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Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Falcon Has Landed: Warriors to play Port Huron in the first round of the playoffs

By: Joey Battaino

Flint, MI- It was a quiet weekend for the Michigan Warriors, who finished their regular season last weekend with two home victories. Many of the players used their time off to head home to see their families right before the playoffs.  The Warriors knew they were in, but what they didn't know was who they would be playing.

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons, who have held last place for the better part of the season, lost it Friday night to the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings after a 7-4 loss on home ice. It all came down to a 2PM matinee in K-Wings country. The turning point in the game came in the second period, when it looked like Kalamazoo forward Brandon Flood had scored on a breakaway, but the goal was washed-out after he ran over Port Huron goaltender Max Milosek. Flood was given an interference penalty and Logan Lemirande scored from Bret Lewandowski to make it 1-0 Port Huron.

In the third, Nico Sierra made it 2-0 Falcons, and it looked like it was set in stone. Then Taylor Burden scored from Danny Hamburg and it was 2-1 Falcons with under a minute remaining. Port Huron goaltender Max Milosek stood on his head in the third. Kalamazoo out shot Port Huron 12-3 in the final period. With Milosek starting the final two regular season games for Port Huron, one would think that he would be Port Huron's starting goaltender going into round 1 against Michigan. Although, you never know. Head coach Billy Warren has split their time pretty evenly this season.

Port Huron held on to win 2-1 and win the North division regular season crown. If history if the North division holds true, than it may not be as easy as people think for Port Huron to make the Robertson Cup in Frisco, TX. Each of the past two years, the regular season champion of the North division has failed to make it out of divisional play. Last season, the St. Louis Bandits, who not only won the division but held the league's best record, fell in the second round at the hands of the Michigan Warriors. And 2 seasons ago, the first place Marquette Rangers (now Michigan Warriors) failed to make it out of the first round losing to Motor City (now Jamestown).

The first round schedule has yet to be determined. We do know that the first two games of the best of five series will be in Port Huron. My guess (pure speculation) is that game 1 and game 2 will be Friday and Saturday April 6th and 7th. Keep it here as we will break the schedule as soon as it becomes known.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part: Warriors wait to find out first round opponent

By: Joey Battaino

On March 24th, the Michigan Warriors ended their 2011-12 regular season with a dramatic victory 4-3 over the first-place Port Huron Fighting Falcons. The Falcons, who have been in first-place most of the season, has seen there stranglehold on first snipped to just one measly point. That sets up a classic 2-game home and home series between Port Huron and Kalamazoo this weekend. The winner of those games will more than likely win the division and take on the Michigan Warriors in round one of the NAHL's North division semi-final.

Lets take a moment to see how the Warriors match up against their two possible opponents:

First, the Port Huron Fighting Falcons lead by second year head coach Billy Warren:

The Warriors have a 5-6-1 record against Port Huron this season. Respectable. Fact of the matter is, I don't like Port Huron's chances in a 5-game series vs. the Warriors. Port Huron has showed this season to back down at times when the Warriors pick up their physical game. A lot also depends on which goaltender Bill Warren decides to go with. Peter Megariotis has been bad his last two times facing the Warriors. Max Milosek always seems to give them fits. Special teams seems to be in the favor of Port Huron but the Warriors powerplay has been clicking as of late. As everyone knows, it's not the powerplay that's been struggling. The Warriors penalty kill has been ranked in the low 20's of the 28 team NAHL all season long. However, in a series between the Warriors and the Fighting Falcons, timely goal scoring and goaltending, per usual, will be the biggest key.

I like the Warriors to steal one at McMorran and win the first round series against Port Huron in 4.

Now, on to the Kalamazoo Jr. K-wings coached by Marc Fakler:


If you read anything into what a team has done against another team during the regular season to make your playoff prediction, well then, anyone in their right mind would take k-zoo here. The Warriors went 2-10 this season against Kalamazoo. They got outscored (Hide your children) 55-28 in those 12 games. Yikes. It seems like there's always that one team that has your number, and no matter what you do, you can't beat them. That's Kalamazoo to the Warriors this season. As much as I know playoffs can change a lot, it's pretty hard to change an 0-6 record and getting outscored 38-12 at the K-wings home rink, Wings west. Kalamazoo's biggest worry has to be their goaltending. Inconsistency from MacLean and Okicki has Marc Fakler playing musical goaltenders on most nights.

This series could go five, with both teams holding serve at home, but I'll take Kalamazoo in 4 to beat the Warriors.

There you have it. You heard what I think. Lets hear what you have to say.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Playoff Bound: Warriors 4-3 win guarantees them the 4th playoff spot

By: Joey Battaino

Flint, MI- After Jamestown's loss on Saturday afternoon, it was quite simple for the Michigan Warriors...Win, and they're in. Jamestown has four game remaining but even if they were to win all four, that would only tie the Warriors and Michigan held the tie breaker with a 7-4-1 head to head record against Jamestown this season.

