Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Warriors' Erkkila commits to Wildcats

The Michigan Warriors have announced that forward Levi Erkkila has verbally committed to Northern Michigan University.

The Calumet native is in his first season playing for the Warriors and has four goals and five assists for nine points in 36 games this year.

"I am excited to see the continued development of our players," Warriors' coach Moe Mantha said. "The Warriors organization is extremely pleased for Levi. This is an excellent opportunity for him to continue his hockey career and education."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lawrence providing major spark for Jets

Michael Lawrence has been all over the map over the last year or so, but is happy to have found a home with the Metro Jets this year.

Last season, Lawrence skated for the West Michigan Hounds AAA and in the North American Hockey League for a bit with the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings.

This year, he started out with the Granite City (Minn.) Lumberjacks, the team that tabbed him in the tenth round of last summer’s North American 3 Hockey League draft. With the Lumberjacks, Lawrence tallied two goals and six points in 13 games, but wanted a bigger role.

On Nov. 30 while both teams were at the first league showcase in Blaine, Minn., Lawrence was traded to the Jets and since the deal, has 17 points in 24 games in a Jets’ uniform.

“I requested a trade here because I felt I wasn't getting the playing time I deserved in Granite City,” said Lawrence, a 20-year-old from Mattawan. “With all the returners they had from winning a national championship last season, I kind of got lost in the mix of players. I came into the league kind of blind and not really knowing what to expect, but I feel I adapted pretty quickly, which was good.”

Lawrence said he serves a variety of roles with the Jets, a team scratching and clawing to earn a playoff berth.

”My role is to bring a physical presence on the ice and to answer the bell when called upon, but who doesn't like to score?” quipped Lawrence. “On this team, the mood changes depending on the day. Some days, we have a lot of life, but the next, we come out with no energy or drive. All in all, though, the mood is always good. Obviously, the captains like Matt Stirling, Dougie Andrews and I are called upon the most to get the boys going, but we have a group of leaders including Andrew Palushaj, Hargs (Travis Hargett) and Zack MacKay who aren’t afraid to let everyone know what's on their mind.

”As far as I'm concerned, there's still a lot of season left. We just need to grip down and play hockey like we can. We aren’t out of the playoffs just yet. If that day comes where we are officially out of the playoffs, that doesn't mean the season is over. We will still be playing for our pride.”

Playing for the love of the game is something Lawrence learned at a young age from his father, Mark Lawrence, who logged 142 NHL games with the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders and also played several years in the minors after starting in the Ontario Hockey League and playing at one time for the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors, now known as the Plymouth Whalers.

“I give him my dad the credit to where I am today,” said Lawrence. “He was still playing when I was growing up playing, so it was always easy to talk to him about the game. Then him coaching me my whole life, he was able to mold me into the player I am today. I just wish I had the scoring touch like him, though.”

Next season, Lawrence knows the options should be aplenty, but wants to look at each and every one of them with a fine-tooth comb.

”I have a great offer to play for Aquinas University, but also I still have another year of junior eligibility left, so I'm really up in the air right now,” Lawrence said. “I just want to take things day by day.”


Forward Josh Beleski, who made his return to the Jets just prior to the NA3HL trade deadline and roster freeze two weeks ago, was originally the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010.


Jack McCoy played with the Jets during the team’s early years and has worked his way up to be a linesman at the American Hockey League level.

McCoy, a Livonia native who played college hockey at Oswego State in the SUNYAC, has also worked as an on-ice official in the OHL, ECHL, International Hockey League and United Hockey League.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hounds' quartet off to D-III Finlandia

Andrew Brownlee, Jake Henrikson, Thomas Kerr and Cam Miglia are teammates this season with the Hartland Hounds and will be teammates once again next year as the quartet has committed to play NCAA Division III college hockey at Finlandia University.

Located in Hancock, Finlandia plays in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association and is coached by John McCabe, a former assistant coach at Division I Alabama-Huntsville.

All four players said this season with the Hounds in the inaugural season of the Midwest Junior Hockey League has done wonders for their development to the point where they feel they will be able to make an impact as freshmen next season for the Lions.

