Thursday, June 30, 2011

Saginaw tabs Khlopotov in import draft

The Saginaw Spirit participated in the 2011 CHL Import Draft Wednesday, selecting Russian native Vadim Khlopotov with the 43rd overall pick in the selection.

He is eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Khlopotov is a 1994-born center who played with the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv 94 squad and the Russian U17 National Team last season, serving as team captain with the Lokomotiv.

According to reports, he is a smart, creative playmaker with excellent hockey instincts and natural leadership skills. He has a good solid shot and decent skill on the puck with unique one-on-one abilities. He tallied nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points in 16 games with the Lokomotiv in 2010-2011.

He earned a gold medal at the 2011 Tenth European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in the Czech Republic and a gold medal at the 2011 Four Nations 1994 U17 tournament in Russia.

Khlopotov will join Czech Republic native Tadeas Galansky as Saginaw’s two import players heading into the 2011-2012 season. Each CHL team is allowed a maximum of two import players on their roster in a given season.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spirit acquires Fine from Kingston

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Kingston Frontenacs, acquiring forward Michael Fine in return for a third round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection and an eighth round pick in the 2012 selection.

Fine is a four-year veteran of the league, having tallied 60 goals and 90 assists for 150 points during that stretch. The North York, Ont., native started his OHL career with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2007-2008, posting 25 goals and 30 assists for 55 points in two seasons.

He was traded to the Frontenacs at the start of the 2009-2010 season, where he tallied 35 goals and 60 assists for 95 points in two seasons. He posted 20 goals and 34 assists for 54 points in 2010-2011.

Fine, a 1991-born forward, will be entering the 2011-2012 as an overage player. Each OHL team is allowed three active overage players – Ben Chiarot, Peter Hermenegidlo, Micky Sartoretto, Josh Shalla, Sloan Stewart, Jordan Szwarz and Brad Walch are active players from the 2010-2011 season that could return as overagers next season.

Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Whalers pass on CHL Import Draft

With two good import players already on the roster, the Plymouth Whalers used today’s 2011 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft to acquire two future draft choices.

Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci traded the Whalers’ first pick and 31st overall in today’s draft to Erie. In exchange, Plymouth receives a seventh-round selection in the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection and a fifth-round pick in the 2014 OHL draft.

The Whalers will pass on their second selection (91st overall) in today’s import draft.

CHL eague teams can play just two import selections. The Whalers current imports – Rickard Rakell, from Sweden (taken in the first round by Anaheim in last weekend’s National Hockey League Entry Draft) and Dario Trutmann, from Switzerland – will return in 2011-12.

“We have two of the best imports in the Canadian Hockey League,” said Vellucci. “Dario and Rickard were important parts of our team last season. They both played in the World Junior Championship last year. We expect them to improve in 2011-12.”

Rakell scored 20 goals and 25 assists for 45 points and was +14 in 49 games last season for the Whalers. He missed 15 games at the end of the season due to injury, but that didn’t stop Anaheim from taking him with the 30th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

"I saw him at the world juniors a whole bunch and liked him," Anaheim GM Bob Murray told the Orange County Register. "He's a 17-year-old playing in the World Junior and he did a pretty good job. He's a good two-way smart hockey player. He can play center or the wing. We're very happy that he was still there at 30."

As one of the youngest players in the 2011 World Junior Championships, Rakell contributed three assists in five games for Sweden.

Although Rakell will go the Ducks developmental camp this summer and then their training camp in September, Murray doesn’t expect to fast-track him to the NHL.

"He'll finish out his junior career properly," Murray said. "Maybe one year in the minors and then we'll see where he goes. He's very intelligent and plays more of a North American game than a European game.”

Trutmann led the Whalers during the regular season with +17 and scored six goals with 13 assists and 61 PIMs in 62 games last season. He added a goal and three assists in 11 playoff games for Plymouth.

Trutmann played a regular shift for the Swiss during the 2011 World Junior Championship - often against the opposition’s top lines – and scored four assists in six games.

Whalers associate coach Joe Stefan appreciates Trutmann’s approach to the game.

“He plays hard and competes every night,” said Stefan. “He doesn’t back down from anybody. He’ll battle the biggest guys and he enjoys doing that. He’s given us a lift because he moves the puck really well and is smart in his own end and can help us on the power play.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michigan Tech scoops up Muskegon pick

The hundreds of skaters who recently took part in Muskegon Lumberjacks tryout camp were not just duking it out for a spot on the Jacks’ 2011-12 roster, they also were playing for their hockey future beyond the United States Hockey League.

Just ask Jimmy Davis.

The Caledonia native caught the eye of Michigan Tech University head coach Mel Pearson at the L.C. Walker Arena and immediately was offered a scholarship to play for the Huskies this fall.

“To be able to get a scholarship through Jacks camp means a lot,” Davis said. “The main goal of junior hockey is to continue playing hockey, get a scholarship and get set up for whatever you want to do – whether it be going pro in hockey or whatever career you choose out of college.”

Davis was a standout defenseman at East Kentwood High School, from which he graduated this spring. A gritty, 6-foot, 190-pound blueliner, Davis helped his team to the final four of the Michigan state hockey tournament this past season. His father, Jim, spoke with Pearson following the Jacks’ all-star game on June 18, but withheld the conversation from his protégé, lest it prove a distraction in the following morning’s all-star game.

“I appreciate that he didn’t tell me,” said Davis, laughing. “My dad’s always looked out for me and pushed me. I have him to thank for my toughness and my work ethic.”

Davis has been using the workouts developed by Jacks assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier, a certified strength and conditioning coach, to prepare for the jump from high school hockey. He’ll depart for Houghton on Aug. 22.

“This speaks to the kind of opportunity we’re providing to hockey players from Michigan – and anywhere – here in Muskegon,” Lumberjacks owner and CEO Josh Mervis said. “We can get players to college faster and on to their pro careers as fast here as any league in the world, including the CHL. We also get them prepared for life after hockey, which no other path can provide. That’s why the USHL is the perfect path.”

Saginaw deals Telegin to Colts for picks

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Barrie Colts, sending import center Ivan Telegin to the Barrie Colts.

In return, the Spirit receive Mississauga’s second round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection and London’s third round pick in the 2013 selection, as well as a conditional seventh round pick owned by Barrie in the 2013 selection.

Telegin tallied 105 regular season points in two seasons with the Spirit, including 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points during the 2010-2011 season. In the 2011 post-season, the Novokuznetsk, Russia native tallied two goals and eight assists for 10 points.

