"We played with a skeleton crew and when guys are late getting to practice or miss practice, you don't play," Cirone said. "I think that shows disrespect to teammates and me when that happens. I thought the kids that played today were unbelievable, especially our goalie (Kelley), who I think is finally recognizing what it takes to be a junior hockey player."

Kelley made 29 saves for his fourth win of the season, while Austyn Roudebush finished with 26 stops for Toledo.

Chris Hellebuyck and Josh Beleski scored the other Jets goals and captain Tommy Kilgore chipped in with two assists.

"We played the exact game we played last Wednesday night in Flint," said Cirone. "There was no panic and I thought we dominated for the first two periods and even when we took the lead in the third, I didn't think we played as well as we could have played."

The Jets are off until Sunday when they travel to Darien, Ill., to play in the Combat Hockey NA3HL Showcase, starting a stretch of six games in eight days. Metro will play the Quad City Jr. Flames (Sun. Dec. 4, 4:30 p.m. CST), Peoria Mustangs (Mon. Dec. 5, 9:30 a.m.), Minnesota Flying Aces (Tues. Dec. 6, 12:30 p.m.) and North Iowa Bulls (Weds. Dec. 7, 11:30 a.m.) at the Darien Sportsplex.

"I think four wins is a realistic goal and I wouldn't want anything less," said Cirone. "Hopefully, our work ethic from the past two games will carry over into the showcase."

Metro will host the Queen City Steam Dec. 10-11 at Lakeland.

JET STREAKS

With a full roster, despite injuries to key players like Jake Schlacht and Zach Schlacht and Tim Perks nearing his season debut, Cirone said changes may be coming shortly to the Jets’ roster.

“I think what our problem is right now is that we have a lot of good hockey players that I’m trying to find a lot of ice time for,” Cirone said. “I think we’re going to have to make a couple moves in the next few weeks to move some bodies and get some guys some playing time elsewhere.”

Goalie Ethan Loo (Raleigh, N.C.) was released last weekend. He had not seen game action this year. Williams is expected to be in Waterford the rest of the season after dressing for several games recently as a backup for the Otters.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Jon Cooper, the head coach of the 2002 Jets’ Silver Cup Junior B national championship team, is currently in his second season as head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Prior to joining the Admirals, Cooper led the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers to a USHL championship in 2010 and the NAHL’s St. Louis Bandits to two straight NAHL titles in 2007 and 2008.

Cooper has also spent time behind the bench internationally, most recently serving as the assistant coach for the USA U-18 team that competed in the 2008 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He won a silver medal as head coach of the USA U-17 team that participated in the 2007 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic and was named a finalist for the 2007 United States Olympic Committee’s Development Coach of the Year.

Cooper’s assistant coach in Norfolk, Mike Flanagan, was formerly coach and GM of the Grand Rapids Jr. Owls (now the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution) in the NA3HL (then known as the Central States Hockey League).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

North Stars' Schempp picks Ferris State

It’s about 85 miles from Centre ICE Arena to Ferris State University, but it seems a lot closer.

Kyle Schempp, a rookie center from Saginaw, became the latest Traverse City North Stars player to commit to FSU, making it eight in less than three years.

Schempp, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound Compuware product, was Traverse City’s first-round pick in the NAHL Draft in the spring and has more than justified the selection with six goals and six assists through 20 games, including a trio of power-play markers and a pair of game-winning tallies. He was a targeted by several collegiate programs and found a comfort zone at Ferris.

“I think it was the best fit,” he explained. “The style they play, the system they play within seemed like a good place for me. And academically, it was the right fit as well. The staff seems very supportive and the coaches and players can teach me how to play at that next level.”

Schempp played 40 games with Compuware during 2010-11, scoring 21 goals and assisting on nine others, but it was his all-around acumen that drew the attention of Stars head coach Chad Fournier and GM Anthony Palumbo.

“He’s very gifted offensively,” Fournier said. “Kyle has that knack for making things happen. He plays tough and physical and has really developed in his own end. He was a high-end midget player and he had been drafted in the USHL, so we took a bit of a chance in picking him, but fortunately for us he ended up here. He’s really a well-rounded player.”

