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NAHL announces change in leadership


FRISCO, TEXAS - The North American Hockey League announced today a change in its leadership.

Effective immediately, Mark Frankenfeld will serve as interim commissioner. The NAHL wishes departing commissioner Eric H. Krupka the best in his future endeavors.
 

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U.S. Nat'l Under-17 Team Falls to Marquette, 3-0

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-17 Team fell to North American Hockey League North Division foe, Marquette Rangers, 3-0 tonight at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.

Following a scoreless opening frame, the Rangers gained the first lead of the game 8:19 into the second period. Brodie Zuk knocked a loose puck past U.S. netminder Nick Maricic (Alta Loma, Calif.) from just above the U.S. netminder's crease. Team USA pressured Rangers netminder Stephen Ritter in the opening two periods with 22 shots, but were unable to beat the Rangers goalie.

Marquette gained the 2-0 advantage when Christopher Smith beat Maricic over his left shoulder from deep in the U.S. end 2: 33 into the third period. The Rangers scored again 5:05 later to stretch the lead to three at 3-0.

Ritter stopped all 29 U.S. attempts and Maricic turned aside 22-of-25 shots in the pipes for Team USA tonight.

"Our guys really worked hard tonight, but we faced a strong goalie," said U.S. Head Coach John Hynes (Warwick, R.I.). "Tomorrow will be important for us to keep battling and continue to pressure the way we did tonight."

The U.S. National Under-17 Team battles the Rangers again tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Ice Cube. Tomorrow's game will be the final chance fans have to recieve two-for-one tickets with the donation of a new toy to USA Hockey's Toys for Tots Drive.

NOTES: U.S. defensemen Nick Pryor (Woodbury, Minn.) and Ryan Grimshaw (Rochester, N.Y.) were out of the line-up tonight. Pryor is recovering from injury and Grimshaw is playing with the U.S. National Under-18 Team against Northern Michigan University tonight.
 

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Phantoms upend Stars, 5-1

TRAVERSE CITY - Ryan Zapolski was 31-of-32 on save chances, and Matt Quigley and Derek Graham dished out two assists each as the Mahoning Valley Phantoms posted a 5-1 win over the Traverse City North Stars on Friday night at Centre ICE arena. The game was much closer than a four-goal spread, but don't tell that to Stars head coach Scott Gardiner.

"It wasn't a 5-1 game, or at least it didn't feel like that," Gardiner said. "But you can't put one goal on the board and expect to win many hockey games. The bottom line is we have to score more goals. We have to find a way to put the puck in the net."

Zapolski, who raised his personal record to 22-5-1, put the Phantoms atop the North American Hockey League all alone at 23-7-1, two points ahead of idle St. Louis. His TC counterpart, Kyle Jendra, saved 25 of 30 tries.

After a scoreless first period, the visitors got on the board just : 21 into the second stanza, as Nathan Longpre converted a close-range shot. Zach Hitch answered for Traverse City just over six minutes later, but the deadlock was short-lived. Eric Ringer scored the eventual game-winner at 9:50, and Miles Winter made it a two-goal cushion some 10 minutes later.

In the third, Mike Fillinger registered a shorthanded marker off a two-on-none breakaway to make it 4-1, and Doug Leaverton completed the scoring with 2:48 to play.

It was the first game for newly-acquired forward Brett Bandazian - brought to the Stars from St. Louis for future considerations - and the second for another recent acquisition, defenseman Eric Scovill, who cost TC (11-15-5) a tender in a swap with Santa Fe.

"I thought both guys were solid," Gardiner said. "They can help us defensively, but we have to score goals up front to make it work."

The Stars and Phantoms revive their series on Saturday night at Centre ICE arena. Face-off is slated for 7 p.m.
 

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U.S. National Under-18 Team Falls to Northern Michigan in Overtime

MARQUETTE, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team fell to the Northern Michigan University Wildcats, 5-4 in overtime tonight at the Barry Events Center.

