Friday, September 28, 2012

Hartford a runaway freight train for Dogs

When Matt Hartford gets his skates moving, he looks like a runaway freight train.

At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, once Hartford gets ‘rolling,’ he’s difficult to stop and definitely adds some much-needed size to the Michigan Ice Dogs.

“He’s a power forward,” explained Ice Dogs’ head coach Tony Graham. “He has good size, although he’s not overly physical.”

Hartford pressures the play and his effort without the puck is notable.

“Hartford practiced most of the season with the team last year,” said Graham. “He worked hard and lost 30 pounds to make the team. He deserves his place on our roster. His size, work ethic and skills are a big asset to the team.”

“One of my favorite teams of all time was the Allen Park Huskies team I played on as a Squirt,” recalled Hartford. “Coach Kenny made it special and taught me so much about the game.

“Hockey has taught me so many things. I’ve learned what teamwork is, how important drive and determination are. I’ve gained confidence playing hockey. I love the feeling you get from winning. Hockey makes me happy.”

Best hockey memory: “My No. 1 hockey highlight was in the Canada Cup when I competed in the skills competition with my defensive partner and won. The excitement of having my name announced as one of the all-stars was great. When I got on the ice, all of the fans were going crazy and then going through the event and winning multiple competitions was by far my greatest hockey highlight.”

Hartford’s advice for young players: “Never give up on your dreams and never listen to the doubters.”

In the future, Hartford plans to attend college and major in engineering.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jr. K-Wings make moves, shuffle roster

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced the addition of defenseman Cameron Heath.

Heath is a 17-year-old defenseman from Troy and was a First Team All-State selection last season at Cranbrook-Kingswood High School in Bloomfield Hills.

Heath, who goes 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, was slated to start the season with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USH before he was traded to Kalamazoo for future considerations.

Heath is joining Kalamazoo to help support a defense core that has been struck with some early-season injuries.

In 26 games last season with Cranbrook-Kingswood, Heath was able to tally nine goals and 17 assists to average a point per game as a defenseman. He was also quite productive on the power play unit, notching three power-play goals and six man-up assists.

Heath should make his debut this weekend for Kalamazoo as they take on the Port Huron Fighting Falcons in two straight contests, including the home opener on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Borgess Health Rink inside Wings West.

In another transaction, forward AJ Marcinek was traded to the Michigan Warriors for future considerations.

Chapie earning points so far for Metro

Ryan Chapie has been skating since the age of four and said he has “loved it ever since.”

He’s hoping this year of junior hockey is just as enjoyable with the Metro Jets.

A 19-year-old Midland native, Chapie played last season for Delta College (pictured) and heard about the Jets while attending school and playing for the Pioneers.

“A buddy on my team, Jordan Reames, had played for the Jets previous to that season and was telling me about the team,” said Chapie. “I thought I would give it a shot and here we are.”

If the last name Chapie sounds familiar, it should. Adam Chapie, a cousin of Ryan, played for the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks a couple years back and then moved on to the North American Hockey League’s New Mexico Mustangs and is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell this year.

“I knew my cousin played in the league, but I never talked to him about it,” said Ryan Chapie.

So far this season, Chapie is averaging a goal per game and is third in team scoring with six points. He had two goals and two assists in Metro’s season-opening 10-4 win against Battle Creek on Sept. 15.

While the goals are certainly a plus, Chapie said that’s not the strongest part of his game.

”I would describe my style of play as a playmaker,” Chapie said. “I love dishing off a nice pass to a teammate for them to bury a goal.”

Chapie added that his early impressions of Jets’ coach Jason Cirone have been very positive and he thinks the Jets have a solid team from top to bottom.

”Jason knows what he is doing as a coach and if our team plays the game he wants us to play, we will be a good team,” said Chapie. “He knows his hockey. My expectations for the season are just to be a solid teammate that’s in the lineup every weekend and can help my team win. The only numbers that matter to me are if the team can come up with two points each game we play.”


The Jets traveled to Cleveland last weekend and suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the Jr. Lumberjacks.

Saturday night, Dallas Szustak scored with 4:29 to play in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and Cleveland held on to beat the Jets 3-1.

Chapie scored Metro’s lone goal and goalie Austin Julvezan made his season debut and stopped 31 shots.

Cleveland finished the sweep with a 7-1 win Sunday afternoon.

Andrew Palushaj scored the Jets' only goal to briefly tie the game at 1-1 late in the first period. Julvezan made 34 saves.

“Last weekend was kind of the tale of two teams,” said Metro captain Matt Stirling. “We played extremely well in the first game and fought all the way to the end, but we just came up short. The second game as a team we did not play well at all in any phase of the game and for as good as Saturday’s game was, Sunday’s game kind of overshadowed Saturday’s good performance.”

The Jets (2-2-0-0) return home to Lakeland Arena this weekend for two games with the Three Rivers Vengeance. Game time is 7:50 p.m. Saturday night and 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon.


Last week, forward Kyle Shreve was released and Palushaj was added to the roster.

Palushaj, a 19-year-old Livonia native, is the younger brother of NHL prospect Aaron Palushaj, a one-time Michigan Wolverine (2007-09) who has seen action in 41 games with Montreal the past two seasons.