Schempp, currently a senior at Traverse City Central High with a 3.75 GPA, has long eyed a career in athletic training - a degree he’ll pursue at Ferris. He says he’ll apply the lessons learned at the midget and junior levels on and off the collegiate ice.

“It’s about putting in the work, day-in and day-out,” Schempp surmised. “And if you’re not ready to work, there won’t be a place for you to play.”

By the time Schempp arrives at Ferris State, it’s possible that more than a quarter of the Bulldogs roster will consist of North Stars alums – Garrett Thompson, C.J. Motte, Travis White and Andy Huff are currently playing for FSU, while Zack Dorer and Seth Adams have also committed for future enrollments.

Kyle Bonis is a currently in his junior season at FSU.

“I haven’t played with those guys,” Schempp said. “But I got to meet a couple when I was down on a visit. It says something that so many guys (from TC) have gone on to play there and do well.”

Schempp cites a laundry list of people who have been influential in his playing career, including a support system at home.

“All the coaches and teammates I’ve had, the family and friends – they’ve all helped push me to get better and have helped me get this opportunity. Nobody makes it in hockey without them.”

Schempp and the North Stars welcome the top two teams in the NAHL North Division to Centre ICE this weekend, as first-place Port Huron visits on Friday and second-place Kalamazoo on Saturday. Schempp has been especially effective against the former, with eight of his twelve points coming against the Falcons this year, including a four-point outburst on Sept. 28.

“It’s an important weekend,” he added. “We want to win the division and move on in the playoffs to nationals. All that starts now.”

Photo/John Elftmann/NAHL

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jr. K-Wings acquire Flood from Chicago

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced the trade of forward Matt Cessna to the Chicago Hitmen in exchange for forward Brandon Flood.

Flood comes to Kalamazoo after 23 games on the season with Chicago. The NAHL rookie from Mason was second on the Hitmen in scoring with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). Flood also lead the Hitmen with 57 penalty minutes.

The Jr. K-Wings gave up the 18-year-old Cessna in the two-team deal. In 19 games on the campaign, Cessna tallied two goals and two assists.

Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler is excited with the new addition to the roster, as he is anticipating even more production from his offense.

“Brandon is a talented offensive player that has a track record for scoring goals,” said Fakler.

Flood is set to wear No. 26 for the Jr. K-Wings and Fakler plans to have him available by the start of this weekend's two-game set with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons.

'Jacks deal Henke to Storm for Chlapik

The Muskegon Lumberjacks announced they have acquired forward Adam Chlapik and a second-round pick in the 2013 USHL Entry Draft in a trade with the Tri-City Storm.

In exchange, the Jacks sent rookie winger Josh Henke to the Storm.

Chlapik (pronounced CLAP-ick), a 6-foot, 185-pound center from the Czech Republic, has 12 goals and 22 points in his 58-game USHL career to date. The 17-year-old is in his first year eligible for the NHL Draft and was ranked as the seventh-best USHL prospect (59th overall) in August by Red Line Report.

“We are excited to get Adam in our lineup,” said Lumberjacks head coach-GM Kevin Patrick. “He’s a very intelligent player with a great understanding of the game.”

Chlapik has played internationally for the Czech Republic, wearing his nation’s colors for the Under-17 team. He skated for HC Sparta Praha for two seasons in the Czech U18 league before hopping the Atlantic to skate for the L.A. Jr. Kings in 2009-10.

“Adam possesses good offensive instincts and the ability to make plays,” Patrick said. “He has a high hockey IQ.”

The lefthanded-shooting Chlapik joined the Omaha Lancers last season and put up 15 points (nine goals) in his first 43 USHL contests. He was teammates with Lumberjacks goalie John Keeney while in Omaha until being dealt to Tri-City on Oct. 14.

Chlapik is expected to join the team at some point this weekend as the Lumberjacks (7-7-0, 14 points) play two games on the road. Muskegon faces off with Green Bay at 8:05 p.m. Eastern time tonight and takes on Chicago at the same time Saturday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Saginaw trades Hermenegildo to Oshawa

The Saginaw Spirit have traded overage defenseman Peter Hermenegildo to the Oshawa Generals in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection.

