Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Muskegon finishes successful season

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

While the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ inaugural season in the United States Hockey League did not conclude with the hoisting of the Clark Cup, there are still innumerable accomplishments to celebrate.

With a thorough sweep of Team USA’s developmental program, the Jacks advanced to the second round of the Clark Cup playoffs. The Jacks were very well-represented in the league’s scoring leaders, and they never went more than three games without picking up at least a point. Of the 23 members of the team’s final roster, 14 of them committed to Division I universities.

The Jacks were one of the last five teams standing in the postseason, as the other three teams eliminated in the second round all were swept. The fifth-seeded Jacks, who finished 24-28-8 for 56 points in the regular season, forced Game 4 against the top-seeded Cedar Rapids RoughRiders with a decisive 5-1 victory at the L.C. Walker Arena on Saturday. But the Riders won 7-3 on Monday to bring the Jacks’ splendid first USHL season to a close.

“We met a lot of our expectations,” Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “But we’re not happy, and we’re not satisfied. We want to win our last game of the season. The ultimate goal is winning the championship.”

Through the first two rounds, the Jacks placed four skaters – Matt DeBlouw, Matt Berry, Ryan Misiak and Travis Belohrad – in the league’s top 12 in postseason scoring. DeBlouw, who, along with Berry, is committed to Michigan State University, finished tied for second in the playoffs with eight points. His three goals and five assists both were one more than his haul in those categories in the regular season.

As for the regular season, the Jacks boasted two skaters in the top 16 in points. Misiak, a Shelby Township native who was acquired from Sioux Falls during exhibition play, finished tied for ninth in the league with 58 points. The Mercyhurst College commit was fifth in the league in assists with 43. His linemate, Berry, a Canton native, was 16th in the league in points with 51. The USHL rookie’s 25 goals were tied for sixth in the league.

Berry also was one of three Jacks, including Belohrad and Charlie Taft, to register a hat trick this season. Taft parlayed his trifecta with two assists to set a franchise record with five points in a 5-0 victory over Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 18. The Edina, Minn., native also set a team mark with a +5 plus/minus rating in the rout.

Misiak and Berry tied for the team’s longest point streak this season, both stretching eight games from Friday, Nov. 5 through Saturday, Nov. 20. Misiak led the Jacks in multi-point games with 17, which included a team-best four three-point games. Rock-steady defenseman Carter Foguth, a Fenton native and USHL rookie, led the team in plus/minus at +10.

Travis Walsh, another rookie defenseman, finished 4-for-8 in the shootout. His finest work came in a 2-1 shootout win over Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Dec. 4, in which he broke up a scoreless shootout in the fourth round. The dazzling play impressed on a global scale, as it was featured many times during ESPN programs and appeared on myriad websites, many of them not sports-related.

Jacks defenseman Alexx Privitera, an Old Tappan, N.J., native who is committed to Boston University for this fall, was among the league’s leaders in terms of defensemen throughout the course of the season. He finished tied for fourth in points among blueliners with 34. His 10 goals also were tied for fourth among defensemen.

But Patrick prefers to focus how the team got stronger from top to bottom throughout its first USHL season, as evidenced by its promising postseason run. Now he and his assistant coach, Dave Noel-Bernier, quickly will get to work on surrounding the Jacks’ returners with even more talent.

They will be scouting in Chicago this weekend for the USHL Combine, where every USHL team will be represented. They could potentially be in Topeka, Kan., next week before heading to Taylor for the Michigan District USA Hockey Select tryouts. With the assistance of Jacks owner Josh Mervis and the team’s prestigious scouting staff, the organization long has been building its big board for the USHL Entry Draft, which is Monday, May 16 at 11 a.m.

“You’ve got to put this season to bed,” Patrick said. “Building for the future is an ongoing process.”

The Jacks’ tryout camp will take place from June 13-19 at the L.C. Walker Arena. They’ve already brought six players into the system – three of them Michigan products – via the recent USHL Futures Draft.

“I’m excited about the players we have on our list from last year’s draft who weren’t with us this year,” Patrick said. “Now we’ve got the opportunity to get the next group of players under our umbrella."

NAHL All-North team has Michigan feel

The North American Hockey League has announced its All-Central, -North, -South and -West Division Teams for the 2010-11 season, as selected by the league’s coaches and general managers.