Andrew Palushaj played 19 games with the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes last year and was named Division I First Team All-State in 2011 while playing for Livonia Stevenson High School.

This past Tuesday, defenseman Tim Foley was released. Foley played in all four games for the Jets, recording three assists (all on the power play).


Goaltender Devin Williams played 19 games with the Jets last year before signing with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters and staying in the OHL the rest of the season.

Williams was drafted by the Otters in the fifth round of the 2011 OHL draft.

With the Jets, the Saginaw native went 9-9-0 with a 3.88 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage.

This year in Erie, Williams, who doesn’t turn 17 until Oct. 30, will battle for playing time with Swedish goalie Oscar Dansk.

Thirlby excited to join Hartland squad

Tyler Thirlby anticipated for his hometown Traverse City Cohos this season, but when the Cohos’ franchise went dormant, he had a solid Plan B waiting at his fingertips – the Hartland Hounds.

Signing with the Hounds and making his debut in the two games last weekend in Rhinelander, Thirlby said he adjusted as quickly as he could to the speed of junior hockey.

He played last season for Traverse City West High School (pictured).

“I think I played pretty good for my weekend and I feel like I learned the playing style really quick from my teammates and coaches, but I know I still have a lot to work on,” said Thirlby, a forward. “I knew very little about the Hartland organization, but what I did know was that Randy (Montrose) was a great coach from when we played Howell High School two years ago and his teams have always been top-notch.”

Montrose is ecstatic about having Thirlby join the Hounds.

“Tyler is a character kid who will do anything to make a play,” said Montrose. “I’ve watched him play for a number of years and he’s one of those kids that you hate to play against, but you’d love to have him on your side.”

Thirlby agrees with Montrose’s assessment of his play.

“I like to get the puck to the net whether it’s shooting, passing or hitting other players to get it there,” Thirlby said. “I love to hit; it’s one of my favorite parts of the game. Whatever coach Randy needs me to do, I’ll try my best to get that job done.”

As a goal for this season, Thirlby wants to finish among the team leaders in points and earn a tender from a North American Hockey League or United States Hockey League team for next season.

That said, if last weekend was any indication, Thirlby will enjoy wearing the black and white this season.

“When I walked onto the bus, I wasn't expecting the team to be that welcoming,” said Thirlby. “The boys are hilarious and always keep it fun, but when it’s game time, we get it done.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

MacDonald to wear the 'C' for Plymouth

The Plymouth Whalers have a new captain for the 2012-13 season.

Colin MacDonald has scored only three goals in 180 career games. But as his career has moved on, he’s developed into one of the better stay-at-home defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League.

On a team full of first-round National Hockey League draft choices and 10 NHL picks, the Whalers appreciate MacDonald’s maturity, on and off the ice. As a result, Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci announced MacDonald’s captaincy to the team at practice on Sept. 19.

“He (MacDonald) brings work ethic, maturity and leadership off the ice and on the ice, he’s just steady,” Vellucci said. “He’s one of those guys you can always count on. He understands how to play the game.”

The Whalers also appointed Stefan Noesen, Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick assistant captains.

MacDonald was asked if he was surprised at being named captain.

 “It wasn’t so much of a surprise, but more of an honor,” he said. “I came into this year hoping to be one of the leaders again and I was happy that they picked me to be captain. I’m going to do as great a job as I can.

The beauty of the OHL is, while the league has stars and high draft picks, there’s plenty of room for others to develop into good players.

And MacDonald has come a long way since the Whalers selected him in the 14th round (270th overall) in the 2009 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

“It’s not about where you get drafted,” MacDonald said. “I was fortunate to be picked up by Plymouth – it’s a great organization. Mike’s (Vellucci) all about hard work and I’m a hard working kid. So that’s really helped me out in order get more ice time and eventually become captain. I think (becoming captain) it’s a great lesson, because even if you’re drafted late, you can make it.”

The transition for Whaler pups like Zach Bratina, Connor Sills, Alex Peters and the others can be a challenge, on and off the ice. MacDonald and the other veterans help out where they can.

“I just try to show them the ropes,” he said. “I think the biggest thing in your first year is gaining confidence. We try to keep the young guys confident through the year so they’ll play their best.”

MacDonald isn’t the only veteran who helps out younger players. Wilson made a point to drive around Plymouth rookies Matt Mistele, Danny Vanderwiel and others to and from school last season. That’s one of the reasons he was appointed an assistant this year.

MacDonald is currently paired on the Whalers defense with Carrick. Both are intelligent and play opposite styles – MacDonald stays home, Carrick is an excellent skater and puck mover.

“It’s a good pairing because he’s an offensive defenseman and I’m a defensive-minded guy,” MacDonald said. “So it works out well. I don’t mind staying back.”

Another example of MacDonald’s maturity is his dedication to a Movember initiative for men’s health, started last year with fellow defenseman Nick Malysa.

“We’re going to be pretty involved again this year and I’m really going to be involved,” MacDonald said. “I found out last year that my grandfather has prostate cancer and he’s been battling through it all summer. So it’s going to be a big thing this year.”

