Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Whalers sign 2011 draft pick Mistele

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 15-year-old left wing Matthew Mistele, who was selected by the Whalers in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2011 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Mistele - 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds from Whitby, Ont. - scored 43 goals with 34 assists for 77 points and 50 penalty minutes in 60 games last season for the Whitby Wildcats. He participated in the Whalers rookie orientation May 20-21, scoring a goal and an assist in two scrimmages.

“I’m really excited to sign,” said Mistele in a telephone interview. “Everyone was nice in Plymouth and Mr. (Mike) Vellucci seems like a really good coach. Tell everyone in Plymouth I’m ready to give my all.”

“Our scouts really liked him last year and we liked what saw at rookie orientation,” said Vellucci. “We think in time he’ll grow into a power forward who can score. Matthew is a young man with good hands.”

Mistele (who turns 16 in October) patterns himself after Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and scored three hat tricks and six two-goal games last season in Whitby.

Photo by Rena Laverty

Friday, May 27, 2011

NAHL draft recap: Port Huron

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons believe they have filled their need for a more powerful offensive punch, as eight of their ten picks in Thursday’s NAHL Draft were forwards.

Only two of the second-year team’s selections come from outside the state of Michigan.

With 20 veteran and tendered players on the team’s protected list, the Fighting Falcons made 10 draft picks, as well as a selection from the NA3HL developmental league.

The Fighting Falcons would have held the third overall pick in the first round of the draft, following the expansion Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings and Minotauros of Minot, N.D. Feeling that one of those teams may have selected goalie Max Milosek, the Fighting Falcons traded away their first-round pick to the Amarillo Bulls for a tender, allowing them to lock down the goalie before the draft.

Following a long, tense wait through the draft’s first round, coach Bill Warren and general manager Marty Haddad got their wish as Easton Powers, a Milford native, became the Fighting Falcons’ first-ever NAHL Draft pick.

Powers spent last season with the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he earned 39 points on 16 goals and 23 assists in 49 games.

The Fighting Falcons would sit through over 50 more picks before making their next selection in the fourth round, 83rd overall. The team chose Joseph Colletti, a forward from Huntington Woods, who tallied 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points in 46 games with the Trenton Golden Hawks.

With their remaining picks, the Fighting Falcons further strengthened their offense, while also adding a pair of offensive-minded defensemen. Russian Ronald Kotkin, who was very impressive at the pre-draft camp the team held earlier this month, was nabbed in the seventh round.

The Fighting Falcons picked up a pair of CCHA-bound forwards in the later rounds. Max Shuart, who has committed to the University of Michigan, was chosen in the eighth round. Nick Schilkey, who has signed a letter of intent at the Ohio State University, was selected in the 11th round.

The club also owns the rights to Brett D’Andrea, a forward from Marysville that was tendered earlier this month. D’Andrea has committed to play for Bowling Green State University, also of the CCHA.

The full list of 2011 Fighting Falcons draft selections are as follows:

Round (Overall) Name, Position, Last Team (League)
2. (31) Easton Powers, F, Blind River (NOJHL) 49 GP, 16 G, 23 A, 39 Pts, 16 PIM
4. (83) Joseph Colletti, F, Trenton (OJHL) 46 GP, 18 G, 17 A, 35 Pts, 23 PIM
5. (108) Kody Polin, F, Leamington (GOJHL) 48 GP, 12 G, 25 A, 37 Pts, 68 PIM
6. (128) Ryan Murray, D, Cranbrook-Kingswood HS (MIHL) 28 GP, 6 G, 17 A, 23 Pts, 18 PIM
7. (147) Ronald Kotkin, F, Klin Titan Russia, Stats not available
8. (163) Max Shuart, F, Victory Honda, 36 GP, 12 G, 20 A, 32 Pts, 32 PIM
9. (174) Alex Archibald, F, Honeybaked, 40 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 15 Pts, 4 PIM
10. (181) Derek Belke, D, Pittsburgh Viper Stars (NAPHL) 24 GP, 1 G, 10 A, 11 Pts, 34 PIM
11. (185) Nick Schilkey, F, Honeybaked, 39 GP, 20 G, 29 A, 49 Pts, 20 PIM
12. (189) Stephen Flood, F, Grandville HS, Stats not available

NA3HL Selection
Michael Marconi
, F, Toledo Cherokee, 41 GP, 22 G, 25 A, 47 Pts, 26 PIM

Thursday, May 26, 2011

NAHL draft recap: Traverse City

The second leg of the restocking season brought the Traverse City North Stars new hopefuls, as the club claimed eight players in the annual North American Hockey League Draft via conference call on Thursday.

The Stars tabbed midget forward Kyle Schempp of Compuware with their first round pick – the first of three players TC snagged from the metro Detroit-based U-18 program.

The others – forward Jon Farkas and defenseman Garrett Cockerill – are joined by Traverse City West High School defenseman Frank Gilbert, Honeybaked blue-liner Wayland Williams, Victory Honda forward Tony Calderone, Cleveland netkeep Michael Parda and junior hockey veteran John Fritsche as the Stars’ draft-day take.

“We went into the draft with nine names – nine guys we wanted, and we got eight of them,” said Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier. “I’d call that a pretty solid draft. We’re going to be young on the back side again, but we think we’ve addressed a lot at every position.”

Gilbert, who helped TC West to another Big North Conference title last season, was a Division I all-state selection, and is second all-time among Titans defenseman with 44 career points.

“Frank’s a smart, solid defenseman and has grown into a mature role over the years,” Fournier explained. “He moves the puck well, not altogether unlike another West defenseman, Chris Dienes.”

Fritsche is another familiar name to North Stars fans, having spent two seasons with former NAHL rival Alpena. The 6-1, 185-pound forward played an injury-plagued season with Youngstown of the USHL in 2010-11, recording three goals and an assists in 27 contests with the Phantoms, Prior to that, Fritsche led Alpena with 23 goals and 22 assists over 55 games in 2009-10.

“He’s a kid who we took a bit of a chance on, but for good reason,” Fournier added. “He’d be a great leader, a goal scorer, a guy who has been around the game at this level. He may ultimately decide to go to school next year, but we’re hoping he wants to play another season.”

Schempp (6-1, 170) bagged 21 goals and added nine assists over 40 league contests for Compuware last winter, while Farkas kicked in with 16 points over 39 outings. Farkas (5-11, 165) has played 199 games with Compuware since the 2005-06 campaign, amassing 46 goals and assists on 88 others in that span. Cockerill, the third member of the Stars’ Compuware draft triumvirate, delivered six goals and 11 helpers in 37 league games last year, and 30 goals to go with 56 assists in 125 career games with the program.

“Schempp is a big kid who skates hard,” Fournier said. “Farkas is a guy who is on the smaller size who plays and works notoriously hard, while Cockerill is a big, strong kid (6-0, 195) who is young and talented and has tremendous upside.”

Williams is probably the most offensive-oriented defenseman among the new crop, according to Fournier. With 20 points over 33 games for Honeybaked’s midget majors, and 116 points in 218 career games played with the program, Williams may be among those who try to replace the contributions of likely USHL defections Dienes, Zack Dorer and Connor Schmidt.

Calderone did not play due to injury last season, but has 133 career games under his belt with the Victory Honda program – yielding 54 goals and 35 assists. Parda went 14-7-0 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .918 save percentage with the NA3HL’s Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks.

“We feel like we did very well and got very lucky to have gotten the guys we did,” said Stars GM Anthony Palumbo. “We could lose up to four of our defenseman to the USHL, so we needed to address that through tenders and the draft and our camps. Now we feel like we have good depth at forward, defenseman, and in net if we do lose some guys.”

The North Stars will host their Lansing open tryout camp June 3-5 at Suburban Ice, and will continue to cull a roster from their returning veterans, tenders, draft choices, and summer camps. Fournier says that Thursday’s draft helped position the club for another season of success.

“Anthony works so hard to find the right guys, and the results speak for themselves,” he concluded. “It’s not an easy thing to identify the best players and the right players for a program, but that’s one of his great strengths, and we’re fortunate to be able to draw upon that keen eye for talent.”

NAHL draft recap: Michigan

The Michigan Warriors, along with the other teams in the North American Hockey League, participated in the 2011 NAHL Entry Draft. The Warriors were 2011 Robertson Cup finalists and the North American Hockey League North Division playoff champions.

Conducting the Warriors draft were the Warriors head coach and general manager Moe Mantha and director of scouting Tom Boileau.

Said Mantha of the Warriors picks: “There is a lot of talent out there. We believe we got the best players available based on talent, character and charisma.

“When you put on the Warriors jersey, there is a very high standard to live up to. We believe these kids will not only meet, but exceed these standards."