The task was not easy for the Warriors on this night however, they were playing the first-place Port Huron Fighting Falcons in a possible playoff preview of the first round match up. Emotions were high and so were tempers as we had already accumulated 18 penalty minutes, 1:15 into the hockey game. It started with a hit from behind on Nolan Valleau by Mike Economos. Then Logan Lemirande jumped in and James Kline came in. Before you knew it, we had three guys paired off. The one that turned into the main event was Bobby Bodette and Alex Archibald. They paired off and were bear-hugging each other until Bodette was finally able to get off his cage and get some good right hands in. Unfortunately, the Warriors got the extra two minute penalty and Port Huron scored first. Ian Miller scored his 26th of the season at the 2:50 to make it 1-0 Falcons. The Warriors tied the game at 14:12 when Bobby Bodette scored on a breakaway on a great pass from defenseman Travis Hill. At the end of one period, the game was tied at one goal apiece.

In the second, Joey Sanchez picked up the puck at center and fired the puck into the Port Huron zone off the glass. It took a funky bounce out into the slot and Marty Gruse was able to put the puck into an empty net as Falcons goaltender Peter Megariotis had come out of his net to play the puck. It was 2-1 Warriors. Then the Warriors took a 2-goal lead on a goal by Tyler Perpich. It was his first goal since January 7th vs. Traverse City. The Warriors lead 3-1 going into the third.

The Falcons needed only two points to clinch the North Division regular season crown. They finally played like it in the third. Port Huron put 19 shots on goal in the third. They would score twice and tie the game. Logan Lemirande scored from Nico Sierra and Alex Archibald at 11:03 to make it 3-2 Warriors. Then, with only 1:15 to go, Bobby Mantha was whistled for a cheesey hook in the neutral zone. Port Huron vacated their net for an extra attacker and it was six on four hockey. Brett D'Andrea scored with only 25 seconds to go to tie the game. It looked like we were headed for overtime. Here's the call of the final seconds of the game..


Bobby Mantha scored to give the Warriors the lead, 4-3. They would hold on to win. This means the Warriors have clinched the final playoff spot in the North and play either Port Huron or Kalamazoo in the first round.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Twice is Nice for 21: Eckler's GWG gives Warriors road win in Port Huron

By: Joey Battaino

Port Huron, MI- Coming off of a 4-0 loss at home against Traverse City, the road didn't get much easier as the Warriors traveled east on I-69 for a date with the first-place Port Huron Fighting Falcons. The Warriors have fared decently this season against Port Huron with a 3-4-1 record. However, things didn't start very auspiciously for the Warriors.

Port Huron scored 2 goals in the first eight minutes. Kody Polin scored his 23rd of the season and Rick DeRosa scored on a breakaway goal that he snuck between the pads. James Kline scored his first of two on the evening at the 11:26 mark of the first. It was 2-1 Port Huron after one period.

In the second, James Kline tied the game early from Bobby Bodette. Brett D'Andrea gave the Fighting Falcons the lead once again at 3-2, 12:50 into the second. The Warriors would tie it once against on a Joey Ferriss power play marker and 3's were wild in Port Huron.

In the third, Port Huron regained the lead for the third time on a Logan Lemerande goal at 3:28. From then on, it was the Brach Tiller show. Tiller made 43 saves and didn't receive a game star (figure that one out). The Warriors would tie for a third time at the 17:00 mark of the third on Matus Matis' 15th goal of the season. In the final minute Port Huron was pressuring. Defenseman Jake Goldberg made a huge mistake. He was hanging out in the slot hoping for a pass. Instead he saw the Warriors go the other way with the puck. Chris Eckler lead a two-on-one with Marty Gruse and Eckler picked the top corner on Falcons goaltender Peter Megariotis to give the Warriors the lead with only 21 seconds left. They would hold on to win their third straight on the road, 5-4.

Chris Eckler has been on a tear. His game-winning goal tonight was his second in the clubs past three wins. Notable nights also to James Kline ( 2G +1) Brach Tiller (43 saves) and how about Joey Sanchez (+2) in his first start of the season on defense.

The Warriors battle the Falcons tomorrow night to finish off their weekend. You can listen to the game live on Supertalk 1570AM in Flint and on www.supertalk1570.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Problems at Perani: Warriors lose third straight at home

By: Joey Battaino

Flint, MI- The Michigan Warriors were riding high after a 2-game sweep of the Jamestown Ironmen last Friday and Saturday night. They were hoping to bring that momentum back home to Perani Arena for a Wednesday evening duel with the Traverse City North Stars.

What they got was a depleted North Stars team that took it to the Warriors. They out played and out hustled the Warriors starting in the second period. In the first, the Warriors trailed 1-0 on an Eric Jones goal, but hung in there against TC. Shots in the first were 14-11 North Stars.

In the second, the Warriors lost the game. Though it was only 2-0, you could feel the game was well out of reach. The North Stars dominated the second period putting 17 shots on Brach Tiller to only 9 shots for the Michigan Warriors.