It’s not hard to support MacDonald, on or off the ice.

HONOR ROLE: MacDonald is the 21st captain in the Whalers' 23-year history. The other Plymouth captains include Beau Schmitz (2010-12), AJ Jenks (2009-10), Chris Terry (2008-09), Andrew Fournier (2007-08), Steve Ward (2006-07), John Vigilante (2005-06), Tim Sestito and John Mitchell (co-captains in 2004-05), James Wisniewski (2003-04), Nate Kiser (2002-03), Jared Newman (2000-02), Randy Fitzgerald (1998-00), Andrew Taylor (1997-98), Mike Morrone (1996-97), Bryan Berard (1995-96), Jamie Allison (1994-95), Todd Harvey (1993-94), Pat Peake (1992-93, plus the second half of 1991-92), Mark Lawrence (first half of the 1991-92 season) and Paul Mitton (1990-91).

Photo/Rena Laverty

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saginaw names Trocheck team captain

With the opening of the Saginaw Spirit’s 2012-13 OHL season kicking off Friday in Guelph, the team has now appointed four veteran skaters as captain and alternate captains.

The Spirit have announced that Vincent Trocheck will assume the captaincy of the team vacated by Brandon Saad, who held the position a season ago. The Florida Panthers' prospect is coming off a season where he was second in the OHL in assists and led the Spirit in scoring on the strength of an 85-point campaign.

Trocheck (pictured), who inked an NHL contact this past spring, will be looking to carve his name into the Spirit record books this season as he is 57 points away from the career franchise high.

Also selected to wear letters for Saginaw this season are veterans Garret Ross, Steven Strong and Eric Locke, who will all be alternate captains.

Ross has played his entire OHL career with the Spirit, hitting the 25-goal plateau for the first time in 2011-12. Ross was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fifth round of June’s NHL Draft.

Strong will be starting his second full season on the Spirit blueline after being acquired from the Belleville Bulls in the summer of 2011.

Locke was also brought in through a trade this past January in a deal with the Barrie Colts. The former Colt and Windsor Spitfire was a 20-goal shooter in the 2011-12 season.

“As an organization, we are looking for players who epitomize what we are about,” commented Saginaw head coach Greg Gilbert. “We believe in high compete levels, work ethic, commitment and sacrifice for the team. We felt that these four young men exemplify these values and what we stand for.”

Photo courtesy CHL Images

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kalamazoo adds defenseman Gardiner

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have announced the addition of defenseman Donovan Gardiner.

The 19-year-old Gardner has been signed to beef up a blue line that has been hit with some early season injuries.

Gardiner is no stranger to hockey at the junior level, as he has been playing in Canadian leagues since 2009-10. He opened this season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

Last season, Gardiner played for both the Wellington Dukes and the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he racked up nine assists and 37 penalty minutes over the course of 32 games.

Gardiner, who hails from Sterling Heights, is a right-handed shooting blue liner that was tendered by Kalamazoo for the 2011-12 season, but opted to stay in Canada.

He is set to make his NAHL debut tonight against the Soo Eagles.

Jets' Kalinowski a confident goaltender

Trevor Kalinowski might have been the only Metro Jets’ rookie who was in familiar surroundings last weekend.

Kalinowski played the past few seasons at Lakeland Arena for the Lakeland High School team and made the jump to Junior A hockey with the Jets after skating in July at the team’s open camp and being invited back to main camp in mid-August, when he signed to play in the North American 3 Hockey League.

Just 16 years old (he turns 17 on Sept. 24), Kalinowski earned the start in both games last weekend at home against the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution to open the season and picked up two wins.

“I was a little nervous, but I felt more comfortable in net after playing in the Toledo and Adrian exhibition games,” Kalinowski said. “I feel like I have an advantage knowing the boards at Lakeland Arena. They are very lively and the glass is unpredictable and we all have to adjust to them.”

As one of three goalies on the Jets’ roster this season with Luke DuBois and Austin Julvezan, Kalinowski knows there will always be internal competition for playing time between the pipes.

”I didn’t know either of the two before the season, but it already feels like we’ve played a season together,” said Kalinowski. “We support each other and feed off each other’s positive reinforcement. We all work hard in practice to push each other so that we are all ready for the weekend’s games.”

Kalinowski, who goes just 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, said his style of play revolves around his small stature.

“Being under 6-foot, I have to play aggressive on the rush and conservative on the power play and penalty kill,” said Kalinowski. “Above all, I’ll do whatever it takes to stop the puck.”

Showing a team-first approach, Kalinowski knows that if everyone is on the same page, wins usually fall into place.

“On a personal level, I want to prepare and push myself so that I can play at the next level,” Kalinowski said. “As for the team, I want to win as many games as we can.”


The Jets opened their 2012-13 NA3HL season with a sweep over Battle Creek at Lakeland Arena last Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday night in a 10-4 win, Doug Andrews (two goals, two assists), Ryan Chapie (two goals, two assists) and Mike Gambino (goal, three assists) each had four-point games to back Kalinowski’s 23 saves in goal.

Metro took an 8-0 lead into the third period before allowing four goals to Battle Creek.