All-Central Division Team
Forward: Zac Frischmon, Coulee Region Chill
Forward: Connor Gaarder, Coulee Region Chill
Forward: Nardo Naagtzaam, Alexandria Blizzard
Defenseman: Marian Fiala, Owatonna Express
Defenseman: Michael Pieper, Alexandria Blizzard
Goaltender: Ryan Faragher, Bismarck Bobcats

All-North Division Team
Forward: Chris Ciotti (Romeo), St. Louis Bandits
Forward: Andrew Kolb, Michigan Warriors
Forward: Cody Wydo, Motor City Metal Jackets
Defenseman: Mike Monfredo, Motor City Metal Jackets
Defenseman: Travis White, Traverse City North Stars
Goaltender: Robert Tadazak, Michigan Warriors

All-South Division Team
Forward: Michael Hill, Topeka RoadRunners
Forward: Justin Hussar, Topeka Roadrunners
Forward: Beau Walker, Corpus Christi IceRays
Defenseman: Ralfs Freibergs, Texas Tornado
Defenseman: Derek Hills, Amarillo Bulls
Goaltender: Nikifor Szczerba, Amarillo Bulls

All-West Division Team
Forward: Doug Beck (Plymouth), Kenai River Brown Bears
Forward: Jared Linnell, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Forward: JT Osborn, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Defenseman: Jack Callahan, Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Defenseman: Jake Williams, Alaska Avalanche
Goaltender: Brandon Jaeger, Wenatchee Wild

Warriors win North, advance to play-in

The North American Hockey League has announced the schedule for the best-of-three play-in series of the Robertson Cup Playoffs between the Central Division champion Bismarck Bobcats and North Division champion Michigan Warriors.

All games will be played at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan., home of the Topeka RoadRunners and host of the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament, which will be held from May 3-7.

Game 1 will be played on Thursday, April 28 and Game 2 will be played on Friday, April 29. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. Central time.

In the event the series is tied 1-1 after two games, a third mini-game will be played immediately following Game 2 to determine the winner, which will advance as the No. 3 seed to the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament.

“After exploring all of our options regarding where to host the play-in series, it was determined it was in the best interest of the participating players, from a travel perspective, to play the games in Topeka,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “This gives both teams plenty of rest leading up to the play-in series and, for the winner, time to prepare for the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament.”

With a higher point total in the regular season - Michigan totaled 76 over Bismarck’s 67 - the Warriors will be the home team throughout the series.

The other three teams to advance to this year’s Robertson Cup Championship Tournament are the host RoadRunners, South Division champion Amarillo Bulls and West Division champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

OHL draft should have Michigan flavor

Courtesy Michigan Hockey

The annual Ontario Hockey League draft is on tap for May 7 and as in past years, there is no shortage of Michigan talent for the taking.

Of course, the OHL is just one option for many of the talented Michigan players as many have colleges and the United States National Team Development Program on their heels.

That said, expect many a Michigan player born in 1995 to see his name pop up on the computer screen during the online draft that goes 15 rounds and lasts nearly eight hours.

OHL Michigan scout Kevin Hess sat down with Michigan Hockey recently to assess the top in-state players at each position.


Evan Allen, Honeybaked U-16 – “Speedy forward who competes at a very high level. Possesses a very good shot with a pro-style release.”

Dawson Cook, Cadillac High School – “Prototypical power forward. Good north/south skater. Has a heavy shot and possesses the physical tools to be an effective player at the next level.”

Zach Diamantoni, Compuware U-16 – “Skilled center that is a great set-up man.”

Joel Lesperance, Compuware U-16 – “Plays a solid two-way game and possesses very good hockey sense. Plays in every situation.”

Michael McCarron, Honeybaked Major Midget – “Big-bodied power forward with high-end skill. Uses his size and skill to make everyone on the ice better. Playing up this season has helped him elevate his overall game.”

Tyler Motte, Honeybaked U-16 – “Reads the play in the offensive zone well. Extremely dangerous in the goal scoring area. If my team needed a goal, this is the guy I want with the puck on his stick.”

Jacob Pritchard, Little Caesars U-16 – “Speedy, shifty, and skilled forward who has steadily improved throughout the season.”

Samuel Rennaker, Forest Hills North/East High School – “Competes at a high level in all three zones on the ice. Has a good shot and converts on a high percentage of his scoring chances.”

Michael Sabatini, Honeybaked U-16 – “Good skater with good high-end speed. Possesses a good skill set and is dangerous both as a passer and a shooter in the goal-scoring area.”