Telegin was selected 101st overall by the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

The trade of Telegin frees up one of Saginaw’s two import roster cards, as each CHL is allowed only two import players on their roster in a given season. Czech Republic native Tadeas Galansky is the Saginaw’s other import player heading into the 2011-2012 season.

The annual CHL Import Draft will take place tomorrow starting at 9 a.m.

Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jets' Bennett chooses D-III Concordia

For the second time in as many summers, a Metro Jets player has committed to a Division III university to attend and play hockey.

Last year, defenseman Vinnie Pietrangelo gave the nod to Finlandia University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and this past week, Metro forward and alternate captain Justin Bennett announced his intent to play for Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., just north of Milwaukee.

The Falcons are coached by Tony Hrkac, a former Hobey Baker Award winner and the only coach Concordia has had since the school added men’s and women’s hockey in 2007.

For Bennett, going to Concordia was an opportunity that presented itself during the 2010-2011 season.

“Coach Hrkac got some information on me and called me to talk about my plans for the future,” said Bennett, a 20-year-old native of Brighton. “At the time, I thought I was going to end up in Wisconsin, but playing for a rival of Concordia. Coach Hrkac and I kept in touch until I made a visit after the season where I was convinced this is where I want to spend my college career.”

Last year with the Jets, Bennett tallied seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 41 games, good for seventh on the team in scoring. He played the 2009-2010 year for Monroe Community College in New York, so his time at Concordia will be limited to three years.

Still, he intends to make the years count.

“I know the team had a down year last year and is looking to rebuild and I am hoping I can make a significant splash as soon as I get there,” Bennett said. “I would like to help my team become a competitor, if not a top contender every year. Winning is the only thing I will care about. Coach Hrkac is a proven winner, having an NCAA national championship ring (at North Dakota in 1987), a Calder Cup ring (with the 2004 Milwaukee Admirals) and a Stanley Cup ring (with the 1999 Dallas Stars). There is no doubt in my mind he can turn the program around.”

Bennett said he will major in psychology at Concordia and can’t wait to get started.

“Since I was eight years old, I have known that I wanted to become a psychiatrist,” said Bennett. “I will be taking all the pre-med requirements along with getting my BS in psychology.”

Looking back, Bennett said he owes a great deal of gratitude to the Jets organization, especially head coach Jason Cirone.

“Cirone is a huge chunk, if not the only reason why I am able to move on to the college level,” beamed Bennett. “He showed me my strengths and molded me into a well-rounded hockey player. I owe him everything and he is the reason why everyone present and future should be excited about Jets hockey.”

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whalers quartet taken in St. Paul

Last season, Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell often played together on a forward line for the Plymouth Whalers and were watched regularly by scouts from the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks.

Friday night at the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft at Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn., all of those elements came together as Noesen and Rakell were both taken in the first round of the seven round draft.

Noesen (pictured) went 21st overall to the Ottawa Senators; Rakell 30th overall to the Anaheim Ducks.

The last time the Whalers had two players taken in the first round was in 2001, when Stephen Weiss was taken fourth overall by Florida and Jason Bacashihua was selected 28th overall by the Dallas Stars. (MiJHO Note: Bacashihua played the 2000-01 season for the Chicago Freeze of the North American Hockey League and then the 2001-02 season for Plymouth.)

Later in the draft, Garrett Meurs - a frequent linemate of Noesen and Rakell - was taken in the fifth round (123rd overall) by Colorado and goaltender Matt Mahalak was selected in the sixth round (163rd overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The last time at least four Whalers were taken in the NHL Entry Draft was 2005 when James Neal was taken in the second round (33rd overall) by Dallas, Dan Collins in the third round (90th overall) by Florida, Ondrej Otcenas in the fourth round (123rd overall) by Carolina and Ryan McGinnis in the sixth round (184th overall) by Los Angeles. Later that summer and into the 2005-06 season, Jared Boll (4th round, 101st overall by Columbus) and Evan Brophey (3rd round, 68th overall by Chicago) were acquired by Plymouth in trades.

Noesen was interviewed Friday night by TSN directly after being selected by the Senators.

"I fell in love with the game through the (Dallas) Stars," he said. "My great grandfather was Canadian and he showed me the ropes and took me to Stars games. I'm really excited to get started."

Noesen was compared on the broadcast to Anaheim's Corey Perry.

"Noesen's the same kind of player," said Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray. "He's a hard-working, competitive person that's paid an awfully big price to be a hockey player, moving away from home and doing the things he's done. We like his competitive nature. Corey's turned out pretty well and we think Stefan will, too.

The Senators acquired the 21st pick from Nashville in a deal during last season's NHL trade deadline for Mike Fisher.

Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Lumberjacks prospect Seeler drafted

On Saturday morning, Nick Seeler became the first Muskegon Lumberjack chosen in the National Hockey League's entry draft.

The defenseman from Eden Prairie, Minn., was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the fifth round (131st overall).

“This is definitely a dream come true,” Seeler said. “Growing up, the NHL is where I wanted to be, and I’ve worked hard as I could to do the little things that make NHL players so great.”

Seeler is committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but will wear the Jacks’ crest this coming season.

“I’m really excited to play for (Lumberjacks head) coach Kevin Patrick,” Seeler said. “He’s an awesome guy and a classy guy. He knows what he’s doing and likes to win, so I know I’ll fit in very well.”

“Nick being selected is great for the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the community as a whole,” Patrick said. “He is an excellent two-way defenseman, who makes a real good outlet pass and does a good job getting pucks to the net. That's why his name shows up on the score sheet."

Seeler, 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, helped his high school team, Eden Prairie, win a state championship this past season.

Lumberjacks owner Josh Mervis was quick to credit Jacks Minnesota scout Chris LaCombe, who was instrumental in the Lumberjacks drafting Seeler in the 2010 United States Hockey League Entry Draft. Bold

“Our scout, Chris LaCombe, does a great job,” Mervis said. “He saw Seeler first, really worked with him and battled for us to draft him a year ago.”

Mervis said Seeler probably could have played last season with the Jacks, but opted to remain home and graduate from high school.

“This is the first step in what we said was going to happen,” Mervis said. “It takes time and now we've got a guy drafted.”

Four Saginaw skaters drafted Saturday

The Saginaw Spirit were well represented at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, with four of its players being selected within the top 100 picks.