Northern Michigan got on the board first when U.S. forward Jimmy Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) was whistled for a hooking penalty 1:07 into the game and the Wildcats scored seven seconds into the man advantage to gain the early 1-0 lead. Team USA responded with a power-play goal of its own when Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn.) tallied his first of the night 4:48 into the opening period with assists going to James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) and Jimmy Hayes. Wilson then gave Team USA the 2-1 lead with 5:59 remaining in the first period on his second man-advantage goal of the contest.

Northern Michigan scored the lone marker of the second period with two minutes remaining with the Wildcats second power-play goal of the night. The third period was a scoring frenzy. Northern Michigan gained the 3-2 advantage 5:42 into the period, but Wilson completed his hat trick six minutes later in the third stanza to knot the game at 3-3. vanRiemsdyk gave Team USA the 4-3 lead with 6:03 remaining in the game with assists going to John Albert (Concord, Ohio) and Ryan Hayes (Syracuse, N.Y.). The U.S. lead was short-lived as Darin Olver scored with 2:28 remaining in the game to send it to overtime.

Team USA went on the power-play 1:32 into overtime, but was unable to score despite firing five shots on net. With 29 seconds left in the game Mike Santorelli scored for Northern Michigan to win the game for the Wildcats.

The U.S. National Under-18 Team travels to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to take on the Lake Superior State University Lakers tomorrow night, Dec. 16, at Taffy Abel Arena. The opening face-off is set for 7:05 p.m. EST.

NOTES: The U.S. National Under-18 Team has now lost four overtime decisions (0-4-0) versus NCAA Division I opponents this season. NMU is the first non-ranked opponent to top Team USA in the extra session ... Team USA assistant captain Teddy Ruth (Naperville, Ill.) missed tonight's game due to a pre-existing injury, U.S. National Under-17 Team defenseman Ryan Grimshaw (Rochester, N.Y.) made his first appearance with the Under-18 Team tonight in place of Ruth ... U.S. National Under-18 Team forward James vanRiemsdyk was named to the U.S. National Junior Team where he will play for his current Head Coach Ron Rolston who will serve as the head coach of Team USA at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Mora and Leksand, Sweden.
 

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Phantoms win 17th straight

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Ryan Zapolski made 31 saves and the Mahoning Valley Phantoms received goals from five different players to beat the Traverse City North Stars 5-1 at Centre I.C.E. Arena Friday night for their 17th consecutive win.

After both teams exchanged early scoring opportunities, the North Stars' defense held the Phantoms without a shot on goal over a 12-minute span of the first period. When the Phantoms did get a puck on net, Eric Ringel's wrist shot from the right point beat a screened Kyle Jendra with 1:23 remaining.

But the goal was waived off by the referee, claiming that Phantoms right wing Nathan Longpre was in the crease, and the game remained scoreless. A replay showed that Longpre was pushed into the crease by North Stars defenseman Ben Plocar.

The Phantoms, 23-7-1, came out charging to start the second period and officially opened the scoring just 21 seconds into the stanza.

Adam Snead intercepted a Traverse City pass at the red line and skated into the North Stars zone on the left wing. He passed to Dustin Cloutier, who neatly redirected the puck ahead, off the inside to his right skate, to his stick in between the circles.

Cloutier made a touch pass to Nathan Longpre in the right circle. Longpre fired a low wrist shot that beat Jendra between the legs for his 11th goal of the season.

Zach Hitch tied the game for Traverse City at the 6:52 mark. After a scramble for the puck behind the net, a shot attempt deflected to the left and out of the reach of Zapolski. Hitch gathered the loose puck and roofed it over Zapolski's left shoulder for his seventh goal of the season.

It took the Phantoms less than three minutes to regain the lead. Alden Hirschfeld blocked a neutral zone pass along the left wing boards and skated into the Traverse City zone. His shot was blocked by Jendra.

With the puck loose in the right circle, Ringel jumped in deep from the right point and fired the puck high with Jendra out of position. This time, Ringel's seventh goal counted and the Phantoms led 2-1 with 10:10 remaining.

"We didn't have a good week of practice," Ringel said. "It took us a period to shake off the cobwebs and get back to playing our game."

Miles Winter extended the lead to 3-1 with 36.8 seconds left in the period on a Phantoms power play. He blocked a clearing attempt on the left wing, skated alone in between the circles and fired a low wrist shot past the right skate of Jendra.

