Monday, January 31, 2011

Jets' Kilgore makes NAHL debut

Jason Cirone
grabbed his cell phone just minutes after his Metro Jets team wrapped up practice last Wednesday at Lakeland Arena and saw he had a missed call.

Bill Warren called,” said Cirone, noting Warren is the head coach of the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the North American Hockey League. “I need to call him back. Can you guys keep it down in here for a few minutes?”

A brief phone call and a huge grin later, Cirone looked at the Jets’ staff and beamed, “They’re going to play him both games this weekend.”

The “him” Cirone was referring to was forward Tommy Kilgore, an 18-year-old from Pinckney, Mich., who had been practicing with Port Huron all week and impressed the Fighting Falcons’ staff to where he earned himself a roster spot.

“Jason had called me into his office a few days before that and asked if I’d be interested in playing for an NAHL team this season and I, of course, said I was,” Kilgore said. “He told me Port Huron wanted to give me a shot, so I went up there and skated with them for three days and then they decided to keep me.”

Kilgore played in both games in Traverse City last weekend and even though he was held without a point playing on a line with Ian Miller and Matt Ragains, the experience of playing in the NAHL, bus ride included, was priceless.

“Everyone was very nice on the bus, asking me where I was from, where I played, things like that,” explained Kilgore, who had 12 goals and 25 points in 31 games with the Jets this year. “I already knew Miller from when we played spring hockey for Compuware a few years ago. Matt and I talked a little bit on the bus about some things we wanted to do on the ice, so it was definitely a good time.”

When game time came Friday night, the jitters came to Kilgore quite heavily.

“I was very nervous right before my first shift and I think even more during my first shift because I didn’t want to make a mistake,” Kilgore said. “After that first shift and maybe the second one, I felt very comfortable and it just seemed like another game to me.”

Kilgore joins a long list of Metro skaters who have joined NAHL teams straight from Waterford, including recent players Jacob DeSano, who played for the North Iowa Outlaws in 2008-2009, Sam Bell, who played for the Motor City Metal Jackets in 2009-2010 and Port Huron this year, and Steven Oleksy, who was with Traverse City North Stars during their inaugural season of 2005-2006.

“It’s just crazy how fast everything has happened,” said Kilgore. “My goal last year playing high school hockey (for Pinckney High School) was to eventually get to the NAHL, but I never expected it would happen so fast.”

Ask Cirone, and he feels it was only a matter of time.

“That’s what we’re here for – to move these kids to the next level,” said Cirone. “Around Christmastime, Tommy really picked up his game and showed that he wanted to be a hockey player. I think I might be happier than Tommy that he’s in the NAHL, but he’s earned everything he has and is being rewarded for his hard work and desire to be a hockey player.”

Kilgore said heeding Cirone’s words all season long with the Jets helped him land his spot in Port Huron.

“One thing Jason has touched on all year is that if you work hard in practice, that will make it easier to work hard in games,” said Kilgore. “Now that I’ve made it to the NAHL, I know that I’ll have to work even harder.”

No word yet on whether the Fighting Falcons are keeping Kilgore for the rest of the season or returning him to the Jets, but even if he’s returned, odds are great that he’ll be in the NAHL next year.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Friday, January 28, 2011

North Stars' Dienes chooses Broncos

To call Chris Dienes’ season a whirlwind affair is putting it mildly.

He started the year with his Traverse City West High School team, preparing to help the Titans defend their Big North Conference crown.

Four months later, he has committed to play Division I college hockey at Western Michigan University.

In between, a call-up to the Traverse City North Stars cemented Dines’ station as an up-and-coming defenseman earmarked for duty in the elite CCHA conference.

“It’s been a little overwhelming at times, to be honest,” said Dienes, a 6-2, 180-pounder with just 16 games of junior experience under his belt. “Obviously, it’s a dream come true to get the opportunity to play college hockey.”

Western’s staff began to take notice of Dienes during the Michigan Developmental Hockey League season in September – a league that showcases the top high school talent in the state.

When the North Stars called on Dienes to join the NAHL ranks in early November, WMU staffers again got the chance to see him play his first junior series in Springfield and Dienes agreed to take a visit.

“I don’t know if I was ready for it, but it was great,” he explained. “They played Ohio State in front of a sellout crowd, which was awesome, and the campus was great too. I got a chance to talk to (former North Stars) Patrick Nagorsen and Travis Paeth and they told me all about the school and the program and how much they loved it, and that was good to hear.”

Dienes, who plans to study computer engineering at WMU, didn’t get a chance to help West seek another title, as Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo didn’t hesitate to bring him aboard when veteran blue-liner Trevor Campbell was dealt to Topeka. Dienes has seen action in 16 games for the Stars, and scored his first junior goal on Dec. 4 at Motor City. He also assisted on a key score in a 5-4 win against Michigan on Nov. 27.

“Chris has tremendous upside,” said Palumbo. “He’s already very good – he’s a big kid with that long reach, he skates well, and plays his position. Those are attractive qualities for colleges when they’re looking for kids who can play at that level. We’ve seen Chris play all the way through from his Grand Traverse Hockey Association days, and seen him develop into a high-end hockey player with a great work ethic.”

Dienes, who began playing hockey at the age of four, followed in his brother P.J.’s footsteps as a Titan, and cites his family’s heavy involvement in their sport of choice as one of the reasons for his successes.

“My mom and dad were always driving us to practices and games and tournaments, and they deserve many thanks,” he added. “And my brother really helped guide me through, along with support from family and friends. I’ve also had some great coaches along the way, like coach (Bob) Spence and coach (Jeremy) Rintala at West, and Chad (Fournier), coach (Mike) Mattuecci and coach Palumbo here. They’ve had a real impact on my later development.”

As Dienes’ stint at Western isn’t slated to begin until the 2012-13 season, he isn’t sure where he’ll ply his trade for the next two seasons.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reames itching for return to Jets' lineup

Jordan Reames doesn’t like being on the sidelines, but with a separated shoulder, the best thing for that condition is rest and rehab.

In other words, Reames has to take it easy and watch his Metro Jets’ teammates from the stands – not something he’s fond about doing.

“It’s very frustrating to watch your team and know you can do nothing to help them,” said Reames.

Injured back in October against Chicago , Reames said the injury happened quite innocently.

“I had made an outlet pass and just took a hit and my shoulder got caught up against the boards,” remembered Reames. “I could feel pain instantly.”

While injuries are a part of the game, Reames had the itch to get back involved in hockey after sitting out last season playing college baseball instead.”Last year, I realized I wanted to play hockey again,” said Reames, a 19-year-old from Essexville. “I was going to college only about 20 minutes from the Jets’ rink and saw they were close and got in touch with (head scout) Tim Ross. I then came to a skate in the spring and decided to stay with it from there.

“I came into this year not knowing anyone, but with only three returning players, a lot of us were in the same situation, so it made the transition easier and it’s a good bunch of guys, which made it easy to fit in.”

Paired often with Mike Corder on the back end, Reames has used his size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) to his advantage and also found instant chemistry with Corder.