Metro captain Matt Stirling had a goal and two assists, while Kyle Shreve (goal, assist), Jeff Monfils (goal, assist) and Tim Foley (two assists) had multi-point games. Travis Hargett and Ian Springfield also scored for the Jets.

Then on Sunday, Metro took a 6-1 win over the Jr. Revolution.

Hargett and Monfils notched two goals apiece for the Jets, while Andrews recorded four assists and Stirling added three helpers. Springfield and Chapie added single goals for Metro and Alex Holm tacked on a pair of assists. Kalinowski finished with 31 saves in goal.

“(Last) weekend, I liked the fact that we scored goals,” said Metro coach Jason Cirone. “Offensively, we don’t have any issues. I like our team camaraderie and the fact that when I get on someone, one of his teammates is going to pull him aside and tell him not to worry about it and keep playing.”

The Jets (2-0-0-0) head to Cleveland this weekend for a two-game set with the Jr. Lumberjacks.

Game time Saturday night is 6:30 p.m. with a 1:15 p.m. matinee wrapping the series up on Sunday.

The last time these two teams met was in the opening round of the NA3HL playoffs last March, with Cleveland eliminating the Jets, two games to one.


Andrews, also an alternate captain for the Jets, was named the NA3HL’s 3rd Star of the Week for his eight-point weekend. Chapie earned an honorable mention.

With his eight points, Andrews is tied for the NA3HL scoring lead with Cleveland’s Andrew Mitch.


Defenseman Steve Oleksy, who played for the Jets during the 2004-05 season, will skate in the American Hockey League again this year with the Hershey Bears, the top affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

After graduating from the Jets, Oleksy played one year for the Traverse City North Stars of the North American Hockey League and then three years at Division I Lake Superior State University.

At the pro level, the 26-year-old Chesterfield native has played for the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, Toledo Walleye and Idaho Steelheads, IHL’s Port Huron Icehawks and last year with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. He also has AHL experience with the Lake Erie Monsters.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hounds name '12-13 team captains

The Hartland Hounds have announced that forward Jake Henrikson will serve as team captain this season, while fellow forwards Max Biggings and Jared Vincek will be the team’s alternate captains.

“Jake, Max and Jared all have different leadership styles and have emerged as leaders for our team,” said Hounds’ coach Randy Montrose. “These guys stepped up during our summer skates and during the preseason and were a valuable part of our two wins last weekend in Holland.

“I also want to say that while these guys are the players with letters on their jerseys, I expect the rest of our roster to develop leadership roles over the course of the season and to learn from Jake, Max and Jared.”

Henrikson, a 19-year-old Commerce native, leads the MWJHL in scoring after a five-goal, five-assist performance last weekend. He played for the Leamington Flyers of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League last season after graduating from Howell High School, where he played under Montrose, in 2011.

“It’s obviously a good feeling, but a lot of responsibility,” said Henrikson of being named captain. “I just wear the ‘C,’ but everyone on the team is a leader. I think my leadership style is leading by example and going out and getting the team fired up and ready for each game.”

Another Hounds’ player with junior hockey experience, Biggings skated last year in the North American 3 Hockey League with the Metro Jets. A 20-year-old from Hartland, Biggings was moved to the wing this season after the last few on defense.

“I am very thankful to my team and coaches for this opportunity,” Biggings said. “Nothing has changed and I will keep going 100 percent and lead by example on and off the ice.”

Vincek, a 2012 South Lyon High School graduate, is the youngest of the captains at 18, but has prior leadership experience as he donned the ‘C’ last year for the Lions.

“I feel humbled and honored at the same time because not many of the guys have truly gotten to know me yet,” said Vincek. “I lead by example on the ice and off the ice whether that's working hard or keeping my composure both ways.”

This weekend, the Hounds make the 1,056-mile round trip to Rhinelander, Wis., to take on the Street Cats Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Hartland then opens its home schedule Sept. 28-29 at the Hartland Sports Center against the Michigan Ice Dogs and Dayton Aeros.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jr. K-Wings to help with area charity

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings are proud to announce that several members of the team will be helping out with Loaves and Fishes, a community effort to erase hunger.

The event runs tomorrow from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Douglass Community Center on Paterson Street in Kalamazoo.

Participating for the Jr. K-Wings will be Christian George, Taylor Burden, Danny Hamburg, Dalton Carter, Nolan Culver and Kyle Gattelaro.

Loaves and Fishes have been helping feed the hungry in the Kalamazoo area since 1982. They are by far the largest emergency food distribution system in Kalamazoo County, opening their doors to over 100,000 people annually.

The members of the team will be helping to pass out meals to those who are unable to provide meals for themselves, whether it is a financial of physical burden that is preventing them from eating meals.

“We always love to give back to a community that has already given us so much,” stated Kalamazoo head coach Marc Fakler. “We are always willing to help out a good cause in the city of Kalamazoo."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Four teams kick off MWJHL season

The Midwest Junior Hockey League kicks off its inaugural season with four games on the docket this weekend.

The Michigan Ice Dogs, with heavy hearts after their longtime owner, Terry Kucharski, passed away at the end of August, travel to play the Soo Firehawks, while the Holland River Bandits will host the Hartland Hounds.