Brandon Saad (pictured) was picked by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, while Vincent Trocheck and Anthony Camara went in the third round, to the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins, respectively. Josh Shalla was selected in the fourth round by the Nashville Predators.

Saad was the first active Spirit player taken in the draft. The Blackhawks pegged the Gibsonia, Pa., native with the 43rd overall pick. Saad tallied 27 goals and 28 assists for 55 points last season with the Spirit.

Trocheck was selected with the 64th overall pick by Florida. The Pittsburgh native posted 26 goals and 36 assists for 62 points last season with the Spirit. Trocheck joins Spirit teammate John McFarland, the Panthers 33rd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, in the Florida system.

The 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins picked Camara with the 81st overall pick. The gritty forward, a native of Toronto, posted eight goals and nine assists for 17 points as well as 132 penalty minutes last season for the Spirit.

Rounding out the Spirit’s participation in the draft was Shalla. Shalla, a native of Whitby, Ont., was selected 94th overall by the Predators. Shalla, who went undrafted in the 2010 edition of the draft, lead the Spirit’s point production this past season with 47 goals and 25 assists for 72 points.

Saad, Trocheck and Camara are slated to return to Saginaw for the 2011-2012 season unless they make their NHL clubs. Shalla, who would be entering next season as a 20-year-old overager candidate, would be eligible to return to Saginaw at the discretion of the Predators. If returned, they would re-join an intrepid group on ice for the 2011-2012 season that could include fellow draft picks McFarland (Florida Panthers, 33rd overall in 2010), Brandon Archibald (Columbus Blue Jackets, 94th overall in 2010), Ivan Telegin (Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, 101st overall in 2010), Jordan Szwarz (Phoenix Coyotes, 97th overall in 2009) and Ben Chiarot (Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers, 120th overall in 2009).

Other notes from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft: Former Spirit prospect Mark Scheifele, currently with the Barrie Colts, was selected seventh overall by the newest NHL team, the Winnipeg Jets. The trade of Scheifele’s rights was part of last summer’s deal that saw the Spirit acquire goalie Mavric Parks. Spirit prospect Jamieson Oleksiak was selected 14th overall by the Dallas Stars. Oleksiak was selected by the Spirit with the 137th overall pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection. Former Spirit player and Buffalo native Alex Lepkowski, now with the Barrie Colts, went 137th overall to the Buffalo Sabres.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Whalers sign Illinois forward Vanderwiel

The Plymouth Whalers have announced the signing of 16-year-old left wing Danny Vanderwiel, who was selected by the Whalers in the eighth round (144th overall) of the 2011 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Vanderwiel – 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds from Island Lake, Ill. (northwest of Chicago) – scored 10 goals with 11 assists for 21 points and 87 PIMs in 33 games for the Team Illinois U-16s last season. He attended the Whalers rookie orientation at Compuware Arena in May.

Vanderwiel also attended USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Evaluation Camp last March, a camp featuring the top 1995-born players in the United States.

“Our scouts have a history of finding good players later in the draft and we really like what we’ve seen from Danny so far,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “He’s strong on his skates and competes hard.”

“Danny’s a good skater who plays a physical game in all areas of the rink,” said Plymouth assistant general manager Brian Sommariva. “He provides grit and has a skill set that we like in all of our players.”

Vanderwiel is ready to start the next chapter of his hockey career.

“This is one of the most exciting things to be happening to me so far,” Vanderwiel said of his signing in a telephone interview. “The feeling of signing a contract and the team sending you a jersey after the draft makes you feel like a professional.”

Vanderwiel enjoyed his experience at the Whalers rookie orientation, where he scored a goal with two assists in two scrimmage games.

“I was able to meet some of my older teammates – Tom Wilson and Matt Mahalak – and we went to one of the Memorial Cup games (in Mississauga, Ont.),” Vanderwiel said. “They seem like good guys. (On the ice), I didn’t want to be nervous – I tried to play with confidence. I’m an honest grinder or power forward. I feel like Plymouth will be a good fit.”

Vanderwiel will attend school during the 2011-12 season at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.

Photo by Rena Laverty/Plymouth Whalers

Warriors to be renamed Flint Warriors?

The Michigan Warriors have announced that 2011-12 season tickets are now on sale - "Blue Collar Play…The Warriors Way."

The Warriors have launched their “Rename the Warriors” season ticket drive for the upcoming season. The Warriors have cut ticket prices from last year and are pushing to sell 1,500 season tickets for the upcoming season. If this goal is met and voted on by the fans, Warriors owner Pat McEachern has agreed to rename the team the Flint Warriors.

“We have heard the fans across Mid-Michigan say that they wished that the team was named 'Flint,'" said McEachern. “We are giving them the opportunity to change our name, but we need the community to support our efforts."

If the Warriors sell 1500 season tickets, every season ticket holder will be polled and be given the choice of keeping the Michigan name or change it to the Flint Warriors. The decision will be based on more than 75 percent of the vote to change the team name.

For the upcoming 2011-12 season, the Warriors have lowered season ticket prices from last year’s price of $243 for 27 games to $240 for 30 home games (regular season and exhibition) for lower bowl in the center of the arena. All other tickets for an adult will be priced at $210 for the 30-game home schedule, as compared to last year’s price of $189 for 27 games. Prices for students, seniors and children's season tickets will be priced at $210 and $180 respectively for the same seats as listed above.

For the upcoming season, season ticket holders will be able to park in a season ticket holder lot for a reduced price, as well as enter the arena thru a season ticket holder entrance, and also have the opportunity to upgrade tickets and receive additional “arena bucks” with their season ticket purchase. As a season ticket holder, they will also receive many other amenities that come with the VIP access, including preferred seating for Warriors playoff home games.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lumberjacks tweak protected lists

Following the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ annual tryout camp, the team has made some adjustments to its protective list as the deadline to report its active roster and affiliate list approaches.

The Jacks must submit a 25-player active roster and a 14-player affiliate list to the United States Hockey League office by July 1. The team currently has 42 players on its protected list. Teams’ affiliate lists can include six players born in 1995, six players born in 1994 and two players born in 1993.

“The active roster and the affiliate list are two very big pieces,” Lumberjacks head coach and general manager Kevin Patrick says, “and you have to think about how you will fit together.”

One year ago, Gavin Hartzog impressed scouts so much during Lumberjacks tryout camp that he committed to the University of Wisconsin, where he had one point in 14 games as a freshman.