”I feel my role on the team is a defenseman who can step in if needed and help the team out being a big, more physical defenseman,” explained Reames. “My last year in high school, I played a lot, but coming here at this level, everyone can play, so it's more about adjusting to find my role and do what I can for the team. Things were just clicking with Corder and me. Like if I pinched, I knew he would be there to back me up and vice versa.”

As for the last six weeks of the season and beyond, Reames just wants to keep things in a simple mode.

”My short-term goals are just to help the team this year anyway I can and get to the playoffs,” Reames said. “Long-term goals are just to hopefully play for a few more years and stay involved in hockey.”


After being off last weekend, the Jets get back in action this weekend with a home game Saturday night against Toledo and then a game in Battle Creek Sunday afternoon.

The Jets swept Battle Creek back on Jan. 15-16 at Lakeland Arena and have won all three meetings this year, outscoring the Jr. Revolution by a 15-5 margin.

Three former Jets play for Battle Creek in goalie Allan Dowler and defensemen Blake Blaha and Austin Shipaila.

Toledo sits sixth in the NA3HL standings and has lost four straight. Team captain Chad Tickner has 30 goals on the year, while goaltender Ryan Wysocki has been sparkling in net with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Forward Cameron Rossman spent some time in the NAHL earlier this season with New Mexico , while defenseman Cory Bastian was returned to the team last week by the NAHL’s Chicago Hitmen.

The Cherokee have won both of their games this season against the Jets.


Metro has six skaters with double-digit goals – Matt Stirling (17), Mike Moroso (14), Tommy Burns (13), Brett Grech (13), Tommy Kilgore (12) and Dan Hudson (11) … Goalie Eric Trunick has won three of his last five starts between the pipes … Jets captain Morgan James is second in the NA3HL with 137 penalty minutes.


Chris Werstine, Metro’s head coach in 2000-2001 when the team won the league and playoff titles, is now the director of the Aviator Hockey Club in New York City .

Werstine also serves as the Jets’ eastern U.S. scout and has also coached in Michigan at the AAA level for Honeybaked and in the NAHL for the now-defunct Capital Centre Pride.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

North Stars' Shields picks the 'Hurst

Speed is the measure of the time it takes to cover a given distance. It can also serve as a means to a college scholarship.

Such is the case for Traverse City North Stars forward Alec Shields, who committed last week to play his college hockey at Division I Mercyhurst College. The fleet Shields will likely play another season of juniors in 2011-12 before enrolling at the 3,500-student Catholic school located in Erie, Pa.

“It’s a dream come true,” Shields beamed. “Like most of the guys who come in to juniors with a lifelong desire to play college hockey, it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Now I’ll get the chance; It’s a big relief.”

Shields first captured Mercyhurst’s attention at the North American Hockey League’s Showcase event in suburban Minneapolis last September. He took a visit during the Christmas break, and found it a good fit.

“I didn’t know anybody up there,” said Shields. “But I went on the visit, and toured the campus and locker room and facilities and stuff, and it was great.”

Shields has turned it up even more during the North Stars’ prosperous December-January run, scoring 14 points over his last 11 contests. He has posted career highs in goals (12), assists (19) and points (31) this season after spending 22 regular-season games with Traverse City last year. Shields appeared in all 10 games of TC’s protracted playoff run last spring, with a goal and four assists.

“Alec is fast and skilled, and it’s his dynamic playmaking ability that really caught their eye,” said Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “He’s really made an impact in the time he’s been with us, and I think Mercyhurst really got themselves a player who will do the same at the next level.”

Shields, who hails from suburban Pittsburgh, says having his family so close to Mercyhurst – less than two hours by car – was among the attractive aspects to his signing with the Lakers.

“My dad’s family is from Erie, coincidentally,” he explained. “And it’s pretty close to home but not too close. It’ll be nice to have family get to come to games without too much road time.”

Shields, who has honed his own-zone game during his time in juniors, says there’s even more to improve upon.

“The biggest thing I can’t do is relax and get comfortable now,” he explained. “I need to take this time to make myself a better player, to keep up the same work ethic that has gotten me this far. … I’ve been trying to become a better two-way player in juniors. When I was younger, I was more focused on the offense. Now I know I have to play both ends of the ice.”

Like countless players who spend their youth traveling all over the continent to play hockey – and the family members who often serve as chauffeurs and travel companions – Shields says he’s grateful for those who helped him along the way.

“There are a lot of people to thank,” he said. “Like my midget coach Ralph Murovich, who got me up here to play. Coach Palumbo and Chad (Fournier) – they tendered me and have helped me get better along the way. And of course, my parents, who have always stood behind me as we traveled all over the country. I also have a pretty strong support network back home, like my lifting partners Jason Jacobs, Tyler Bonfanti, and my brother James Shields. No one gets to this point in their playing career without a lot of help and support.”

Shields and the North Stars will play host to the Port Huron Fighting Falcons this weekend at Centre ICE Arena, looking to extend a four-game winning streak. Traverse City (22-12-1) has claimed eight of its last nine, and is looking to climb the jam-packed North Division standings.

“St. Louis is pretty far out front right now, but we’d like to get into that No. 2 seed and get home ice in the first round,” Shields mused. “The goal is always to make it to the Robertson Cup and win it, and I think we have a realistic shot, given the players and experience we have on this team.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mihailovich commits to UMass-Lowell

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced that Micki Mihailovich has verbally committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Mihailovich visited the Lowell campus Monday and Tuesday. He became the second Lumberjack to accept a scholarship to a Division I university in the past 10 days. In total, 12 of the 23 members of the Jacks’ active roster have made commitments.

“That’s why the USHL is such a unique and great league,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “Micki came to this league as a 20-year-old and earned a D-I scholarship. No other league in North America gives young men a greater opportunity to reach their goals – both as aspiring NHL players, and as recipients of a college scholarship.”

Mihailovich has a goal and six assists in his rookie United States Hockey League season and leads the league in penalty minutes with 160. The Westland native doesn’t hesitate to stick up for his teammates.

“Micki’s a warrior and will do whatever it takes for his team to have success,” Patrick said. “He’s great in the locker room and a great teammate.”

Mihailovich leaned on his family and coaching staff to lock in his decision. Patrick and Jacks assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier urged him to find out during his visit what role his Lowell coaches envisioned him playing.

“I’m going to be able to go in and battle for playing time right away,” Mihailovich said. “I want to get better every year for four years and the dream is to play in the NHL.”

UMass-Lowell is a member of Hockey East and one of its clubs has won each of the last three national championships. Numerous River Hawks have gone on to have lengthy National Hockey League careers, such as that of longtime Edmonton Oilers star and coach Craig MacTavish. Many former River Hawks, such as goaltender Dwayne Roloson, currently are with NHL teams.

The university is well known for its science and engineering programs.

“The educational aspect was very important,” Mihailovich said. “No matter what happens with hockey, someday I’ll have a degree and a great job.

“Only playing in the USHL and then the NCAA can give me that sort of opportunity – to develop and be an NHL’er, and then be successful in life after hockey.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

White Lake's Lynch off to Michigan

The Green Bay Gamblers have announced that forward Travis Lynch will continue his hockey career next season at the University of Michigan.