Mike Fillinger made it 4-1 at 12:54 of the third period after Matt Quigley blocked a North Stars shot and skated out of the zone uncontested on a shorthanded breakaway. Fillinger caught up with Quigley for a two-on-none odd-man break, as Quigley peeled to the left wing.

As he reached the goal line, Quigley threaded a pass through the top of the crease and Fillinger tapped the puck easily past Jendra for his 11th tally on the campaign.

Doug Leaverton rounded out the scoring with 2:49 left in regulation. On a Phantoms power play, Leaverton used Brent Dexter as a screen in front of Jendra before throwing a shot from the right point. It was Leaverton's second goal of the season.

For the game, the Phantoms were 2 for 9 on the power play, while the North Stars finished 0 for 5. Traverse City out-shot the Phantoms 32-30 as Zapolski improved his record to 22-5-1.

The Phantoms and the North Stars conclude their weekend series at Center Ice Arena on Saturday. The puck drops at 7 p.m. and will be webcast on Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

The Mahoning Valley Phantoms are owned by the B.J. Alan Company- Phantom Fireworks, which is headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio.
 

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U.S. Nat'l Under-18 Team Tops Div. 1 LSSU, 3-1

SAULT STE MARIE, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team topped NCAA Division I Lake Superior State University Lakers 3-1 tonight at the Taffy Abel Arena.

Following a scoreless opening frame, the U.S. gained the 1-0 advantage 7:17 into the second period when defenseman Cade Fairchild (Duluth, Minn.) scored his first goal of the season with assists going to Ryan Hayes (Syracuse, N.Y.) and John Albert (Concord, Ohio). Team USA made it a 2-0 game when Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn.) notched his fourth goal of the weekend with 1:53 left in the period.

The U.S. National Under-18 Team was not done scoring in the second frame though, forward James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) tallied his team-leading 24th goal of the season with 53 seconds remaining in the period to give Team USA the 3-0 advantage after two periods.

In the final stanza the Lakers changed netminders and settled down defensively, only allowing six shots in the period compared to 21 over the first two frames. The Lakers added a late goal with 31 seconds remaining in the game to snap U.S. netminder, Brad Phillip's (Farmington Hills, Mich.) shut-out bid.

"It is a positive the way our guys battled tonight after a tough overtime loss last night," said U.S. Head Coach Ron Rolston (Fenton, Mich.). "It is good to go to a break here on a positive note. We played well top to bottom tonight and truly earned the victory."

The U.S. National Under-18 Team does not play again until Friday, Jan. 5, against Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.

NOTES: Rolston served as an assistant coach at LSSU for five seasons including two NCAA national chamionships (1992, 1994) ... Team USA assistant captain Teddy Ruth (Naperville, Ill.) missed tonight's game due to a pre-existing injury, U.S. National Under-17 Team defenseman Ryan Grimshaw (Rochester, N.Y.) made his second appearance with the Under-18 Team tonight in place of Ruth ... U.S. National Under-18 Team forward James vanRiemsdyk was named to the U.S. National Junior Team where he will play for his current Head Coach Ron Rolston who will serve as the head coach of Team USA at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Mora and Leksand, Sweden.
 

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U.S. Nat'l Under-17 Team Tops Marquette, 4-2

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The U.S. National Under-17 Team topped the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League 4-1 tonight at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.

Jordan Schroeder (Lakeville, Minn.) led the way offensively with two goals and Michael Clemente (Great Falls, Va.) was strong in net for Team USA stopping 23-of-25 shots on the night.

The Rangers got on the board first when Nic Weight beat Clemete along the ice 2:25 into the game. Team USA responded when David Wohlberg (South Lyon, Mich.) scored on a breakaway to knot the game at one.

Schroeder gave Team USA the 2-1 lead 1:26 into the second period when he converted a 2-on-1 pass from Kevin McCarey (Baldwinsville, N.Y.). Colin Reddin (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) made it 3-1, 9:29 later in the second period when he blasted a shot past Rangers netminder Stephen Ritter.