Here is the complete list of the Michigan Warriors draft picks:

Supplemental Pick from NA3HL Draft
Joseph Bowler, D, St. Louis Jr. Blues
6-2 180 5-14-1992

’10-11: 45GP 5G 21A 26Pts 27PIM

1st Round
Christopher Murray, F, Upper St. Clair HS (PA)
6-2 185 4-4-1992

Career: 69GP 60G 65A 125pts

2nd Round
Luke Fiegl, D, Colorado Rampage
6-0 215 1-20-1993

‘10-11: 38GP 3G 6A 9PTS 12 PIM

4th Round
Matthew Williams, F, Victory Honda U-18
6-1 170 12-12-1992

Career: 101 G 13G 26A 39pts 64PIM

5th Round
Ryan Cigile, D, Stratford Cullitons
6-1 164 6-23-1992

’10-11: 27GP 1G 5A 6Pts 13PIM

6th Round
Jeremy Klotz, F, Woodhaven HS
6-2 175 6-15-1993

’10-11: 25GP 30G 24A 54Pts

7th Round
Michael Economos, F, Chicago Young Americans
5-11 185 5-14-1992

’10-11: 37GP 5G 6A 11pts 113PIM

NAHL draft recap: Kalamazoo

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings, proud member of the North American Hockey League, announces their selections in the NAHL Draft, which occurred earlier this afternoon.

Prior to the NAHL Entry Draft, the NAHL conducted a one-round draft of North American 3 Hockey League (3HL) players. With their selection, the Jr. K-Wings picked the NA3HL Forward of the Year, Charles Williams.

An All-NA3HL Team selection, Williams registered 80 points (38 goals, 42 assists) and 125 minutes in penalties in 44 games for the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins. Williams also averaged over-a-point a night in the playoffs the Jr. Penguins earning three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in two postseason contests.

Getting defensive with the first-overall selection of the NAHL Entry Draft, the Jr. K-Wings selected blue-liner Matt Krug from the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL).

Krug was fourth overall in all OJHL defensemen in scoring with 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) and was a North-West Conference 2nd Team All Star last season.

With the first selection of the second round, Kalamazoo selected goaltender Ken MacLean from the Boston Jr. Bruins from the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL). MacLean had a 3.03 goals-against-average and went 14-3-1in 23 contests for the Jr. Bruins.

With the 59th selection overall and the first pick of the third round, Kalamazoo picked John Gilmour from the Gilmour Academy. Gilmour was the assistant captain and had 44 points (9 goals, 35 assists) in 62 games for Gilmour Academy.

In the fourth round, the Jr. K-Wings selected forward Ben Murphy, who scored 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) in 42 games with the Bay State Breakers in the EJHL.

Heading back to secure the blue-line in the fifth round, Kalamazoo selected defenseman Christian Neumann of the Chicago Fury (18U), who had 13 points (2 goals, 11 assists) in 39 games.

In the sixth-eighth rounds, the Jr. K-Wings kept their selections in-state picking defenseman Mitch Wedding from Little Caesars 16U, forward Clint Bess from Belle Tire 18U and forward Mackenzie MacEachern from Brother Rice High School.

In the ninth round, Kalamazoo looked to protect the net with the selection of goaltender Stormer Santana from Shattuck-St. Mary's Midget AAA club in Minnesota. Santana led the Northern Lakes Hockey League with wins (10), goals-against-average (1.69) and save percentage (0.930).

Adding some championship experience in the 10th round, Kalamazoo added skilled forward Brock Raffaele from the Northern Ontario Junior A Hockey League (NOJHL) champions, Soo Eagles.

With their next selection in the 11th round, the Jr. K-Wings selected Greg Gibson, forward from the Huntsville Otters of the OJHL.

In the 12th round it was back to the blue-line for the Jr. K-Wings with the selection of Sean Campbell, defenseman from Capital Centre 18U.

Moving back upfront, Kalamazoo picked power forward Jordan Logan from the Indiana Jr. Ice U18 Team with the 13th round selection.

The Jr. K-Wings concluded the draft with the selection of forward Mitchell Baker from Adrian College.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Muskegon 'the only place to play'

The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ distinct Michigan flavor has only become more pronounced following the team’s drafts this year.

The Jacks, whose final roster from the 2010-11 United States Hockey League season featured nine Michigan natives, selected seven more in-state players in last Monday’s USHL Entry Draft. Three of their six selections in the USHL Futures Draft in March also hail from Michigan, a bona fide hockey hotbed that was the leading producer of USHL talent in the 2009-10 season.

“We’re located in a state that’s a great producer of hockey players,” Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick said. “When your backyard has those sorts of talented players, you need to make sure you build around that group of people. We love our location, and we are Michigan’s team.”

Lance Fredrickson, who grew up mere minutes from Muskegon in Spring Lake, logged 16 games for the Jacks this past season, bringing the total number of in-state players who made significant contributions for the team to 10. The Jacks in-state players mademassive contributions, amassing 175 points in 428 games. Muskegon had more in-state players than 13 other USHL teams combined.

The Jacks’ philosophy echoes that of the University of Wisconsin, where Patrick served as an assistant for five years, including in 2006 when the Badgers won the national championship.

“At Wisconsin, our 2006 team had 13 players from Wisconsin,” Patrick said. “Half the roster was from Wisconsin. If you have the chance to build the groundwork of a championship-caliber team and have an in-state flavor, that’s what you want to do. It’s a similar philosophy here as it was at Wisconsin.”

Making the Jacks’ Michigan flavor possible is the nonstop flow of talent out of programs near Detroit that play in the Tier 1 Elite League which, along with the USHL, announced last week that it will enter into a national agreement that will make the Tier 1 Elite League the official youth hockey affiliate of the USHL. A total of 56 players were selected from the league’s programs in the USHL Entry Draft, representing 26 percent of the 216 players drafted.

“The Tier 1 league, especially the Detroit area, is constantly producing talent,” Patrick said. “When you look at the draft results and look around the league, you see so many players who came up through those Detroit teams. It all begins with the figurehead who’s been part of Detroit hockey for so long in (Belle Tire Midget Major head coach) Chris Coury. He continues to produce players year after year. It’s great to know you can go across the state and that foundation is there.”

Omar Mullan, who the Jacks drafted in the Entry Draft, led Belle Tire in scoring last season with 54 points (20 goals and 34 assists) in 39 games and pays credit for his success to Coury.

“Coach Coury is a great coach and took me under his wing a year even before I could play majors,” Mullan said. “He pushed me to work as hard as possible on every shift and, because I did, I got rewarded.”

Two years ago, Mullan won a state title along with former Lumberjack Matt Berry and fellow Jacks draft pick Dakota Klecha.

The Jacks chose Klecha in the second round of the Entry Draft. The gritty forward was elated to know he was not only bound for the premier juniors league in the nation, but that he’d be playing just three hours from his home town of Taylor.

“Honestly, my heart jumped,” Klecha said. “I get to play just three hours away from home in the best league around. It’s just a dream come true. I’m very proud, and my dad plans to be at every home game.”

“Parents want to see their kids play,” Patrick said. “As you’re recruiting and offering opportunities, families will of course take that into consideration. Here in Muskegon, we offer everybody great opportunities with our facilities, our resources and our staff. Whether it’s a player from Michigan or Alaska, this is where players will want to play.”

The Jacks’ eighth-round pick, Jimmy Davis, is a native of the Grand Rapids suburb of Kentwood. He and his family were at a local restaurant and everyone erupted when the Jacks chose the blueliner with the 111th pick in the draft. One of his fans erupted a little more than the others.

“My mom started crying,” Davis said. “Everyone’s so excited to have me close to home. As for me, I just smiled. I couldn’t do anything else. I was so happy from head to toe.”

Honeybaked, one of the powerhouse Tier 1 teams near Detroit, produced the Jacks’ ninth-round pick, Brett D’Andrea. Like Davis, D’Andrea celebrated with family and friends after his selection.

“We were all wishing so hard that I could go to Muskegon,” D’Andrea said. “It’s a great program, and it’s very close to home.”

Honeybaked also produced the Jacks’ first two selections in the Futures Draft, Alex Smith and Alex Talcott. Smith is a brilliant two-way defenseman who Patrick believes could make the team in its upcoming camp. Talcott’s mother is a Muskegon native who had a hard time keeping her bearings when the team chose him with the 16th overall pick.

“My mom completely freaked out,” Talcott said. “This is where we wanted to go. Muskegon is the only place to play.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Order of picks for NAHL Entry Draft

Entry Draft Order:

Kalamazoo
Minot
Port Huron
Chicago
New Mexico
Fresno
Corpus Christi
Aberdeen
Austin
Dawson Creek
Wichita Falls
Kenai River
Jamestown
Springfield
Bismarck
Alaska
Odessa
Coulee Region
Wenatchee
Alexandria
Janesville
Michigan
Texas
Amarillo
Traverse City
Fairbanks
St. Louis
Topeka

Plymouth signs 2010 pick Patterson

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 16-year-old goaltender Jake Patterson, who was selected by the Whalers in the seventh round (135th overall) of the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Patterson – 6-foot-1 and 176 pounds – played last season for the Hamilton Red Wings, where he posted a 3.49 goals-against average. In 2009-10, Patterson played for the Sault Ste. Marie North Stars and posted a 2.78 GAA and three shutouts on a team that went 27-3-3-1. He was named first-team all star that season in the Great North Midget League.