Patrick knows a lot can take place between tryout camps and the league’s deadline – including drops, adds and trades.

“Our list is very solid,” Patrick says. “But the next 10 days in the league can potentially be very interesting.”

Muskegon’s annual camp opened last Monday and concluded with two all-star games, one Saturday night and the other Sunday morning. Patrick says the staff has had far more difficult decisions than it did a year ago when the Jacks were an expansion team.

“This year has been a totally different animal,” Patrick says. “But having these sort of tough decisions is a good problem to have.”

The Jacks’ protected list consists of the following skaters and goaltenders:

Initial protected players:
Vito Aluia (5 foot-8, 160 pounds; 2/23/94)
Noah Batis (5- 9, 160; 2/23/94)
Travis Belohrad (5- 10, 180; 1/13/91)
Paul Berrafato (5-11, 178; 6/9/93)
Ryan Bullock (6-0, 170; 2/5/93)
Garrett Clemment (5-9, 165; 6/18/93)
Brett D’Andrea (6-0, 175; 1/2/94)
Jimmy Davis (6-0, 180; 4/22/93)
Matt DeBlouw (6-0, 165; 9/17/93)
Carter Foguth (6-3, 215; 2/13/92)
Lance Fredrickson (6-0, 175; 1/1/92)
Tyler Heinonen (6-0, 190; 5/8/93)
Mason Jobst (5-6, 135; 2/17/94)
Dakota Klecha (5-10, 157; 12/25/91)
Ryan Lomberg (5-10, 178; 12/9/94)
Jordan Masters (5-11, 150; 4/30/94)
Alex McCauley (6-2, 180; 4/8/91)
Mike Moran (6-6, 203; 9/16/93)
Omar Mullan (5-8, 172; 7/18/93)
Tayler Munson (6-0, 183; 3/2/93)
Tyler Murray (5-8, 135; 2/11/93)
Christian Pomarico (6-1, 190; 11/11/92)
Kevin Schulze (5-8, 146; 4/23/93)
Nick Seeler (6-0, 170; 6/3/93)
Max Shuart (6-1, 180; 6/27/94)
Casey Thrush (6-1, 175; 5/5/92)
Joel Vienneau (6-4, 185; 1/18/92)
Ben Walker (5-9, 165; 6/21/93)
Travis Walsh (5-11, 184; 6/4/93)
Mark Yanis (6-2, 195; 5/26/94)

Riley Alferd (5-10; 3/26/95)
Grant Besse (5-10, 165; 7/14/94)
Cole Cassels (5-11, 157; 5/4/95)
Garrett Cockerill (6-0, 190; 2/19/94)
Joseph Cox (6-0, 170; 1/7/94)
Josh Henke (5-10, 192; 5/17/94)
Christopher Leibinger (5-9, 172; 6/16/94)
Mike McNicholas (5-10, 175; 3/23/94)
Matej Paulovic (6-2, 172; 1/13/95)
Corey Schueneman (5-11, 166; 9/2/95)
Alex Smith (5-11, 173; 1/31/95)
Alex Talcott (5-11, 190; 2/26/95)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Port Huron camp gets underway Friday

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons began their second tryout camp of the off-season today at Hazel Park Ice Arena, where dozens of players worked for the attention of the team’s coaching and scouting staff.

NAHL Draft picks Easton Powers, Kody Polin, Ryan Miller, Alex Archibald, Derek Belke and Nick Schilkey made their first appearance in a Fighting Falcons uniform, with a morning practice and a scrimmage.

A handful of players from the 2010-11 Fighting Falcons took to the ice as well. Nico Sierra and Ian Miller scored goals in their scrimmage games.

All players will play a pair of scrimmages tomorrow. Admission is free to the public.

Fighting Falcons’ defensemen Ryan Teal and Bret Lewandowski will join the camp Saturday after taking part in the 23rd annual SC4 Alumni Association Golf Classic at Port Huron Golf Club Friday.

Lewandowski hit a hole-in-one on the 13th hole, the first hole of the day for the Fighting Falcons’ scramble team.

The Fighting Falcons hope Lewandowski’s ace is a sign of good things to come, as they continue their preparations for their second season in the North American Hockey League.

Yanis to be part of first Penn State class

Muskegon Lumberjacks
defenseman Mark Yanis had many suitors who wanted him to play college hockey for them and continue his promising career.

On Tuesday, he committed to Penn State University for the fall of 2012.

“I wanted to go where I could continue to the next level and make it to the NHL,” Yanis said. “(Penn State head) coach Guy Gadowsky has a lot of respect in the pro world. It rang a bell when I got to meet him personally.”

Yanis, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman who plays with edge and intensity, scored a goal and added four assists in 54 games and added an assist during the Clark Cup playoffs in his rookie United States Hockey League season with the Jacks. He was steered toward Penn State not just because of its coaching staff, but also because of the school’s outstanding academic track record. The Grosse Pointe Woods native has his sights set on getting a degree in criminal justice.

“Mark Yanis has a long professional career ahead of him, and he’ll be playing for a coach who has a proven track record of developing NHL players” Lumberjacks owner Josh Mervis said. “But more importantly he’s going to get a great education. Once he’s done playing in the NHL, he’ll have a diploma.”

Gadowsky has spent the past seven years leading Princeton's resurgence, which includes NCAA championship berths in 2008 and 2009 and the 2008 ECAC Hockey championship. He earned the Inside College Hockey National Coach of the Year Award in 2008.

Yanis was blown over during his visit to Happy Valley last Wednesday, and leaned on his advisor, parents and Jacks head coach Kevin Patrick to make his decision. He’s relieved to be committed to Penn State, which will make the transition to Division I hockey in 2012 before joining the newly-formed Big Ten Conference in 2013.

Yanis will work hard to become an even more physically imposing blueliner and emerge as a leader in his second season with the Jacks.

“I want to be a leader on this team and lead by example,” Yanis said. “I want to show the newcomers what Muskegon hockey is all about. I have a physical style and Coach Patrick preaches that if you don’t hit, you won’t be in the lineup. I’m here to be a shutdown defenseman and that’s what Penn State was looking for.”

Yanis will be eligible for next June’s NHL Draft, and he’s eager to hear his name called. He also knows how hard he’ll need to work to make that happen.

“It’ll be a big year for me, starting with the USHL Fall Classic in September,” Yanis said.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Muskegon main camp opens today

The slate of outstanding skaters who will vie for a spot on the Muskegon Lumberjacks’ 2011-12 roster has been set.