In the final frame, Schroeder notched his second on the night 5:45 into the period off a feed from Sam Lofquist (Faribault, Minn.) to give the U.S. the 4-1 advantage. The Rangers added a late power-play goal with 30 seconds remaining to make it a 4-2 contest.

"It was positive to see the guys battle both nights this weekend," said U.S. Head Coach John Hynes (Warwick, R.I.). "We worked hard this weekend and it was good to see our guys take a lead on a team and put them away."

The U.S. National Under-17 Team travels to Boardman, Ohio, this Wed., Dec. 20, to take on the Mahoning Valley Phantoms before hosting the 2006 Toys for Tots Four Nations Tournament from Dec. 29- Jan. 2, 2007.

NOTES: U.S. defensemen Nick Pryor (Woodbury, Minn.) and Ryan Grimshaw (Rochester, N.Y.) and forward Kelen Corkum (Newbury, Mass.) were out of the line-up tonight. Pryor and Corkum are recovering from injury and Grimshaw is playing with the U.S. National Under-18 Team against Lake Superior State University tonight.
 

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Phantoms pummel Stars

TRAVERSE CITY - Dustin Cloutier and Nathan Longpre had two goals each, and Ryan Zapolski made 30 of 31 saves to power Mahoning Valley to a 7-1 shellacking of the host Traverse City North Stars on Saturday at Centre ICE arena.

Brett Englebright had the lone goal of the night for the Stars, long after the issue was decided. Stefan Shively worked the net for TC (11-16-5), making 35 saves on 42 chances.

Mahoning improves to an NAHL-best 24-7-1, while the Stars travel to Alpena on Sunday for a 3 p.m. matinee.
 

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Diggers dump North Stars

ALPENA - The extended Christmas holiday break started early for the Traverse City North Stars - around the middle of the first period on Sunday - when TC saw a 1-0 lead evaporate en route to a 6-1 loss at Alpena.

Joe Greener gave the visitors a 1-0 edge with 10:04 to play in the first period, but the floodgates opened after that, as Chad Billins answered for the IceDiggers to close the first period, and a four- goal outburst in the second period put the game out of reach well before Justin Stadler capped the scoring just :19 into the third.

"We're a team playing with no confidence right now," said Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. "This team needs this break - mentally, physically, and in every way possible. They need to get away for about eight to ten days and come back refreshed."

Traverse City fell to 11-17-5, and has to face Alpena again in its next series, Dec. 30-31.

"We have a whole half of a season left," Gardiner added. "I've been in worse situations than this, and we have a darn good team here on paper. We're way too good to be playing like this."

Kory Kaunisto and goalie Stefan Shively drew assists on the Greener goal, which represented one of the few bright spots in an 0-3 weekend.

"Joe Greener had our goal, he finished all his checks, he fought - he did everything he could to help us win. He's one of those guys I never have to worry about his effort or intensity."

After heading to their respective homes, the Stars return to Centre ICE arena on Dec. 30 against the IceDiggers, then visit Northern Lights Arena for a New Year's Eve battle in sunny Alpena.
 

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Too bright: Stars 4-2 over Junior Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Junior Blue Jackets lost 4-2 to the Lincoln Stars at Nationwide Arena Sunday night. Two power-play goals by the visiting team helped push them past the Junior Blue Jackets (2-18-5, 9 pts.).

Down 1-0, forward Derek Roehl got a clear breakaway, against Lincoln (14-8-1, 29 pts.) goaltender Bryan Hogan, and didn't miss, tallying his fourth goal of the season. Center Clark MacLean was credited with the lone assist on the goal and the team's went to the first intermission tied at one.

At the beginning of the second period, forward Matt Bourdeau got a breakaway of his own and lifted the puck over the shoulder of Hogan. For Bourdeau, the unassisted goal was his first of the season and gave Ohio a 2-1 lead. The game was tied 2-2 nearing the end of the second period, but the Stars scored with just 30.4 seconds on the clock to take a 3-2 edge into the third.

The Stars capitalized on their man-advantage chances, going 2-for-6 on the power play, including a third period goal to complete the scoring. Ohio goalie Troy Redmann stopped 31 shots on goal, while Ohio was 0-for-8 on the power play.