The second-year USHL forward has tallied 13 points (8g, 5a) while playing in all 33 games for the Gamblers this season. He has scored a goal in each of last three games. Lynch has also been one of the top penalty killers, helping the team to a league-best 92.4 percent while shorthanded, including turning aside 35 of 36 power play opportunities on home ice.

The 19-year-old native of White Lake collected 22 points (6g, 16a) in 58 games for the Gamblers in 2009-10, plus contributed three points (2g, 1a) in 12 games during the Gamblers' run to the Clark Cup title. Both his playoff goals were game-winners.

Four other current USHL players are committed to play collegiate hockey at the University of Michigan: Justin Selman (Des Moines Buccaneers), Alex Guptill (Waterloo Black Hawks), John Gibson (Team USA) and Connor Carrick (Team USA).

The Michigan Wolverines are a member of the CCHA and have 11 USHL alumni on the roster of the nation's No. 6-ranked team: Mac Bennett (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Kevin Clare (Team USA), Derek Deblois (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), Bryan Hogan (Lincoln Stars), Adam Janecyk (Sioux City Musketeers), Chad Langlais (Lincoln Stars), Jon Merrill (Team USA), Luke Moffatt (Team USA), Lee Moffie (Waterloo Blue Jackets), Greg Pateryn (Ohio Junior Blue Jackets) and Jeff Rohrkemper (Sioux Falls Stampede).

Photo courtesy 2XW Photography

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Slovakian Kraus added to Lumberjacks

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have added Slovakian forward Christian Kraus to the United States Hockey League team’s active roster leading up to the team’s two-game weekend on the road.

This season, Kraus skated 22 games with Bili Tygri Liberec of NOEN Extraliga U-20, the premier junior league in the Czech Republic. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward had three goals and 10 penalty minutes. Last season, he racked up 37 points (25 goals, 12 assists) in 30 games with HK Ruzinov’s junior squad.

Kraus participated in the Jacks’ tryout camp and Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick was very sold on his performance, stating that if the Jacks had an import spot available, Kraus probably would have made the team.

“Christian handles the puck well and makes plays in tight areas,” Patrick said. “He’s also a big body that moves well and he can shoot it. He should be able to bolster our offense.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shalawylo improving daily for Jets

Andrew Shalawylo hasn’t found his name on the scoresheet yet this season for the Metro Jets, but that’s not nearly an indication of what he’s contributed to the team and to his individual development.

A stay-at-home defenseman, Shalawylo made the jump from Midget AA hockey to the Jets this year and, while he faced a major learning curve at the start of the season, he feels now that he’s comfortable playing at the Junior A level.

”I definitely feel like I’ve acclimated to the speed and size of the junior game,” said Shalawylo. “It was a big jump, but I feel like I made the adjustment fairly quickly and was able to focus on trying to solidify my game all around. Those were definitely the two big things that I had to get used to.”

The 18-year-old native of Clinton Township started off the season with the Toledo Cherokee, but the situation there was “pretty claustrophobic with a packed roster,” said Shalawylo.

“So when coach (Scott) Syring let me know that the Jets were looking for some defensemen to fill out their roster, I came up to Lakeland and it ended up being a great fit for me.”

And even if he hasn’t dressed for every game, Shalawylo has still seen his share of highlights on the ice this season when he has played.

“Personally, my first two games with the Jets in Cincinnati were highlights,” said Shalawylo. “For some reason, I really felt like things were clicking and I just had an absolute blast all weekend. As a team, sweeping Quad City was great, but I think the highest point was our shootout victory over Chicago. The whole game just had so much energy, and I really think we came together as a team to pull that off. It was a lot of fun.”

Shalawylo, in order to continue having fun playing hockey at higher levels, knows what he needs to do to keep climbing the ladder of development. He also knows it’s one rung at a time.

”I definitely need to work on my hands a lot more,” Shalawylo explained. “There’s been a lot of time spent in the basement lately dealing with that. I know I’m also a bit on the small side for a defenseman (5-foot-8, 170 pounds), so I’ve also been logging a lot of hours in the gym to put some size to me. On the flip side, I feel like my greatest asset is my work ethic.

”If I'm able to use hockey to get myself a college education, I would be ecstatic. In the shorter term, I’d like to be able to move up to the NAHL next season. I believe that would force me to push myself even harder, which would be a good thing for me.”


The Jets snapped out of a two-game losing skid by sweeping the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution at Lakeland Arena over the weekend.

Saturday night, Matt Stirling led the way with a hat trick and Brett Grech assisted on all three goals in the 5-2 win. Matt Stemkoski scored the other two goals for the Jets, while Eric Trunick made 27 saves in goal.

For the rematch Sunday afternoon, three different players scored for Metro and Tommy Burns’ power-play goal 21 seconds into the third period stood as the game-winner in a 3-1 victory.

Dan Hudson and Jacob Schlacht, with his first goal of the season, also scored to back another 27-save outing from Trunick.

The Jets are now off this coming weekend before hosting Toledo on Saturday, Jan. 29 at Lakeland and then traveling to Battle Creek the following afternoon.


With the two victories last weekend, the Jets are now 11-19-1-0 and have bettered their win total from the past three seasons (nine in ’07-08, seven in ’08-09, 10 in ’09-10). The last time Metro won more than 11 games was during the 2006-2007 season when 13 wins were enough for a playoff berth that year.


Dustin Cloutier, a forward for the Jets during the 2002-2003 season, is now a senior at Division I Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.

The 24-year-old Berkley native has five goals and 13 points in 19 games this season for the Falcons and 34 goals and 48 assists over his career with Bentley.

Cloutier also played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL in 2005-2006 and then for the NAHL’s Mahoning Valley Phantoms the following year, where the Phantoms finished second in the Robertson Cup championship tournament. His 42 goals and 83 points were both tops for the Phantoms that season.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Midland's Babinski commits to Bulldogs

Omaha Lancers forward Ken Babinski has committed to play collegiate hockey at Ferris State University following his USHL career.

Babinski has put up 10 points (5g, 5a) in 22 games during his first USHL season. He picked up an assist in his USHL debut, a 3-2 win against Dubuque on October 1. The forward tallied the game-winning goal and assisted on another in the 5-2 win vs. Muskegon on December 11.

Babinski will be returning to his home state once his collegiate career begins as the Ferris State University campus is just 70 miles from his hometown of Midland.

Three other current USHL players are also committed to Ferris State University: Dominic Panetta (Indiana Ice), Simon Denis (Tri-City Storm) and C.J. Motte (Waterloo Black Hawks).

The Bulldogs have 10 USHL alumni on the roster this season: Eric Alexander (Lincoln Stars/Chicago Steel), Chad Billins (Waterloo Black Hawks), Kyle Bonis (Indiana Ice), Scott Czarnowczan (Green Bay Gamblers), Justin DeMartino (Waterloo Black Hawks), Mike Embach (Indiana Ice/Chicago Steel), Zach Redmond (Sioux Falls Stampede), Aaron Schmit (Chicago Steel), Scott Wietecha (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) and Brett Wysopal (Tri-City Storm).