The United States Hockey League team’s main camp opens today and, in addition to returning players and Jacks draft selections, a group of hand-picked players who took part in invite camp earlier this week will have a shot at wearing the Jacks’ crest this fall.

After three games each day wrapping up Saturday morning, the Jacks’ brass will deliberate and choose the players who will take part in two All-Star games, after which they will determine the team’s roster for the upcoming USHL season. Both All-Star games are free and open to the public, and concessions will be available throughout. The first game is 8 p.m. Saturday, and the second contest is 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Parking is free during both games

Twenty-eight players made their way through the Invite portion of camp and were selected to compete for a roster spot over the next four days.

“We had some very difficult decisions,” said Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick, “and the competition is going to be excellent over the next few days. The bar was set high last year, and it’s been pushed much higher during this year’s camp.”

Thirteen members of the Jacks’ 2010-11 team will vie to return to the club this fall. Forwards Matt DeBlouw, Isaac Kohls, Jordan Masters, Christian Kraus, Max Shuart, Casey Thrush, Michael Moran and Travis Belohrad are all back at the friendly confines. The same goes for defensemen Travis Walsh, Carter Foguth and Mark Yanis and goaltenders Joel Vienneau and Paul Berrafato.

All but one of the Jacks selections in the 2011 Futures and Entry drafts will be battling for a spot, as well as many of the team’s 2010 selections who refined their skills elsewhere last season.

NA3HL announces divisional alignment

The North American 3 Hockey League's (3HL) summer meetings concluded in Chicago recently with the league announcing several major decisions.

USA Hockey has approved the 3HL as a certified and full sanctioned Tier III junior hockey league. The 2011-12 season will be the first full season for the 3HL, whose footprint will expand even further featuring 16 teams from seven states, including four new teams in Minnesota and Iowa.

As one of USA Hockey’s top Tier III junior leagues in the country, the 3HL is a league like no other. Thanks to its partnership with the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the only Tier II league in the country, the unique developmental path for players allows for unmatched exposure. The relationship and partnership allows the players of the 3HL the maximum opportunity for advancement to higher-level junior teams and collegiate programs throughout the United States.

The upcoming 3HL season will consist of 48 regular-season games, including a portion at three different 3HL showcases, which will be held in conjunction with NAHL and North American Prospects Hockey League (PHL) events, maximizing the exposure and scouting presence. The 3HL will also have a Top Prospects event and a season-ending championship tournament. The 3HL’s regular season will commence on Sept. 2, 2011 and conclude on March 11, 2012.

The 3HL divisional playoffs will consist of two rounds from March 16-25, 2012 followed by each of the divisional champions moving onto compete in a season-ending, final-four-style championship tournament to crown a 3HL playoff champion from March 30-April 2, 2012 which will usher in a new era of championship hockey.

The 16-team league will be broken down into the following four divisions:

West (new for the 2011-12 season)
Granite City Lumberjacks - Sauk Rapids, MN
Minnesota Flying Aces - Little Falls, MN
North Iowa Bulls - Mason City, IA
Twin City Steel - Oakdale, MN

Chicago Hitmen - Rolling Meadows, IL
Peoria Mustangs - Peoria, IL
Quad City Jr. Flames - Davenport, IA
St. Louis Jr. Blues - Affton, MO

Battle Creek Revolution
- Battle Creek, MI
Michigan Mountain Cats - Farmington Hills, MI
Queen City Steam - Evendale, OH
Toledo Cherokee - Toledo, OH

Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks - Strongsville, OH
Flint Jr. Generals - Flint, MI
Metro Jets - Waterford, MI
Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins - Pittsburgh, PA

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farmington Hills native chooses NMU

Former Wenatchee Wild captain D.J. Vandercook is going back to Michigan for the next stage of his hockey career.

A native of Farmington Hills, Vandercook committed to continue his education and hockey career atNorthern Michigan University this fall.

“It’s an exciting time for myself, my family and those close to me,” Vandercook said. “Every hockey player wants to play in the NHL someday, and getting to play Division I hockey gets you one step closer and Northern Michigan has given me that opportunity. Finally seeing it pay off and getting closer to the ultimate goal is really exciting for me.”

Vandercook was one of the Wild’s original members. He scored 30 goals and 20 assists (50 points) during the organization’s inaugural NAHL season in 2008-09. He went on to record 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in the 2009 playoffs where the upstart Wild eventually fell to the St. Louis Bandits in the Robertson Cup championship game.

Vandercook went on to be selected in the second round of the 2009 USHL Entry Draft by the Des Moines Buccaneers. He notched 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 56 games with the Buccaneers in 2009-10.

The Wild reacquired Vandercook on Sept. 30, 2010. Vandercook was even better in his second stint with the Wild, scoring 22 goals with 34 assists (56 points) during the 2010-11 season while eventually becoming the team’s captain.

He also earned two NAHL West Player of the Week honors and was a member of Team West, which won the second NAHL Top Prospects Tournament of the season in Ann Arbor in February.

“He carries himself in a very professional manner,” said Wild assistant coach Chris Clark. “So when he talks, people listen. When he came back, everybody wanted to hear what he had to say.”

Vandercook scored three goals and three assists in seven Robertson Cup playoff games in 2011. He’s the Wild’s all-time regular-season career leader in assists (54) and second in club history behind Michael Di Puma in goals (52) and points (106).

“I think where D.J. improved the most (during his junior career) is in his maturity,” said Clark. “When he first got here, he was an 18-year-old kid right out of high school. By the time he left, he was one of our best leaders.

“His skills improved, too. His knowledge of the game improved. He’s a stronger player and a stronger person for everything he’s gone through.”

Photo by Tom Williams/NAHL

Saginaw trades prospect to Colts

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the Barrie Colts, acquiring a third round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Section.

In exchange, the Colts receive center Ray Huether, who was the Spirit’s fifth round selection in 2010.

This past season, Huether recorded one assist in seven games played with Saginaw, spending most of his year with Stratford in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lumberjacks hire two coaching interns

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced the hiring of two coaching interns, Colin Martel and Jukka Konstas.

Martel and Konstas will spend a year with the Lumberjacks to complete their bachelor’s degrees with the Vierumäki Sports Institute. Both are well-revered among their International Ice Hockey Federation peers and aspire to be hockey coaches. They will be involved in many aspects of the Jacks’ daily operation. They also will be at the forefront of the Jacks’ expanding initiatives in youth hockey.