The Junior Blue Jackets now have a 12-day break, before resuming play 8 p.m. (ET) Dec. 29 at Chicago, when they face the Steel for the first time this season.

Ohio Junior Blue Jackets individual game tickets for 2006-07 regular season home games are on sale now at Nationwide Arena, The Chiller Ice Rinks, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers and click here for information on season tickets, mini-plans and group tickets, call (614) 246-PUCK or (800) NHL-COLS.
 

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Jets Split Weekend Games

Fargo (ND) It was no different than a boxer who is hit by a haymaker right, staggers backwards but recovers with a left uppercut. The boxer is still wounded, but no where near hitting the canvas. As was the case with the Fargo-Moorhead Jets who suffered an absolute beating to Alexandria, only to recover and play one of their most complete games of the season in a win over Bismarck the next night.

"We aren't concerned with what has happened, only with the way the players respond today" said head coach Chad Johnson. "We can't be concerned with any carry-over effect from games whether good or bad and everyone got a great example of that this weekend.

On Friday, the FM Jets plodded through the team's worst loss in franchise history, a 12-1 beat down on home ice to the cellar-dwelling Alexandria Blizzard. The FM Jets trailed 4-0 after the first period, and 9-0 midway into the second before rookie Greg Braun (Carmel, IN) notched his first-ever Junior A hockey goal to prevent the shutout.

Alexandria held a 43-31 shots on goal advantage, connecting on 27% of their shots, an obscenely high number in a hockey game. The typical percentage is between 10-15%. The Blizzard also took advantage on the power play, going 4/1 despite the fact they entered the game with the second worst power play in the North American Hockey League.

By the time the game finally ended, the FM Jets had rotated through two goaltenders and had suffered an 11-goal setback, the largest margin of defeat in the entire NAHL this season.

"It wasn't a good game, and we had some players who were just along for the ride and it showed. However, we can only concern ourselves with the next game" commented Johnson before the team's game the following night in Bismarck in a renewal of the North Dakota rivalry.

In one of the team's finest performances of the season to date, the FM Jets came away with a strong 5-1 win on the road over their rivals the Bobcats. It was an outing that likely frustrated all the amateur psychologists out there who predicted doom and gloom about the team's mental make up after the Alexandria route the night before.

Within the first three minutes, a pair of rookies stepped up in fights with two of Bismarck's veterans. Marc Mihulka (Grand Forks, ND) worked over David Kirsch in a bout right off the opening face-off. A few minutes later, Grant Larson (Fargo, ND) held his own against Ryan Kayfes.

Sandwiched in between the fisticuffs was a goal by Bismarck to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead. Nevertheless, the FM Jets responded with the next five starting with Chris Connolly's (Duluth, MN) tally in the final minute of the first period. In the second period, Robby Phillip (Thief River Falls, MN) scored on a power play for the eventual game winner at 3:18. The FM Jets received an insurance goal from Ryan Adams (Deloraine, MB) two minutes later, and a short-handed goal from Matt Moreland (Grand Forks, ND) at 16:52. Moreland capped the scoring with a third period goal.

Elliot Okland (Fargo, ND) made 29 saves for the win.

Shot Percentage

The FM Jets are scoring on just 9.1% of their shots, the fourth lowest in the NAHL. Last season, the FM Jets had a 9.2% and in 2004-2005 it was 10.4% A good number to have is around 11%, which would add up to another goal every 30 shots.

Penalty Kill Drought Over

Bismarck went 0/6 on the power play on Saturday night, ending a streak of six consecutive games in which the FM Jets' opponents had scored a power play goal against. During that drought, the FM Jets' penalty kill was only 78% in those six games.

Holiday Break

Following their Dec.22nd game at Alexandria, the FM Jet players will go on an abbreviated holiday break before returning for their next game Dec. 29th at Bismarck. The six-day "break" is tied for the shortest in the team's history by one day. In 2003-2004, the players also had a six-day break.

In 2004-2005 it was a seven day break and in 2005-2006 it was an 11-day break.