“(Hartland coach) Randy Montrose has played a huge role in my career ever since I become a player on his teams three years ago because he expects nothing short of 100 percent, whether it be a practice or a game,” said Brownlee, a 19-year-old Fowlerville native. “Playing for the Hounds just comes to show that no matter where you play hockey, if you’re good enough, other teams such as FU will find you.”

Brownlee leads the MWJHL in all goaltending categories, including wins (29), goals-against average (1.87), save percentage (.932), shutouts (five) and minutes played (1734:58). He is also a three-time Goaltender of the Week and a two-time Goaltender of the Month.

Henrikson, Hartland’s captain, has been at or near the top of league scoring much of the season. Like Brownlee, he gave credit to Montrose for pushing him this season to reach his goal of college hockey.

“Randy told me about Finlandia and then they came and watched us play and talked to me after,” the 20-year-old Commerce native said. “Randy has always helped me out with my hockey and finding the right place for me to go. I know playing at Finlandia will be really fast hockey and a lot of hitting and my goal is to get good grades and still play hockey. I think it will be great going in and already knowing a couple guys playing there.

“That being said, yeah, we’ve committed, but we all know that now is when the hard work begins to be able to get to campus in the fall and contribute. We also still have our season here to finish up and get ready for nationals in April. The commitment is great for all of us, but we’re not content with sitting back and talking about that. We want to bring a national championship to Hartland. That’s our immediate goal.”

For Miglia, a 19-year-old Brighton forward, he had always looked at Finlandia and took it upon himself to take initiative at the start of the 2012-13 season.

“I emailed Finlandia University at the beginning of the season because I was interested in playing there,” said Miglia. “They came out to watch me play and were interested. Randy has pushed me a lot to be my best everyday and helped me get better at the parts of my game that needed it most. It's always been a dream since I was little watching college games at Yost Ice Arena (in Ann Arbor) and it finally came true. I would like to thank my mom and dad for paying for hockey this long and putting up with me all these years. I also want to thank all the Hounds coaches this year – Randy, Scott (Gardiner) and Marty (Passino) are all great coaches.”

“The Hounds and Randy have played the biggest role in getting here,” said Kerr, an 18-year-old Howell native. “After my high school career, I didn't have much faith that I would be playing NCAA hockey. When the opportunity presented itself to play for Randy again, I had to jump on it and it definitely has paid off. I think his coaching style this year and the last five years of my life have developed me into the player I am today.”

The foursome went on a visit to Finlandia several weeks back to survey the campus and hockey facilities and to also meet with McCabe. Each player came away impressed.

“I learned it's a very small school, which I like,” Miglia said. “You will know pretty much everyone there. John McCabe seems like a great coach and I know he's moved guys on to the pro level. I like that he takes his hockey very serious.”

“When we went on our visit, I learned the guys do everything together, making you that much closer as a team and those are the kinds of things I like to see because you can count on anyone to do the little things at any point throughout the year and season,” said Brownlee. “When I met and talked with Coach McCabe, I noticed that he's a young coach that is looking to form a solid program up at FU and is looking forward to forming a winning program.

“Ever since I was a little kid, it was a dream of mine to play pro or college hockey and when it comes to things like getting this opportunity, I want to thank my family, especially my parents for helping me all the way through my career and putting up with all the junk I've put them through to get me to where I am now. I would also like to thank Randy for all the help he's given to me and guidance he's given not only me, but to all his players throughout his coaching career.”

“It’s been a dream of mine to make it to college hockey ever since I stepped on the ice competitively in Squirts,” said Kerr. “It seems like a very long time since then and playing collegiate hockey has never stopped running through my mind. Just like every hockey player, it is a huge dream to play hockey in college. My parents have been the most supportive people throughout my hockey career. From going to every game, driving me to trips, all the time spent at the rink, I wouldn't be the player I am today without them. I would also like to thank Randy, Scotty and Marty. I’ve been skating with them for the last six years of my life and every season with them has been successful in developing me into a better player.

