Monday, February 28, 2011

Former prep rivals tandem well for Jacks

At some point, every adult wishes he was back in high school; however, that might not apply to Charlie Taft or Isaac Kohls.

After all, that would mean they’d again be bitter rivals, whereas they’re currently linemates and enjoying sensational rookie seasons in the United States Hockey League for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Taft won a Minnesota state hockey title before graduating from Edina High School last spring. Kohls’ alma mater was half an hour due East at Hill-Murray High School, from where he graduated in 2009. He helped the Pioneers win the title in 2008 over – you guessed it – Edina.

“I admit I knew more about Isaac than he did about me,” Taft says. “He was the upperclassman stud and I was the up-and-comer. He’s always had great hands. It was horrible trying to get the puck from him in high school.”

These days, Kohls is much more familiar with Taft’s rare skill set.

“He’s impossible to knock off the puck,” Kohls says. “He’s fast. He’s got a great shot. All I have to do is play fast and get the puck up the ice.”

Kohls and Taft rank tied for sixth and eighth, respectively, on the Jacks’ roster in scoring. The stocky 5-foot-9, 190-pound pivot Kohls has 13 goals and 13 assists. Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick doesn’t hesitate to put his wrist shot up there with the best in the league.

“I’d take his up against anybody’s,” Patrick said.

Taft, a 6-1 186-pound right winger who’s emerged as one of the league’s strongest skaters, has 12 goals and 10 assists. Both he and Kohls say they’ve developed a keen sense of where the other will be and when.

“He always knows where I’m going to be, so I just have to get open,” Taft says. “It’s funny. We used to be arch rivals. I always hated playing against him, so it’s funny how we’re linemates now and having so much success.”

Kohls attributes the duo’s immediate success to the preparation that comes with playing high school hockey in Minnesota. The 2009 state title game was played in front of a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 20,000 fans at the Xcel Energy Center.

“The pressure that comes with playing Minnesota hockey helps your prepare for the pressure of the USHL and the big crowds you’ll be playing in front of,” Kohls says. “But I’m still getting used to the competition and the parity in the league. Nothing comes easy.”

Taft always planned to take the USHL route, and was ecstatic to be selected in the fourth round of the 2010 USHL Draft. But he couldn’t have been as pleased as Kohls, who’d tendered with Fresno of the NAHL.

“I obviously wanted to play in the USHL, but I needed to have a backup plan,” Kohls says. “I actually got a text from my NAHL coach while I was at work telling me I got drafted. I couldn’t believe it.”

Things have continued to come up Kohls as of late, as he recently committed to Niagara University and admits the decision relieved his shoulders of some weight. Fellow Jacks forward Chris Lochner also recently committed to playing for the Purple Eagles. Taft is entertaining suitors that include powerhouses such as Colorado College and Boston University.

Both Kohls and Taft insist it hasn’t been easy acclimating to the premier juniors league in the United States.

“I’m still getting used to it a little bit, going from a 30-game high school schedule to a 60-game schedule,” Taft says. “It took me half the season just to get used to the speed and physicality of the league.”

“It’s a great league,” Kohls chimes in. “It’s tough to crack the lineup and even tougher to put up points.”

Kohls, like all USHL skaters, hopes to carve out a career in the NHL someday but, for the moment, he’s simplifying the offense.

“You just need to take it one step at a time,” he says. “I’m looking forward to developing for four more years in college. The idea is to play incredibly well and have NHL teams all over you. You can never rule anything out, but you also have to stay humble."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Metro assistant Clark enjoying coaching

Sean Clark
feels politics is a lot like hockey.

“It’s competitive and you get your share of body contact,” laughed the Metro Jets’ assistant coach recently.

Away from hockey, where Clark is also a scout for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, he ran for Michigan state representative of the 25th district last fall, but didn’t win, losing by a little more than four percent.

“I’m a people person and it was nice to get out into the community and meet my neighbors and leaders from my community and talk about things that are affecting them,” said Clark, a Royal Oak native now living in Warren with his wife of almost four years, Melissa, a school teacher in Detroit. “I went through three pairs of shoes and five pairs of pants. It was a lot of fun, that’s for sure. I knocked on 16,000 doors from June 15 until the election. I had a blast with it, but is it in my future? We’ll see.”

Coming aboard midway through this season, Clark knew what he was getting into when his phone rang and it was Metro head coach Jason Cirone.

“Jason asked me to come help and knew me from our past together at Motor City (of the North American Hockey League) when he was my assistant,” explained Clark. “He asked if I had some free time and if I’d want to come out and help and here we are.”

Clark has come full-circle with the Jets as he previously served as an assistant coach when he was 21 years old during the 2002-2003 season.

“It was a lot of fun,” quipped Clark, who worked under John Romine and Fred Costello during that season.

Clark also practiced with the Jets during the 2000-2001 season, never played a game, and was traded to the NAHL’s Capital Centre Pride, where he played in 10 games. Prior to that, he skated with the Walpole Express of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.

After getting cleared to play, Clark played three full seasons with Division III Wisconsin-Eau Claire (he was hurt when he coached with Metro in ’02-03) and then had a “cup of coffee” by playing four games in the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors after his college career ended in 2006.