“We’ve always liked Patterson, going back a couple of years ago when our Sault-area scout Mike Oliverio started to watch him,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “Jake’s is a hard worker with talent. We think he’ll continue to improve as he works with (Plymouth goaltending coach) Stan Matwijiw. With the possibility of injuries or call-ups to pro camps or the World Junior Championship, it’s good to have another goaltender available.”

The Whalers have excellent depth in goal for 2011-12 with Scott Wedgewood (a New Jersey Devils draft), Matt Mahalak (rated eighth among North American goaltenders for this summer’s National Hockey League Entry Draft) and now Patterson.

Wedgewood rates an excellent chance of receiving an invitation to try out for Team Canada for the 2012 World Junior Championship, which will be held Dec. 26, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012 in Calgary and Edmonton.

“I’m very excited to be part of the Whalers,” Patterson said in a telephone interview. “I feel I can learn a lot from watching Scott and Matt and working with Stan Matwijiw. I really like what I’ve seen of Plymouth.”

Patterson – who turns 17 next month - participated in the Whalers’ last two rookie orientations and played in Plymouth’s training camp last season. He’ll attend school next season at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.

Photo by Rena Laverty

Ian Jenkins passes away Monday


Courtesy London Free Press

Ypsilanti native Ian Jenkins, injured last week when he fell from a pickup truck, has been removed from life support at the University of Michigan and is in grave condition.

MONDAY UPDATE: Jenkins died this morning at 7:54 a.m.

Jenkins, the top-rated American goalie for the May 7 OHL draft, was drafted in the second round by the London Knights and signed with the club last Wednesday. He played last year for Belle Tire.

The Jenkins family released a statement Saturday:

"Although Ian is still here at the University of Michigan Health System, there is very little chance that this situation will resolve in the way that everyone might be hoping it will. We know there has been confusion over Ian's status, and we hope to know more in the coming hours. When there is a resolution we will share it. In case the worst happens, we have already made arrangements for Ian to live on and save lives through organ donation. On behalf of Ian's entire family, and Ian, I want to thank everyone who has sent thoughts, prayers and wishes over the past three days. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and has showed us how much Ian means to everyone, not just because he's great at stopping hockey pucks, but because he is an extraordinary young man."

"Our thanks go to Huron Valley Ambulance and the U-M Trauma Burn Center for the care they have provided to Ian since Thursday. Special thanks go to Ian's daytime nurse, Jay. We couldn't have gotten through this without him."

"Ian's dream was to make it to the highest levels of hockey, and he did so last Wednesday when he signed with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. No matter what happens, he had the happiest two weeks of his life leading up to that day, and all of us on Ian's family 'team' were thrilled to be part of that.

“We hope that everyone will keep Ian's siblings Lester, Garrett and Cassidy in your thoughts and prayers. They will carry on his legacy and will need love and support."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hoomaian to be Spartan this fall

The Michigan Warriors have announced that forward Justin Hoomaian has committed to Michigan State University for the 2011-12 season.

Hoomaian, a 20-year-old from Novi, totaled 17 goals and 32 points in 55 regular season games this past season. In the playoffs, he struck for two goals and seven assists in 16 games as the Warriors advanced to the Robertson Cup championship game.

“I’m excited for the opportunity I’ve been given,” said Hoomaian. “I’m so thankful to the Warriors organization and the coaching staff for helping me get this chance to play hockey at Michigan State.”

Hoomaian competed in the second North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament of the season, which was held in Ann Arbor in February.

“The Warriors organization is extremely proud and happy for Justin,” said Michigan head coach Moe Mantha. “He was dedicated to the team and contributed to the team’s success on and off the ice during his time in Flint, and he’s very deserving of this opportunity to continue his education and hockey career.

“As an organization, the Michigan Warriors are pleased that we can develop and help our players continue to advance their hockey careers to the next level.”

Hoomaian is the third Warriors player to commit to a Division I program, joining defenseman Michael Szuma (Michigan) and goaltender Robert Tadazak (Army).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jr. Gens' Carter wants improved '11-12

Courtesy NA3HL.com

Warren Carter came to the Flint Jr. Generals last season looking to advance his hockey career to the next level - whatever and wherever that may be.

He had played the 2009-10 season with the Tri-City Icehawks of the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League and the year before that in Canada.

Jr. Generals head coach Jeff Worlton coached Carter with the Icehawks and knew Carter would be a great fit in Flint, so he took Carter in the 2010 North American 3 Hockey League (then the Central States Hockey League) draft.

“Jeff knew my game and how I played,” noted Carter, a 20-year-old from Brookfield, Wis. “And I knew this league was the most logical next step in my career. It’s a league that gets scouted and now that the North American Hockey League has taken over, having them attached to it I think makes kids coming out of high school want to play here. I think, too, that a lot of guys are getting excited with the four new teams coming in next year.”

Carter tallied 22 goals and 49 points last year and also amassed 115 penalty minutes. He said he plays a power forward-type game even though he stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 150 pounds.

“I’ve always used my size to my advantage and turned what some might see as a negative into a positive,” Carter said. “I try and use my speed as much as I can. I mean, they can’t hit me if they can’t catch me. Really, I just do whatever it takes to help the team get going.”

Being away from home for the third straight season was a situation Carter adapted to rather quickly.

“I’d done it before and last year was fine and easy for me,” said Carter. “The Jr. Generals treat you like family.”

In 2010-11, Flint finished in ninth place in the NA3HL standings, barely missing out on the Hurster Cup playoffs.

“We started out very slow and only had one returning player,” explained Carter. “Once we got going, that’s when we all started getting our points, including myself.”

Next year will be a different story, according to Carter, who played in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor last February.

“I definitely feel I can be one of the leaders on this team next year,” said Carter. “I’ve always been a lead by example-type player, but if something needs to be said, I can do that, too. I think we can definitely be a top three team next year.”

Individually, Carter has already talked to several Division III schools and hopes to continue hockey at that level after next season.

“That’s the plan,” said Carter. “We’ll see what happens.”

Warriors' defenseman Killian goes D-III

The Michigan Warriors have announced that defenseman Kevin Killian is joining goaltender Robert Tadazak and defenseman Michael Szuma as college commitments from this past season's team.

Killian will be heading to Wisconsin to join the Lawrence University hockey program. Lawrence is a D-III school that plays in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association.

Tadazak has signed a commitment to continue his hockey career at the United States Military Academy at West Point, while Szuma has committed to the University of Michigan.

"I'm excited to see the continued development of our players and the Warriors organization is extremely happy for Kevin," said Warriors coach-GM Moe Mantha. "He made positive contributions to the team’s success on and off the ice during his time in Flint and he is very deserving of this opportunity to continue his education and hockey career."

NAHL draft set for next Thursday


NAHL Draft - FAQs

2010 NAHL Draft results

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jr. K-Wings to host tryout this weekend

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings will host an open tryout this weekend, May 20-22, at Wings West.

Tryout hopefuls are coming from across the country and Canada (Michigan, Alaska, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Virginia, Alabama, Colorado and British Columbia) to participate in scrimmages Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All sessions will be open to the public to watch and admission is free.

“This is a great opportunity to evaluate players just prior to the NAHL draft on May 26,” said Kalamazoo coach-GM Marc Fakler. "We expect a very competitive tryout that will display many talented players. There are always players that sometimes get overlooked through the tender and draft system in our league that turn out to be very successful junior players.”

The three-day camp is designed to help the Jr. K-Wings in selecting their 2011-12 team, which will begin play in the NAHL in September, and also to scout and recruit in the future.

The team will be selecting players from this camp and a tryout camp June 3-5 in Pittsburgh to narrow down selections for the invitation-only final camp to be held July 21-24 at Wings West.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Muskegon Lumberjacks - draft recap

After selecting 14 promising players during the 2011 United States Hockey League Entry Draft on Monday, there’s no time for rest for the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ coaching staff.

“It’s time to turn around, put on our hard hats and get ready for tryout camp,” said Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick after the team made its final selection Monday afternoon from the players lounge at the L.C. Walker Arena.

Tryout camp will take place from Monday, June 13, through Sunday, June 19, at the Jacks’ friendly confines. Monday through Wednesday will be invite camp, and the remainder of the days will serve as the main camp. There will be all-star games on Saturday night and Sunday morning before the list of those who made the team will be posted.

With yesterday’s draft in the book, the Jacks will most certainly not be at a lack for candidates to make the squad for next season.