In addition, Bulldogs assistant coach Mark Kaufman is a former head coach in the USHL (Sioux Falls Stampede 2003-05, Rochester Mustangs 1988-92).

Photo courtesy Robert Meyer

Albrecht adds depth to Traverse City

There’s an old adage that says ‘you can never go home again,' but James Albrecht will do just that this weekend.

Albrecht, who was dealt to the Traverse City North Stars from his hometown Chicago Hitmen just a few days ago, will return to West Meadows Ice Arena on Friday as the Stars square off against the Hitmen in a two-game series.

The Geneva, Ill., product led Chicago in scoring, lighting the lamp 16 times and assisting on 12 others in 30 appearances this season.

Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says the forward will fill a host of roles with his new club.

“James makes us deeper, he adds veteran experience and maturity, and obviously the scoring punch,” Palumbo assessed. “With the loss of Steve Behm (to college club hockey), it strengthens us up the middle.”

The Hitmen, coming off a pair of losses at Centre ICE Arena last weekend, fell farther out of the playoff race in the hotly-contested NAHL North Division, parted with Albrecht for future personnel considerations. The club also sent captain and top defenseman Hunter Brown to Wenatchee.

“They really like the kid (Albrecht), and I think part of it was getting some value in return, but also giving him a chance to finish his last season of juniors on a team that’s competing for a playoff spot," added Palumbo.

Albrecht, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder who represented Chicago in December’s NAHL Top Prospects all-star event in Boston, registered three goals against the Stars last weekend, and was the only player with a positive plus-minus rating (+3) on the Hitmen roster. Remarkably, Albrecht has been assessed just a single minor penalty all season – back on Sept. 11, 2010.

“He can play on the special teams, he can contribute as a penalty-killer as well,” Palumbo added. “We added another important piece of the puzzle.”

The Stars and Hitmen will kick off their return engagement on Friday, and wrap on Saturday in metropolitan Chicago. Both contests face off at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Matt Warren new assistant in Port Huron

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons today announced that Matt Warren will join the team’s coaching staff as an assistant coach.

Warren, brother of head coach Bill Warren, was a two-time NAHL All-star in the 1990s when he played for the Compuware Ambassadors. The former defenseman played for the Plattsburgh Cardinals of the SUNY Athletic Conference in college, winning the Division III national championship in 2001.

Warren brings with him full knowledge of the talent level in the NAHL, and has seen first-hand the career path most Junior A hockey players aspire for. One of his teammates on the 1996-97 Ambassadors team was David Legwand, a Detroit native who parlayed his NAHL success into a spot with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Legwand was the second overall pick in the 1998 NHL Draft, and is the all-time leader in nearly every statistical category for the Nashville Predators.

The Fighting Falcons have seen a major overhaul to their coaching staff in the past month, as head coach Ernie Hicke and associate head coach Shane Hicke were fired in late December after the team began their inaugural season at 1-24-1.

Bill Warren, a Port Huron native with strong ties to minor hockey programs throughout Michigan, was named the team’s new head coach after spending a weekend with the team on an interim basis. Marty Haddad, an assistant coach under the Hickes, saw his role change as he became the team’s general manager and associate head coach.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Muskegon plays the numbers game

By Christopher Heimerman, Lumberjacks staff

What’s in a number? Oftentimes a lot. Sometimes very little.

Some of the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ players had fairly free reign when picking the number they’d wear for the first-year United States Hockey League club. Others had a short list to peruse. Ultimately they all bear a unique number - as unique as the stories that led to them wearing the numerals.

Sometimes numbers get hijacked

Left wing Mike Conderman, one of the team’s pre-draft tenders, was pretty insistent that he wear No. 19 - that is, according to his bookend on the Jacks’ top line, Casey Thrush.

“He got the tender and he’s older, so he got the one-up on me,” says Thrush, who’s worn 19 all his life and even has the number written in marker on the side of his Team Maryland hat. “As soon as I met him, he said his one condition on signing is that he’d get 19.”

Thrush, who was the Jacks’ top draft pick, has enjoyed success his rookie USHL season and suddenly is considering sticking with No. 24. Centering Conderman and Thrush is Jacks captain John Parker, who wears No. 12. He’s always worn either the Jarome Iginla-inspired number or 66, which Mario Lemieux made famous.

When Parker opted for No. 12, Jacks center Chris Lochner lost his top choice, but he was happy to be the Eric Staal to Parker’s Iginla and wear No. 21.

“In the Olympics, Iginla and Staal were fighting for 12 and Iginla got it,” Lochner says. “I saw that Staal just switched the 1 and the 2 around, so I did the same thing.”

Jacks defenseman Carter Foguth is no stranger to the occasional knuckle-duster, and he’s thought about having a civil conversation with 16-year-old blueliner Mark Yanis about the rights to the number 14.

“I had worn 14 all my life, and when my cousin played at Michigan State, he wore 14. And I loved Brendan Shanahan growing up,” Foguth says. “But there’s a reason they call him (Yanis) the shark; he stole it from me. I might have to have a word with him about it.”

“There’s absolutely no way he’s getting it,” deadpans Yanis, who’s been a Shanahan fan and worn his number since he was in mini-mites.

But Foguth will settle for No. 5, which career-long Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom wears.

“Lidstrom was my favorite player growing up,” Foguth said. “But I still kind of got stuck with it.”

Numerical emulation

Most of the Jacks, in fact, picked their number because their favorite player wore it first. Jacks goaltender Joel Vienneau, a French-Canadian from Hearst, Ontario, wears 29 because of his fellow countryman and favorite puckstopper Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jacks assistant captain Brendan Woods chose No. 17 because while father Bob Woods coached the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, the team signed Christopher Bourque, son of former Boston Bruins superstar Ray Bourque. The living legend’s son wore 17 and had a profound effect on the top prospect in his coach’s family.

“He was one of my favorite players on and off the ice,” says Woods, “so ever since then I’ve chosen the number 17.”

Jacks defenseman Travis Walsh wore No. 52 – a mighty high number for a blueliner - last year in Sioux Falls. While he figures he’ll change it up at some point, for the moment he wears No. 4, which his favorite defenseman John-Michael Liles wore.

Alexx Privitera, who leads all USHL defensemen with 20 points, also wore an awfully high number last season. But his hand was forced a bit with the Team USA U-17 squad, as their skaters had to pick a number higher than 40. So he took his current number 18 – which he’s worn since his squirt minor days – and multiplied it by his grandfather’s No. 5 to get to the No. 90 he’d wear in Ann Arbor.

The Old Tappan, N.J., native isn’t optimistic he’ll be able to take 18 with him to Boston University next season.

“If I could get 18 at Boston, I’d love it,” says Privitera. “It’s just a number, though. It would be nice to have, but it’s unrealistic to think I’d get it as a freshman.”

Jacks center Isaac Kohls admits he’d be willing to battle for the double sticks that Zach Parise wore at Shattuck-St. Mary’s a couple of years before Kohls was a freshman at the high school.

“I’ve been successful with number 11; it’s been my favorite number for awhile,” says Kohls, who watched Parise “a ton” when he played for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. “I probably would’ve fought for it.”