His playing days done, Clark’s coaching career got off to a rousing success when he was an assistant coach with Michigan Jaguars Midget AA national championship team (pictured) and then landing with the Motor City Machine (now Metal Jackets) in 2008-2009 where he started as an assistant and then was named head coach when Matt Romaniski was relieved of his duties.

Last year, Clark was the director of player personnel for the Metal Jackets.

While politics may not be in Clark’s future, he’s positive coaching will be.

“I just like going out with the guys in practice and teaching and doing things like that,” said Clark. “Any time I can get on the ice and work with young hockey players, it’s a lot of fun for me. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.”


After losing Friday night in Toledo, 5-2, the Jets returned home and could fare no better against Queen City, getting swept by the Steam Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena.

The scores of 5-2 and 11-3 notwithstanding, Cirone was clearly unhappy after Sunday’s game.

“It is what it is, but the way we played all weekend had the signs of a team that’s not going to the playoffs,” Cirone said. “Some of our guys don’t understand the implications of what they’re still playing for and that’s jobs for next year. Some feel comfortable enough to think that they’ll have a job here next year, but with 12 wins this year, changes will need to be made for next year if we want to succeed.”

In the first game against Queen City, Matt Stirling and Justin Bennett scored the Jets’ goals and Eric Trunick stopped 26 shots in goal.

Sunday afternoon, Bennett, captain Morgan James and Mike Moroso tallied for Metro, while Trunick and Matt Braun combined for 25 saves.

“I was extremely disappointed with our effort this weekend,” added Cirone. “This applies to the whole team. I think our captain showed up, but you can only lead so long before the other guys stop following. A lot of our guys are playing for all the wrong reasons right now.”

The Jets (12-27-1-0) close out the home portion of the season this Saturday night against Cleveland at 7:40 p.m. after what Cirone said will be a normal practice week.

“We have looked so well and done so many good things at practice, but it never transfers over into games,” said Cirone. “Repetition is the only way to get things done, so we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing and see what happens Saturday night.”


Stirling was Metro’s lone player selected to the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament and played in two games at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich., Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon.

He scored the game-winner for Team Black in Monday’s 4-3 win over Team Red.

“Matt has been our most consistent player this season and shows up every game and every practice,” said Cirone. “He definitely earned his way onto that team.”

Team Black topped Team Red, 4-2, Sunday afternoon.

Ex-Jets defenseman Tyler Schofield, now playing for the Michigan Mountain Cats, recorded an assist for Team Red Monday afternoon.


Eric Ehn is a 1st Lt. in the Air Force working in the space and missiles career field at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Ehn played for the Jets during the 2000-2001 season before eventually playing Division I hockey for Air Force, where he was a Hobey Baker finalist in 2007.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ex-Jack to drop puck in Muskegon Friday

Frank Pietrangelo
is thoroughly excited to be back in Muskegon.

The Niagara Falls, Ont., native was a goaltender for the Muskegon Lumberjacks from 1986 to 1990, and helped the team win a Turner Cup in 1989. Two years later, he hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It’s no coincidence that we won the Stanley Cup together,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of the players – Mark Recchi, Kevin Stevens, and the list goes on – those were guys I played with in Muskegon.

“I’ve had nothing but great memories from Muskegon. Any time you win and have success, you’ll have fantastic memories. That’s where I went through a lot of development as a hockey player.”

Pietrangelo, 48, currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ont., and is the head coach of Hill Academy, one of the 10 AAA Midget Major teams taking part in the inaugural Muskegon Winter Showcase at the L.C. Walker Arena and Lakeshore Sports Centre this weekend. While it town, he’ll drop the ceremonial first puck for the Lumberjacks’ United States Hockey League game against the Dubuque Fighting Saints on Friday night.

“We’re looking forward to the whole weekend,” Pietrangelo said. “Any time you get 10 clubs like these together, it should be some great hockey. We’re very excited to see two USHL games and educate our guys about it. It’s a great hockey league with a lot of players bound for the NCAA and, someday, the NHL.”

Pietrangelo played in 99 games with the Lumberjacks in the now-defunct International Hockey League. He also played more than 140 games in the National Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hartford Whalers.

He is perhaps best known for his play during the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs in place of injured starting goaltender Tom Barrasso. In Game 6 of the opening round against the New Jersey Devils, Pietrangelo helped the Penguins stave off elimination with an improbable glove save against Peter Stastny. The play, which would become known simply as “The Save,” helped the Penguins win the game and the series – en route to hoisting the most prized cup in hockey.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Muskegon's Lochner decides on Niagara

Muskegon Lumberjacks
center Chris Lochner, who has enjoyed an impressive rookie season in the United States Hockey League, recently verbally committed to Niagara University.

The 21-year-old Alpharetta, Ga., native has stuffed the stat sheet with 12 goals and 13 assists. His 25 points are the fifth highest on a Lumberjacks team that is third in the league in scoring at 3.33 goals per game.

A 5-foot-7, 155-pound pivot, Lochner is masterful in the faceoff circle and has impressed on the Jacks’ special team units. He’s posted three power-play goals, three power-play assists and two short-handed assists.