With the sixth pick in the draft, the Jacks selected forward Ryan Lomberg out of Hill Academy in Ontario. Lomberg stuffed the stat sheet for Hill this past season to the tune of 99 points on 52 goals and 47 assists in just 57 games. Fans got a chance to see his impressive set of skills during the inaugural Muskegon Winter Showcase in February.

With their second-round pick, the 21st overall, the Jacks selected Dakota Klecha, who posted 50 points on 28 goals and 22 assists for the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the North American Hockey League last season. The 5-10, 160-pound forward also amassed 248 penalty minutes and has a style that the Musky faithful will most certainly love.

“I can score, I can hit, I can fight and I can shoot,” Klecha said. “I’m 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, but I play like I’m 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds.”

Klecha also got to play with Matt Berry, who led the Jacks with 25 goals last season and is bound for Michigan State University, under longtime coach Chris Coury in the Belle Tire program.

The Jacks picked their first defenseman in the draft in the fourth round with the 51st pick overall in Kevin Schulze. A 5-9, 170-pound product of Hill-Murray High School in Minnesota, Schulze has been on the radar of Jacks scout Chris LaCombe for a long time.

“He’s a great two-way defenseman, and he’s going to be a great locker room guy for the Jacks,” LaCombe said.

LaCombe also battled for the next pick, Ben Walker out of Edina High School, the alma mater of Charlie Taft, who will attend Colorado College after a breakout rookie season with the Jacks. Walker, who’s 5-11 and 175 pounds, was the 81st pick overall has been nicknamed Benny “The Bunny” Walker for his limitless energy.

The Jacks next selected forward Mason Jobst in the seventh round with the 96th selection overall. Jobst was a student of Patrick during a Team USA national camp. He’s 5-6 and 140 pounds and models his game after Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Martin St. Louis.

In the eighth round, the Jacks selected another defenseman, as well as one of seven Michigan players the team picked Monday, when they tabbed Jimmy Davis out of East Kentwood High School. As a senior this past season, Davis spearheaded the team that made the Michigan state hockey quarterfinals. He stands 6 feet and weighs 190 pounds.

“Jimmy’s teammates are going to love him,” Jacks Michigan high school scout and Mona Shores head coach Charlie Link said. “He’s got an incredible amount of skill, but his best asset is he’s a great teammate.”

“He’s a hard-nosed defenseman and has an unbelievable compete level,” Patrick said.

The Jacks wrapped up their participation in the first phase of the draft when they took another Michigan native, Brett D’Andrea, with the 126th pick in the ninth round. A 6-foot, 175-pound forward out of the celebrated Honeybaked program, D’Andrea can’t wait to call Muskegon home.

“I like the weather in the summer, and I like that it’s a small town right on the water,” D’Andrea said. “I like to go fishing. It seems like a close-knit community, just like the town I come from. The fans there know their stuff and it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

The Jacks resumed their picking during the second phase by selecting forward Vito Aluia with the 186th pick overall in the 13th round. Aluia played under Kyle Krug for Belle Tire’s program last season and is 5-8 and 160 pound.

“He plays the game with a tenacity that everyone is going to love,” Patrick said.

The Jacks selected another forward in Tyler Heinonen in the 14th round with the 201st pick overall. Heinonen is 6-foot and 195 pounds and last played at Delano-Rock High School in Minnesota.

The Jacks picked a third defenseman in the 15th round with the 216th pick overall when they chose Montreal native Austyn Hardie out of College Charles-Lemoyne. Jacks assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier has had Hardie, a “tough-as-nails, solid defensive defenseman,” on his radar for some time.

The Jacks wrapped up by selecting four forwards. They chose Tyler Murray, a 5-8, 152-pound skater out of the Little Caesars program in the 16th round with the 231st overall pick.

“He’s a very skilled center who plays with tons of energy,” Patrick said.

Next off the board was the 6-2, 190-pound A.J. White, whom the Jacks took in the 17th round with the 246th overall pick. Patrick is excited about White’s versatility. The Jacks picked Noah Batis, a 5-9, 160-pounder out of the Buffalo Regals’ AAA program in the 18th round with the 261st pick overall. The Jacks’ final selection was Omar Mullan, who led Coury’s Belle Tire Midget Major team in scoring last season.

“He works hard, and he gets rewarded,” Patrick said. “He’s consistently in the scoresheet.”

Visit muskegonlumberjacks.com to see the breakdown of all the Jacks’ selections in not just the Entry Draft, but also the recent Futures Draft and last year’s drafts as well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lomberg Muskegon's top pick in draft


Ryan Lomberg
was hooked by Muskegon when he visited for the inaugural Muskegon Winter Showcase in February.

Monday morning, his desire to wear the Lumberjacks crest became a reality when the team selected the power forward with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 United States Hockey League Entry Draft.

“Muskegon is such a beautiful town,” Lomberg said. “The arena was awesome and the facilities were great. The coaching staff and ownership were nice and welcoming to me. I knew I wanted to be a Lumberjack right there and then.”

Lomberg stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 99 points on 52 goals and 47 assists in 57 games with Hill Academy in Ontario this past season. Lomberg, a Richmond Hill native and the son of Trevor and Lori, is committed to the University of Maine.

“I like to think I’m an all-around player, and I’ll do whatever coach needs me to do,” Lomberg said. “I like to think I can score whenever the team needs one the most. I’m a power forward, and I like to throw the body around.”

Lomberg models his game after former National Hockey League superstar Gary Roberts. He tries to emulate the passion with which Roberts played the game.

Lomberg won’t settle for less than carving out an NHL career of his own.

“That’s my life’s goal,” Lomberg said. “That’s always been the dream.”

“I developed a lot of skills and got a lot stronger with Hill Academy,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to step into USHL action and contribute right away.”

Visit muskegonlumberjacks.com to watch the Jacks’ draft picks live. Also stay tuned to the website for feature stories on the team’s top selections.

Muskegon had youngsters in '10-11

What’s in a number?

Birthdates oftentimes have a rippling effect on a young athlete’s eligibility. But the Lumberjacks showed in their first season in the United States Hockey League that, if a player comes to Muskegon, they’ll immediately get an opportunity to contribute.

Lumberjacks skaters who were 16 when training camp began in early September have since logged 163 games, including 24 Clark Cup playoff tilts. Only Fargo (187 games) and Sioux City (144) had more regular-season games logged by such players this season. Ten USHL clubs had fewer than 50 games played by such players.

The substantial number of games logged by the Jacks’ young players isn’t happenstance. It’s part of the team’s philosophy.

“We won’t take you if you aren’t ready to play,” Lumberjacks owner Josh Mervis said. “Players need to play. Not playing in five out of six games is bad for a young player. I won’t allow my program to do that, and (Lumberjacks head) coach Kevin Patrick shares my philosophy.”

The players’ regular-season exposure to the fastest, toughest juniors league in the nation paid visible dividends in the second season. Despite having logged fewer games than the teams still competing in the postseason, the Jacks’ 10 points by such players is still the high-water mark. Dubuque is the closest club with seven points.

Matt DeBlouw, a Chesterfield native who returned to Cardinal Mooney High School following the season, single-handedly posted one more point (8) than the Fighting Saints, who are competing in the Clark Cup Finals.

DeBlouw’s postseason point binge found him eclipsing his regular-season totals in both goals (2) and assists (4).

“That’s what happens when you take them and you play them,” Mervis said.

“Our young players clearly were well-seasoned and prepared for the playoffs,” Patrick said.

DeBlouw was one of five Jacks who were 16 years old at camp’s open to log at least 10 games in their rookie USHL seasons. Mark Yanis led the group in appearances with 54. Jordan Masters and Mike Moran recorded 49 and 44 games, respectively, and both notched 11 points. Max Shuart, who joined the Jacks in mid-March, scored one goal over his 10 games with the club.

“It’s great to be able to get opportunities right away,” DeBlouw said. “It’s exciting to think of how good we’ll be with the chemistry we’ve built and just having a season under our belts.”

“If we’re going to have a younger player on our roster, he’s got to have an opportunity to play and to participate,” Patrick said. “He’s choosing to play up a level, whereas on the Midget Major level, he’d have more of an opportunity to play in every situation, get a lot of puck touches and continue to grow his confidence.”

The Jacks have a rare network as the only USHL team in Michigan, Team USA’s unique situation withstanding. Michigan features numerous stalwart AAA-level teams that provide outstanding competition for players who develop “down on the farm.”

“That’s the really unique thing about playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks – we have the relationships with great programs that allow our players to move up and down,” Mervis said. “If you are from the great state of Michigan, there’s only one place to play in the USHL – with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. You can get here younger. We’ll always be one of the younger teams in the league, because we move guys up faster.”