For Holland, led by former college and professional player Jason McCrimmon behind the bench, this weekend should serve as a test to gauge the talent of the River Bandits.

“I expect our guys to give 110 percent in every aspect of the game, from putting shots on the net, finishing checks, playing our position and protecting our goalie’s house,” McCrimmon said. “I want to send the message that the Holland River Bandits is a quality team that will work hard 60 minutes and play to win no matter at home or on the road.”

The Hounds, who have a large contingent of local players, have high expectations for opening weekend.

“We had a good test last weekend against the University of Michigan-Dearborn (in an exhibition game) and several of our guys played very well,” Hounds’ coach Randy Montrose said. “As a staff, we took note of what we needed to work on as a team and we did that this week in practice. If the effort and work ethic is there this weekend, I would expect us to be successful.”

In Sault Ste. Marie, the hometown Firehawks are looking to carve a big niche in the hockey community.

“I’m looking for effort, desire and hard work,” said Soo coach Joe Esson. “We are a gritty team and have been waiting a long time for this weekend. We are very proud of our program, coaches, owners, players, arena, fans and our town. It’s a sure thing we will be a very difficult team to play. Our goal is to be a classy, hard-working junior team. We are business and this is a way of life to us.”

Injuries have struck the Ice Dogs, but that doesn’t mean coach Tony Graham is making excuses.

“We're looking for a quick start from our veterans,” Graham said. “The Ice Dogs are very excited to get goalie Andrew Freeman from Los Angeles as he is going to help us out a lot. Injuries are making the weekend a little difficult, but we have to ride our younger guys.”

Jets anxious to start NA3HL season

The Metro Jets went with an older, seasoned roster in 2011-12 and had their best season in several years.

This year, the roster looks a bit younger and while wins and losses may not mirror last season, the expectations for Metro coach Jason Cirone have not changed.

“We’re a development league and our goal is to develop these kids and move them to the North American Hockey League and the United States Hockey League,” said Cirone, entering his third year behind the bench in Waterford. “I’m excited that we have a younger team, to be honest with you, but I know the returning guys will help to bring along the younger guys.”

Third-year forward Matt Stirling (pictured above) will serve as the Jets’ captain this year after having been an alternate his first two seasons with the Jets. According to Cirone, Stirling was the obvious choice.

“I don’t know how much more I can expect from Matt,” said Cirone. “He has been outstanding for us the past two years. He’s played forward, he’s played ‘D,’ he’s done everything I’ve asked of him and done it well.”

Stirling said that while he’ll be the one donning the ‘C,’ he won’t be alone in leading Metro.

“As captain this year, I don’t feel much outside pressure because I have been here and know what to expect,” said Stirling, a 20-year-old from Dexter. “I put more pressure on myself this year than the past few just because I need to be a role model for a lot of these younger guys to look up to. I learned a lot about the role between (2010-11 captains Mike) Corder and Morgan (James) and (2011-12 captain Tommy) Kilgore as I have seen how they have handled certain situations and have learned from them along the way. I also plan to rely on older guys like (Jeff) Monfils, (Doug) Andrews and (Derek) Britton to help assist me.”

The Jets open the 2012-13 North American 3 Hockey League campaign this weekend with games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Lakeland Arena against the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution.

“My expectations for the season are for the guys to keep improving as a team and individually,” Stirling said. “With the guys we have this year, I think we can be one of the premier teams in the league and I expect us to make a good playoff run this year. I think after the first week of the season, the older guys might have to carry some of the load, but as the younger guys get used to the system and the pace of play, the team will come together and gel pretty well.

“We have a lot of young talent that is different from past seasons. The younger guys may be a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the season, but should settle down and be a huge part of what the Metro Jets need to be successful. I think with this younger talent and a mixture of the older guys we can be very successful this year. All of the rookies have done well so far and they are all catching on to the system and what we are trying to do.”

Back from last season are forwards Travis Hargett (Clarkston) and Andrews (Macomb), along with defenseman Chad Frost (Clarkston). Monfils (Cleveland, Washington native) and Britton (Toledo, Sterling Heights native) played in the NA3HL last year as well.

In goal, gone is Petoskey’s Dillon Kelley (NAHL’s Corpus Christi Ice Rays), but the three newcomers – Trevor Kalinowski (Commerce Township), Luke DuBois (New Boston) and Austin Julvezan (Dexter) – will rotate for the first few weeks until one takes the reins as the No. 1 goaltender.

Randy Wilson has done a great job with all of our goalies and I’m not a goalie coach, so whatever Randy tells me about our goalies, I listen,” Cirone said. “Last year when Devin Williams got called up to Erie (Otters of the Ontario Hockey League), we only had one other goalie in Dillon and to his credit, he stepped up and played well for us. We learned our lesson, though, and this year, we’ll carry three goalies and will see if anyone jumps up for us.”

Other first-year Jets include forwards Ryan Chapie (Midland), James Tuljus (West Bloomfield), Zach MacKay (Brighton), 2012 first-round pick Mike Gambino (Livonia) and Chris Mayer (West Bloomfield) and defensemen Steve Shariak (New Boston), Myles Burrough (Metamora), T.J. Krajewski (Macomb), Thomas Evans (Waterford) and the recently-turned 16-year-old Ian Springfield (Sterling Heights).