Brendan Smith, Compuware U-16 – “Very good skater with exceptional top-end speed. Plays the game at full speed at all times. Possesses a very good shot with a quick release.”

Alex Talcott, Honeybaked Major Midget – “Good north/south skating prospect with excellent acceleration. Not afraid to go to the tough areas of the ice to score. Another player that improved his overall game by playing Major Midget this season.”

Christian Wolanin, Little Caesars U-16 – “Versatile prospect that can play both forward and defense. Plays a very smart two-way game.”


Michael Downing, Novi Catholic Central High School – “Very good skating defender with high-end offensive capabilities.”

Trevor Hamilton, Honeybaked U-16 – “Physical defender who is not afraid to jump into the rush.”

Mitch Jones, Honeybaked U-16 – “Stay-at-home defenseman with an offensive upside. Makes a very good first pass.”

Alex Roberts, Honeybaked U-16 – “Very mobile defenseman who plays both ends of the rink effectively.”

Cory Schueneman, Little Caesar’s U-16 – “Smooth skating defenseman who takes care of his own end first before joining the offense. Has the skating and skill to take the puck end to end.”

Alexander Smith, Honeybaked Major Midget – “Primarily an offensive-minded defenseman, but playing Major Midget has helped him get better in his own zone. Powerful skater who is very light on his feet and possesses a great range of mobility.”


Ian Jenkins, Belle Tire U-16 – “Very athletic goaltender who never gives up on a puck. Has quick reflexes and does a nice job of controlling his rebounds.”

Devin Williams, Motor City Metal Jackets U-16 – “Fundamentally-sound butterfly goaltender with good rebound control.”

Honorable mention

Bryan Basillico, F, Belle Tire U-16; Taylor Fernandez, F, Little Caesars U-16; Troy Saunders, D, Compuware U-16; Reed Whiteside, D, Trenton High School; Michael Yuhasz, F, Little Caesars U-16.

Recent Plymouth First Round Draft Picks
2006 – Vern Cooper, F
2007 – Beau Schmitz, D
2008 – Tyler Seguin, F
2009 – Garrett Meurs, F
2010 – Max Iafrate, D

Recent Saginaw First Round Draft Picks
2006 – Nick Crawford, D
2007 – Daniel Pachis, F
2008 – Brandon Saad, F
2009 – Anthony Camara, F
2010 – Justin Kea, F

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Panthers ink Spirit forward McFarland

The Saginaw Spirit have announced that forward John McFarland has signed an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers.

McFarland joined the Spirit in the first half of the season via a trade with the Sudbury Wolves, notching a combined 25 goals and 13 assists for 38 points in 49 regular season games this year.

McFarland was drafted by Florida in the second round (33rd overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

“John is another talented prospect who we drafted in the Top 40 last year,” Florida GM Dale Tallon told “He is a hard working and high character forward who has the ability to score and will continue to develop both on and off the ice.”

Photo courtesy CHL Images

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

19 from Michigan taken in Futures Draft

The USHL Futures Draft was held on Tuesday and 19 players from Michigan born in 1995 were chosen amongst the 90 selections.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks drafted three in-state natives with their six picks.

1st Round
3rd overall – Dubuque – Michael Downing, D, Canton, Catholic Central
5th overall – Muskegon – Alex Smith, D, Brownstown, Honeybaked

2nd Round
16th overall – Muskegon – Alex Talcott, C, Kentwood, Honeybaked
17th overall – Cedar Rapids – Levi Erkkila, F, Calumet, Calumet HS
21st overall – Fargo – Brett Heikkila, F, Marquette, Marquette Electricians
22nd overall – Sioux Falls – Reed Whiteside, D, Trenton, Trenton HS
28th overall – Youngstown – Jacob Pritchard, LW, Macomb, Little Caesars

3rd Round
36th overall – Green Bay – Alexander Robert, D, Novi, Honeybaked
39th overall – Sioux Falls – Michael Sabatini, C, Grosse Pointe, Honeybaked
41st overall – Des Moines – Joel L’Esperance, RW, Brighton, Compuware
45th overall – Muskegon – Cole Cassels, C, Dublin, Oh., Blue Jackets

4th Round
46th overall – Muskegon – Corey Schueneman, D, Milford, Little Caesars
59th overall – Chicago – Jacob McNamara, D, Grand Rapids, Victory Honda

5th Round
68th overall – Cedar Rapids – Michael Babcock, F, Northville, Catholic Central
75th overall – Muskegon – Riley Alferd, F, Portland, Ore., L.A. Selects