Lumberjacks head coach Kevin Patrick met Martel and Konstas at a Team USA National Select camp last summer and immediately was impressed.

“We’re very excited to have both of them involved in our program and to be able to play a role in them developing into great hockey coaches is a privilege,” Patrick said. “They’ll bring a lot of energy to the operation and can bring some outside-the-box thinking to the table.”

“The opportunity to spend a season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the top U.S. junior league is unique,” USA Hockey senior director of hockey development Kevin McLaughling said. “The ability to be mentored by high-level coaches and an exceptional hockey operations staff will give Jukka and Colin tremendous insight into the real world of sports enterprises and prepare both young men for a career in hockey.”

Upon completion of their internship, Martel and Konstas will be required to complete a thesis to obtain their degrees. USA Hockey has provided support for the Vierumäki Coaching Degree Program in the past. Faculty at the Vierumäki campus includes some of the Finnish National Team coaches, and last year the entire program was headed by Erkka Westerland, the former Finland Olympic coach.

Konstas, 28, is an Oulu, Finland, native and long has either played as a goaltender or worked specifically in developing puckstoppers on and off the ice.

“I want to share my knowledge and help individuals to achieve all they can,” Konstas said. “The reward from coaching for me is when you see the development in an athlete, not just on the ice, but also as a person. Championships are just the side product.”

Konstas’ driving force has been following and working with Mika Tarvainen, who works as goalie coach of Swedish Elite league team Timrå IK. Tarvainen is the first Finnish professional goalie coach working abroad.

“His passion and knowledge has guided me a lot during my career,” Konstas said.

Konstas is a firm believer in the Jacks’ brand of hockey – fast and physical.

“I want pucks to be delivered to net and players to have the attitude to drive there,” Konstas said. “I appreciate hard work and giving everything you have, battling every situation to end.”

Konstas graduated as a sports counselor from the Sport Institute of Lapland and feels that in his two years with Vierumäki he’s been able to refine his skills into hockey-specific knowledge. Like Martel, he has extensive experience with computers and video analysis. Konstas’ season with the Jacks will be his seventh altogether as a coach.

Martel, 20, has served as a coach with the Vierumäki A-Juniors and has extensive experience in video analysis and assisted in a crucial IIHF project – determining its rink-size standardization. He is computer savvy and also has served as an international student coach with USA Hockey.

“My main strength as a coach is understanding the game of hockey very well,” Martel said. “I also am a strong speaker, strong in relaying information to the players I coach. As a younger coach, I feel that I can relate with the kids in many situations.”

Both players have been chomping at the bit to join the Jacks in the premier junior league in the nation.

“I believe this is going to be the greatest year of our lives,” Konstas said. “The chance to come work in a professional organization like Jacks is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m excited to work with players and staff that are committed to what they are doing and work toward the common goal.”

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Cirone gives an 'A' to Jets' draft

The Metro Jets went on the offensive during last Thursday night’s North American 3 Hockey League Entry Draft, selecting 10 forwards among their 18 total picks of prospective players for next season’s team.

The Jets also tabbed six defensemen, including their first pick, Trevor Hillman, and two goaltenders.

Of the 18 players, 17 are Michigan natives and most of them local to the Waterford area.

The words “skilled” and “physical” also can be attributed to the vast majority of the Metro picks, many of which the Jets feel will indeed be playing at Lakeland Arena during the 2011-2012 season.

“If I were to give our draft a grade, it would be an ‘A,’” Jets head coach Jason Cirone said. “We not only took kids that are highly-skilled, but we drafted kids we feel are good people, committed players. I’m very pleased with our scouting staff for all the countless hours they put in last season and since the season ended.”

Metro had two selections in the first round and took Hillman third overall out of the Detroit Falcons U16 program and then forward Justin Shureb from Livonia Stevenson High School.

Cirone is high on both Hillman and Shureb both playing in Waterford next fall.

“I saw Hillman at the Port Huron (Fighting Falcons of the NAHL) camp and I thought he was one of the better defensemen,” said Cirone. “He’ll shore up our back end. He’s young, just a ’94 (birth year) and has a lot of youthful energy. He’s got good foot speed, good size and plays very well in his own end.

“I also saw Shureb at the Port Huron camp and he’s an energy guy who goes hard every shift. He’s a skilled guy who can play very physical and doesn’t mind taking a hit. We didn’t think he’d last until the second round, so that’s why we took him in the first round.”

In the second round (20th overall), Metro tabbed forward Mike MacKinnon from the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League (Nor-Pac). MacKinnon is a Troy native who played high school hockey at Troy Athens before heading out west last year.

“I actually wanted him to come play for me with the Motor City Machine (of the NAHL) three years ago,” said Cirone. “He’s a big winger, a big goal scorer and a kid who likes to grind it out.”

Petoskey native Mike Pattullo was the Jets’ first goalie taken when he was taken in the third round (36th overall) out of the Bozeman Icedogs of the Nor-Pac.

“Pattullo is another kid I saw in Port Huron that has a little bit of junior experience,” said Cirone. “He’s a bigger goalie and one we’ll lean on for experience.”

Oxford native Tim Perks, a forward who played at Oxford High School, went in the fourth round (52nd overall) and should make an immediate impact for the Jets.

“Perks is a kid our head scout, Tim Ross, saw a lot of this year,” Cirone explained. “We didn’t think he’d still be there that late in the draft. Perks is another skilled player who can score goals. When we talked to his coaches at Oxford, they said they were very impressed with him and said he’s a kid who was very committed to the systems they ran there.”

The Jets grabbed Warren De La Salle goalie Jacob Theut in the fifth round (68th overall), but Cirone isn’t counting on seeing him at Lakeland Arena next season.

“Theut has an option to play for Kenai River in the NAHL and I believe he’ll make that team,” said Cirone. “We drafted him on the recommendation of (Jets goalie coach) Randy Wilson and he said he’s the hardest-working goalie he’s ever seen.”

Picks in rounds seven through 20 (Metro didn’t have a pick in the sixth round), with comments from Cirone:

7th round, 100th overall – John Baker, F, Yellowstone Quake

“Another local kid (Commerce) and a kid who has been at all of our Monday night skates. He will bring energy and experience.”

8th round, 116th overall – Sean Campbell, D, Capital Centre Pride

“A big, mobile defenseman who I saw at Kalamazoo’s (NAHL) camp. I also saw him at the NAPHL tournament in Troy last winter. He’s got a great shot and can play physical.”