13 of the 17 NAHL teams are in action this week. The average holiday break this season in the NAHL is nine days Alaska has the longest layoff of 18-days. Bismarck, Southern Minnesota, Wichita Falls and St. Louis have the shortest at just 5 days.

In the nation's other Junior A league, the United States Hockey League, every team is off from Dec. 18th until games on Dec. 29th.

Gift Wrapping

If your significant other is no longer willing too accept their gift stuffed in a box with some newspaper covering it, remember that the Fargo Optimist Club is wrapping gifts all this week at the West Acres Mall's northwest and northeast entrances. FM Jet players will be assisting the Optimist once again this week each evening from Monday through Thursday.

Streaking

The NAHL's Mahoning Valley Phantoms have been beaten this season, including a loss to the FM Jets in September. However, they haven't been defeated often and not at all in the past two months. The Phantoms are on an 18-game winning streak, having not lost since a 2-1 loss at Team USA on Oct. 21st.

Mahoning Valley's 18-game streak is now challenging the record books. The 2003-2004 Texas Tornado hold the record with 25 straight wins, while the 2005-2006 Bozeman Icedogs won 20 in a row.

NAHL Commissioner Change

Eric Krupka's regime as the commissioner of the NAHL lasted less than half a season. Last Friday, the NAHL Board of Governors replaced Krupka as commissioner with Mark Frankenfeld on an interim basis. Frankenfeld served as the interim commissioner during the summer after Michael Santos's resignation.

New Rule Standards' Effect on Scoring

This season, NAHL games are averaging about 6 goals per game. Last season, the average was roughly the same. Of course, this is the first season of the stricter interpretation of interference penalties with the goal being to drastically increase scoring.

Last season, Team USA led the NAHL with 4.4 gpg with three other teams averaging over 4.0. This season, Mahoning Valley leads the NAHL with 4.4 gpg, but no other team is over 4.0.

Hitting the Road

FM Jet fans may feel out of place this weekend, because for the first time since Oct. 20-21, the FM Jets' don't have any home games at the Carlson Coliseum. This weekend snaps a streak of nine consecutive weekends with at least one home game for the FM Jets.
 

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Fairbanks to host Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament

FRISCO, TEXAS - The North American Hockey League announced today that the Fairbanks Ice Dogs will host the 2007 Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament from May 1-6 at Big Dipper Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"We couldn't be happier to bring our league's playoff championship to Alaska," said NAHL interim commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. "The fan and community support in Fairbanks is second to none and we're looking forward to the Ice Dogs organization hosting a first-class event that will set a new benchmark for our league."

"We're honored to be presented the opportunity to host this prestigious event," said Ice Dogs president Jack Tragis. "The Robertson Cup Championship carries a storied tradition and our entire organization is very much committed to hosting an entertaining tournament that players, parents, fans and scouts won't soon forget."

The four-team Robertson Cup Championship crowns the NAHL's playoff champion (USA Hockey's Tier 2 Junior A national champion).

As the host team, the Ice Dogs receive an automatic bid to the tournament. The playoff series winners from the North, South and Central Divisions receive the other three bids. If the Ice Dogs win the South Division playoffs, the runner up from the South Division will receive the South's bid.

The Mahoning Valley Phantoms hosted last year's championship, which was won by the Texas Tornado.

More details on the Robertson Cup Championship will be released in the coming weeks.
 

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Wildcats Battle with Tornado

The Wildcats traveled to Frisco on Friday night to take on their rival, the Texas Tornado. The Tornado proved to be tough competition for the Cats on their home ice, and the Wildcats fell short 6-4. Saturday night, the Wildcats were back home at the KYC to play Texas again. However, Texas was able to take an early lead that the Cats could not recover from and the Cats would lose 5-1. The Wildcats currently sit in 5th place in the NAHL South Division.