6th Round
76th overall – Muskegon – Matej Paulovic, RW, Nitra (Slovakia)
78th overall – Dubuque – Zachary Diamantoni, C, Kalamazoo, Compuware
79th overall – Lincoln – Max Humitz, F, Livonia, Stevenson HS
81st overall – Fargo – Dante Suffredini, D, Shelby Township, Belle Tire
82nd overall – Sioux Falls – Bryan Basilico, C, Rochester, Belle Tire
84th overall – Des Moines – Mitch Jones, D, Oakland Township, Honeybaked
89th overall – Chicago – Kameron Limburg, G, Howell, Compuware

USHL Futures Draft - Frequently Asked Questions

USHL Clubs Set for 2011 Futures Draft

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eagles off to chase Dudley Hewitt Cup


The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Soo Eagles gave thanks Friday night to their large number of staff, host parents, volunteers and members of the community, with a dinner at the Christopher Columbus Hall.

The Eagles head to the Dudley Hewitt Memorial Cup in Huntsville, Ont., where they hope to bring back another trophy to Sault Ste. Marie.

The Eagles begin round-robin play on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the Huntsville Otters. On Wednesday, the Eagles will face Wellington at 2 p.m., and on Thursday they will face the Wisconsin Wilderness. The semifinal is Friday with the championship game set for Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

More from HERE.

Photo courtesy

Monday, April 18, 2011

Megna brothers face-off in round 2

By Christopher Heimerman

There came a time when Jayson Megna lost the right to call his kid brother his “little” brother.

“It’s tough calling him my little brother when I need to look up to look him in the eye,” says Jayson, laughing.

In less than a year, Muskegon Lumberjacks defenseman Jaycob Megna grew half a foot to his current height of 6-foot-5. Last summer, he went through a rigorous program – in terms of both diet and workout regimen – to fill out his frame.

“I was eating every two hours, getting up early, eating, going back to bed,” Jaycob says. “It was rough, but it was worth it.”

Jaycob merely whetted his proverbial appetite this past weekend as he posted a pair of assists in Game 2 of the Jacks’ sweep of Team USA in a first-round, best-of-three Clark Cup Playoff series at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. Now he and the Jacks will look to take a bite out of his big brother’s squad, the top-seeded Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the second-round, best-of-five series that opens Wednesday at the Stable in Cedar Rapids.

Last week, Jayson admitted he’s not crazy about running into the Jacks in the postseason.

“It’s always a good battle,” Jaycob says about the season series, in which both teams went 2-1-1. “I don’t think they particularly like the style of game we play. We like to muck it up, and they play a fast, up-tempo game.”

UNO draws two

During his first regular season in the United States Hockey League, Jaycob has amassed 18 points on a goal and 17 assists. Thanks to the strength-training program of Jacks assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier, he’s gotten immensely stronger while adjusting to the frenetic pace of the league.

Jaycob, with the help of his “big” brother, will look to repay the favor to Noel-Bernier when they attend his alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Omaha this fall.

Noel-Bernier is a UNO alumnus and served as its director of hockey operations for three seasons. Now that he’s done all he can to help Jaycob develop, Noel-Bernier is ecstatic to turn him over to his former mentor, Mavericks head coach Dean Blais.

“It’ll be good for him,” Noel-Bernier says. “Dean is known for producing NHL players. He’s tough on guys, but he’s fair. If you play hard for him, he’s going to play you. If anybody can instill an edge into a player, it’s that coaching staff. They’ve been in the business a long time and have tricks that other guys don’t.”

Blais recently was named the head coach of the 2012 U.S. National Junior team.

“He’s a little mesmerizing, to be honest,” Jaycob says. “He’s one of the great figures in college hockey.”

Blais’ associate head coach Mike Hastings previously served as an assistant at the University of Minnesota after 14 seasons as the head coach of the Omaha Lancers, with whom he became the winningest coach in USHL history. Assistant coach Mike Guentzel also is a veteran college hockey coach and came to UNO from the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL, with whom he was the head coach and general manager.

It’s all in the family

The Megna brothers haven’t played together since their time with Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass.

“That was a great year,” Jayson says. “Not a lot of people get the chance to play with their brother. This fall will be a lot easier on our parents, too.”

This season their parents, Jay and Jacqueline, have done their best to split time between Muskegon and Cedar Rapids, where Jayson has racked up 58 points on 30 goals and 28 assists for the RoughRiders in his third USHL campaign.