Jaycob Megna, like his favorite athlete Kobe Bryant, stands about 6 ½ feet tall. He’s tried to wear Bryant’s old number, 8, as long as he can remember.

“Although I obviously play a different sport, the things I've learned from watching him aren’t sport-specific,” Megna says. “I have always admired how hard he worked on and off the court, always striving to be the best. His drive and desire to win have also been things that I've tried to emulate.”

Doing more with less

One player with limited options was 16-year-old Jordan Masters, who was offered either Nos. 13 or 28. When he chose the number worn by Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, 28 remained unclaimed. That is, until Travis Belohrad became the latest addition to the squad. Belohrad’s linemate Ryan Misiak, the team’s leader in points with 34, actually had a choice between 26 and 28, neither of which held any sentimental value.

“26 has definitely grown on me,” says Misiak. “It’s a good number now.”

Charlie Taft had a short list of options, but says No. 27 was “just what he was feeling at the time.”

Mike Moran insists his No. 25 has no significance.

Jacks assistant captain Kevin Albers, similarly, had never worn nor did he have an emotional tie to No. 7, but has been pleased with the results it’s brought since he returned from off-season shoulder surgery.

“So far, so good,” says Albers. “It’s treated me well.”

Matt Berry, whose 15 goals are third in the league, is wearing No. 9 for the second year. When he couldn’t get his longtime number No. 10 last year, he moved things down a notch. After racking up 122 points in 77 games for Belle Tire a season ago, he wasn’t willing to budge.

“This year I just wanted to stick with the same number; I didn’t want to change it up,” Berry said.

Jacks netminder Paul Berrafato grew up wearing his current number of 30, but last year it was taken by another puckstopper with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres.

“I wanted to be different, so I went with a little 36 - maybe a fighter’s number, a quality duster,” Berrafato said.

After Berrafato made the Jacks’ squad, head coach Kevin Patrick texted him the option of taking Nos. 1 or 30.

“I texted him back and said 30 would be fine, but I offered to wear 36,” Berrafato said. “Coach texted me back and said ‘30 it is.’”

- Christopher Heimerman is the communications director and broadcaster of the Muskegon Lumberjacks. He can be reached HERE.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lumberjacks' Kohls commits to Niagara

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced that Isaac Kohls verbally committed to Niagara University on Tuesday afternoon.

Kohls, a 19-year-old forward from Forest Lake, Minn., chose the accredited institution for its premier business program and because the Atlantic Hockey Association champion automatically earns an NCAA Tournament berth. Kohls finalized his decision after a recent visit, during which he liked the campus in Lewiston, N.Y., and everyone around the program.

Kohls will join Niagara’s squad this fall. He believes that playing for the AHA’s Purple Eagles, after rapid development in one season in the United States Hockey League, will keep his hockey career – and the one that will follow – on the right track.

“I want to be able to play all four years, develop and hopefully someday play some kind of pro hockey,” Kohls said. “That’s part of their motto there – getting every player a chance to play pro. Their business program is a very good one, and my education was a big part of the decision. I’ll go there, play four years and have a great degree, and hopefully someday make a good living from it.”

“We are very pleased for Isaac that he has achieved the next step in his career, as well as secured his future with his scholarship,” Lumberjacks owner Josh Mervis said. “Isaac had a lot of different opportunities, from the Western Hockey League to the NCAA, and we’re thrilled that he was able to make the perfect choice – the college route – as that will not only enable him to develop as a hockey player, but will set him up for a lifetime of success beyond the game.”

The Jacks’ 15th-round selection (216th overall) in the 2010 USHL Entry Draft has 13 points (six goals and seven assists) in his rookie season. He also leads the club with two short-handed goals and posted a five-game point streak early in the season.

Kohls honed his skills with the Deux-Rives Dolphins Youth Hockey program. Last season, he racked up 81 points with the Streetsville Derbys of the Central Canadian Hockey League before making the big jump to the USHL and enjoying immediate success in Muskegon.

“Congratulations to Isaac and to the university for the player they’re getting.” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “Isaac’s got top-six forward offensive skills. He’s a guy who will make things happen with the pass and can beat you with his shot. He’s got a great wrist shot.”

Kohls leaned heavily on his parents’ input and that of his coaching staff, particularly Patrick.

“KP’s been in the recruiting business for a long time,” Kohls said of his coach, who had a big hand in recruiting during his six years as an assistant at the University of Wisconsin. “He knows a lot about it and gave me a lot of helpful advice.”

“Our mission is to develop players both on and off the ice for the challenges that lay ahead,” Patrick said. “The level of play in this league is producing players who are ready to immediately contribute at good Division I programs.”

Niagara is second in the AHA standings with a conference mark of 8-5-0, and is 11-7-2 overall. Kohls will inevitably bump into current teammate Ryan Misiak, who is committed to Mercyhurst College.

Bazin has lofty goals for Metro

Chad Bazin
didn’t play for the Metro Jets when he was drafted by the team back in 2005, but his younger brother, Cameron, is making the most of his opportunity with the Jets this year.

Undrafted, Cameron Bazin played the last two years for Troy Athens High School, winning the Oakland Activities Association White Division both years, and upon graduating last June, figured that was it for his hockey career as he had no plans to play hockey this season

“To start the year, I wasn't playing anywhere, but I quickly realized a year without hockey is something I can not and will not accept,” said the 18-year-old Bazin. “I started making some calls around to find a team and (Metro head) coach (Jason) Cirone said he had an available spot and to come out for a skate to see how I liked it. A couple days later, I was at a practice and it just felt like a good fit, so I signed.”

Fitting in with his new teammates was an adjustment at first, as was what was expected of him on the ice.

“In high school, I was a top player, so I was doing a lot,” said Bazin. “Now in juniors, you have your players each having a role and that was something for me to adjust to. I feel like I can help the team get the momentum back on our side with a big hit or nice play. I also like to get into the other team’s heads. A lot of guys will talk trash to you and I'll listen to them, but not say anything in return – just smile and laugh. As long as I'm doing that, my role would be perfect to me.”

Bazin said that he knew about Metro’s recent history of sub par seasons, but that didn’t deter him from making the commitment to the team.

“I didn't care about past seasons and all that and to me, every year is a fresh start,” explained Bazin. “Any team can come into a season and be the top dog. I thought that we had a shot of being a top team in this league and despite our current record, I feel we will surprise a lot of teams once playoffs start.”

To date, Bazin has three goals (two on the power play) and five points through 20 games and is keeping a positive frame of mind during the Jets’ latest slump.

“I know we are not where we should be in the standings,” Bazin said. “We have had a lot of ups and downs, but that’s hockey. Riding your ups and staying up is what the good teams do and we will be doing that in our last 16 games of the regular season.

“I expect us as a team to all come together and start a streak. I expect us to get into the playoffs. If not, it will be really disappointing. I feel when we play our game we can compete with anyone in the league. Once in the playoffs, I expect us to make a run for the championship.”

Individually, Bazin’s goals are just as lofty.

“Next year, I'd like to be in the NAHL and stay there for a year or two,” said Bazin. “For long-term goals, I would like to play college hockey, preferably Division I, but I would settle for anything as long as I get there.”