10th round, 148th overall – Chris Hellebuyck, F, Lansing Capitals U18

“The older brother of (tendered goalie) Connor and a kid we’ve been after for two years now. He’s a big kid with good speed and loves going to the net.”

11th round, 164th overall – Mike Walter, D, Motor City Metal Jackets U18

“Both Tim and (assistant coach) Sean (Clark) saw him a lot last year. He’s not overly big, but plays physical. Players on other teams feel his presence and know he’s there. He’ll bring a great attitude to our team.”

12th round, 180th overall – Tyler Hughes, D, Port Huron Northern High School

“A young kid with good feet and another one we saw at the Port Huron camp. (Fighting Falcons coach) Bill Warren thinks he’s ready to play juniors and should be in the NAHL in no time.”

13th round, 196th overall – Chad Frost, D, Clarkston High School

“I see him every day at Puckmasters (training facility) in Wixom. He also came out to our Monday night skates. His coaches said that not only is he a good player, he’s a very committed player.”

14th round, 212th overall – Jared Smith, D, Port Huron Northern High School

“Smith is a lot like Hughes and when you think of one, you think of the other because they have a lot of the same attributes. We’ve talked to him and he’s excited to come play in the 3HL.”

16th round, 244th overall – Joey Emery, F, Southgate Anderson High School

“I know his dad and have seen Joey play since he was about 14 years old. He’s a skilled guy and a hard-nosed Downriver kid who I was very happy to be able to draft.”

17th round, 260th overall – Connor Lyons, F, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School

“A highly-skilled player that was also at the Port Huron camp. Randy spoke highly of Lyons. He’s got good speed and will be good for the locker room.”

18th round, 276th overall – Cam Kwaiser, F, Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School

“It was late in the draft and we were looking at our lists and Sean noted that Kwaiser was still available. His coaches told us he takes instruction well and not only is he good offensively, but he’s just as good in the defensive zone.”

19th round, 292nd overall – Tim Wlodkowski, F, Boston Jr. Blackhawks

“He’s from Houston, but has family in the Detroit area that he’s going to live with next season. He works out with Frost and is a big-bodied player with a lot of speed.”

20th round, 317th overall – Steve Klisz, F, Livonia Churchill High School

“We didn’t have a pick in the 20th round, so we made a trade with St. Louis to get this pick. Klisz is a big kid who can score a lot of goals and I really can’t believe he wasn’t tendered by an NAHL team.”

The draft now in the rear-view mirror, Cirone now shifts his focus to summer skates and the team’s tryout camp in two weeks from June 24-26 at Lakeland.

“New guys are coming in and kids from last year are moving up,” said Cirone. “Mike Moroso and Tommy Kilgore should be playing for Port Huron, Jordan Jones is close to making Kalamazoo and Dan Hudson is right there. Our guys are getting better and it’s my job to get these kids to the next level.

“We’re losing a lot of leadership in guys like Mike Corder, Justin Bennett and Brett Grech, but I think with some of the guys coming back and the new kids coming in, we’re getting some skilled guys and guys with good character.”


After tendering goalie Connor Hellebuyck back in early May, the Jets used their second tender on Wyandotte Roosevelt High School co-captain and All-State forward Nick Kovalchik, a linemate of co-Mr. Hockey winner Gerald Mayhew.

Kovalchik was tendered by the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors and has a chance to crack that lineup next year and play against Mayhew, a signed tender by Kalamazoo.

“I played with (Warriors coach-GM) Moe Mantha in Winnipeg,” said Cirone. “He’s hoping Kovalchik will play in Flint next year, but if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, we’ll certainly welcome him with open arms.”

Saturday, June 04, 2011

NA3HL announces 2011 draft results

The North American 3 Hockey League (3HL) has announced the results of its 2011 Entry Draft, which was conducted online on Thursday, June 2.

View the results of the 3HL Entry Draft here.

Players not drafted are still able to participate in 3HL teams' open tryout camps.

Click here for tryout information.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

NA3HL Entry Draft goes tonight at 7

The 2011 North American 3 Hockey League (3HL) Entry Draft will be conducted online tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

Draft results will be available by following NA3HL on Twitter or at and the complete results by round/selection will be posted on at the conclusion of the draft.

There is no registration process to be eligible for the 3HL Entry Draft. Amateur players less than 21 years of age on or before December 31, 2011 who are not listed on an 3HL team roster or are listed on an 3HL team roster but played less than 10 3HL regular season and/or playoff games during the 2010-11 season and did not accept a tender from an 3HL team prior to the 2011 3HL Entry Draft are eligible for selection.

Eligible teams shall make selections in each round in reverse order of their finish in the 2010-11 3HL regular-season standings. The expansion North Iowa Bulls will select No. 1, while the Twin City Steel, Minnesota Flying Aces and Granite City Lumberjacks, who are also new to the 3HL, will select Nos. 14, 15, 16, respectively.

Each team will select one player per round (20 rounds), plus or minus trades.

3HL teams prepare for June 2 draft (May 26)

Spirit captain signs with Phoenix

The Saginaw Spirit have announced that team captain Jordan Szwarz has signed an entry level contract with the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League.

As per club policy, terms of the deal were not announced.

Szwarz completed his fourth campaign as a member of the Spirit after being the team’s second round pick in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, posting 27-39-66 totals in 65 games.

The Burlington, Ont., native was the Coyotes' fourth round selection (97th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Szwarz is among the franchise leaders in most significant team marks as he ranks second in all time regular season games played, and third in points after becoming just the fourth player in Spirit history to record 200 or more points in a career this past season.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

NAHL announces divisional realignment

The North American Hockey League has announced its divisional alignment for the 2011-12 season.

The 28-team league will be divided into five divisions: the Central, North, Midwest, South and West.

Five teams will compete in the Midwest Division: the Chicago Hitmen, Coulee Region Chill, Janesville Jets, Springfield Jr. Blues and St. Louis Bandits.

The Jamestown Ironmen, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings, Michigan Warriors, Port Huron Fighting Falcons and Traverse City North Stars will play in the five-team North Division.

Five teams will also compete in the Central Division: the Aberdeen Wings, Alexandria Blizzard, Austin Bruins, Bismarck Bobcats and Minot Minotauros.

In the South Division, seven teams will compete: the Amarillo Bulls, Corpus Christi IceRays, New Mexico Mustangs, Odessa Jackalopes, Texas Tornado, Topeka RoadRunners and Wichita Falls Wildcats.