Hermenegildo appeared in 15 games this season for the Spirit, scoring two goals and recording four assists.

Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Friday, November 18, 2011

TC's Adams commits to Ferris State

Family, friends and fans of Traverse City North Stars forward Seth Adams won’t have to travel far to see the rangy winger play his college hockey.

Adams, a Big Rapids native, signed on to play collegiately at Ferris State University, which is located mere minutes from Adams’ home.

“It’s definitely exciting,” said Adams, who played for Big Rapids High School last year. “I’ve always had a great relationship with (FSU coach) Bob Daniels, I played with his son growing up, and been around the Ferris program. It’s good to be headed somewhere that you’re comfortable and excited about when you get to that next level.”

Adams, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward with a deft scoring touch, was tendered early on by the North Stars staff, and wowed everyone during the summer camping season before a lower-body injury sidelined him for the rest of the summer and into the early season.

“Before he got hurt, he was head and shoulders above the field at a couple of those camps,” said Stars head coach Chad Fournier. “But Seth has worked his way back from that and is just starting to get some traction. With a kid as talented as Seth, we’re just starting to see the tip of the iceberg.”

Adams, a two-time All-State selection at Big Rapids, registered his first career junior goal back on Oct. 12 at Port Huron, and has earned a regular shift among a veteran-laden forward cast. He has appeared in 10 games so far, including the last six TC outings.

“He’s big, strong, and knows where to put the puck,” Fournier added. “He skates well and can move the puck, and he can score. I think Ferris was right on the money in getting Seth. They probably didn’t want to let a local kid with this much talent get away.”

Adams plans to study biology upon his enrollment at FSU – presently slated for the 2013-14 academic year – and has the scholastic chops for it: He boasts a 3.8 grade-point average and rocked a 25 on the ACT. A senior at Traverse City Central, Adams has his eye on a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

“I’m not necessarily looking to play hockey forever,” he explained. “But getting to play college hockey is a great honor; It’s something to really work toward.”

Adams says the pace of the North American Hockey League is a bit accelerated compared to high school hockey, but that he’s growing more accustomed to it every day.

“At this level, if you make a mistake, you’d better make it fast,” he said. “Junior hockey features a lot more strength and speed, not to mention the hockey skills. It’s a very good (brand of hockey).”

While his skates and sticks have carried Adams to the proverbial ‘next level’ of the game, he says that at least a few people helped him get this far.

“My old coach in Big Rapids, Tim Blashill, was a big influence on my hockey career,” Adams added. “And I’d have to thank my parents for always keeping me motivated. They taught me respect, getting along, and working hard at everything.”

Fournier says that Adams’ on- and off-ice makeup will translate to good things in both arenas.

“Seth is a great kid and a great teammate. He’s got the talent and the smarts. It’s not a stretch to say that he’ll be a success in whatever he does in life.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Petoskey's Kelley adjusting to Jets

Making the jump from high school hockey to Junior A hockey was an adjustment at first for Dillon Kelley.

He has since come into his own and is constantly pushing his goalie counterpart, Devin Williams, for playing time in the Metro Jets’ crease.

“The first few games and weeks were rough for me,” said Kelley, a 17-year-old Petoskey native. “I feel I was being too hard on myself, but once I lightened up, I got my game back and have improved every game. The hockey is a much faster pace and the players are much more creative and smarter.”

Kelley played last season for Petoskey High School and was scouted by Jets’ assistant coach Randy Wilson, who saw the potential for Kelley to play juniors.

“Randy wanted me to come to the Jets’ open camp and after I went to the camp, he said he would like me to come to main camp,” Kelley said. “That was when they offered me a spot. I really didn’t know much about the Jets or the NA3HL. All I knew was what Randy had told me and I didn’t really know what to expect. After being in the league and on the team for two months now, I am very happy to be on this team and in this league.”

So far this season, Kelley is 3-1-0 with a 4.25 goals-against average and a .883 save percentage. Williams has seen the bulk of playing time, but Kelley has played well when called upon.

“Devo is probably my closest friend on the team,” explained Kelley. “We hang out all the time and love to talk hockey and equipment. Within that friendship, we both want to push each other to get better and we both want to play. There is competition there, but it’s a good one.”