Friday night the Wildcats were able to score first at the 5:29 mark during a powerplay. Joel Sauer and Sean Nealon assisted Ricky Doriott who slid the puck past the Tornado goalie to score his fourth goal of the season. Unfortunately, the Cats lead did not last long, and at the 9:37 mark, the Tornado would tie the game. Before the period was over, Texas would get one more past Heeter and have a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission. The Tornado scored two goals early in the second frame and were leading the Cats 4-1 when our guys finally got a break. At 9:38, Eddie Effinger got control of the puck and set-up Michael Hrtus who scored and narrowed the margin 4-2. Before the Cats were able to score another and put themselves within one point, Texas would score again. The Wildcats would not give up though and with only fifteen seconds left in the period, Adam Cardwell scored a powerplay goal and the Cats trailed 5-3 going into the final frame. The Wildcats showed a lot of determination during the game, and when all hope seemed lost, the Cats would get another powerplay with only a few minutes remaining. Luke Salazar capitalized on the situation and the whole dynamic of the game changed as the Cats trailed by only one. Mula was pulled to get an extra man on the ice, but the Cats couldn't catch another break. Before the frame was over, Texas scored an empty net goal and defeated the Cats 6-4.

The Wildcats faced the Texas Tornado Saturday hoping to avenge the tough loss from the night before. That would prove to be a difficult task as the Tornado jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Wildcats Luke Salazar would get the Cats on the board with a goal at the 12:40 mark of the first period, prompting the 1,535 fans in attendance to shower the ice with stuffed animals. Saturday was the Wildcats annual Teddy Bear Toss Night, and once again the Wildcats fans did not disappoint. An estimated 350 stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes were collected and will be sent to Iraq in conjunction with the Toys for Iraqi Children Program. The 80th Flying Training Wing from Sheppard AFB were on hand to help with the clean up, and will be responsible for getting the toys to the children in Iraq. The Tornado added one more goal before the end of the first period to increase their lead to 3-1. This goal would be the end of the night for starting goaltender Ryan Mula as he was pulled in favor of Thomas Billick who was dressed in a back up role Saturday. The second period produced only one goal by the Tornado, and one penalty, giving the Wildcats a powerplay opportunity they were unable to convert. The third period was scoreless until the 17:49 mark when the Tornado scored an empty net goal as the Wildcats pulled Billick for an extra attacker. This was the final goal of the night, and the game ended 5-1 in favor of the visiting Tornado and handed the Cats another tough loss.

The Wildcats next action will be in St. Louis on December 22-23 as they face the Bandits, who currently lead the South Division. The team will then have a short Christmas break before they travel back to Frisco to face the Tornado on December 29th. The next home games for the Wildcats will be on January 5-6 when the Tornado are back in town, giving the Cats a chance to equal the score with their closest rival. The puck drops at 7:05 pm!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Texas Tornado holiday update

Stuff your Stocking! A Tornado Holiday 6-Pack or Gift Certificates make the perfect gift - Jingle all the way to the next Tornado home game with the Texas Tornado Holiday 6-Pack or Tornado Gift Certificates available now at the Texas Tornado office. For as low as $67.00 for the 6-Pack, you receive: Six (6) tickets to any regular season Tornado home game of your choice, a Texas Tornado hat, a Texas Tornado team poster, and your choice of a mini-stick, puck, or mug. To order your Holiday 6-Pack today you can call the Tornado office at 972-335-9800, or send us an email. Texas Tornado Gift Certificates are available in $25.00 increments, and can be purchased at the Tornado office or at the next Texas Tornado home game on Friday, December 15th against the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Tornado enter break on a 6-game roll - It was a November to forget, but has been a December to remember so far for the Texas Tornado. After pounding Wichita Falls on this past Saturday night, 5-1 all the Texas Tornado players headed home for a long, overdue 10-day break. The Tornado will be off this weekend for the Christmas holiday before returning to practice on Tuesday, December 26th. The Tornado will then host the Wichita Falls Wildcats on Friday, December 29th at 7:30pm at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco. Tickets are available by calling 972-335-9800, or Purchase Tickets Online Now! Following that, the Tornado will head to St. Louis for pre-New Year's showdown with the Bandits on December 30th and 31st.