The Jets hit the road to kick off 2011 and were greeted with two lopsided losses to the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins last weekend.

Pittsburgh topped the Jets on Saturday night, 12-3, and then 13-6 on Sunday afternoon.

In the first game, Tommy Burns (Pinckney) scored twice, Brett Grech (Hartland) had a goal and an assist and Matt Stirling (Dexter) added two assists.

Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) and Matt Braun combined for 26 saves in goal.

Sunday afternoon, Grech and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) each potted two goals, while Mike Moroso (Macomb) and Stirling scored the others.

Trunick played the entire game in net and finished with 44 saves.

“The results of the games last weekend are embarrassing and I don’t care to reflect on it,” Jets captain Morgan James said. “Some guys played hard, some guys gave up, but I’m not going to get into names.”

Jayson Angus led the offensive attack for Pittsburgh, scoring 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in the two wins to leap atop the NA3HL scoring race with 55 points on the season.

The Jets (9-19-1-0) will now play two games with the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution at Lakeland Arena this weekend. Saturday night’s game will be a “home” game for Battle Creek and will start at 7:40 p.m. Game time Sunday afternoon for the rematch is 1:20 p.m.


Stirling has four goals and six points in his last four games … New defenseman Kevin Lander (Brighton) made his debut last weekend in Pittsburgh … Moroso is tied for the NA3HL lead with four shorthanded goals (Mason Riley/Peoria, Jayson Angus/Pittsburgh). With 14 goals total, the other 10 have all come at even strength … Trunick is third in the league with 649 saves this season.


Jack McCoy played with the Jets during the team’s early years and has worked his way up to be a linesman at the American Hockey League level.

McCoy, a Livonia native who played college hockey at Oswego State in the SUNYAC, has also worked as an on-ice official in the Ontario Hockey League, ECHL, International Hockey League and United Hockey League.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Prospects coming to Ann Arbor

The North American Hockey League has announced that its second Top Prospects Tournament of the season, sponsored by SBK Hockey, will be held from Feb. 20-22 at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor.

At the event, four teams - Team Central, Team North, Team South and Team West - will play a three-game round robin.

All NAHL players are eligible to participate, regardless if they’re committed or un-committed to a Division I school or participated in the NAHL’s first Top Prospects Tournament of the season, which was held from Dec. 5-7 in Walpole, Mass.

Each team will consist of a 20-man roster, with minor player crossover amongst the four teams. In the three six-team divisions - Central, South and West - four players will represent the first- and second-place teams as of Jan. 17 (highest winning percentage); three will represent the third- and fourth-place teams; and two for the fifth- and sixth-place teams.

In the eight-team North Division, four players will represent the first- and second-place teams as of Jan. 17; three will represent the third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place teams; and two will represent the seventh- and eighth-place teams. The two NAHL teams with the highest winning percentages as of Jan. 17 will be allowed to send one additional player to the event. The rosters, which will be chosen by the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament Selection Committee, will be announced on Monday, Jan. 24.

The head coach of the team with the highest winning percentage in each division as of Jan. 17 will serve as the head coach of the Top Prospects team representing that division. The head coach with the second-highest winning percentage will serve as the team’s assistant coach.

In conjunction with the Top Prospects Tournament, all North American Prospects Hockey League teams - Midget Major, Midget Minor and Bantam Major - will compete in the Championship Tournament Series for the right to be crowned league champions. That event will run from Feb. 18-21 at the Troy Sports Center in Troy, with the three division championship games being played at the Ice Cube.

The North American 3 Hockey League will also have representation at the Top Prospects Tournament, as two NA3HL all-star teams will compete against each other at the event. The NA3HL will also extend invitations to other USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III Junior A leagues to participate with all-stars teams.

At the NAHL’s first Top Prospects Tournament of the season, four teams comprised of the NAHL’s top committed and un-committed college players, including those recognized on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s Players to Watch list for 2011 draft-eligibles, played a three-game round robin.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Whalers obtain trio at trade deadline

The Plymouth Whalers announced three deals at today’s final Ontario Hockey League trade deadline.

Plymouth picked up 17-year-old defenseman Curtis Crombeen from the Owen Sound Attack in exchange for 19-year-old defenseman Jay Gilbert. The Whalers also acquire a second round draft choice (originally Saginaw’s) in 2012 and a third round draft choice in 2013.

“We are very excited to get Curtis,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He was a first round draft choice in the league and was high on our list.”

Crombeen – 5-feet-11, 175 pounds and from Sarnia, Ont. - was originally selected by Owen Sound in the first round (ninth overall) in the 2009 OHL draft. He’s been injured through much of this season and has played in seven games. Crombeen has a goal and three assists for four points and has eight penalty minutes in 40 games in his career with Owen Sound.

He played with the Whalers’ Garrett Meurs in the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and helped Team Ontario win the silver medal in the tournament.

Crombeen is the cousin of B.J. Crombeen, a former OHL player who now plays for the St. Louis Blues.

The Whalers also acquired 17-year-old center Michael Whaley from the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for a 13th round draft choice in 2012. Whaley was taken by the Spitfires in the 13th round (260th overall) of the 2009 OHL draft. In two seasons with Windsor, Whaley has two goals with 10 assists for 12 points at 19 penalty minutes in 65 games.

Plymouth also acquired the rights to 17-year-old center Cory Czarnik from the Barrie Colts for a 12th round draft choice in 2012. Czarnik is the younger brother of Plymouth forward Robbie Czarnik. Cory Czarnik started the season with Tri-City of the United States Hockey League, but is currently playing with the Compuware Midget Majors of the Tier I Elite Hockey League.

Photo courtesy CHL Images

Port Huron native Archibald to Spirit

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, acquiring top-flight defenseman and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Brandon Archibald in return for winger Michael Kantor.

The Spirit also sent the Hounds a fourth round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection, a sixth round pick in 2013 and a second round pick in 2014.

The trade for Archibald comes on the heels of an earlier trade that saw the Spirit add another highly touted defenseman in Dalton Prout, who is also a Blue Jackets draft pick.

Archibald hails from Port Huron and was the 94th overall pick of Columbus in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The 1992-born defenseman has posted two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in 37 regular season games this season and seven goals and 53 assists for 60 points in 166 regular season games during his three year OHL career.

He played in the Detroit Honeybaked midgets before being chosen by Sault Ste. Marie with the 29th overall pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection. Archibald, an alternate captain with the Greyhounds this season, also played in the 2010 CHL Top Prospects game, with Team USA at the 2009 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and was invited to USA Hockey’s 2010 National Junior Team Evaluation Camp.

Photo courtesy CHL Images

Saginaw deals Underwood to Belleville

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a deal with the Belleville Bulls of the Eastern Conference, sending overage defenseman Joe Underwood to the Bulls in return for an eighth round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection.

The Canton native was drafted by the Guelph Storm in 2006. In his career, Underwood posted seven goals and 45 assists for 52 points in 271 games.

This season, he tallied one goal and seven assists for eight points with a plus-9 in 22 games.

With the trade, the Spirit get down to the three overage limit with goalie Mavric Parks, recently acquired defenseman Dalton Prout and forward Matt Sisca.