Kelley sat on the bench for one game earlier this season as a backup for the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons. That experience opened Kelley’s eyes as to what it will take to make the lateral move to the NAHL.

“I plan to keep working hard day in and day out on and off the ice,” boasted Kelley. “I want to improve myself so I can help my team win whenever I am in the net. I hope to get better and better game in and game out and help our team get to where we want to be at the end of the regular season.

“My goals are to improve and get to the next level like everyone else, but my main goal is to help the Jets make it deep into playoffs and win a championship.”


LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

The Toledo Cherokee jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and held on to top the Jets, 5-3, last Saturday night at Lakeland Arena.

Jake Schlacht, Chris Hellebuyck and Zach Mohr scored for the Jets.

In goal, Williams started and allowed all five Toledo goals in 28:21 of work, making 16 saves in the process.

Kelley replaced Williams and made 20 saves.

The Jets (10-7-0-0) are now idle until Wednesday, Nov. 23, when they play in Flint.

Metro's next home game is Sunday, Nov. 27, against Toledo at 11:50 a.m.

*** NOTE *** All Sunday home games are now at 11:50 a.m., instead of 1:20 p.m.


JET STREAKS

Defenseman Jordan Jones, who played 23 games for the Jets last season, returned to the team and made his 2011-12 debut against Toledo.

Jones, a 20-year-old Toledo native, tallied eight assists in 16 games with the Boston Jr. Blackhawks of the International Junior Hockey League this year.

Last season, Jones recorded four assists after he was acquired from Toledo on Nov. 23, 2010.

Justin Shureb, an 18-year-old forward from Livonia, also joined the Jets last Friday.

Shureb was drafted fourth overall by the Jets out of Livonia Stevenson High School last June. He was an honorable mention Division 1 All-State selection last year.

Shureb joins Mike MacKinnon, Hellebuyck, Tim Perks (injured, hasn’t played this year), John Baker, Chad Frost, Tim Wlodkowski and Steve Klisz as 2011 draft picks to make the Jets’ team this season.


WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Wylie Rogers, a goaltender on the 2002 Silver Cup national Junior B championship team, is playing this season for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League.

Rogers, who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2002-03, also played four years of Division I college hockey for Alaska-Fairbanks of the CCHA from 2004-08.

The 26-year-old native of Fairbanks saw time last season for the Heerenveen Flyers pro team in the Netherlands.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saginaw acquires Amestoy from Storm

The Saginaw Spirit announced today the team has completed a trade with the Guelph Storm, acquiring forward Carlos Amestoy for the Spirit's fifth round pick in the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, a seventh round selection in 2013 and a fourth round pick in 2014.

Amestoy had been playing for the University of Maine Black Bears, a Division I program in the NCAA's Hockey East loop.

The Toronto native is a 1992 birth year, having appeared in 15 games over the past two seasons.

It is expected that Amestoy will join the Spirit during this weekend's three-game set in Eastern Ontario that begins tonight in Ottawa against the 67's.

Shier emerging as Jets' top blueliner

Will Shier is proof that you can go home again.

The Metro Jets’ defenseman started last season playing in the Northern Pacific Hockey League with the Wyoming-based Yellowstone Quake, but after a handful of games, decided he needed a bigger challenge and wanted a venue where he would be scouted.

Enter the Jets, the team that drafted Shier in the 2010 North American 3 Hockey League draft.

“I had heard that the Jets hired Jason Cirone (as head coach) and were now a part of the NA3HL,” said Shier. “I felt that I would have a better opportunity to make it to the next level if I returned home and played in the NA3HL.”

Once he returned to Michigan and signed with the Jets, things changed drastically.

“Last season had quite a few ups and downs for me personally,” said the 19-year-old Sterling Heights native. “As the season went on, my game really improved because Coach Cirone pushed me constantly. I was also in the gym every day working hard to get stronger. I earned a lot of playing time which helped my game out quite a bit. By the end of the season, I had gained a lot of experience and was really confident with my game. I believe playing for the Jets last year really contributed to the player I am now.”

Earlier this season, Shier earned a call-up to the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the North American Hockey League. He had gone to Port Huron’s main training camp in August and narrowly missed making the team.