“Once he adjusted to this league, he became one of our most solid players,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. ““He has been very good on the penalty kill and one of our top faceoff men all year.”

Lochner honed his skills with Atlanta Fire Youth Hockey and is in his fourth year of juniors. Last season he racked up 85 points in 56 games for the Villanova Knights of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He will join Jacks centerman Isaac Kohls at Niagara, which is a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association.

“After college, the sky’s the limit,” Lochner said. “Thanks to the USHL’s preparation – the speed of the league, the competition and what’s asked of you - the goal is to someday play the NHL. What’s most important is that I’ll have a career after college.”

Lochner heavily leaned on Patrick before pulling the trigger and accepting a full scholarship to play for the Purple Eagles.

“He drew attention from a number of Division I schools,” Patrick said. “Niagara saw his versatility and they see him being a great fit in their system.”

Photo by Dave Reginek

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Okemos' Beckman picks Holy Cross

The Amarillo Bulls have announced that defenseman Karl Beckman has committed to Holy Cross (Atlantic Hockey) for the 2012-13 season.

Beckman, a 19-year-old from Okemos, has two goals and 12 assists through 41 games this season. He leads all North American Hockey League defensemen with a plus-25 rating.

“It’s a great achievement for Karl and the Amarillo Bulls hockey team,” said Bulls head coach Dennis Williams. “He’s been an absolute terrific player who keeps improving every time out. “Karl strives to get better every single day. His hard work has paid off this season and Holy Cross is not only getting a great hockey player, but an even better person.”

Beckman, who returned from a visit earlier this week from Holy Cross, which is located in Worcester, Mass., said the tour helped him with the final decision.

“I loved the campus and the school was just fantastic,” Beckman said. “I'm really excited at this opportunity that they've presented me. I can’t wait to get started out there.”

Beckman also thanked the Bulls coaching staff, along with his midget coach, Dean Dixon, who mentored Beckman as a member of the North American Prospects Hockey League’s Lansing Capitals.

“He pushed me to junior hockey,” said Beckman. “He’s really helped me along the way.

“I want to also thank my family for their support and being there to further my hockey career.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TC's Schmidt commits to Ferris State

As a student at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central High School, Connor Schmidt became acutely aware of Ferris State University hockey.

The head coach and a school administrator had played there, and would regale Falcons players with tales of their college hockey experiences.

“Yeah, we heard all about Ferris from Coach (Jim) Baker and Mr. (Todd) Steinmentz, who was the dean of discipline at St. Mary,” Schmidt recalled. “But it got me following the program, thinking more about Ferris, and how it would be a great place to get to play and go to school.”

The feeling is apparently mutual, as Schmidt committed last week to pen his own collegiate lore at Ferris State. The Traverse City North Stars’ rookie defenseman joins fellow blueliner Zack Dorer as future Bulldogs, with a trio of Stars alums – Kyle Bonis, Andy Huff and Garrett Thompson – already in Big Rapids.

“Connor is as big a competitor as you’re going to find,” said Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “He has one speed, and that’s ‘go’. He’s an excellent skater, and has a lot of all-around skills. He’s a young player who has assumed a pretty healthy load already on the power play, the penalty kill. He can do a lot of things and Ferris just got themselves another very good defenseman.”

Schmidt (5-foot-10, 175 lbs.) has enjoyed a breakout rookie campaign in the North American Hockey League, scoring five goals and assisting on 11 others through 40 outings, and registering a team-best +17 plus-minus rating. He spurred a two-game sweep of Michigan back in November with a pair of goals and three assists. He had 16 goals and 23 helpers in 78 games with the storied Little Caesar’s midget majors in 2009-10.

“I guess I’ve been an offensive defenseman,” Schmidt assessed. “I’m not that big, but I try to provide a spark, whether it’s on a breakout, a hit, a fight, or whatever.”

Schmidt, who was drafted by Green Bay of the United States Hockey League, is still a junior at Traverse City Central High School and won’t enroll at FSU until the fall of 2012. In the mean time, he has a Robertson Cup playoff berth to chase.

“The college scholarship was really the only individual goal I had for the year,” he said. “Really, we have a solid season going and our focus is still to get to the postseason and make a deep run.”

Schmidt is the sixth current North Stars player to commit to a Division I program, along with Dorer, Kelin Ainsworth (Lake Superior State), Tyler Marble (LSSU), Chris Dienes (Western Michigan) and Alec Shields (Mercyhurst). Alumni Doug Clifford (Niagara), Nilan Nagy (Holy Cross) and C.J. Motte (Ferris) have also committed this year. Traverse City is among the most confluent NCAA pipelines in the NAHL, with nearly 60 players committing to college programs in the team’s 5 ½-year history.

“That’s was our main priority when we got involved was to move kids on to college programs,” Palumbo said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to find some kids who have had college potential, and that’s helped us win a few games around here, too.”

Like most athletes who achieve elevated strata, Schmidt has enjoyed hearty backing on many fronts.