“Randy is a coach that takes pride giving 100 percent to make you the most successful hockey player you can be and if you give 100 percent of your efforts, you will receive 100 percent of his.”

At the end of the day, the praise is a nice pat on the back, but Montrose said it’s all about the players.

“As a coach, I have always believed that it is about teaching and advancing players,” said Montrose. “That is our primary responsibility as a coach. I am beyond proud of these gentlemen that have taken pride in advancing themselves.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MacKay aims to finish strong for Jets

Admittedly, Zack MacKay hasn’t had the season he envisioned when he signed with the Metro Jets last summer.

Suffering an injury in the season-opening game against Battle Creek, the 19-year-old forward from Brighton said that set him back a bit, but he has continued to improve and round out his overall game to the point where it’s obvious why the Jets tabbed him in the second round of last summer’s NA3HL draft.

“I had come to one of the open tryouts and immediately, one of the assistant coaches came up to me and asked where I planned on playing and which teams I had talked to,” said MacKay. “I told him the only place I had gone to try out was for the Michigan Warriors in the NAHL and that another NA3HL team was interested in me. After the first skate, (Metro head coach) Jason (Cirone) called me out of the locker room and told me he wanted me and said he was going to try and draft me in the first round. I told him I'd love to play for him and had no interest in the other team.

“I didn't know much of anything about the team or the league, but one of my coaches last year (with the Detroit Falcons 18U AAA team in the NAPHL) had told me about Jason and the Jets and said it'd be in my best interest to go skate with them and see how it was. Last year was my first time playing AAA. I had played high school before that (pictured, with Brighton High School) and it was a lot faster and better competition. It helped me prepare for juniors just with the speed of the game play.”

MacKay planned on being among the team leaders in scoring this year, but it hasn’t panned out. He said the injury played a major role.

”I feel the role I carry is that of leadership and playing physical, as well as playing strong defensively,” MacKay said. “With my injury in the first game of the season, I had lost a lot of what I trained for in the summer – shooting, stickhandling and overall conditioning. I truly don't think I’ve had a good season at all. The injury set me back way too much and since then, I haven’t been able to get back to where I was.”

As a team, the Jets have played with a young roster all season and are currently mired in fifth place in the East Division – out of the playoffs at this point. That said, no one is throwing in the towel on this season.

“The mood is constant throughout the team where everyone is sick of the results we have been getting,” MacKay said. “I think our captain, Matt Stirling, is best at keeping everyone loose. We're not trying to be loose about the situation, but it’s hard to keep a positive attitude when everyone does their job, works hard, but we just can’t get a break.

“We need to take it one game at a time, while keeping the whole picture in mind. Yeah, we need to focus on the next game at hand, but we also need to remember that each game is crucial for us to get a playoff spot. Everyone has been showing more heart lately, so I'd have to assume everyone else is thinking the same way.”

And going one day at a time is the same philosophy MacKay takes when it comes to his individual career.

“My long-term goal is to play college hockey, but as the season has progressed, I think it's been changing to just playing in the NAHL or BCHL or any higher tier,” said MacKay. “It's changed because of the situation the team is in now and how we need to take it one game at a time. For me, it’s the same idea – one level of hockey at a time.”


Forward Ryan Chapie (broken collarbone, out for season) and goaltender Austin Julvezan were released just prior to the NA3HL roster freeze on Feb. 10 and forward Anthony Saleh was traded to the Elliot Lake Bobcats of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

The Jets also signed Farmington High School forward Cooper McLean to a tender for next season.


Cameron Bazin, a forward who played two seasons with the Jets from 2010-12, is currently in his freshman season at Olivet College where he is a member of the school’s lacrosse team.

Bazin, a 20-year-old from Troy, tallied 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points in 68 games with the Jets.

The Olivet lacrosse season starts Feb. 23.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Hounds' Grix all heart on, off the ice

When someone tells Myles Grix that he has heart, he takes it seriously.

After all, about 18 months ago, that quite literally almost wasn’t the case.

During his senior year at Waterford Mott High School, Grix started having chest pain and waking up a lot at night before one day passing out in class.