Chapie’s cousin, Adam Chapie, played in the NA3HL for Cleveland and then in the NAHL for New Mexico before heading to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he is now a freshman on the Riverhawks’ Division I hockey team.

How will the mix of young and old shake out for the Jets? This weekend will prove to be a test, no doubt.

“We open the season against a Battle Creek team that was much improved last year from their first year and I only expect them to get better,” said Stirling. “This will be a competitive series and I expect that they will come ready to play.”

Game time Saturday night is 7:50 p.m.with a 12:10 p.m.puck drop scheduled for Sunday.

Photo by Andy Grossman/Detailed Images

Stewart a fan favorite with Ice Dogs

Alex Stewart is a veteran Michigan Ice Dogs’ player who is beginning his third season with the team.

An abrasive player who makes a big impact on the ice, Stewart is a hard worker who isn’t afraid to get into the middle of things. Although he often appears to be smiling and joking on the ice, he’s not making any friends out there. Yet Stewart is well-liked by Ice Dog fans who appreciate his hard work and strong effort.

You’ll see him skating with the puck or working the puck out of the corner and his efforts do not go unnoticed.

“He’s a gritty, hard-working, two-way player,” said Michigan coach Tony Graham. “He brings a lot to the team.”

Stewart is not new to successful teams. As a member of the 2008 Rochester Rattlers Bantam AA team, Stewart went all the way to nationals with his team.

“It was a perfect season and to top it off, we won the tournament,” Stewart said. “Hockey has given so much to me throughout the years, on and off the ice, but mostly it has given me a drive and determination like no other. I know that if want something bad enough, I will put in the hard work and I can get what I want.”

Favorite Ice Dog memory: “My favorite Ice Dog highlight would have to be from my first season on the team. We were in playoffs and after winning the first two games in OT fashion, we had clinched a place in the playoff finals. We had one more round-robin game to play. It was a completely meaningless game so I was joking around with the coach, telling him I was going to get into a fight. They had a lot of really big players on their team and I had no intention of really fighting. I went out on a 5-on-4 penalty kill. After about 30 seconds on the PK, our goalie made a great save and one of their players ran our goalie. One of our players retaliated and before we knew what was happening, it became a line brawl. Fights broke out all over the ice. This fight was so out of control. The next thing I knew, I was toe-to-toe with some guy who’d already ripped off his gear to fight me. He had no shoulder pads, helmet or anything. Eventually things calmed down and the fights broke up. This was one of my favorite memories, especially seeing the look on my coaches’ faces as I was tossed from the game.”

Stewart’s advice for young players: “Play every game like it’s your last. It goes by way too fast and you don’t want any regrets.”

In the future, Stewart plans to continue to attend college to obtain his administrative business degree and open his own business shortly afterwards.

Hounds ready to open MWJHL season

The ice is frozen and the nights are getting colder – time to drop the puck on the inaugural season of Hartland Hounds hockey in the Midwest Junior Hockey League.

As one of 10 teams in the first-year MWJHL, the Hounds are extremely optimistic that the roster they’ve created will be able to compete with any team on any given night this season.

“All the guys we recruited are guys with skill and character,” Hounds’ coach Randy Montrose said. “As we’ve watched all of them at our summer skates, training camp and practices, they are all learning their roles and how to play them accordingly. A lot of these kids have never played juniors before and while we may go through some growing pains, I’m confident that the older guys that have played juniors before will serve as mentors and help us get off to a fast start.”

Hartland starts its season tonight on the west side of the state with a two-game set against the Holland River Bandits.

“We had a good test last weekend against the University of Michigan-Dearborn (in an exhibition game) and several of our guys played very well,” Montrose said. “As a staff, we took note of what we needed to work on as a team and we did that this week in practice. If the effort and work ethic is there this weekend, I would expect us to be successful.”

Many of the Hounds’ players skated for Montrose, co-head coach Scott Gardiner and assistant coaches Marty Passino and Rick Gadwa in high school and several players have noted the instant chemistry right from the first summer skate.

“We had a fun camp (Aug. 3-4) and the guys really bonded and got to know each other,” said forward and Howell native P.J. Krystyniak. “We should have a good team. It’s basically the same fan base I’ve played for the last couple years and to play again for Randy will be pretty exciting, too.”

Fellow forward Jordan Ruterbusch is Hartland-born and is equally as excited for the puck to drop.

“Most of the guys on this team have either played against or with each other and I think we’ve looked good so far,” said Ruterbusch. “I think chemistry is important and it’s a good thing that everyone is getting along and bonding.”

The offense should be strong with Krystyniak, Cam Miglia (Brighton), Jake Henrikson (Commerce) and Jared Vincek (South Lyon) leading the charge, Max Biggings (Hartland) providing size and sandpaper, Darek Kalisz (Brighton) and Scott Augustyn (Howell) leading from the back end and goalies Andrew Brownlee (Fowlerville) and Colin Longeway (Pinckney) pushing one another for playing time.