Exhibit A is John Parker, who served as the Jacks’ captain in their inaugural USHL campaign. Just a week after Jacks winger Charlie Taft committed to Colorado College of the WCHA, Parker also accepted a full ride to play at the perennial Hockey East powerhouse University of Maine. Four former Jacks will compete in Hockey East this fall, while another two will skate in the equally impressive WCHA.

“With the Lumberjacks, you can move on to wherever you want to move on to,” Mervis said, “whether it’s the American route – the NCAA route – or if the NHL tells you you’re so good you’re ready to go. Either way, we get them ready to go faster.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

North Stars begin retooling process

It was quality over quantity on Friday at Centre ICE Arena, as the Traverse City North Stars officially began the annual summer re-tool – this time under new head coach Chad Fournier.

The club kicked off its pre-draft open tryout camp, looking to re-stock its coffers at every position.

“Generally, the first day of open camps are not always the best,” said Fournier. “Whether it’s nerves or travel lag, you don’t always see the ‘A' game from everyone. But even with comparatively lower numbers at this camp, we got great jump all the way around. Guys were going hard and competing from the first whistle, and that was encouraging. There’s a lot of skill on the ice, but it was the overall first-day effort that was the most impressive.”

The North Stars, fresh off the first 40-win regular season in franchise history, will have to try to replace a bevy of aged-out veteran players, including top scorer Tim Opie and three-year All-NAHL North pick Travis White, among others. White’s contributions will be especially difficult to replicate. He served as captain for the past two years and was a three-time All-NAHL North selection.

“I don’t think you can replace a Travis White,” Fournier opined. “It’s probably something that has to be taken on by a committee. Finding that kind of leadership isn’t always easy. You look to your returning veterans, and expect them to start to take on those kinds of roles, and the place that starts are these camps. You look for them to be the best players on the ice, and it goes from there.”

While 16 of 23 players from the 2010-11 edition of the North Stars are eligible to return, two fresh faces were among those that caught the eye of Fournier, GM Anthony Palumbo, and staff: Forward Seth Adams and goalie Zach Naglevoort.

Adams, a two-time all-stater who powered Big Rapids High School to a state quarterfinals berth last year as a junior, has displayed a deft scoring knack. In a 3-2 double-overtime victory against Sault Ste. Marie in last year’s regional championship, Adams registered all three of the Cardinals’ goals, including the game-winner just over six minutes into the second OT.

“We like what we’ve seen from Seth,” Fournier said of the 6-foot-3, 195-pound tender. “We know his coach, we see the hard work. He has the skill, and shows a willingness to do all the little things as well.”

Naglevoort, a sizable backstop at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, crafted a sterling 52-10-13 mark with a 1.83 goals-against average and 14 shutouts over two seasons and 79 appearances for the midget major Compuware program. The tender was 11-5-6 with a .921 save percentage in 22 Tier 1 league contests in 2010-11.

Fournier and the North Stars will continue to work toward assembling their 2011-12 roster on Saturday, with a morning practice/goalie session and an evening scrimmage at Centre ICE. The camp concludes on Sunday morning with the weekend’s final game.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Windsor inks Mr. Hockey co-winner

Dave Ducharme - windsorspitfires.com staff reports

The Windsor Spitfires have signed free agent Michigan high school star Ben Johnson to an OHL contract and education package.

Johnson, 16, was named a Michigan High School Athletic Association first-team all-star and was chosen "Mr. Hockey" as the top high school player in Michigan. He's just the second junior to win the award (Justin Abdelkader, Mona Shores High School, 2003-2004).

In 30 games with the Calumet High School Copper Kings, Johnson scored 37 goals and added 40 assists for 77 points. He also played four games with the United States Under-17 National Team Development Program, scoring four goals and adding one assist.

Johnson also won the 2011 Hobey Baker Character Award, awarded each year to the player who demonstrates exemplary character and sportsmanship.

"The Windsor Spitfires are excited to add a player of Ben's caliber," said Spitfires GM Warren Rychel. "He has exceptional speed and is a solid two-way player who is tough to play against. He'll be one of the fastest players in the OHL next season. Johnson has three years of eligibility to play in the OHL and he will fit in well with our talented crop of players."

Johnson will attend St. Anne's High School in Lakeshore, Ont.

Jr. K-Wings obtain another Mr. Hockey

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced that they have acquired forward Chris Hughes, who was selected Michigan's Mr. Hockey in 2010, from the Coulee Region Chill.

By acquiring Hughes, the Jr. K-Wings have the last two Mr. Hockey’s. In April, Kalamazoo announced the tender signing of the reigning Mr. Hockey Gerald Mayhew.

Completing his rookie season with the Chill, Hughes recorded 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 50 regular season games.

Hughes helped the Chill to the second round of the NAHL playoffs and added two assists in eight postseason games.

“Chris has the ability to score goals and add a strong veteran presence to our team,” said Marc Fakler, general manager and head coach. “He is coming to us from a Coulee Region team that had a very successful year and that experience should show our first year players what it takes to win in this league.”

Prior to joining the Chill, Hughes was a standout for Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic Central High School. Hughes captured Michigan’s Mr. Hockey award in 2010, a season in which he posted an astonishing 88 points (56 goals, 32 assists) in just 24 games.

'Jacks captain Parker to play at Maine

No one was as thrilled as John Parker when he accepted a full scholarship from the University of Maine on Tuesday.

Except, perhaps, for Muskegon Lumberjacks owner Josh Mervis.

“I couldn’t be more pleased for John Parker today,” said Mervis, who served as an assistant under the late great Shawn Walsh for the Black Bears in the mid-1990s. “He was a terrific captain and this is a very happy day.”

“I’m very excited,” Parker said. “And I feel very prepared. It had to be a perfect situation, because I was ready to come back and captain the Jacks again. Nothing will replace the experience I had in Muskegon.”

Parker, who was unanimously voted captain by his teammates, shattered nearly every career high he set in his first two United States Hockey League seasons while skating for the Jacks. He set new single-season marks in games played (58), goals (9) and assists (22). His point total (31) more than doubled his largest previous output.

But it was Parker’s intangibles – his ability to lead by example, his work ethic and his experience winning the Clark Cup with Indiana in 2009 – that Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick will miss most.

“He did everything the right way and set the example of what it means to be a Lumberjack,” Patrick said. “He doesn’t cut corners; he sets the pace. He’s always first in conditioning drills. He’s set a great example of how to approach this game and how to approach life.

“I couldn’t be more proud for him to move up to the next level and become a part of Maine’s storied tradition.”

Parker, a Green Brook, N.J., native who the Jacks selected in the 2010 USHL Expansion Draft, will get a chance to be one of the top nine forwards for one of the most celebrated programs in the nation.

“He’ll step in and immediately contribute for a fabulous school in a fabulous conference,” Mervis said. “I’d want my own son to play for (Black Bears head coach) Tim Whitehead,” Mervis said. “He cares about his players and people and will make sure they graduate. To me, that’s as important as becoming a National Hockey League player.”

Parker tied for fourth on the Jacks’ roster in plus/minus with a +3 rating, a tribute to his relentless hustle. One of the fastest skaters in the USHL, Parker took pride in playing all 200 feet of the ice.

“Good things happen to those who work hard,” Patrick said. “John Parker’s hustle, his compete level and work ethic are the foundation for good things, no matter what he does in this world.”

Photo by Dave Reginek/USHL

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Saginaw extends Paliafito's contract

The Saginaw Spirit have announced that assistant general manager and director of scouting James Paliafito has agreed to a contract extension with the hockey club for an additional three years.

“We are happy to extend Jim’s contract so that he can continue to help us draft top-flight players in addition to recruiting elite free agents that allow us to build upon this year’s success of winning our first ever West Division title, as well as reach our bigger goal of an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup berth,” stated Spirit GM and head coach Todd Watson.

Paliafito has played a critical role in the team’s participation in the last three OHL Priority Selections and in two CHL Import Drafts. In 2009, the Spirit added talent like Anthony Camara and Vincent Trocheck in the Priority Selection and Tadeas Galansky and Ivan Telegin in the Import Draft.

Paliafito directed the team’s 2010 draft class, arguably one of the strongest in the team’s nine year history that included Justin Kea, Jake Paterson, Jacob Ringuette, Terry Trafford, Ray Huether and Ryan Tuffin. All six rookies saw action in Spirit uniform this past season.

Most recently the Spirit tabbed top tier prospects Nick Moutrey, Sam Povorozniuk, Jimmy Lodge, Alexander Smith and more in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection.

Paliafito was also instrumental in getting free agents Garret Ross and Dalton Young to commit to the program, as well as signing top NHL prospect and Saginaw’s 2008 first round pick Brandon Saad.

“I am very pleased to continue my employment with the Spirit for another three years,” said Paliafito. “We are excited to continue building towards our goal in bringing a Memorial Cup championship to Saginaw.”

Spirit president and partner Craig Goslin echoed Watson’s thoughts on Paliafito’s extension.