When he got the call in October, Shier took advantage of the opportunity to impress Port Huron head coach Bill Warren during the two games he dressed for the Fighting Falcons.

“When I got called up to Port Huron, I knew from my experiences at the Fighting Falcons’ main camp, that the speed would be quite different than that of the NA3HL, and it was,” explained Shier. “In the NAHL, you have less time to make decisions and it is a much faster game. I knew a few of their players received game misconducts the day before and I thought I was only getting the call up for one game, but was happy to find out after the first game, that I would be playing another one. I got to play alongside many great players, many of them whom I played with in the past. I spoke with Coach Warren before heading back to the Jets and he told me to be patient, my time would come.”

With the Jets, Shier has been playing 25-30 minutes a game, including the point on the power play. He has a goal and five assists for six points thus far this season.

“I wish I had three or four more Will Shiers on the team,” said Cirone. “He’s our go-to defenseman and is a leader back there for us, which is also why he’s one of our alternate captains. He’s played with several different defense partners and makes them all better players when they’re out there with him.”

Still, the NAHL is Shier’s goal, both short-term and long-term. He said being in Port Huron showed him what it takes to move up and play in the league.

”I worked really hard on my game during the offseason,” said Shier. “I went out east for ten days and skated with one of the coaches (Blair Joseph) from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. I received a lot of positive feedback from the NAHL coaches during tryouts this summer, but I just fell a bit short. Coach Cirone and (Metro GM) Butch Wolfe attended every tryout and gave me a lot of support. With the addition of full-time assistant coaches Dave Hague and Randy Wilson, I know we are going to have a great year and this is where I want to be. I wanted to come back and play for the Jets because I know Jason will help get me to the next level.

“I know, when given the chance, through hard work and dedication, I will be successful. I have already had a taste of the NAHL and can’t wait for more. Hopefully, the hard work will pay off and I will receive an offer to play college hockey for the 2013-14 school year as I work toward a degree in architecture.”

Looks like Shier is already building a solid future for himself.

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

Metro swept both games at home last weekend against Pittsburgh, winning 7-3 on Saturday night and then 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

Saturday night, Shier (goal, two assists), Chris Hellebuyck (two goals, assist) and newcomer Zach Mohr (goal, two assists) had three-point nights and goaltender Dillon Kelley finished with 39 saves.

Steve Klisz, Matt Stirling and Matt Stemkoski also scored in the victory.

The Jets’ penalty kill shut down Pittsburgh’s power play as the Jr. Penguins went 0-for-6 with the advantage and 1-for-12 over the entire weekend.

In the series finale, Stemkoski and Mohr each had a goal and an assist, while Stirling and Doug Andrews tallied the others.

Klisz recorded two assists and Devin Williams made 32 saves in goal.

“Every single kid played well,” said Cirone. “I attribute that to last week in practice. It was probably our best week of practice since the second or third week of the season. Our kids really put it together last weekend and showed they have what it takes to win in this league.”

Metro (10-6-0-0) hosts Toledo this Saturday night for a 7:40 p.m. puck drop at Lakeland Arena in the lone game of the weekend.

“It all starts in practice and typically, how you practice is how you play during the weekend,” Cirone said. “I’d like to think we’ve turned a corner here and have turned our kids into believers.”

JET STREAKS

Mohr wasn’t the only new player in the lineup last weekend as forward Cameron Bazin made his return to the Jets in Sunday’s game.

“Bazin was one of my favorite players last year and is really a silent leader,” said Cirone. “Kids on our team can learn from him. His first shift on Sunday, he goes out and blocks a shot that prevented a scoring chance and then on his second shift, he throws a big hit. He’ll be an asset for us.”

Last year, the 19-year-old Troy native had three goals and 10 points in 36 games for the Jets.

Mohr, a 19-year-old from Novi, had a five-point weekend after coming over from Port Huron two weeks ago.

“I don’t expect Zach here the whole season,” said Cirone. “He’s very deserving to get another shot in the NAHL and I think once he works on some things that may be hindering his game he’ll be back up there.”