“I was taken to the hospital to have some tests run and after a week of tests, the doctor told me I had a hole in my heart and I'd probably never play hockey again,” said Grix, now a 20-year-old goaltender for the Hartland Hounds. “The only chance (to play hockey again) was to have surgery. I underwent three surgeries (July, August and September 2011) and every time, I would get worse news saying the hole is bigger then they thought. Finally, my doctor, parents and I decided it was best to just go to open-heart surgery (on Sept. 29, 2011). They told me it ended up being the biggest hole on record (the size of a fifty-cent piece).”

The surgery went well and shockingly enough, so did rehab.

“The day after my surgery, I was back up and walking which was a major surprise to my doctors,” Grix said. “I was out of the hospital in four days and I went back for a check-up the next Monday and surprised the doctor even more by how fast I was healing.”

As for hockey, well, so much for never playing again. Grix beat those odds, too.

“I got back on the ice the weekend of Thanksgiving 2011 for just a fun skate with my friends, but waited another month before trying to play competitively,” said Grix. “I started playing with a morning skate with some guys from my dad’s work and began to finally feel like I was getting back into it. After a summer of working with (goalie consultant) Randy Wilson, he told me about the Hounds and I knew this was my opportunity to prove to all the people who doubted me ever coming back and playing competitive hockey.”

So far this season in Hartland, Grix has been the primary backup to Andrew Brownlee, but does have a 3-0 record in seven games with a 1.92 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

”At the beginning of the season, I didn't feel ready,” admitted Grix. “I was shaky and nervous, but since (Colin) Longeway’s hunting accident, I realized I needed to step up and start pushing myself more, but I still don't feel 100 percent just yet, but I'm close.

”Playing alongside Brownlee has been great. He is a great tender and I've definitely learned a few new things and a whole new way to play the game.”

With the Hounds leading the Midwest Junior Hockey League standings, Grix realizes he has the opportunity to potentially be part of something special in Hartland.

”This season has been awesome and it's honestly one of the best feelings,” Grix said. “Everyone talks about us, everyone knows us and it's great. I know I haven't played much, but it's still good knowing that we all contribute as best we can. We all push each other to be the best at practice. It's also great to have coaches that can have fun, but at the same time push us to be our best.”

”My goals for the rest of this season are the same as the first day I signed with the Hounds – to get better and become the best player I can, win a national championship and play college hockey next year.”

Spoken like one who has heart – and a lot of it.

The Hounds (38-0-1-0) host the Rhinelander Street Cats Friday night and Michigan Ice Dogs Saturday night at the Hartland Sports Center. Game time Friday night is 7:30 p.m. with an 8 p.m. start scheduled for Saturday. Hartland then travels to play the GL Lightning Sunday afternoon at noon at the Allen Park Civic Arena.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Jets' Shreve tenders with NAHL's Jr. Blues

Kyle Shreve has played for three different teams this season at three different levels, but somewhere along the way, he made an impact and earned an opportunity to move up (again) to the North American Hockey League next year.

Shreve, an 18-year-old forward from Wixom, signed a tender agreement on Wednesday with the Springfield (Ill.) Jr. Blues of the NAHL.

A tender is a contract of sorts that a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team.

Starting the 2012-13 season with the NAHL’s Michigan Warriors, Shreve then came to the Metro Jets of the North American 3 Hockey League before playing for the Belle Tire Midget Major AAA team and eventually finding his way back to the Jets.

“From what I hear, the Springfield organization is a great organization that runs things the right way and is loyal to its players,” Shreve said. “This is a great opportunity and I hope I fit in well and can contribute immediately.”

This year with the Jets, Shreve has posted five goals and eight points in 11 games. He said three of his coaches this year have contributed immensely to his development.

“(Belle Tire coach) Chris Coury, (Jets’ head coach) Jason Cirone and (Jets’ assistant coach) Randy Wilson have all been very important in giving me this opportunity, especially Randy,” said Shreve. “It’s always great as a player when you have three coaches that have a lot of connections in the hockey world pulling for you and I’m very thankful for that.

“I think that there is a lot to work on before next season. I think the biggest part is adjusting to the size of the players and the speed of the game so I think that working on my speed and strength are key.”