“Jayson’s had a great year and is probably one of the best goal-scorers in the league,” Noel-Bernier says. “They’re both ready to take the step to the next level, and I’m excited for them.”

Jay Megna played two seasons in the National Football League with the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints, despite his detractors. He stands 5-foot-11, and his sons agree that the best message he offered was one of persistence.

“He taught us a lot growing up,” Jayson says. “He especially taught us about being a competitor and working harder than the next guy. He never wanted to be beat, and that rubbed off on us.”

“A lot of people said the same things about Jayson – he’s too small, he’s too slow, he doesn’t have what it takes,” Jaycob says. “He just kept working and kept working. Now he’s a phenomenal player, and I know he’s going to play in the NHL someday.”

Jaycob says the brothers’ respect for each other is a “two-way street.” But that respect will take a back seat to the drive for the Clark Cup as, for the Jacks, the road to the Eastern Conference finals runs through Cedar Rapids.

USHL Futures Draft set for tomorrow

USHL Futures Draft - Frequently Asked Questions

USHL Clubs Set for 2011 Futures Draft

Whalers finish season with banquet

The Plymouth Whalers concluded the 2010-11 season with an annual awards banquet held last Friday at CJ’s Brewing Company at Compuware Arena.

The following players received awards:

LEADING SCORER and MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, REGULAR SEASON: Right wing Stefan Noesen, who scored a career-best 34 goals with 43 assists for 77 points in 68 games.

REGULAR SEASON LEADING SCORER: Overage center Robbie Czarnik, who tied Noesen in points with 33 goals and 44 assists for 77 points in 61 games.

LEADING SCORER and MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the PLAYOFFS: Overage forward Tyler Brown, who scored three goals with 11 assists for 14 points in 11 playoff games.

BEST DEFENSEMAN: Whalers captain Beau Schmitz, who scored a career-high seven goals with 24 assists for 31 points and was +8 over 48 games.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Noesen, who is rated 35th overall by Central Scouting for the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

UNSUNG HERO: Defenseman Colin MacDonald, who scored a goal with 14 assists for 15 points and was +15 in 68 games.

BLUE COLLAR, HARDEST WORKING PLAYER: Left wing RJ Mahalak, who scored seven goals with 12 assists for 19 points in 56 games.

ROOKIE of the YEAR: Center-right wing Rickard Rakell, who scored 19 goals with 24 assists for 43 points and was +14 in 49 games.

HUMANITARIAN of the YEAR: Center Mitchell Heard, who led the Whalers Community Relations efforts with 64 appearances.

ACADEMIC PLAYERS OF THE YEAR: Goaltender Matt Mahalak and right wing Tom Wilson.

ALICE IAFRATE AWARD (Off-Ice Officials Overage of the Year): Czarnik, a Los Angeles Kings draft pick who will be reporting to Manchester of the American Hockey League.




GRINDER of the YEAR: Overage right wing James Livingston, who has been called up by the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

NEXT UP FOR THE WHALERS: Five Whalers – Stefan Noesen, Rickard Rakell, Garrett Meurs, Dario Trutmann and Matt Mahalak – are all up for the National Hockey League Entry Draft, held June 25-26 in St. Paul, Minn.

Before that, the Whalers will be participating in the annual Ontario Hockey League draft on Saturday, May 7.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wyandotte's Wydo picks Robert Morris

The Motor City Metal Jackets have announced that forward Cody Wydo has committed to Robert Morris University (Atlantic Hockey) for next season.

Wydo, a 20-year-old from Wyandotte, won the North American Hockey League’s regular-season scoring title with 91 points on 40 goals in 58 games. He was also a plus-26.

“I chose Robert Morris because of its commitment to its hockey program and how I’ll fit in over the next four years,” said Wydo. “I’m also excited to attend its highly-ranked business program.”

"Cody’s commitment to the game, on and off the ice, is exemplary,” said Metal Jackets head coach David Cole. “It’s great to see a young player rewarded for his work ethic.”

Wydo, who competed in both NAHL Top Prospects Tournaments this season, is thankful for his opportunity to play in the NAHL and with Motor City.

“The competition in the North Division challenged me and my teammates to be on our game each night,” he said. “It was an exciting two years and now I’m looking forward to working out hard over the summer and competing for a spot in the RMU lineup.”