“I’ve had very supportive parents who have been there for me even in rough patches,” he explained. “They’ve helped keep me going. I’ve also had some great coaches along the way – Billy Ciraulo and Glen Murray with Little Caesar’s, Jim Baker at St. Mary, and Coach Palumbo, Coach Chad (Fournier), Coach (Mike) Matteucci in Traverse City. The entire North Stars organization has been great – the Wieners, my housing family the Surgalskis – it’s been a good program and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to play junior hockey at that next level.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fighting Falcons to return for 2011-2012

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the North American Hockey League today announced that they will return to McMorran Arena for the 2011-12 season. The expansion team is currently in their first season in the NAHL.

This month, the team began to offer its current season ticket holders a drastically reduced rate for next season’s tickets. At $135, current ticket holders who renew their tickets in February could save over $80 per ticket over this year’s rate.

“As a member of this community, I know that people have been wondering if we would be returning for a second season,” said general manager Marty Haddad. “We want to make it as clear as possible that we absolutely will be back and that owner Maribeth Hayes is committed to Port Huron.

“Ms. Hayes made that commitment clear to [Fighting Falcons head coach] Bill [Warren] and me in a conference we had with her several weeks ago, the culmination of which was signing Bill to a new contract."

“We’re already taking ticket orders for next season, and with a full off-season to prepare for next year, we are extremely confident about the on-ice product we will be able to present to our fans,” added Haddad.

Warren has signed a contract extension that will keep him calling the shots through next season. Per team policies, details of the deal will not be released. The Fighting Falcons have become a much more competitive team under Warren, who became the team’s second head coach in early January.

Ernie Hicke, the team’s original head coach and general manager, was fired in late December, after the team won just one of their first 26 games.

“I am completely committed to this team and I’m excited about the future here,” said Warren. “With that being said, in no way are any of us overlooking the rest of this season. We still have a lot of goals that we feel we are capable of achieving by the end of the year.

“With an all-local front office staff, we know that we can and must do a better job of staying active in our community. We see the same potential in Port Huron as Ernie did when he fought to bring this team here last summer and we’re thankful for the hard work he and Shane (Hicke) put into making this team a reality. Now it’s up to us to give the Blue Water Area the team they deserve night in and night out.”

The Fighting Falcons have been very active in the community since Warren took over, making several appearances at local schools. The Blue Water Council of Boy Scouts of America sold roughly 500 tickets to last Friday’s game as part of the team’s fund raising program. The team is also a sponsor of Mercy Hospital’s Vineyards of the World event on February 25 to benefit the People’s Clinic.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hudson: Jets today, NAHL next season?

Dan Hudson led Chelsea High School in scoring last year and after being drafted by the Metro Jets last year, signed with the team with the hopes of being a big-time scorer in the North American 3 Hockey League.

Hudson has been among the top ten scorers much of the year for the Jets and entering this weekend his 12 goals and 21 points rank sixth among all Metro skaters.

While stats may not be all there is to looking at Hudson, he feels his game has developed this season under the Jets’ coaching staff to the point where he can crack a North American Hockey League roster next fall.

“(Metro head coach) Jason (Cirone) is a great coach, as are all of our assistants,” said Hudson. “Jason’s goal all year long has to be able to move us to the next level. He makes that clear everyday. I think we’ve all learned so much from him. I mean, he played pro hockey for almost 20 years and the knowledge he has of the game is just tremendous.”

Hudson, a 19-year-old Gregory native, admittedly didn’t know much about the NA3HL or even junior hockey for that matter when the Jets drafted him last May, but once his coach at Chelsea explained the process of how junior hockey works, Hudson took a look at what the Jets could offer and quickly signed on the dotted line.

“Metro is one of the closer teams to where I’m from and when I looked at my options, I realized I could come here and develop,” said Hudson. “It’s been everything I hoped for and then some. I went to a few junior camps last summer and kind of had it in my head that I was ready for the NAHL and I wasn’t. I think by playing for Metro this year that I’ll be ready for the NAHL next season.”

Hudson started this season on a line with Brett Grech and Tommy Burns, but is now playing with Cameron Bazin and Travis Hargett.

“When I was with Grech and Burns, we put up a lot of points,” explained Hudson. “Now that I’m with Bazin and Hargett, we’re starting to click, too. We’re still working out some kinks, but all three of us are really connecting.”

At the start of the year, Hudson said he set some modest personal goals he felt were within reach, but even though he’s not at his goal yet, the development his game has undergone doesn’t show up in numbers.

“I think I’ve improved in the defensive zone and as a defensive centerman,” Hudson said. “I’ve always been good on the cycle and at breaking down the slot and that’s been an area where I’ve improved this season. I think if I’m going to make an NAHL team next year, I’ll need to work on my skating and get a little faster.

“I feel I’ve gotten better this year and can continue to get better. If I want to move up, that’s the only way.”


The Jets played two tough games on the road in St. Louis last weekend, but dropped both to the Jr. Blues, including a heartbreaker Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, the two teams were tied, 2-2, going into the third period, but Cooper Mitchell broke the tie at 18:19and then Bo Eastman iced it at 19:54 to give St. Louis, the defending Tier III Junior A national champions, a 4-2 win.

Matt Stirling, with his team-best 20th goal, and Hudson scored for the Jets, while Matt Braun finished with 36 saves in net.