The Tornado has strung together a season-high six straight wins and developed themselves as one of the toughest road teams in the league. In yet another year when a target has been placed firmly upon the three-time defending National Champions, the Texas Tornado has responded well. After suffering through a November, which saw them win less than half of their games, the Tornado stormed into December with a 6-1 record and a renewed confidence. Led by a balanced scoring attack, solid goaltending, and a strong blueline, the Tornado are now just five points out of first place in the NAHL South Division. Leading the charge has been veteran forward #11 Ryan Fuller. Fuller, who missed three weeks in November with a groin injury, returned to the line-up and has been scoring since. In his last 10 games, Fuller has 15 points and is now tied for 3rd in the NAHL with 19 goals. During that same stretch of 10 games, 11 Tornado players have had 5 points or more. Rookie #17 John Bullis is right behind Fuller with 12 points in his last 10 games, and veteran forwards #14 Tom Brooks and #7 Nielsson Arcibal aren't far behind that. It is no secret that the #1 reason behind the recent winning streak has been an increase in offense. Consider that in the month of December, the Tornado are averaging over 5 goals per game. In the month of November it was only 2.6 goals per game. So the Tornado have almost doubled their average scoring output, which is no surprise why the offense has played such a big part in the winning streak.

The defense has buckled down as well. Backstopping has been #34 Thomas Tragust, who after posting a 3.53 goals against average and 83.3% save percentage in November, has astonished in December with a 2.18 goals against average and a 91.7% save percentage. #3 Lyon Messier has had more points in December than September through November combined. Rookie #5 Jake Newton leads all Tornado defenseman in goals and veterans #22 Brian Reagan and #12 Colin Long are among the league-leaders in points for defensemen. It has been a true team effort the Tornado want to keep going come their return from Christmas break, but for now a 6-game winning streak is just what Santa ordered for the Tornado this Christmas.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
IceDiggers head into NAHL break on winning note

Frisco TX: After falling victim to streaking Mahoning Valley the week prior, the Alpena IceDiggers were happy to head into the holiday break on a winning note with two victories over Traverse City last week.

"Those were two big wins for us," said IceDiggers coach Kenny Miller, whose team improved to 22-8-1. "It was good for our guys to come ready to play. We responded well and got the job done."

The IceDiggers began their week on Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the North Stars. Justin Stadler (pictured) scored two goals in the win, with Erik Peterson assisting on both. Between the pipes, Shawn Hunwick turned aside 21 shots.

Alpena met up with Traverse City again on Sunday, this time skating away with a 6-1 victory. Todd Rudasill added to his league-leading points totals with two goals and two assists, while Drew Pierson and Chad Billins each rang up a goal and two assists. In goal, Mike Jarboe made 23 saves before Miller turned the game over to Alpena native Justin Marzean who stopped all 7 shots he faced.

"We're getting good play from everyone and, in order to win in the NAHL, all 20 guys have to be going every night," said Miller. "The guys are really confident every time we step on the ice and that's a big plus for us."

Rudasill, who has sat atop the NAHL's scoring chart for most of the season, has been a key contributor to Alpena's success and is a bona fide Division I prospect.

"Todd has been our go-to guy all year and he's delivered," raved Miller. "He has an eye for the net and he's been burying his chances.

"Wherever Todd ends up playing college hockey next year, that program will be very lucky because not only is he great player, but he's also a great kid."

The IceDiggers' goaltending tandem of Hunwick and Jarboe has been equally impressive.

"I've said it before that I feel we have one of the best one-two punches in the league, and Mike and Shawn have proved that so far," said Miller. "They've given us a chance to win every night and that's all you can ask for in your goaltending."

Miller has few complaints about his team's first half and is looking forward to more good things to come in 2007.

"As a group, we need to get better everyday," said the coach. "It's important that we work hard - that will pay off for us. It takes little things to win hockey games and, in the first half of the season, we did them, and, in order to keep that up in the second half, we'll need to continue to do the little things."

But before the IceDiggers ring in the New Year, they'll host an exhibition game against the Swedish National Under-17 Team on Dec. 27.

"Having a chance to play a team like Sweden will not only be special for our players, but also all of our fans in and around the Alpena area," said Miller. "The boys are really looking forward to the chance to play some of the best 17-year-old players in the world.
 
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