Cirone feels Shreve will have no problem making an impact with the Jr. Blues.

“Kyle is a power forward who works extremely hard,” said Cirone. “He loves to hit and doesn’t mind getting hit. I think he’s a perfect fit for what Springfield is trying to build.”

With about five weeks left in the NA3HL season, the Jets are aiming to make a run and qualify for the league playoffs. Shreve knows what needs to be done to extend the Jets’ season.

“I think we know what we need to do,” said Shreve. “We’re working hard every day at practice and Coach Cirone makes sure we are prepared every day for our next game. “I don’t think anybody is happy with our record, but at the same time, I think this is a great group of guys and we come to work hard every practice and game."

The easy part is talking about it – now we need to put it together and show why we belong in the playoffs.”


Josh Cliff, a 19-year-old goalie from Northville, was added to the roster this week.

The Jets also dealt 19-year-old defenseman Josh Hosking to the Three Rivers Vengeance for a first-round pick in the 2013 NA3HL draft and future considerations. The Oxford native recorded 11 points in 23 games with the Jets.

The Jets-Flint Jr. Generals game that was postponed back on Jan. 31 has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 5 at 9 p.m. at Iceland Arena in Flint.


Forward Mike Moroso, who finished third in team scoring in 2010-11 with 20 goals and 36 points, is wrapping up his freshman season with the Adrian College ACHA Division I team this year.

A 21-year-old Macomb native, Moroso skated last season with the NAHL’s Port Huron Fighting Falcons, tallying 14 goals and 38 points in 56 games and also playing in the league’s Top Prospects Tournament.

This year with the Bulldogs, Moroso is averaging close to a point per game with 10 goals and 22 points in 23 games.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Jr. K-Wings to cease operations

Stadium Management Company, which owns the Wings Stadium Complex, Wings West and the Kalamazoo Wings, announced Monday that the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings will cease operations following the conclusion of the 2012-13 North American Hockey League season.

Tough economic conditions in this small marketplace, already home to both Western Michigan University hockey and the ECHL's Kalamazoo Wings made business success impossible to achieve.

SMC will continue to operate Wings West in a world-class manner and continue to enhance and improve this outstanding facility for user groups and patrons. Wings West will continue to host thousands of hours of ice time from the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA), who will be celebrating its 50th season in 2014-15, the West Michigan Hounds, high school hockey, adult league hockey, speed skating and the Greater Kalamazoo Skating Association.

“SMC will continue to deliver exceptional experiences for all of our user groups and patrons and we will strive to make both facilities the unmatched choice for entertainment on and off the ice in southwest Michigan,” said SMC general manager Jim Burlew.

Reestablished prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, the Jr. K-Wings are in their second season as a member of the NAHL. Prior to Monday’s announcement, SMC notified the NAHL of its decision to cease operations after this season and to sell the junior franchise to another ownership group looking for membership in the league.

The Jr. K-Wings will continue to operate as normal through the conclusion of the season.

“Everyone at SMC is extremely proud of the accomplishments of Marc Fakler, as well as his staff and players over the past two seasons and we’re looking for a strong finish as the Jr-Wings head into the playoffs,” said Burlew. “We also extend our sincere gratitude to the housing families and to our volunteers that welcomed our players to the community and helped in our game-day operations.”

Fakler has been exceptional during his two years in charge of the Jr. K-Wings. Finishing second in the North Division, one point behind the Port Huron Fighting Falcons last season, the Jr-Wings are once again in the hunt for the North Division title. Kalamazoo is currently tied with the Jamestown Ironmen for second place in the division. Not going unnoticed by the NAHL, Fakler’s accomplishments have been rewarded, as he has been named an assistant coach for the North Team in the NAHL Prospects game for the past two seasons.

Developing players on and off the ice, Fakler has helped his players get noticed by colleges, as 13 players, including five from this year’s team, have made commitments to continue their playing careers in college.

The announcement to cease operation of the Jr. K-Wings will not affect the Kalamazoo Wings, who will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next season.