Saturday afternoon, Mike Moroso scored Metro’s lone goal in a 4-1 loss.

Braun made 34 saves suffering the defeat.

This weekend, the Jets (12-22-1-0) travel to Flint on Saturday night and then host Flint Sunday afternoon for a 1:20 p.m.puck drop at Lakeland Arena.


Metro didn’t make any trades at the NA3HL trade deadline last Sunday, but added two forwards in Shane Halaas (Chesterfield) and the returning Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) and released forward Matt Elswick (Gaylord).

Kilgore started the season with the Jets, but was signed by the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons on Jan. 28 and played three games in Port Huron. Halaas also began the season in Port Huron, registering two goals and three assists in 26 games before being released on Jan. 7.

Elswick posted three goals and seven points in 22 games for the Jets.

Stirling was named Thursday to play in the NA3HL Top Prospects Game, which will be played on Monday, Feb. 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor, Mich. Former Jets’ defenseman Tyler Schofield (2008-2010), now with the Michigan Mountain Cats, was also named to play in the game.


Former Metro defenseman Colin Ronayne, who played for the Jets during the 2005-2006 season, is finishing up his senior season with Oakland University’s ACHA Division I team.

Ronayne, a Commerce, Mich., native, was named captain of the Grizzlies this year and has recorded three goals and six assists for nine points in 33 games with OU this season.

After playing for the Jets, Ronayne spent one season with the Syracuse Stars of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Plymouth native Beck picks Canisius

The Kenai River Brown Bears have announced that forward Doug Beck has committed to Canisius College (Atlantic Hockey) for next season.

Beck, a 20-year-old from Plymouth, ranks eighth in NAHL scoring this season with 23 goals and 49 points through 42 games.

“Doug’s been loyal, stuck with, and bought into what we’ve asked of him,” said Brown Bears head coach Oliver David. “I’m ecstatic for him that he’s earned the opportunity to play Division I hockey for Canisius.”

Beck is the first player who competed in the season’s first North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament, which was held in Massachusetts in December, to commit to a Division I school following the event.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Traverse City adds goalie, forward

In a jam-packed and highly-competitive North American Hockey League North Division, the Traverse City North Stars are fighting for their postseason lives each weekend.

With eight teams jockeying for four postseason berths, and the NAHL trading deadline looming, Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo and staff decided to add to their considerable coffers on Tuesday, bringing in Amarillo goaltender Steve Bolton and forward Justin Scott from Fargo of the USHL.

“Based on where we’re at, this was one of the first times we went out and looked to fill some needs,” Palumbo explained. “We had a veteran team last year that didn’t need as much tweaking, but with all the new faces this year, we’re still tinkering with the roster on deadline day.”

Bolton (5-11/185 lbs.) began his junior career with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, going 8-6-0 in 20 appearances during the 2009-10 season. He started five games for the Storm this season before landing in the NAHL with New Mexico for one game and Amarillo for eight. He was 4-3-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .904 save percentage this year with the Bulls and was selected to play for Team South in the upcoming NAHL Top Prospects all-star event in Ann Arbor.

Traverse City sent defenseman Alex Wiese to Amarillo for the Las Vegas native.

“We’re sorry to see Alex go, but you have to give up a good player to get a good player when there’s a need,” Palumbo said. “They (Amarillo) needed a power play defenseman, we needed someone to come here and pair up with Tyler (Marble), and we feel we helped our club overall by getting Steve Bolton.”

Scott (5-11/195 lbs.), a Detroit product, appeared in 12 games with Fargo this year, picking up an assist to go with 24 penalty minutes and a +1 plus-minus rating. He spent the latter half of 2009-10 with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, with a goal and four assists over nine regular season games, and combusted in the playoffs for seven goals and 11 helpers in 15 postseason outings.

“Justin’s a Michigan kid, he wanted to be here,” Palumbo explained. “He brings grit and toughness, and he has the scoring touch as well. We added another player to the roster who can help us win games.”

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Warriors' Tadazak commits to West Point

The Michigan Warriors have announced that goaltender Robert Tadazak has committed to the United States Military Academy and will attend and play hockey for Army starting this fall.

Tadazak, a 20-year-old native of Lapeer went on an official visit three weeks ago and made his commitment known to Black Knights head coach Brian Riley on Monday.

"What a great opportunity for Robert," Warriors coach Moe Mantha said. "Going into the Army is a long-term commitment and while I know Robert would like to play pro hockey someday, serving your country while still playing hockey was something he couldn't turn down. He has made the entire Warriors organization proud with this decision."

“I chose Army because it's such a great opportunity, both in hockey and education,” said Tadazak. “Every year, they are ranked in the top five in education. I also know that with a West Point education, I come out debt-free because everything gets paid for and I come out with a guaranteed job so I can support my family right away. How many college grads can say that?”

Tadazak also said that he expects his life to change and for the better by going to West Point.

“When I went on my visit, everyone was in uniform and clean-shaven, nothing was out of place and in the classroom, everyone was focused,” said Tadazak. “This will definitely be a challenge, but it will help with my character and make me a better student and person.”

Once he graduates, Tadazak will have to serve five years in the service. That’s another aspect of going to Army that Tadazak saw as a positive situation.