Photo courtesy Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Saginaw gets blueliner Prout from Barrie

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Barrie Colts, acquiring defenseman Dalton Prout for defensemen Alex Lepkowski and Matt Ashman.

The Spirit also sent the Colts a third round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, originally owned by Kitchener, and Saginaw’s third round pick in the 2014 selection.

Prout is a five-year veteran of the league and is on pace to eclipse his offensive production from a season ago having posted seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 23 regular season games since his return from the Columbus Blue Jackets in October.

In his OHL career, Prout has notched 15 goals and 39 assists for 54 points in 255 regular season games and one goal and nine assists for 10 points in 34 post-season games.

The 1990-born Kingsville, Ont., native was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round (154th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Prout started his OHL career with the Sarnia Sting in the 2006-2007 season. He was traded to the Barrie Colts during the 2007-2008 season and was a key cog of the team’s defensive unit the last two seasons, including their Eastern Conference title run last year that saw him post seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points and a plus-26 in 63 regular season games and one goal and six assists for seven points and a plus-11 in 17 post-season games.

Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Whalers sign defenseman MacDonald

The Plymouth Whalers on Thursday announced the signing of 17-year-old defenseman Dylan MacDonald to a standard player’s contract.

MacDonald – no relation to Whalers defenseman Colin MacDonald – was originally selected by Plymouth in the seventh round (133rd overall) in the 2009 Ontario Hockey League draft.

MacDonald – 6-feet and 190 pounds, from London, Ont. – was playing with the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, where he recorded two assists and 17 penalty minutes in 15 games.

"We are excited that Dylan is joining our team. He had college options, but playing in the OHL was his dream," Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. "He realizes he can get a great education while playing in the top developmental league in the world.

"He's a steady defenseman, who we have been trying to sign since we drafted him."

In 2009-10, MacDonald played for the St. Thomas Stars of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he scored five goals with 12 assists for 17 points and 38 PIMs in 49 games. He also had a goal with 10 assists for 11 points and four PIMs in 15 playoff games for the Stars.

MacDonald – who will wear number 8 – is expected to make his Whalers debut this weekend when Plymouth plays in Windsor on Thursday, in Guelph on Friday and back home at Compuware Arena on Saturday, hosting Sarnia at 7:05 p.m.

Top line in Muskegon paying dividends

By Christopher Heimerman

Any job is easier when you enjoy the people you work with.

Right now, Ryan Misiak, Matt Berry and Travis Belohrad feel like they’ve got the greatest job in the world.

The three Muskegon Lumberjacks comprise one of the most prolific lines in the United States Hockey League. In fact, it’s one of just two lines in the league whose three skaters have each scored at least 10 goals. Their success stems not just from their talents, but also from the job the Jacks’ coaching staff has done in developing them and identifying their chemistry.

It’s also a tribute to how much the trio genuinely enjoys being together.

“We’re with each other a lot,” Belohrad says. “We’ll go sledding, bowling…”

“See movies, play Xbox…” Berry adds.

“And mini sticks,” Misiak chimes in. “I scored the greatest mini stick goal of all time.”

Whether it’s in the heat of battle on the ice or wherever the war is being waged, the three Jacks are driven by friendly competition.

“More than anything, we’re really competitive – even with each other,” Misiak says, with a smile spreading across his face. “One wants to outdo the other, and it just continues to go from there.”

“We go back and forth with it all the time, but it’s all in good fun,” Berry says.

“We push each other that way, but we also support each other,” Belohrad adds.

Misiak, a Shelby Township native who is committed to Mercyhurst College, is third in the league in points with 34 (11 goals, 23 assists). He’s the line’s left wing, and he’s played the position since playing youth hockey for the Little Caesars program.

Berry, another Michigan product hailing from Canton, is committed to Michigan State University and has racked up 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists), good for fifth in the league. Berry made the transition from center to right wing a few years ago during his time with Belle Tire youth hockey.

Belohrad, a Brighton, Colo., native, scored three goals over two games on Friday, Dec. 31 and Saturday, Jan. 1, and now has 13 points on 10 goals and three helpers. The playmaking pivot also made a position change – from right wing to center – a few years ago while with the Colorado Outlaws. His assist numbers don’t do his selflessness justice, but they do reflect how in-sync he and his linemates are, constantly filling in for one another.

“We’re very good at covering for each other and jumping into each other’s positions,” Belohrad says. “If I’m not the first guy back, I can trust Meesh or Berry going down low to cover me. That’s one of the main reasons we have success.”

Berry and Belohrad are cutting their teeth on the fastest, most skilled competition in junior hockey in the nation during their rookie season in the USHL. Misiak posted 17 points in 52 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede last season.

The three skaters have been virtually inseparable both on and off the ice since they were first assembled by Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick on Friday, Oct. 15, the night the Jacks earned their first USHL victory, 6-0 in Sioux City. Time has blurred by for the threesome since then, particularly since they’ve spent so much time “in the zone.”

“I don’t know how to describe it; something just happens and everything’s going your way,” Misiak said.

“You definitely get on a roll when you get a few good shifts in,” Belohrad said. “It’s often the little plays like lifting a guy’s stick in front of the net or creating turnovers on their blue line - little things like that can make a huge difference in the game and get you going.”

Despite the trio’s success, it’s not lost on the group that there’s no “I” in Muskegon Lumberjacks.

“At the end of the day, I can say all of us would rather have two points than the points we’d get individually,” Belohrad said.

They’re quick to pay credit to all 23 rostered players for the Jacks’ success as an expansion team.

“Obviously when all of our lines are rolling, it tires out the other team,” Berry said. “It gives us a better chance to cycle and get things going.”

They’ve certainly got a good thing going, and they anticipate looking back on it fondly for years to come.

“We’ve learned to rely on each other,” Misiak says. “It’s crazy to think that one year in Muskegon could give you lifelong friendships with guys like these. It’s kind of cool if you think about it.”

- Christopher Heimerman is the broadcaster and communications director of the Muskegon Lumberjacks. He can be reached HERE.

Metal Jackets ready for second half

The Motor City Metal Jackets have started the 2010-2011 season with an impressive 20-8-1 record in the NAHL's North Division.

The Metal Jackets ended the 2009-2010 season with a second round playoff loss to Traverse City and over the offseason has built a program that not only can compete, but can offer consistency every night.

The Metal Jackets' main focus has been on developing the defensive side of the game with the leadership from Mike Monfredo (fourth in league plus/minus) and finding the right mix in the net. The offensive power is a direct result of their defensive style with Cody Wydo, RJ Kleiman and Steve Brancheau all in the top five in league scoring. Special teams has been a key to their success with a league leading 27 percent efficiency on the power play with 56 goals scored.

"We continue to work hard enjoying honorable results from the first half of the season," Motor City coach-GM David Cole said. "Our veterans have set a solid example for our new players in a very encouraging athletic environment that continues to build. Our first-year team from last year set the table for this year's group with a never-give-up attitude and the second year's team continues with the same. Things get more difficult the second half of the year in the NAHL so the trend will hopefully continue. It is the objective of this 2010-11 team to continue to grow the Metal Jackets' tradition of hard work, physical and entertaining hockey."