Wydo is the first player from this year’s Metal Jackets team to commit to a Division I program.

“We’re thankful for Cody’s contributions and we wish him continued success as he embarks on his NCAA career,” Cole added.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Six Questions with Jason Cirone

With the 2010-2011 North American 3 Hockey League season now in the rear-view mirror, Metro Jets head coach Jason Cirone has had time to reflect on the season – what went wrong, what went right, and what’s ahead for the Jets.

Cirone recently sat down with at Lakeland Arena for an in-depth Q & A session.

METROJETSHOCKEY.COM: What were your impressions from a coaching standpoint as to how the season went?

JC: I think we came in under some tough conditions and on Day 1, we only had nine players rostered. We kind of had to feel our way around and call in a few favors to get our roster filled out, but the kids that came in, they did a hell of a job. I thought up until the (NA3HL) Showcase (in October), we were a very competitive team and then we made a few deals to bring a few kids in and made us stronger, but I think at the same time, we kind of fell apart in other areas.

Special teams I don’t think meant what I wanted them to mean this year and I think our goaltending really struggled at times this year, but when they didn’t struggle, the rest of the team struggled, so I don’t think we really put it together from Day 1.

The fortunate and the unfortunate thing is that the last three weekends of the season, I thought was the true team that we could be. We did have the 8-0 loss in Cleveland, but other than that, our goaltending put it together at the same time as the rest of our players and we go out and sweep Quad City, and then they go out and beat St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs. It tells you a little about what we could have accomplished and what we should be able to accomplish next year.

METROJETSHOCKEY.COM: Looking ahead to next season, will it be a major benefit to you being here for the draft, the tryouts, all the summer events, and to know what type of team you want to have and to know now what types of kids you want to recruit?

JC: I think so. I hope what we accomplished this year by bringing in guys like (goaltending coach) Randy (Wilson) and (assistant coach) Sean (Clark) and keeping (associate coach) Jamie (Hayden) and having (head scout) Tim (Ross) around more and watching more games, I hope people take note of that and recognize that we’re trying harder.

(Jets GM) Butch (Wolfe) has done a little changing himself in the way things work and I think we’ve improved the organization. I hope people outside of our organization realize that. It makes it easier to put a team together next year and makes kids want to come here. Tim’s done a lot of work and Sean and Butch and myself and then Randy, he watches probably 500-600 games a year.

There will not be a kid who slips through the cracks and there is not a reason for them to not want to come here with the kind of coaching they’re going to get.

METROJETSHOCKEY.COM: What players stood out from Game 1 to Game 45 this season?

JC: Kids like Matt Stirling, certainly. I think he was our most consistent player, but was he our best player every night? No, but he was never our worst player. He did a great job and led our team in goals (with 24) – that was unexpected.

I think Brett Grech did a great job for us and when he got injured with the cut on the back of his leg and missed eight or nine games, that’s when our team really struggled. That was probably another downfall of our season, when he got injured.

As for other kids, I think Morgan James came in and did a hell of a job for us, considering he didn’t play hockey last year. Tommy Kilgore got a chance to go up and play in the North American Hockey League and really improved his game throughout the year. There were really a lot of kids that came in and just worked hard. Mike Moroso was another kid that came out of AA hockey and scored 20 goals. It’s looking really good for next year, I think.

We had a last-year guy this year, Justin Bennett, who couldn’t find his role all year, and then the last month-and-a-half of the season, he was probably one of our best players, which is a credit to him – he didn’t quit and he played right to the end. I can pretty much say that about all our kids.

I think our whole team, and based on some of the things I heard about last season when there were times we had trouble putting 15 kids on the ice, the last road trip of the season at Quad City, I had to sit three kids out of the lineup because we had too many. I give the kids a lot of credit. They never, ever quit and they worked hard all year. Did they work hard and smart? No, but they’re kids and that’s what we’re here for, to guide them and to teach them. I thank them and I give them a lot of credit for not quitting.

METROJETSHOCKEY.COM: What is your philosophy entering June’s NA3HL draft? Is there a specific type of player you’re after or will it be like in the NHL where you take the best players available?

JC: I think we’ll start out with the best available and are there holes to fill? Definitely. As much as I love our goaltenders from last season (Eric Trunick and Matt Braun), I think we need to upgrade there. That said, if that means them coming in and playing better, great, but we’re not going to be a team that stands pat and gives up eight, nine, 10, 13 goals a night. That’s pretty frustrating not only for me, but for the guys in front of the goalie, too.