“After my five years, I can either stay in the military or go to the civilian life and get a job, but who knows, I may like the military life,” said Tadazak. “The great thing about getting a degree from West Point is that businesses will be trying to persuade me to work there once they see my resume, not me trying to persuade them.

“I am definitely looking forward to this opportunity and have to thank (head) coach (Moe) Mantha, (assistant) coach (Kevin) Carlile, my teammates, the whole organization of the Warriors and most of all, my family for always believing in me and giving me the chance to further my education and my hockey career.”

Tadazak is 15-6-3 this season in 28 games with a 2.11 goals-against average and an NAHL-best .936 save percentage to go along with four shutouts.

Two other Warriors have committed to Division I programs as defenseman Mike Szuma committed earlier this season to the University of Michigan (CCHA) and forward Andrew Kolb will be off to Michigan Tech University (WCHA) this fall.

Army is a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association and the Academy is located in West Point, N.Y.

Monday, February 07, 2011

North Stars team up with Father Fred

When does one dollar equal two? When it’s The Father Fred Foundation Frostbite Food Drive.

The Traverse City North Stars are joining the effort to re-stock the region’s food pantry, kicking off the February Face-off for The Father Fred Foundation, in support of the Foundation’s 17th annual food drive.

Fans who donate a non-perishable food item at North Stars home games on Feb. 11, 12, 13 and 18 will receive $1 off admission, with an additional $1 donated to Father Fred by the team. Additionally, Frostbite Food Drive sponsor Fox Motors will distribute hats to the first 50 fans at the North Stars’ games on Feb. 13 and 18.

“The Father Fred Foundation is an organization that has done a lot of good for a lot of people over the years in our community, so let’s all ‘show our goodness’ and do our part to make sure the food pantry is well-stocked,” suggested Stars mascot Wild Cherry.

The Frostbite Food Drive runs from Feb. 11-20, with Traverse City collection sites at Garfield Plaza (near Agave Mexican restaurant) and Fox Motors (on US-31 S across from Meijer). Donors can also visit the Foundation’s website ( to ‘Click the Can’ and make a cash contribution. All cash donations are matched dollar-for-dollar.

The food items that are most needed by the food pantry include Baby Food/Infant Formula/Diapers, Canned Fruit packed in water or its own juice, Canned Kidney/Navy Beans, Canned Pastas/Hash, Canned Pork and Beans, Canned Stews/Chili, Canned Tuna/Chicken packed in water, Dried Beans/Peas, Dried Fruits, Evaporated/Powdered Milk, Lower Sodium Canned Soups, Peanut Butter, Rice-All varieties, Tomato paste/sauce, Toothpaste/Toilet Paper/Bar Soap, Unsweetened Cereals (Hot and Cold), and Whole Wheat Pasta.

The Father Fred Foundation serves residents of the Grand Traverse region (Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau Counties) who have emergency needs. To donate, volunteer, or for more information, visit

Friday, February 04, 2011

Warriors announce first eight tenders

The Michigan Warriors have signed eight players to tenders for the 2011-2012 season, the team announced Thursday.

Forwards Jordan Cosby (Norcross, Ga./Thunder U18AAA), Joseph Ferriss (Novi/Novi High School), Ryan Parker (Clark Lake/Victory Honda U18 AAA) and Ali Thomas (New York, NY/Chicago Young Americans U18 AAA), defensemen Kenny Miloser (Brighton/Howell High School), Derek O’Flynn (Canton/Honeybaked U18 AAA) and Matt Vermillion (South Lyon/Little Caesars U18 AAA) and goaltender Andrew Brownlee (Howell/Howell High School) signed with the Warriors and the team now has their exclusive rights for next season, though signing a tender does not guarantee a player a roster spot.

A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted 10 tenders - plus or minus any trades - which become active on Nov. 1. Tendered players are not eligible for the NAHL draft.

Of the 10 tenders, two must be used on players from the North American Prospects Hockey League. Cosby is the team’s first NAPHL tender. The Warriors will sign two more players prior to the NAHL draft in May, including one more from the NAPHL.

A breakdown of the eight tenders follows, with comments from Warriors’ director of scouting Tom Boileau.

Andrew Brownlee, G, catches right, 6-foot/175 lbs., 1993 birthdate, Howell, Mich., Howell High School – “A big game player. One of the very top 1993 goaltenders in the state.”

Jordan Cosby, F, right shot, 6-foot-2/195 lbs., 1993 birthdate, Norcross, Ga., Thunder U18 AAA – “A workhorse. Never takes a shift off and is very tough to play against.”

Joseph Ferriss, F, right shot, 6-foot-1/175 lbs., 1992 birthdate, Novi, Mich., Novi High School – “A player who makes everyone around him better. Has the uncanny knack to find the open man. A true team player.”

Kenny Miloser, D, left shot, 6-foot/190 lbs., 1993 birthdate, Brighton, Mich., Howell High School – “One of Michigan’s top high school players. Multi-time national champion at the AAA level.”

Derek O’Flynn, D, right shot, 6-foot-3/195 lbs., 1994 birthdate, Canton, Mich., Honeybaked U18 AAA – “Young defenseman with huge upside who will flourish under the Warriors’ system.”