Six teams will play in the West Division: the Alaska Avalanche, Dawson Creek Rage, Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Fresno Monsters, Kenai River Brown Bears and Wenatchee Wild.

The 2011-12 regular-season schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.

2011-12 NAHL Divisional Alignment

Midwest Divsion
Chicago Hitmen
Coulee Region Chill
Janesville Jets
Springfield Jr. Blues
St. Louis Bandits

North Division
Jamestown Ironmen
Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings
Michigan Warriors
Port Huron Fighting Falcons
Traverse City North Stars

Central Division
Aberdeen Wings
Alexandria Blizzard
Austin Bruins
Bismarck Bobcats
Minot Minotauros

South Division
Amarillo Bulls
Corpus Christi IceRays
New Mexico Mustangs
Odessa Jackalopes
Texas Tornado
Topeka RoadRunners
Wichita Falls Wildcats

West Division
Alaska Avalanche
Dawson Creek Rage
Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Fresno Monsters
Kenai River Brown Bears
Wenatchee Wild

Saginaw celebrating tenth year in OHL

The Saginaw Spirit will be celebrating their tenth year anniversary next season and are pleased to unveil their tenth year anniversary logo.

For more information regarding the team’s new logo and to see what’s in store for next season’s year ten celebration, visit the team’s official year ten page at

“On behalf of Dick Garber and myself, as we celebrate our tenth year, we are grateful to our great fans, the season ticket holders, the Great Lakes Bay Region’s corporate community and the Saginaw County tax payers that have supported the downtown crown jewel the Dow Event Center," said Spirit president and managing partner Craig Goslin. “The Spirit team truly belongs to the entire region as the breakdown of our ticket buyers and corporate support base shows that 45% come from Saginaw County, 32% from Midland County, 17% from Bay County and 6% from others.

"The fan experience is our focus and for 10 years, nobody in our business has done it any better than the dedicated and committed people that make up the staff of the Saginaw Spirit. We are proud of our people and what the Spirit adds economically and socially to the Great Lakes Bay Region and we look to the next 10 years to do it all better and better each game.

“We want to invite our fans and the entire region to continue to catch the Spirit with our new year ten logo. The year ten logo features the Spirit eagle backed by ‘wings’ forming a the roman numeral ‘X’ to signify ten years of Spirit hockey, and will be featured in a full color version and a commemorative black and silver version. The year ten logo is consistent with the Spirit brand while at the same time, it provides a powerful connection to the excitement and passion that our region has experienced during our first nine years of Spirit hockey. The new logo is the fifth incarnation of the Spirit brand in addition to the three primary logos that we have used."

The Spirit will have tenth year logo merchandise and jersey’s ready to sell at the State Street Spirit Store by the middle of August.

The Spirit are also taking a look back at the team’s history and alumni as the milestone approaches, with several alumni features, picture montages, highlight packages and more being published on throughout the off-season.

For more information regarding the team’s new logo and to see what’s in store for next season’s year ten celebration, visit the team’s official year ten page at

The Spirit would also like to invite fans to share their MEMORIES OF TEN YEARS OF SPIRIT HOCKEY on the team’s Facebook page. Visit the team’s Facebook wall to post pictures of you with players of years past. Fans can also submit their favorite memories and pictures of years past to – it could be showcased on the front page of

Fans are also encouraged to vote for their MEIJER YEAR TEN ALL-STAR TEAM! Cast your top nominees via email to from now until Monday, June 6. Visit to view a full list of previous Spirit players. The nominees will be posted on by position (1 Center, 1 Left Wing, 1 Right Wing, 2 Defenseman and 1 Goalie will be named to the Year Ten All-Star Team) to be voted on throughout the summer.

Fans can also stay tuned to the official unveiling of the team’s tenth anniversary jerseys

For more information visit the team’s official year ten page at

Palmer joins Muskegon coaching staff

The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced that Steve Palmer will join the United States Hockey League team’s coaching staff.

Palmer, a journeyman player and a burgeoning coach, will join head coach Kevin Patrick and assistant coach Dave Noel-Bernier behind the Jacks’ bench. The Missisauga, Ont., native will be heavily involved in not just coaching, but also recruiting.

“He’ll be involved in a number of areas and having a coach of his caliber on board will help us to do more scouting and build more relationships,” Patrick said. “Both of our assistant coaches had great on-ice careers, but they were both excellent students as well. They model the message that we’re trying to send to our players about not just being the best on the ice, but also in the classroom and the community.”

Palmer most recently served as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Denver during the 2009-10 season. The Pioneers earned berths to both the WCHA Final Five and the NCAA Tournament and finished the season ranked fifth in the nation. Under celebrated head coach George Gwozdecky, Palmer assisted in many facets of the coaching staff’s daily operation both on and off the ice.

“It was a great experience working with that staff and they’re coaching and recruiting on an unbelievable level,” Palmer said. “There were so many things I learned in one year that I never got to learn in 13 years as a player.”

“Here in Muskegon, we want to set the standard across the board,” said Patrick, who coached against the Pioneers while serving as an assistant at the University of Wisconsin. “Steve brings a wealth of knowledge, not just from his playing days, but also during his experience working with a program like Denver.”

Palmer amassed 134 points over his four-year playing career at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., during which his teams won at least 20 games every season and made three NCAA Tournament appearances. The centerman was a two-time Academic All-American and a Rhodes Scholarship nominee, and earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering and management.

“I loved my college experience, and I have aspirations of being a head college coach someday,” Palmer said. “I know in the USHL you have to know the league from the ground up, because it’s such a great developmental league for college players.”

Palmer stockpiled more than 500 points over a 13-year professional career in Europe, which he wrapped up in the 2008-09 season with EV Duisburg and Kassel of the German Elite League. After his pro career, he was eager to break into coaching.

Palmer earned his level-four coaching certification from USA Hockey and is an on- and off-ice personal trainer for individuals, small groups and teams. He has 18 years of experience working in hockey schools, including having served as head coach at the USA Hockey Select 15 Festival in Michigan last July.

He’s ecstatic about the opportunity to work with everyone on the Jacks’ staff.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Jacks’ coaching staff,” Palmer said. “Everyone you talk to in college hockey who talks about Coach Patrick has said I’ve landed in a good spot.”

Palmer’s wife, Melissa, is a Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., native. They have a 2-year-old son, Chase.