In another transaction approved Wednesday, the Jets traded Swedish defenseman Niels Olesen to Queen City. Olesen had one assist in 11 games this year.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Nick Kenney
, the Jets’ top scorer during the 2006-07 season with 31 goals and 35 assists for 66 points (35 on the power play), is starting his junior season at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, a Division III school in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA).

After the Jets, the 23-year-old Wixom native skated two seasons with the NAHL’s Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

Photo/Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ex-Jr. K-Wing McDonald picks Bulldogs

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced the verbal commitment of former player Chad McDonald to Ferris State University.

McDonald played in 12 games with Kalamazoo this season, all the while leading the team in scoring. He tallied ten goals and five assists for 15 points, while playing to a plus-3 rating. His two short-handed goals still stand as the only two Kalamazoo has netted on the season.

McDonald’s most memorable performance with the Jr. K-Wings was his five-goal, six-point outburst against the Dawson Creek Rage during the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn., back on Sept. 16. The five-goal outing included three power-play goals and a short-handed strike.

The Battle Creek native was traded from Kalamazoo to the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL on Oct. 27, a trade that saw the addition of forward Austin Hervey for the Jr. K-Wings. Since joining Des Moines in late October, McDonald has produced one goal and has played to a +4 rating.

“The goal of our program is to promote players to the next level," said Kalamazoo coach Marc Fakler. "Chad had a very strong start to the season, which earned him a tremendous opportunity to play college hockey at a strong program in Ferris State.”

Friday, November 04, 2011

North Stars' Leibinger picks MTU


Even after an ultra-successful rookie season in the North American Hockey League, Chris Leibinger wasn’t satisfied.

Among the youngest players in the league, the Traverse City North Stars defenseman acquitted himself with great aplomb in 2010-11, registering a pair of goals and four assists in 41 appearances with a +4 plus-minus rating. But it wasn’t enough.

“As a 16-year old, it was tough at times,” Leibinger admitted. “I had to get bigger and stronger to work more effectively in our own end. There were times when I’d be in the corner with bigger and older guys, and I wouldn’t always be able to come out with it (the puck).”

North Stars head coach Chad Fournier agreed.

“He was good, but he knew he needed to get stronger,” Fournier explained. “He made the decision to absolutely commit to getting even better over the summer, and we’re starting to see the rewards of that hard work.”

That labor consisted of a steady diet of weights and roadwork.

“I was in the weight room every day, sometimes twice a day,” Leibinger explained. “Kyle Schempp and I had the same trainer, did a lot of running, and probably put on 15-20 pounds. I can really feel a definite difference this year. When I go up against bigger guys, I can hold my own a lot more of the time.”

Leibinger and Fournier aren’t the only ones who have taken note of his ability, progress, and immense potential: Michigan Tech’s coaching staff extended an offer, and Leibinger accepted.

“It feel good to kind of have that part of the equation taken care of,” he said. “Now I can focus on just playing hard for the next year or two and work on improving.”

Leibinger, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound Saginaw product, has a goal and an assist through 12 games so far this season. It’s his all-around ability – and bolstered defensive zone presence – that Fournier says will help him succeed at the NCAA Division I level.

“He’s a real talent, no question,” Fournier added. “He skates well, moves the puck, and can join the play when the opportunity arises. He’s an all-around defenseman who is really starting to excel in the defensive zone.”

Leibinger, who sports a sterling 3.62 grade-point average, has designs on a degree in Kinesiology from Tech after a summer spent with an in-the-field professional.

“I went and visited the director of the program, and it seemed a good fit, in terms of what science classes I had and my grades,” he said. “Working out with our trainer I got to see some of it up close and thought it would be a great profession to be a part of.”

Leibinger is the first of the North Stars players to commit to an NCAA hockey program this season, but Traverse City’s reputation as a weigh station en route to the collegiate game is becoming renowned.

“The ultimate goal for junior programs at this level is to move kids along to college – even more than winning games,” Fournier explained. “When (GM) Anthony (Palumbo) looks at players, he’s trying to bring in guys that can play at that next level, and we’ve always been willing to have a younger team if that means moving kids on to college. And our alumni deserve some credit, too. Guys have gone on to have great success at the next level, and college coaches know Traverse City is a place to find talent.”