“After three solid drafts and several strong free agent signings, we are pleased with the results and look forward to the continued success of Jim and his staff,” said Goslin.

Megna wins USHL scholar-athlete honor

The Muskegon Lumberjacks will have an outstanding representative at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in Jaycob Megna, and that is exemplified by the award he received Friday.

Megna and Kevin Liss of the Youngstown Phantoms were named the two 2010-11 United States Hockey League Scholar-Athlete Award recipients.

“Any award you win is special,” Megna said. “but this year it’s been tough balancing hockey and school with so many (Advanced Placement) classes. So I’m very honored. School can be a lot like hockey – you keep chugging away, working hard and get the job done.”

Established in 2007, the USHL Scholar-Athlete Award recognizes players for both their success in the classroom and on the ice. Candidates are nominated by their coaches, teachers, and academic counselors based on their grade-point-average, coursework, and overall school participation.

“We are here to help our players reach their fullest human potential, as athletes, and as scholar-citizens,” Lumberjacks owner and CEO Josh Mervis said. “Jaycob represents what we are all about – excellence on and off-ice.”

Megna’s current grade-point average at Mona Shores High School is 4.4, and his cumulative GPA is 4.5. He’s loaded up on AP classes in his senior year to get a head start on his college requirements. He will graduate from Glenbrook North High School this spring. While at Mona Shores, Megna also volunteered as a peer tutor and helped at-risk students improve in math.

He is quick to pay credit to the Jacks’ academic support system – first and foremost is Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick.

“Coach Patrick checks in quite a bit to make sure we’re on top of things,” Megna said. “All of the staff at Mona Shores has been great this year. All my teachers are very supportive and they did everything they could to help us get our work done and alleviate some of the pressure.”

“We’re very fortunate to have a fine institution like Mona Shores,” Patrick said. “Our players know they have two careers with us – one on the ice and the other off-ice in the classroom and in society. They’re chasing a lot of goals, and we are proud that their time in Muskegon will help them get there.”

Megna will be joined by his older brother, Jayson, at the University of Nebraska-Omaha this fall. The brothers squared off eight times this past season – including the Clark Cup Playoffs – and have not played together since a season at Tabor Academy.

Megna, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenseman, racked up 18 points on a goal and 17 assists in 55 regular-season games last season, and dealt out three assists over six postseason games. He has been ranked among the top 170 North American skaters by National Hockey League Central Scouting on the big board for the upcoming 2011 NHL Draft.

The USHL has produced more than 150 players currently under NHL contracts.

“Jaycob Megna is pursuing his NHL career, while at the same time setting himself up for a lifetime of success after hockey,” Mervis said. “In the USHL you truly can have it all - the NHL career and the education you need for the rest of your life.”

Fournier new coach with Traverse City

Same faces, new places.

The Traverse City North Stars will kick off their seventh season with a new coach at the helm for 2011-12, but it’s a familiar visage and a recognizable philosophy.

Chad Fournier, who has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach, will move down to bench to take the spot of Anthony Palumbo, who will remain as general manager. Co-owner Dallas Drake will join incumbents Mike Matteucci and Bob Fernandez as assistants. Bob Spence and Steve Witt, who have served as a Midwest scouts, will also assume some coaching duties.

“It should be a pretty seamless transition,” said Fournier, who inherits the keys to a club that posted a 40-17-1 mark in 2010-11. “Anthony and I have coached together for a long time at many different levels, and we have a very similar approach. It’ll be the same message, just a different voice delivering it.”

Palumbo, who fashioned a .624 winning percentage (141-85-25) in his four years behind the bench, opted to focus on front office and player personnel responsibilities after leading the Stars to the franchise-record 40 victories last season.

“I simply couldn’t continue commit the same amount of time to the coaching that the job requires and deserves,” said Palumbo. “I recently took a new job (President, First Community Bank), and needed to be around more. Those long road trips make that pretty hard. I also want to be able to spend more time with my wife (June) and family. But it’s not like I’m leaving the rink. I’ll be there to support Chad in any way he wants - film sessions, player evaluation before and during the season, keeping our college network strong. And with adding a guy like Dallas to the staff that’s already in place, I think it just strengthens the organization all around.”

Despite his enviable win-loss mark, three straight postseasons, and 2010 North Division playoff crown and subsequent Robertson Cup berth, Palumbo cited the team’s spate of college commitments as among the most satisfying mementos of his four-year tenure.

“It’s no coincidence that we’ve won some games, and also put some kids into colleges,” said Palumbo, who helped send a league-best 10 players/alums to NCAA Division I commitments last year. “You go out and get the kids that you think can play at the next level. If you’re right, those players are going to win some games along the way to college, so there’s really no separating the two, generally speaking. We’ve always made it our top priority to make this a place where kids could come to get better and move up, and for colleges to be able to come and find players who can succeed at the NCAA level. I think we’ve made some genuine, measurable progress toward that, and it should only continue. We've become a good program that can draw some of the best players from here and around the Midwest and move 'em on. That's what I'm most proud of.”

Fournier was an all-state selection at Traverse City Central during his playing days, spent a year in the North American Hockey League with the Lakeland Jets, and helped power Ohio University to three consecutive ACHA championships. He later coached at the youth and high school levels, including a stint at his alma mater, and with Palumbo at Traverse City West. He has also served on the board of the youth Grand Traverse Hockey Association program for nearly five years.

“I’m excited about the chance to move down the bench a little,” Fournier explained. “But at the same time, it’s a pretty difficult task because the guy that came before me has been so successful and set the bar pretty high. Anthony put together a program that has been incredibly successful in terms of wins, but also in putting kids into college programs. He’ll always be there for the coaches, the program – just in a different role.”

Drake, who became a North Stars co-owner prior to the 2009-10 season, has enjoyed a decorated hockey career, winning an NCAA title with Northern Michigan University and a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. He has also served as a coach and director of the GTHA. Drake, who also played junior hockey before his NMU days, says he is eager to impart the skills and approach required to improve and matriculate in the sport.

“I’m excited about it,” Drake offered. “I haven’t been involved at all as far as the coaching goes, but it’s something that has always interested me, and I expect to learn a lot myself. Hopefully I can use my own experiences, and draw upon the times when I was going through some of the same things that these guys (players) are, to help them get to the level they need to be at to advance.”

There are seven college hockey national championships between Palumbo, Fournier, and the Stars coaching staff – with Drake’s Cup hoist to boot – and a time-tempered synergy already in place that has yielded 107 regular-season victories over the last three regular seasons. Palumbo says that one of the NAHL’s winningest franchises shouldn’t lose any momentum in light of the musical chairs.

“Chad and I have coached together for 10 years, and we’ve generated some great ideas together,” he explained. “We had some success moving guys on since we’ve been here with Tooch (Matteucci) and Bob. Now you bring in that new perspective with Dallas and all the things he’s done and seen in this game, and it’s just a recipe for continued success on the ice, and putting guys into college programs.”

North Stars majority owner Raj Wiener expressed great appreciation for all of Palumbo’s efforts, as well as tremendous confidence in Fournier and his staff.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Anthony has been all of the very best things you look for in a head coach,” she said. “He runs a fantastic program on and off the ice, and has made a difference for so many kids getting the chance to play college hockey. He’s given so much to this organization, and we can never thank him enough for it. We’re very fortunate to have someone of Chad’s caliber to assume the coaching reins, and with Dallas and the rest of the staff coming back, we’re looking forward to another great year.”

Fournier and the North Stars will kick into gear again for 2011-12 with the pre-draft open tryout camp at this weekend at Centre ICE Arena, as the club begins to restock its coffers once again ahead of the NAHL Draft on May 26. But don’t look for big changes, Fournier asserted.

“Everything will look and run pretty much the same as it has,” he added. “We’ll employ the same philosophies, play a similar system – everything will be very much the same, just with a different voice.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lake Orion's Albers chooses Niagara

Omaha Lancers defenseman Kevin Albers has committed to play collegiate hockey at Niagara University.

Albers recently completed his third USHL season where he collected 10 points (10a) in 43 total games. He was acquired by the Lancers midway through the 2010-11 campaign after starting the season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The defenseman spent his first two USHL seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers and was part of the team that captured the Clark Cup last season.

Albers is a 19-year-old native of Lake Orion and has collected 22 points (4g, 18a) and a plus-39 rating in 133 career USHL games.

Four other players who spent the 2010-11 season in the USHL are committed to Niagara University: Doug Clifford (Des Moines Buccaneers), Sam Alfieri (Lincoln Stars), Isaac Kohls (Muskegon Lumberjacks) and Chris Lochner (Muskegon Lumberjacks).

Monday, May 09, 2011

Muskegon gearing up for USHL draft

You can be in the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ war room during the 2011 United States Hockey League Entry Draft next Monday.

The team will stream the draft live via its official blog at blog.insidemuskegonlumberjacks.com. The draft begins at 11 a.m. (EST).