I think we look for the best player available and then we go from there and start filling holes. We have two tenders now and I think we’ll use those to fill two gaping holes. We also have two first-round picks and in the first four rounds, we have four or five picks, so we’ll fill holes with those picks with the best players available.

METROJETSHOCKEY.COM: When did the planning for next season start for the Jets?

JC: The planning for next season started with about a month to go in this past season. You’re always thinking about next season no matter what’s happening. Even if we finished first overall and we’re getting ready for the playoffs, you’re always thinking about next year. We’ll meet here at the rink once a week we’ll go over stuff we need to go over, players we want to try and get out here and we’ll be starting our Monday night skates (beginning April 11 at Farmington Hills Ice Arena) so we can look at and evaluate players as a springboard to get themselves ready for North American Hockey League camps.

There is a lot of work to be done, there is a lot of work that’s been done already and it’s pretty exciting to see what’s going to happen and what we hope is going to happen.

METROJETSHOCKEY.COM: This was your first season as a head coach in junior hockey. Was there something you learned about coaching at this level and maybe something you learned about yourself?

JC: One of the things I learned is that it’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon. It’s a long season and I think at the beginning of the year, I don’t want to say I was emotional, but I think I wore it a little on my sleeve than at the end of the year.

I think I learned more from the kids this year, good and bad, than I have in any of my previous years coaching. We had some pretty weird situations this year and a couple of unusual demands and questions, but I think I started with the weirdest it could get, I’m hoping, and I hope I don’t run into any of the situations I ran into this season again.

There were no off-ice problems, but just crazy ‘Can I miss a game to go to a high school dance?’ kind of stuff. I don’t think kids realize that they have to sacrifice to be hockey players and me being what I am and how long I played, I never really heard those kinds of questions and never really thought of a high school dance before a hockey game.

This season was an experience, it was fun and I could probably write a real good book, but I guess I should be ready for any more surprises that are coming because there will always be surprises, I guess.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Muskegon clinches USHL playoff berth

By Christopher Heimerman

There was no pomp and circumstance, no cork-popping, no noisemakers going off at the Patrick household last night.

“There was no celebration,” Muskegon Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “We’re just continuing to focus on what’s ahead.”

Youngstown’s 7-0 loss to Des Moines on Tuesday clinched a Clark Cup playoff berth for the Jacks in their inaugural season in the United States Hockey League, but what’s ahead is a pursuit for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and, of course, the second season.

Patrick has helped a long list of players reach the National Hockey League, and he draws optimism from the closing chapter of the 2009-10 NHL season.

“Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers needed to win in a shootout to get to the second season,” Patrick said, “and they went all the way to the finals. Anything can happen when you give yourself the opportunity to keep playing.”

Before the Jacks begin the postseason, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The Jacks’ magic number to clinch the fifth seed is two, meaning any combination of Jacks wins and Waterloo Black Hawks losses in regulation adding up to two would secure the fifth spot for Muskegon. If the Jacks clinch the fifth spot, they’ll travel to Ann Arbor to face Team USA, against which the Jacks are 3-3-1 this season. On Friday, the Jacks host the Chicago Steel, against which they’re 5-1-0 this season.

Despite Chicago’s struggles and the Jacks’ dominance of them, Jacks defenseman Alexx Privitera is aware of the game’s trap-like nature and knows his club won’t overlook the Steel.

“You don’t overlook them. You really can’t,” Privitera said. “That’s a must-win to lock up that fifth spot.”

Then the Jacks will wrap up their first USHL campaign against debatably their biggest rival, the Indiana Ice on Saturday. The teams split the first two games in the seven-game season set, but the Ice have won the last four matchups.

“It’d be nice to get a victory over those guys just in case we do run into them,” Privitera said. “It would send a message and give us a nice confidence boost.”

While the Jacks have only won two of their last nine, Patrick has been impressed with his club down the stretch.

“Two weekends ago, I liked us in a 2-1 win (over Waterloo) and a 2-1 loss (to Team USA),” Patrick said. “Last weekend, I really liked us in a 5-4 loss in Lincoln. Three of our last four games, I’ve liked a lot about what we’ve done, despite the results.”

Making the postseason is a culmination, says Privitera.

“It’s a long, 60-game year,” Privitera said. “There’s a lot of time to do what you need to do. We’ve got great players, a great staff and we’re focused on what we need to do these next couple of days before finishing the season.”