Metro's Mayer a New Mexico transplant

Chris Mayer wanted a change.

He wanted better hockey.

So his family uprooted from Santa Fe, N.M., a little more than three years ago and moved to West Bloomfield, where Mayer currently lives while playing for the Metro Jets.

Mayer, one of two out-of-state natives on the roster along with Las Vegas' Thomas Evans, landed in Michigan in the summer of 2009, just prior to his freshman year at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School, where he played the past three years before winding up with the Jets this season.

Last year, Mayer was teammates with current Jets’ goalie Austin Julvezan as OLSM advanced all the way to the Division I high school state semifinals before going out to Brighton High School in a double-overtime thriller.

“I felt like I needed a change from high school hockey and since I heard a lot of good things about (Jets’ head coach) Jason Cirone, that helped a lot with the choice,” said Mayer. “I was also influenced to try out by Tom Evans, who is my best friend. I really didn't know that much about the team, but I knew that the league does a good job of developing its players.”

When Mayer initially moved to Michigan, the adjustments to the hockey landscape and the geographical landscape were equally tough at the start.

“Besides the want for better hockey, my mom grew up in Ferndale and pretty much her whole family lives here, plus my parents wanted me to go to St. Mary's,” explained Mayer. “The hockey atmosphere from Santa Fe to Michigan is 100 percent different. There are only seven teams in the whole state of New Mexico and at first, it was a little overwhelming at how much hockey there is in Michigan, but I feel I made the adjustment fairly quickly.”

This season with Metro, Mayer has one assist in 30 games, but believes his game is more than goals and assists.

“I believe my role on the team is to be a high-energy guy and to always be that hard-working guy,” said Mayer. “I think playing at St. Mary’s helped me prepare mentally and physically for junior hockey. My short-term goals are to play in the NAHL next year and I have always wanted to play Division I college hockey, so that is my long-term goal.”

And as the Jets make one final push to gain an NA3HL playoff berth, though just a rookie, Mayer knows what needs to be done and what’s at stake each time the team hits the ice.

“We know that we have to be serious if we want to improve our record, but we do that while also trying to keep a positive attitude,” said Mayer. “The veterans know how to maintain order in the room and are very good about keeping our heads on right.

“Personally, I think if we really focus on winning as many games as possible the rest of the way, we will be able to do it. The team feels the same way, too.”


Defenseman Ian Cosgrove, who played for the Jets during the 2006-07 season, is currently in his senior season at Fredonia State University, a Division III school in Fredonia, N.Y.

After graduating from the Jets, the Rochester native played two seasons in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Soo Thunderbirds before going to Fredonia, where he has been on the dean’s list the majority of his time at the school.

During his season in Waterford, Cosgrove, who turns 24 in June, recorded three goals and eight points in 13 games.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Kalamazoo loads up for NAHL stretch drive

The Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings have traded for Wenatchee Wild defenseman Dillon Eichstadt and Springfield Jr. Blues’ forward Mike Fazio.

Eichstadt, an 18-year-old defenseman who hails from Bemidji, Minn., comes over to Kalamazoo after being dealt for future considerations. The 5-foot-10 Eichstadt has played in 24 games during his rookie campaign and has posted nine points on two goals and seven assists. He has also played to a +4 rating throughout the season.

Kalamazoo coach Marc Fakler called Eichstadt a “very skilled puck moving defenseman, who should make an immediate impact.”

In a separate move, the Jr. K-Wings have traded forward Davis DeKorte and future considerations to the Jr. Blues in exchange for Fazio, a three-year veteran of the NAHL having bounced around from Austin to Bismarck to Chicago and Springfield. The 20-year-old from Bartlett, Ill., has scored 51 points in 118 career games, having netted 22 goals and tallying 29 assists. This season, Fazio has scored 11 goals and added 16 assists for a total of 27 points in 44 games.

Fazio was the captain of Springfield and should add an element of goal scoring, toughness, and leadership.

“He’ll provide more veteran leadership and there is no doubt that he will help the production of our offense,” said Fakler.

In yet another roster move, Kalamazoo released defenseman Cole Pierce.