Ryan Parker, F, left shot, 6-foot-3/190 lbs., 1993 birthdate, Clark Lake, Mich., Victory Honda U18 AAA – “A top recruiting priority. A power forward with a playmaking and scoring touch.”

Ali Thomas, F, left shot, 6-foot-3/200 lbs., 1992 birthdate, New York, NY, Chicago Young Americans U18 AAA – “Has size, speed, skill, range and scoring ability. Is the full package and a can’t-miss prospect.”

Matt Vermillion, D, left shot, 6-foot-2/190 lbs., 1993 birthdate, South Lyon, Mich., Little Caesars U18 AAA – “Has size, strength, experience and leadership. A veteran AAA defenseman.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Holt's Dorer commits to Ferris State

Growing up in the greater Lansing municipality of Holt, Zack Dorer made the 140-mile round trip to Plymouth three or four times a week to play pee wee youth travel hockey.

While his parents packed the miles on their vehicles, a young Dorer resolved to make the sport of hockey his sole athletic focus.

Following an ultra-successful stint with the midget major Lansing Capitals in 2009-10, and a fantastic rookie season with the Traverse City North Stars this year, Dorer has taken the next step in his hockey career – committing to play his college hockey at Ferris State University.

“It’s very exciting, obviously,” said Dorer, who is slated to officially achieve his NCAA hockey aspiration when he graduates high school in May 2012. “I played baseball, golf and football growing up, but hockey has been my favorite sport since I was young. I made it my goal to play Div. I college hockey, and it’s pretty satisfying to have committed to one of my top schools of choice.”

Dorer, who racked up 15 goals and assists on 25 others in 55 games with Lansing last season, has appeared in 30 games with Traverse City this year. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder has three goals and four assists, including a pair of shorthanded helpers – and boasts a +7 plus-minus rating with TC.

“Zack is a great kid with a tremendous amount of upside,” said North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “Given the presence of he and a couple of our other young defenseman, we were able to round out our defensive unit with a nice mix of youth and (junior) experience and Zack has been a big part of that. He’s responsible in our own end, and has the tools to provide some offensive punch from back there, too. We see the same things that Ferris sees – a very productive player with an immense amount of upside as well.”

Dorer cites a laundry list of coaches who have helped him achieve prominence in midgets, juniors and beyond, including Capitals coach Dean Dixon, youth coach Derek Szajner (now with Compuware midget major club), Capitals founder John Bowkus, skating coach John Martin, and the North Stars’ staff.

“Coach Dixon has been there throughout the entire process giving me advice and helping me through, and coach Palumbo has been there as well,” Dorer explained. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of coaches supporting me along the way.”

Additionally, Dorer says his families – both biological and billet – also deserve credit for his successes.

“My parents drove countless miles, driving me back and forth, and are always behind me 100 percent in whatever I decide to pursue,” he explained. “And now being up here away from home, I have been lucky to end up with a housing family (Eddie and Molly Albert) that has put me in a great environment, in terms of living conditions and support. There are a lot of people who have played a part in getting me to this stage of my career.”

Dorer still has some time to go in juniors before moving on to the collegiate ranks, but says he’d be happy to spend that time with the North Stars.

“I’d love to be able to come back here (next season) and graduate from high school here,” he said. “We’ll see after the USHL Draft and what happens over the summer, but this has been a great place for me to live and play, and I’m thankful for all of it. But there is still a lot of season to go, and we still have a lot of wins ahead of us, and a lot of goals to attain this year.”

Dorer is the fifth current North Stars player to commit to a D-I program, along with Kelin Ainsworth (Lake Superior State), Tyler Marble (LSSU), Chris Dienes (Western Michigan) and Alec Shields (Mercyhurst). Alumni Doug Clifford (Niagara), Nilan Nagy (Holy Cross), and C.J. Motte (Ferris) have also committed this year.

Future Lumberjack Seeler picks UNO

The future just keeps getting brighter for the Muskegon Lumberjacks and their recent draft pick, Nick Seeler.

The future Jack and current senior at Eden Prairie High School recently committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Muskegon drafted Seeler in the 17th round (246th overall) of the 2010 USHL Entry Draft. The Jacks’ scout in Minnesota, Chris LaCombe, identified Seeler’s rare skill set and pegged him for the draft.

Seeler, a 6-foot, 175-pound defenseman, has 28 points on seven goals and 21 assists in just 16 games with the Eagles this season. He’ll join the Lumberjacks next season.

“We’re very excited for Nick and the opportunities ahead of him,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “We’re looking forward to his time in Muskegon, and we’ll do everything we can to prepare him for the next level and help him on his path to someday play in the NHL.”

Patrick says Seeler’s gritty style of play will make him a perfect fit in the Jacks’ system.

“He’s a hard-nosed defenseman who plays with an edge,” Patrick said. “He’s a guy who will always stick up for his teammates, but he’s also got the skills to jump into the play and contribute offensively.”

Ten current Lumberjacks are committed to a Division I institution, while Seeler becomes the second future Lumberjack to make a verbal commitment, as Joe Cox committed to Michigan State University during the offseason.