Morgan Lind, the captain of the Lumberjills, will announce the picks moments after head coach Kevin Patrick selects players who will be vital to the Jacks’ success. Patrick will also discuss the selections with broadcaster Christopher Heimerman, and we’ll have live interviews with players mere minutes after they are selected by the Jacks. Several current Lumberjacks – some of whom soon will be departing for college – will join us to talk about their previous draft-day experiences.

In between picks, you can also enjoy the team’s full complement of videos, including all of those featured at muskegonlumberjacks.com.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Whalers, Spirit draft for talent Saturday

Both the Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit took part in the annual Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection on Saturday.

Each team's selections are detailed below taken from the Plymouth and Saginaw websites.

PLYMOUTH

The 2011 OHL Priority Selection presented by State Farm is this Saturday morning, May 7th starting at 9am, where the Plymouth Whalers selected Cambridge Hawks power forward Mitchell Dempsey with the eleventh overall pick.

The 6'2, 205-pound left winger is described as by Central Scouting as "a big bodied winger who has a very good collection of physical tools. He possesses a very good stick, displaying the ability to handle the puck and makes plays, which is impressive when you consider his large physical stature. He moves around the ice effectively, and he does show some flashes of speed when he is moving north and south. He just has the look of a player that hasnt really come to terms with his size, and as he matures, gets stronger and gets on the ice more his skating should improve. He plays a pretty well rounded offensive game."

Dempsey had 38 goals and 34 assists for 72 points with 76 penalty minutes in 55 games. He is the nephew of Don Sweeney, who played for the Boston Bruins.

Phoenix Coyotes Scout Jeff Twohey said: “He’s tailor-made for a Mike Vellucci-type team. Mitchell’s a big winger who plays hard. Not only is there some size and competitiveness, but he also has the ability to score goals. He’s a big body who fits in very well with the style of play that Mike Vellucci likes to play – hard-working, physical and competitive. Mitchell should be a good fit for the Whalers.”

With their second round pick (33rd overall) the Whalers selected left wing Matthew Mistele, who scored 43 goals with 34 assists for 77 points and 50 PIM’s in 60 games last season for the Whitby Wildcats.

“The Whitby Wildcats have a long history of developing players,” Twohey said. “Typically, Whitby’s players come into the league ready to play. Matthew’s another good fit for the Whalers. Mike Vellucci likes competitive players.”

Plymouth assistant general manager Brian Sommariva gave his assessment of the early rounds of the Whalers draft.

“We think with Mitchell Dempsey, we’ve got a real good player with size and skill," Sommariva said. "We think he’ll project real well. He’s a prototypical Plymouth Whaler – he can skate, he’s got a nasty side and he can score, too, so we’re excited about him.

“Matthew Mistele is a real good goal scorer. People around the league are already texting Mike (Vellucci) saying what a great pick that was in the second round. Without putting any pressure on him, we’re real excited to see how he does.”

Plymouth had to wait until the fifth round (88th overall) to select right wing Connor Chatham, who scored two goals in 12 games in a season cut short by surgery in the Tier I Elite Hockey League.

Central Scouting has this assessment of Chatham:

“Chatham is a big bodied right winger who has missed a majority of this season with a shoulder injury, surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. Chatham possesses a very good and attractive collection of physical tools. He has legitimate size, he is an above average skater and he possesses a real good stick, especially his ability to finish. He has a very smooth and effective stride, and when he is moving his feet he shows some real high end speed and quickness. He uses his speed to skate up and down his wing, working himself into the open ice while supporting the play.”

Chatham has reportedly committed to play for the National Team Development Program in 2011-12.

Chatham says he's completely healthy.

"The plan is to keep my options open," Chatham said in a phone interview. "I haven't decided where I'm going to play next year. I play a lot like David Backes (of the St. Louis Blues). I'm big and strong, a power forward-type."

“We got a chance to see Connor at the US Top-40 camp – he scored a great goal in the first game we saw him," said Sommariva "He’s an American kid we hope to convince to play in the Ontario Hockey League. We really like his skill and think he can become a great player.”

Five picks later, Plymouth continued to draft forwards as left wing Dylan Mascarin was selected from the Thunder Bay Kings. Mascarin scored 21 goals and 53 assists for 74 points and 120 PIM’s in 56 games for the Kings last season.

The Whalers took their first defenseman in the draft in the seventh round (133rd) overall, going to North Carolina to select 6-foot-3, 180-pound defenseman Charlie Pelnik from the Carolina Hurricanes U-16 team.

Although several Plymouth alums are playing in the Carolina Hurricanes system, Pelnik is the first member of the Hurricanes' youth program to be selected by the Whalers.

Central Scouting gave this assessment of Pelnik:

“Pelnik is a physical, stay-at-home defenseman who plays the game with a real edge and a nasty streak. He possesses good physical size and he uses all of it to his advantage. He never turns down an opportunity to get his body on an opponent and isn’t shy about using his stick to punish a puck carrier along the walls or in the corner. He always clears the crease and protects his goalie. He skates quite well for a player of his physical stature and has made considerable improvement since the start of the season. His overall range is enhanced by his huge reach.”

Early in the eighth round (144th overall), the Whalers went back to offense with the selection of left wing Danny Vanderwiel, who scored 10 goals with 11 assists for 21 points and 87 PIM’s in 33 games for the Team Illinois U-16’s last season.

With their own eighth round pick (153rd overall), Plymouth selected defenseman Chris Lindner from the London Knights Gold team. Lindner scored three goals with 17 assists for 20 points and 16 PIM in 50 games last season.

Plymouth historically has found value in the late rounds of the draft.

“A lot of teams say after the eighth round or so, the draft’s done," Sommariva said. "We don’t feel that way. We’ll keep working late into the draft. The picks in the late rounds aren’t wasted. The slots late in the draft could get us players that are just as valuable as the higher selections.

“We’ll continue to work our lists and have discussions about players who can help.”

With that in mind, the Whalers took the following players later in the draft:

Ninth Round (173rd overall) - Connor Sills, a 6-foot, 165 pound right wing from the Thunder Bay Kings. Sills scored 22 goals and 15 assists for 37 points and 48 PIM's in 57 games last season.

Eleventh round (207th overall) - Spencer Lee, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound right wing from the Brantford 99'ers. Lee scored 17 goals with 19 assists for 36 points at 20 PIM's in 30 games last season.

Eleventh round (213th overall) - Mitch Jones, a 5-foot-10, 160 pound defenseman from the Detroit Honeybaked U-16's. Jones scored four goals with 12 assists for 16 points and 61 PIM's in 79 games last season.

Thirteenth round (253th overall) - Christian Wolanin, a 6-foot, 160 pound left wing from the Detroit Little Caesars U-16's. Wolanin scored 13 goals with 13 assists for 26 points and 30 PIM's in 34 games last season.

Fourteenth round (273rd overall) - Greg Christmas, a 6-foot, 165 pound defenseman from the Welland Tigers. Christmas scored three goals with 20 assists or 23 points and 10 PIM's in 33 games last season.

Fifteenth round (295th overall) - Matt Miller, 5-foot-11, 180 pound defenseman from the Pittsburgh Hornets U-16. Miller scored a goal with 18 assists for 19 points and 33 PIM's in 34 games last season.

The Whalers will be holding their annual Rookie Orientation on May 21-22 at Compuware Arena.

SAGINAW

The West Division Champion Saginaw Spirit have wrapped up their participation in the 2011 State Farm OHL Priority Selection, adding 13 new prospects to the team’s depth chart in the annual draft. The Spirit focused on building the offensive corps in the early rounds of the draft, selecting winger Nick Moutrey in the first round with the 15th overall pick then following with the selection of center Sam Povorozniuk 36th overall and center Jimmy Lodge 62nd overall. The Spirit selected five Americans in the draft, including Detroit Honeybaked defenseman Alexander Smith, and seven Canadians.

“We are thrilled with the way our draft went and we ended up getting a great number of the players we wanted early in the selection,” stated Spirit Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Jim Paliafito, “This draft class features a lot of skill and speed, and we are excited to get them on the ice at the upcoming May rookie camp.”

A full breakdown of the Spirit draftees are listed below.

15th Overall: Nick Moutrey

The Spirit selected winger Nick Moutrey with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection. The 95-born forward tallied 43 goals and 46 assists for 89 points last season with the York Simcoe Express. The 6’1”, 185 pound forward hails from Shelburne, Ontario.

OHL Scouting Report: Moutrey is a forward that played all three positions this season. He has been blessed with an abundance of physical tools. He has size, a very good stick and he can get up and down the ice effectively. He makes a lot of smart touches with the puck and makes pretty solid decisions. He is at his best in the offensive zone, especially below the top of the face off circles. He plays in all of the tough areas and he uses his size quite effectively. He protects the puck quite well, and works hard to get it to a teammate in a good support position.