Traverse City would continue to catch the breaks into the third. Eric Jones scored his second of the night and only fourth of the season. Three of Jones' four goals have come at Perani Arena. Kyle Schemmp put the icing on the cake with an empty netter in the final seconds. Traverse City won it 4-0.

Zach Nagelvoort made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season.

The Warriors next opponent is Port Huron in a weekend home-and-home series. Friday at McMorran Arena and Saturday back in Flint.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eck-ceptional! Eckler's Overtime Winner gives Warriors Weekend Sweep

By: Joey Battaino

Jamestown, NY- After Friday night's thrilling 3-2 victory in the final seconds of the third period, the Michigan Warriors had a chance to build their lead on fifth place Jamestown by 11 points with a victory on March, 3rd versus the Ironmen.

This weekend contained some of the best hockey we have seen the Warriors play in two months. They looked quick, they were winning puck battles, the goaltending was sparkling, and they got goals for role players that aren't used to scoring too much.

Saturday was get away day in Jamestown. The last game of a two-game road trip. You could tell that Moe Mantha was proud of his team for the effort from Friday night, but didn't want to get to high on the highs. "I'm hoping that our your club can feed off of that energy (from last night) and gain some confidence" said the Warriors second year head coach. " The message to the guys tonight will be, hey, we did something good, now lets go build off of that"

The Warriors would build off of that by striking first on the scoreboard and for the second night in a row, it was James Kline who lit the lamp first for the Warriors. His ninth goal of the season came after he let a howitzer go from the top of the left circle that hit the crossbar. Kline tracked down his own rebound behind the goal and banked it in off the goaltender of Jamestown, Joey Ballmer. Just like Friday night, it was 1-0 Warriors after one period.

The second started much like the first. The Warriors winning battles and getting great chances. Finally, on a turnover at the Jamestown blue line, Joey Ferriss went in with Brad Pizzey on a two on none. Ferriss slid it over to Pizzey and hit put the puck in the gaping net. Pizzey was an assist away from the "Gordie Howe Hat trick" (Goal, Fight, Assist) after his second period tussle with Jeff MacFarland. It was 2-0 Warriors after two periods.

In the third, it felt as if Jamestown gave the Warriors their best shot. NAHL veteran Jonathon Smith finally got the Ironmen on the board at the 8:01 mark of the third. Then 3:42 later, Ryan Urso tied the game on re-direction on a point shot from Bryan Watt. It was 2-2 and the Ironmen had all the momentum. Brach Tiller made some great stops in the third to get the game to overtime.

In the extra session, the Warriors looked like the fresher team. They had worn down the Jamestown defense who had shortened their bench in the third and overtime, only playing four defenseman. Finally, after a drop pass from Martin Gruse, Chris Eckler circled and snapped a wrister just under the bar on the blocker side of Ballmer giving the Warriors another dramatic 3-2 victory in Jamestown.

The Warriors will host the Traverse City North Stars Wednesday night at Perani Arena. Puck drop is at 7:30PM. You can hear the game live on Supertalk 1570AM and supertalk1570.com

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In the Nick of Time: Mantha's Winner with 0.1 seconds remaining gives the Warriors a 3-2 Victory

By: Joey Battaino

Jamestown, NY- Coming into last nights game versus Jamestown, The Warriors held a seven point lead over the Jamestown Ironmen. They were looking to build on that lead with only 8 games remaining in the season.

The game started with the Warriors pressuring the Jamestown goal but Joey Ballmer shut the door on all Warriors attempts. Jamestown would break through first at the 4:14 mark on a goal from former Topeka RoadRunner Luc Gerdes. The Warriors would get on the board in the first, shorthanded when James Kline picked up the puck at center made a great move to get around the defense, then was able to wait out the goaltender Ballmer, and put the puck over his right shoulder to tie the game. It was 1-1 after the first.

The Second was a goaltending battle between Brach Tiller and Joey Ballmer with neither goalie yielding. The score was 1-1 going into the third.

The third was a back and forth see-saw battle. Both teams exchanging opportunities on each others goal. Finally the Warriors broke through. Travis Hill scored his 3rd goal of the season as C.J Murray threw the puck on goal from a sharp angle. It hit the left pad of Ballmer, and the rebound went right on the stick of the driving Hill. It was 2-1 Warriors. The Ironmen turned on the pressure though and would tie the game at 11:10 on a goal from Aaron Arm. The game settled in from there. It looked like we were headed for overtime until Bobby Bodette picked up the puck inside the Jamestown line with only four seconds remaining. He took three strides in and passed off to a driving Bobby Mantha who fired the puck into the net with only 0.1 seconds remaining.

A game that had a true playoff atmosphere ended in dramatic fashion with the Warriors picking up a huge two points. They try to extend their lead in the North to 11 points over fifth place Jamestown. You can listen to all the action on Supertalk 1570AM locally in Flint and on the world wide web at supertalk1570.com Puck drop is at 7:05pm