“I think one thing that is very important is the number of local players we have,” said Montrose. “So many kids have to leave the state to play junior hockey and we feel that the opportunities we can provide for in-state players is really second to none.

“I’m excited to see how we match up with the rest of the league and to finally get this season underway.”

The Hounds will open their home season Sept. 28-29 at the Hartland Sports Center against the Michigan Ice Dogs and Dayton Aeros.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ice Dogs' Ledgerwood all effort on the ice

Hunter Ledgerwood is beginning his second season as a Michigan Ice Dog.

During the 2010-2011 season, Ledgerwood was playing on the Michigan Ice Dogs’ AA team for coach Tony Digusti, a turning point in his young career.

“Coach Digusti got me prepared for the upcoming junior season and he told me to try out and I made the junior team,” recalled Ledgerwood.

 “Ledgerwood came into his own in the second half of last season,” said Ice Dogs’ junior coach Tony Graham. “He’s playing smarter and he’s stronger than he was last year. He’s due for a big season this year and I expect him to be in the top six for scoring.”

Ledgerwood plays hockey with a lot of passion. While he’s not the biggest guy on the team, he knows how to take care of himself. He’s not scared to go to the boards. You can find him dodging big hits while hanging out in the middle of the action. Ledgerwood is always competing. He’s an unselfish player who will pass the puck as often as he’ll shoot it.

Hockey has meant a lot to Ledgerwood.

“I've gotten a lot from hockey; the team is my family,” Ledgerwood said. “Not only is it a sport, but it's a lifestyle. We make sacrifices and give so much time to it. I feel as if it's getting me prepared for life. Hockey definitely keeps me on the right track keeping up my grades and being the person I am today. “

Best Ice Dog memory: “I have many, but one of my favorite memories as an Ice Dog happened during playoffs. I was rooming at the hotel with Stewie, Subu and Barton and we were making so much noise that we woke up Coach Tony. He came into our room at about 2 a.m. to yell at us and we all acted as if we were sleeping, but then we jumped up, attacked him and started beating him up. Good times. I also remember how great it was to beat Wooster in playoffs and how we were celebrating our success with all the guys.”

Ledgerwood’s advice for young players: “My advice to a younger player is to always push yourself, but never be too hard on yourself. You want to be the best player you can be but you don't want to put yourself down while doing it.”

In the future, Ledgerwood plans to go to college and move into the medical field to become a physician’s assistant or a trainer.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Textor an impact player for Ice Dogs

If there’s a melee on the ice, chances are Tyler Textor is in the mix.

A quiet, polite man off the ice, Textor morphs into a meddler on the ice.

Don't let his big grin fool you, though. Textor takes his role as assistant captain with the Michigan Ice Dogs very seriously. He's the kind of guy who will go into the corners and get the job done. He's the player that always has his teammates' backs. He’s known as the player who fiercely guards the goalie.

"Textor is one of the backbones of our team,” said Ice Dogs’ coach Tony Graham. “We are going to expect a lot out of Tyler this year.”

Textor, who is starting his third season as an Ice Dog, gives credit to his youth travel team, the Toledo Cherokee, for helping to mold him into the player he has become.

“They basically made me the defenseman I am today,” said Textor. “I played there from my Squirt AA year until Bantam AA. Hockey has taught me a lot. I've learned to work hard and to never give up. Nothing is ever out of reach and with hard work and determination, anything can be achieved. Hockey has taught me to be responsible. "

Best Ice Dog memory: During the 2010-2011 season, we advanced to the final round of league playoffs in Stevens Point, Wis. This series would determine which two teams from our league would go to the USA Hockey Tier III nationals in Marlborough, Mass. The Ice Dogs were on a hot streak and we had beaten two very good teams in overtime.

"I took the shot that got tipped-in in overtime to beat Chicago and put us into the championship game,” said Textor. “After our win, the Ice Dogs and our fans hung around to watch the next game which would determine our opponent in the championship game. We were getting rowdy and started taunting our cross-town rivals, chanting, ‘YOU CANT DO THAT’ and ‘THANK YOU MCFARLANE’ when they took a penalty and ‘THE BELT DON'T FIT!’ when they tried to score. As we watched the final minutes of the game, it became clear that our cross-town rivals would not advance to the championship game, securing our ticket to Boston for nationals.

“We were so happy and we began singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ in the stands. It was an exciting moment. It was an amazing weekend.”

Textor's advice for young players: "Enjoy it and always push yourself beyond the limit. Hockey's more than just a game; it's a way of life. The moment is yours for the making, so make it what you want and you will remember it for the rest of your life. You'll learn from hockey and you'll learn to appreciate the game."

In the future, Textor expects to get his degree in accounting and become a certified public accountant.

Two prospective Hounds choose colleges

The puck hasn’t even dropped on the inaugural Midwest Junior Hockey League season, but the Hartland Hounds have already sent two players that had committed to play for the team this season to play college hockey.

Defenseman Dean Burggrabe (NCAA Division III Finlandia University) and forward Tommy Kilgore (ACHA Division I Oakland University) were prospective Hounds over the summer, but will now start the upcoming season on college campuses.