The Jacks’ body of work featured unimaginable highs and, of course, some lows. But that, Patrick says, is what comes with the territory of playing the premier junior hockey league in North America.

“The USHL is an absolute battle and there are no off nights,” Patrick says. “We’ve found a way to beat a lot of top teams and we’ve dropped games to teams below us, and that shows the parity. There isn’t anybody at the top of this league who’s saying they’re looking forward to their matchup.”

North Stars to stay in Traverse City

Well before the 2011-12 season kicks off, the Traverse City North Stars will be right where they’ve always been: Plying their trade at Centre ICE Arena.

The Stars announced their slate of summer tryout camps, kicking off with the pre-draft camp in May and culminating with the July 29-31 training camp.

“We’ve made some of the same annual in-house evaluations that we’ve made every year at this time, and there really isn’t much to say about that other than to confirm that we’ll continue to play right here in Traverse City,” said majority owner Raj Wiener. “There has been some degree of speculation about that, but it can officially be put to rest.”

The club joined the North American Hockey League in 2005, making the playoffs thrice in its first six seasons, and advancing to its first Robertson Cup national championships last spring. The Stars have ranked among the league’s elite over the past three years, posting a 107-54-13 regular season mark and 11-6 playoff record. Only five other teams can lay claim to that many victories since the start of the 2008-09 campaign.

Even more impressive is the veritable Traverse City-to-college pipeline that is presently gushing with NCAA Division I-quality talent. No fewer than 10 current players or alums have committed to top-tier collegiate hockey programs this year alone – tops in the NAHL – and more than 50 alums have already taken their talents to the proverbial next level.

“That is exactly the goal of junior hockey,” Wiener offered. “To provide opportunities for student-athletes to refine and further their abilities on the ice, in the classroom, and as members of the community. In that respect, we’ve enjoyed tremendous success.”

More than a dozen locally-grown players have suited up for the North Stars over the first six seasons (Scott Ponstein, Joe St. John, Nathan Peterson, Jake Erway, Mike Glaesmer, Spencer Sonneveldt, Eric McLintock, Eric O’Hearn, Dallas Kniss, Sean Burke, Matt Zaremba, Eric Rivard, Chris Dienes, Mitchell Snider, Jared Van Wormer), with the current club boasting four players who learned the sport through the local Grand Traverse Hockey Association youth program and Traverse City high schools.

“The quality of the North American Hockey League product is tremendous,” Wiener continued. “The speed and physicality of the Junior A game, the skill involved are first-rate. That’s why so many colleges come to NAHL rinks and stock their rosters with alums from this league.”

Port Huron goalies contribute to charity

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons are proud to announce that over $800 was raised in the “Saves for Charity” program with E&A Credit Union. E&A made a $1 donation for each save made in 2010-11 home games.

Both the Port Huron Minor Hockey Association and the Diabetes Care Educational Association will be presented with donations of over $400 each as a result of the Saves for Charity program.

“E&A Credit Union is very happy to contribute to the Diabetes Care Educational Association and the Port Huron Minor Hockey Association. The Saves for Charity program is such a great way for E&A Credit Union and the Port Huron Fighting Falcons to give back to our community,” commented Janice Rose, President/CEO of E&A Credit Union.

Six goaltenders made saves in home games for the Fighting Falcons in their inaugural season in the North American Hockey League. Tyler Last led the way with 299 saves in 11 home appearances, while Peter Megariotis was second with 198 saves in his seven starts.

Alex Cantrell, Mason Murovich, Salvatorre Tecci and Anthony Jacaruso also did their part in raising money for these local charities.

The Port Huron Minor Hockey Association (PHMHA) has provided organized youth hockey in Port Huron for over fifty years, and for the past 48 years, the PHMHA has hosted the Pee Wee and Bantam B, A, AA and AAA International Silver Stick Finals. Each year, financial assistance is provided to a limited number of recipients through the Roger Jones Scholarship. For more information or to make a donation, contact the PHMHA at (810) 982-0242 or contact PHMHA President Jim McPhee by phone at (810) 531-6016 or by e-mail at

The Diabetes Care Educational Association (DCEA) is a Michigan-based charity working to help people of all ages control diabetes through education. DCEA supports local diabetes programs that produce tangible results. The Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association is among the biggest supporters of DCEA, “skating for a cause” for diabetes awareness and education. To join Diabetes Care Educational Association, please contact Operations Manager David Goetze at (810) 434-4446.