Jacks defenseman Jaycob Megna is also committed to UNO, as is his older brother Jayson, who leads all USHL skaters with 23 goals. UNO joined the WCHA this 2010-11 season, and the Mavericks are 10-6-2 in their first campaign in the powerhouse conference.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Hargett a mature 16-year-old for Jets

Travis Hargett is the youngest player for the Metro Jets, but has shown a mature side that has impressed his coaching staff and teammates to the point where they wonder if he really is just 16 years of age.

Coming into this season, Hargett was a forward by trade, but early on in the season was moved back to defense and had moderate success. While it was a big adjustment at first, Hargett found no need to complain.

“Travis has been trying to find a role for us and I think by being moved to defense, he’s learned how to take care of his own zone more effectively,” Metro head coach Jason Cirone said. “Back when we played St. Louis at home (last November), he was probably our best defenseman. Once we got some more ‘D’ through trades and free agency, we put Travis back at forward and while he occasionally makes mistakes young guys make, that’s something that will improve with experience.”

“Before this season, I hadn't played defense other than in practice for any team,” explained Hargett, who scored his first goal of the season last Sunday against Battle Creek. “It definitely made me a more well-rounded player and knowing defense makes my game as a forward easier to understand. After playing defense, the way I move on the ice without the puck has improved a lot.”

A native of Clarkston, Hargett played last season for Clarkston High School’s varsity team, but grew up playing at Lakeland Arena. He had long followed the Jets and hoped that one day he’d be able to lace up the skates for the squad.

“Knowing about the Jets, I wondered if I would ever be in that position,” Hargett said. “Then over this summer, my dad was at the rink for my brother’s practice and he saw (Metro head) scout Tim Ross. He invited me out to a skate that was later that day. I came out and kept skating with them and then (Jets GM) Butch (Wolfe) offered me a spot. I have always looked for a way to move up and play for the next level. I decided that is what I wanted after playing one year of varsity hockey.”

Making the jump from high school hockey to Junior A was an adjustment at first, said Hargett, but as the season wore on, Hargett found his comfort level and has been improving each day.

”I feel like I'm into the swing of things pretty well now,” said Hargett. “Speed and strength are what separates this league from high school hockey. The change was very noticeable, especially in how fast all the players think.”

The Jets also have several junior veterans on the team and having those players as mentors has been nothing but a positive situation for Hargett.

“Stepping into this team, everyone tells me little things that make my game better,” said Hargett. “I can usually find someone who can help me out if I have a question about what needs to be done. (Brett) Grech and the older guys have told me a lot of little things in between drills and shifts during games so I can improve.”

Hargett also said that his long-term hockey goals are to go as far as he can. Cirone thinks Hargett has the potential to move up, but one step at a time.

“Travis is a kid that comes to the rink every day, pays his dues and accepts his role,” said Cirone. “He plays his own style of game and I think he can make the jump to the next level, but another year here with us definitely wouldn’t hurt his development. His role right now is limited, but that’s just because of his age and our depth. I’d think that would change next season.”


The Jets broke even last weekend, losing to Toledo at home Saturday night, 7-3, and then rebounding for a 4-0 shutout on the road at Battle Creek Sunday afternoon.

Matt Stirling, Tommy Burns and Matt Stemkoski scored in the Toledo game, while Grech assisted on all three and Eric Trunick made 31 saves in goal.

Toledo captain Chad Tickner had a goal and two assists and Justin Locante two goals to lead the Cherokee attack.

“The loss to Toledo was really disappointing,” Cirone said. “We showed in the second period the kind of team we can be, but then when we allowed that third goal, which I felt was a weak goal, we just fell apart.”

Sunday afternoon, Matt Braun stopped all 33 shots he faced for his first NA3HL shutout, first Jets’ shutout of the year and the team’s fourth straight win this season against Battle Creek.

“Matt was outstanding for us,” Cirone said. “Battle Creek works extremely hard and created a lot of chances just based on that.”

Justin Bennett tallied a goal and two assists and Mike Moroso, Hargett and Stirling added the other goals to go along with two assists from Cameron Bazin.

The Jets (12-20-1-0) play two games in St. Louis this weekend against the defending Tier III Junior A national champion Jr. Blues, currently in second place in the NA3HL standings. Game times (EST) are 3 p.m. Saturday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday.

“We need the points more than they do,” said Cirone. “St. Louis is a hard-working team and we’re going to have to work harder than them this weekend. It’ll be a good challenge for us and we’ll see what we’re made of.”


Grech is on a seven-game point streak where he has recorded 14 points on four goals and 10 assists … Stirling has scored six goals in his last five games … Braun has won his last two starts – last Sunday and back on Dec. 12 at Chicago … Defenseman Ian Costello has played in just 13 games this season, but Metro has won six of the games in which he’s played.


Forward Tommy Kilgore, who started this season with the Jets and scored 12 goals and 25 points in 31 games, made his NAHL debut last Friday and Saturday night with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons and stands a good chance of staying in Port Huron the rest of the season.

Kilgore, an 18-year-old from Pinckney, was held pointless in the two games at Traverse City last weekend.

LINK: Kilgore uses Jets as springboard to NAHL

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images