36th Overall: Sam Povorozniuk

The Spirit selected Sam Povorozniuk with the 36th overall pick, a center that played with the Chicago Steel Jr. A team last season with 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points. The 5'8", 165 pound winger hails from Northbrook, Illinois.

OHL Scouting Report: Povorozniuk (Povo-Rose-Nook) is a highly skilled and smart offensive minded forward who has had a great start to the season and produced offensively on a very consistent basis. He possesses a ton of natural ability, has high end stick skills, displays the ability to make plays and carry the puck while at top speed. He also has great feet, speed and quickness. His acceleration is excellent and he has the special ability to find that extra gear that can create time, space and most importantly separation from defenders. He has shown that he can play the game at a very quick pace.

62nd Overall: Jimmy Lodge

The Spirit selected Jimmy Lodge, a center from Downing, Pennsylvania, with the 62nd overall pick. He posted 18 goals and 25 assists for 43 points last season with the Toronto Titans. Lodge comes in at 5'11", 150 pounds.

77th Overall: Alexander Smith

The Spirit selected defenseman Alexander Smith of the Detroit Honeybaked program with the 77th overall pick. The 6'0", 175 pound blueliner tallied 8 goals and 23 assists for 31 points last season.

OHL Scouting Report: Smith is an aggressive puck moving defender who plays an active and involved game. He likes to force the issue and competes a very high level. He is the type of defender that will fight you for every inch of ice and do whatever he has to do to make a play. He possesses a good mix of size and skating ability. He has quick feet, showing the ability to take away time and space quickly and effectively. He doesn’t turn up an opportunity to finish a check and uses his mobility and quickness effectively in one-on-one situations. He works real hard to recover, never giving up on a play.

96th Overall: Ramon Lopez

The Spirit selected winger Ramon Lopez with the 96th overall pick. The 6'1", 175 pound forward posted 14 goals and 15 assists for 30 points last season with the Toronto Titans.

112th Overall: Ian McCoshan

The Spirit drafted defenseman Ian McCoshan with the 112nd overall pick. McCoshan, a 6'2" 190 pounds Wisconsin native, posted six assists for six goals last season in the Waterloo Jr. A program.

OHL Scouting Report: McCoshan is a two way defenseman who keeps his game pretty simple, playing mainly between the dots while showing a little bit of grit. He uses his long reach and an active stick to take away shooting and passing lanes. He tries to keep the play in front of him at all times and mainly looks to move the puck up ice to the open man. He also isn’t afraid to carry the puck out of the zone when he has an opening. McCoshan has a good collection of physical tools, including legitimate size and good feet. He moves around the ice quite well.

157th Overall: Nickolas Hirst

The Spirit selected defenseman Nickolas Hirst with the 157th overall pick. The 6'0", 175 pound blueliner tallied three goals and 16 assists for 19 points with the Waterloo Wolves last season.

177th Overall: Josh Miller

The Spirit tabbed defenseman Josh Miller with the 177th overall pick, a 6'02", 175 pound skater who tallied 7 goals and 5 assists for 12 points in the Peterborough Petes junior system.

197th Overall: Josh Pace

The Spirit selected winger Josh Pace 197th overall. Pace posted 40 goals and 42 assists for 82 points with the Hamilton Jr. Hamilton Bulldogs last season.

217th Overall: J.T. Comper

The Spirit selected center J.T. Comper 217th overall. The Northbrook, Illinois native tallied 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points last season in the Team Illinois U16's program. Comper is 5'10", 165 pounds.

OHL Scouting Report: Comper is a very effective and productive two way forward that has played both down the middle and on the wall this season. He is the type of player that just goes out and plays a very subtle, almost business like game, but by doing so he contributes immensely to his teams success. He is a very intelligent forward who also possesses a solid collection of physical tools. He has increased his size and strength and has added a more prominent physical element to his offensive and defensive game. He displays some real top end north and south speed.

237th Overall: Lucas Pressini

The Spirit picked goalie Lucas Pressini 237th overall in the selection. He posted 6'1", 160 pound netminder posted a 1.65 goals against average in 900 minutes of action last season with the Mississauga Senators.

257th Overall: Rylee McKinnon

The Spirit tabbed defenseman Rylee McKinnon with the 257th overall pick. The 6'0", 150 pound forward tallied 3 goals and 12 assists for 68 points last season with the Whitby Wildcats.

297th Overall: Troy Crema

The Spirit picked Troy Crema with the 297th overall pick. The winger tallied 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points last season with the Mississauga Senators.

Warriors fall short in Robertson Cup

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs were crowned the 2011 Robertson Cup champions after their 4-2 victory over the Michigan Warriors in the championship game of the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup Championship Tournament on Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.

Forward John Stampohar connected for a goal and two assists, including one on defenseman Pete Spratte’s game-winning marker, in the victory, and goaltender Joe Phillippi, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and to the All-Tournament Team, turned aside 23 shots.

Also named to the All-Tournament Team were forwards Jordan Davis (Topeka RoadRunners), Scott Henegar (Michigan) and Tayler Munson (Fairbanks) and defensemen Derek Hills (Amarillo Bulls) and Kevin Gibson (Michigan).

The Robertson Cup crowns the playoff champion of the NAHL and USA Hockey's Tier II Junior A national champion.

At the conclusion of the three-game round robin, which ran from Tuesday through Thursday, the West Division champion Ice Dogs finished with the most points (six) to earn an automatic berth to the championship game.

The South Division champion Bulls, who finished the round robin with a 2-1 record (four points), and the North Division champion Warriors, who finished at 1-2 (two), played in the semifinal game on Friday (Michigan won, 6-2).

With the fewest points at the conclusion of the round robin (zero), the NAHL’s regular-season champion and host RoadRunners were eliminated from the tournament.

The oldest junior hockey trophy in the United States, the Robertson Cup is named in honor of Chuck Robertson, a pioneer of junior hockey in the NAHL and youth hockey in the state of Michigan. Robertson was the owner of the Paddock Pools Saints when they won a record seven straight NAHL championships from 1976-83.

This marks the Ice Dogs' first Robertson Cup championship in the organization's history.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Metal Jackets moving to Buffalo area

The North American Hockey League has announced that its Board of Governors has approved the relocation of the Motor City Metal Jackets’ membership to Jamestown, N.Y., for the 2011-12 season.

The team, which is owned by a group headed by Kenji Yamada (pictured), will be renamed the Jamestown Ironmen and play its home games out of the 2,685-seat James Saving Bank Arena in Jamestown, which is located 75 miles southwest of Buffalo.

“Since he’s been associated with our league, Kenji Yamada has shown a tremendous commitment to the growth and success of the NAHL,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “He and his staff deliver a first-class product, both from a business perspective and in terms of player development, and we’re looking forward to him carrying that winning combination into the Jamestown market for years to come.”

“I’m thankful for the support the NAHL, the arena and the local community has shown for our organization,” said Yamada. “Our relocation is sure to be a positive move for junior hockey in Western New York and the surrounding areas, and it’s our hope to showcase a competitive and entertaining product for both the community and the NAHL.”

“The Lake Chautauqua and Jamestown areas give the team the opportunity to be the premier hockey program in the region,” said Ironmen vice president David Cole. “Western New York has a great hockey tradition and a first-class facility like the Jamestown Saving Bank Ice Arena gives our organization and the NAHL the opportunity to provide hockey players an ideal platform to develop and great entertainment for local fans.”

Dan Daikawa has been named the team’s head coach. He replaces Cole, who served as the organization’s head coach its first two seasons.

The last four years, Daikawa served as the head coach of the Miami University club team of the American Collegiate Hockey Association where he guided the program to four consecutive national tournament appearances.

“With Dan’s experience and professionalism, I expect him to instill a strong work ethic in our team and a high level of player development,” said Yamada. “He’s also a very admirable person to work with, so I strongly believe we can build a competitive team - one that will prove successful on the ice and in the community - among our management, staff and players.”

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to lead the Ironmen and begin our quest to establish the team as a top NAHL program, on and off the ice,” said Daikawa. “I'd like to thank Ironmen president Kenji Yamada for the trust he's placed in me to pursue this great challenge.”

As a player, Daikawa skated in the United States Hockey League before playing at Miami University from 1991-94. He was named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team his freshman season and was a member of the Redhawks team that advanced to the NCAA tournament in 1992.

After college, Daikawa embarked on a successful playing career in Japan, where he played 11 years in the JIHL and AHL. He was a four-time member of the Japanese National Team, playing on four Pool A World Championship squads, and was a member of the Japanese Olympic Team that competed in the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.

“The NAHL is a great league and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Daikawa added.

Daikawa and his wife, Lori, have three children: Kullan, Makenna and Cooper.

Motor City, which played in suburban Detroit, was a member of the NAHL since the 2008-09 season. It played the 2008-09 season as the Motor City Machine.