The Metal Jackets are looking forward to the second half of the season as a new beginning. This is their first year in Trenton and attendance has been average, but overall the team has been working on increasing the visibility in the community.

“We had a very good start for our second season," team owner Kenji Yamada said. "Thanks to everyone in the organization, the team has been performing quite well on the ice, and all business, game operations, and other supporting activities have been exceeding my expectations. I strongly believe that this organization is growing with people surrounding us.

"We still have a long season to go, and I hope that we keep up the excellent performance on the ice, as well as how the entire organization keeps providing high-quality service to our customers. Buy a seat, you’ll only need the edge."

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Five years later, Grech ready to leave

Brett Grech has had many opportunities to move on to higher levels of hockey, but admittedly, he hasn’t been ready to leave the comfy confines of home or the homey feeling of Lakeland Arena.

That may change next season.

Grech is in his fifth season with the Metro Jets and has matured physically, emotionally and athletically since he entered the North American 3 Hockey League (then Central States Hockey League) as a pudgy 16-year-old back in 2006.

“The years have definitely flown by,” said Grech. “But it’s been a lot of fun. I’m not 100 percent sure where I’m going to school next year, but I will definitely be playing hockey.”

Over the span of his junior career, Grech has seen time at both forward and defense and excelled at both.

“I mean, I just play what position I need to,” said Grech, a 20-year-old from Hartland. “Hockey is hockey. It’s all fun to me. You just work hard and the rest is the easy part.”

“Grechy has been a very versatile guy for us,” added Metro GM Butch Wolfe. “Anywhere he plays he produces and does it with no complaints whatsoever. He’s been one of our leaders for a number of years now. A few college coaches have called me inquiring about Brett and I have had nothing but rave reviews for them. Wherever he goes next year, that school will be getting a heck of a hockey player and an even better person.”

Grech has seen his share of players come and go through the Lakeland doors in five years and said that fact alone is what he’ll remember most about his time in Waterford.

”The most memorable part of being here to me is being in locker room around all the guys,” Grech said. “My first year we went to the playoffs and it was awesome.”

Metro is still in the hunt for a playoff spot this season, but either way, you can bet Grech will walk out of Lakeland with a smile on his face and a plan for the future.


Metro last played on Dec. 21 and earned a 6-4 win on the road against the Flint Jr. Generals.

Tommy Kilgore and Matt Stirling each scored twice, while Grech and Dan Hudson added singles to back Eric Trunick’s 46-save performance in goal.

This weekend, the Jets (9-17-1-0) travel to Pittsburgh to face the Jr. Penguins.

Pittsburgh swept the Jets at Lakeland Arena back on Nov. 20-21, though Metro did earn a point in their 3-2 overtime loss in the first game of that series.

The Jr. Penguins (17-11-0-0) are led offensively by the top line of Jayson Angus (24 goals), Charles Williams (20 goals) and David Dinnison (17 goals). On defense, Mike Kretz has 24 points and three other blueliners have 10 points or more. In goal, Collin LeMay has 10 wins and a shutout and was just returned from the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League.

Pittsburgh is also second in the league with 140 goals scored.

Last year, Pittsburgh’s first in the league, saw the Jr. Penguins win all four meetings against the Jets.


The Jets added defenseman Kevin Lander (Brighton) this week. Lander, who turns 20 on Jan. 21 and was a 2010 draft pick of the Jets, played 18 games for the Wisconsin Wilderness of the Superior International Junior Hockey League this season without registering a point, but accruing 32 penalty minutes.

Lander is now the sixth member of the 2010 Metro draft class to be on the 2010-2011 roster, joining forwards Josh Beleski (never played a game, later traded), Hudson, Kilgore and Stirling and defenseman Will Shier.


Scott Hughes, a Lathrup Village native, was a goaltender for the Jets during their first season of 1989-1990 and is now a goalie equipment representative for Vaughn.

Photo by Walt Dmoch/WCD Photo

Monday, January 03, 2011

Warriors, Falcons complete big trade

The Michigan Warriors completed a trade with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons today, acquiring center Ryan Green and left wing Jeremy Humenny from Port Huron in exchange for defensemen Ryan Teal and Bret Lewandowski and right wing Ian Miller.

“We feel that while we had to give up some talented players, this trade significantly bolsters our roster,” said Warriors coach-GM Moe Mantha. “Green should bring some veteran leadership and size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), while Humenny will add some depth and grit up front for us. Teal, Lewandowski and Miller were hard to trade, but if you want talent, you have to give up talent. I feel this trade will work out well on both ends.”

Green (pictured) was Port Huron’s captain and leading scorer this year. In 25 games, the 20-year-old from Essex, Ont., had eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points. Green played last year for the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the British Columbia Hockey League.

The 18-year-old Humenny (he turns 19 on Jan. 17) is joining his third NAHL team this season after beginning the year with the St. Louis Bandits. In 22 games with St. Louis and Port Huron, the Inner Groves Heights, Minn., native has totaled five goals and four assists for nine points, along with 82 penalty minutes.

Teal (New Baltimore), 19, posted three assists in 21 games this year, while Lewandowski (Chesterfield), 19, was pointless in 14 contests. Miller (Fraser), 18, had three goals and three assists for six points in 19 games.

“The North Division is a very tough division and we feel that by upgrading our team with Green and Humenny that we can make a push to move up the standings and challenge the teams above us,” added Mantha. “I would also like to thank Ryan, Bret and Ian for their contributions here in Flint and wish them all the best in Port Huron.”

Just four points separate the fifth place Warriors (37 points) from the second place Motor City Metal Jackets (41 points). St. Louis sits in first place with 50 points (23-8-4).

Green and Humenny are expected to be in the lineup Wednesday night when the Warriors (17-10-3) host the Traverse City North Stars at Perani Arena at 7 p.m.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Ex-North Star Nagy makes D-I choice

The Youngstown Phantoms have announced that defenseman Nilan Nagy has committed to play collegiate hockey at Holy Cross.

"Holy Cross has been talking to me since the Fall Classic," said Nagy. "They have kept up with me during the season and I recently had a chance to visit the school. After my visit, I loved the program and I loved the atmosphere there. I knew it was the right fit for my college career."

Nagy, who played last year for the Traverse City North Stars, has put up four points (1g, 3a) in 21 games during his first USHL season. His first career USHL point was the game-winning goal in the Phantoms' 3-1 win over Chicago on November 27.

The 19-year-old native of Canonsburg, Pa., was selected by the Phantoms during the 2010 USHL Entry Draft.

"(Holy Cross) liked my style of play," said Nagy who will pursue a degree in accounting at the school. "I play a more defensive minded style and I worry about things in my own end. The commitment takes the pressure off me, but I still need to work hard and focus on the little things to help my team succeed."

"Nilan is a very good, all-around defenseman," said Youngstown coach-GM Curtis Carr. "He makes simple, smart plays with the puck. He is a very dedicated young man who works hard both on and off the ice. He will be an asset and a staple at the Holy Cross program for the next four years."

Photo courtesy Youngstown Phantoms