“This is what we do as coaches and why we get into coaching in the first place – to move these kids on to the next level and to not hold them back just to maybe get a few more wins during the season,” said Hartland coach Randy Montrose. “Junior hockey is for developing kids to have the ability to play college hockey. Does losing Dean and Tommy before the season starts hurt? For sure, but these are kids that have put in the hard work and have earned these opportunities. Both Dean and Tommy will flourish at their new schools.”

 Burggrabe, a 19-year-old from Marquette, skated during the 2010-11 season with the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League and last year with the North American Hockey League’s Traverse City North Stars.

“I believe the opportunity came up from Randy talking to (Finlandia) coach (John) McCabe, who then contacted me to see if I was interested in joining the team at Finlandia,” Burggrabe said. “I then scheduled a visit with the school to see if I was interested. At the visit, I got a gut feeling that it was the best decision for me to enroll and play for Finlandia.”

Another two-year veteran of junior hockey, Kilgore played the last two years with the Metro Jets of the North American 3 Hockey League, donning the captain’s ‘C’ last year. A Pinckney native, Kilgore decided to play closer to home this season with the Hounds before the opportunity to play for Oakland came about.

“At the beginning of the summer, I began to realize that if I wasn’t going to play in the NAHL that it was time to start looking at colleges,” said Kilgore, who turns 20 on Sept. 18. “I met one of the coaches (Gordie Schaeffler) where I work out at Total Performance (in Wixom) and he told me about the team’s tryout camp that was happening last week and that I should come out and skate. I took him up on his offer and at the end of the camp, the coaches offered me a spot and I accepted.”

Kilgore, who also played three games with the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons in 2010-11, said that telling Montrose of his decision was not nerve-racking in the least.

“Randy made me feel comfortable all summer long and never forced me into anything,” said Kilgore. “He really wants to see kids move on and not quit, so when I let him know I was going to Oakland, he was just as excited as I was, maybe more.

“That’s just the kind of person Randy is.”

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Hounds announce coaching additions

The Hartland Hounds have announced two additions to the coaching staff.

Scott Gardiner will join Randy Montrose on the bench as co-head coach and Rick Gadwa has been added as a new assistant coach.

Former assistant coach Gordie Meisel has been promoted to assistant general manager.

Gardiner has coached Traverse City teams at the junior level in the Continental Elite Hockey League and North American Hockey League and also has a long history with Montrose at Hartland High School and Howell High School.

Gadwa is currently the head coach at Hartland High School and will remain in that capacity.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Skill, youth, luck on the side of Spisak

Goals don’t come pretty for Jake Spisak, but nobody asks how, they just ask how many, right?

“I don’t score too many goals, but I take them any way I can get them,” said Spisak, a 16-year-old forward from Howell. “They always seem to go in off my head, my back, my butt, anywhere but off my stick. I just seem to always get the luckiest goals on Earth, but if that’s what it takes to help us win, I’ll take it.”

As one of the younger players on the Hartland Hounds, Spisak should still see immediate playing time while learning from some of the older players head coach Randy Montrose recruited this season.

“Jake is a player that makes things happen,” said Montrose. “He’s young and he’s learning, but I have already seen him improve during our summer skates and at camp and am looking forward to seeing how much more he can improve.

"The sky is the limit for Jake and he has youth on his side.”

Spisak also bring a winning pedigree with him as he was part of the Howell High School junior varsity team that won the Michigan Tier II state championship last spring.

Making the leap from JV to juniors is a major jump, but Spisak feels he’s ready for the challenge.

“The way I see it, playing here is the best of both worlds,” said Spisak. “A lot of kids my age have to leave the state to play juniors. I can stay here, sleep in my own bed each night and still go to my same high school. It’s a great opportunity here and the season can’t start soon enough.”

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Lightning signs two more players

The Great Lakes Lightning announced today the signing of two more players for the 2012-13 season.

Jeff LaBaere, a 1995-born skater from Shelby Township, played last year for the Rochester Rattlers U-18 team.

Waterford native Colin Walsh, a 1996 birthdate, skated last year at Clarkston High School.

“Jeff and Colin should be impact players for us this season,” said Lightning coach-GM Mike Janish. “I’m excited to see how they develop.”

Hartland defense starts with calm Kalisz

If defense wins championships, the Hartland Hounds should have support on the blue line in the form of Darek Kalisz.

As one of the first players signed for this season, Kalisz will be looked upon to play close to 30 minutes a game and in all situations.

And as has become a trend with the Hounds, Kalisz played for Hartland coach Randy Montrose last year at Howell High School.

“I had the option to go play another year at Howell,” said Kalisz, who turns 17 later this month. “When I heard about the opportunity to come play for this team in this new league, it really excited me. I believe coach Montrose will make the transition a bit smoother making the jump from high school to juniors.”

Kalisz can play both ends of the ice and said he patterns his game after retired Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

“What you’ll notice right away from Darek is his stable play and poise with playing under pressure,” said Montrose. “Darek will be important to my blue line and will have to play a lot of minutes in all situations.”

His goal this year to “win it all,” Kalisz simply wants to contribute to any success the Hounds may have while working towards his goal of one day playing college hockey.