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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Warriors Replenish Roster at the NAHL Draft

By: Joey Battaino

The Michigan Warriors officially started their third season in Flint today with the 2012 NAHL draft. Players from all around the world are hoping to get taken by one of the league's 24 teams. After the Warriors moved up five players to the college ranks, and lost three players to age restrictions, there is some roster spots to be had on this 2012-13 Michigan Warriors lineup.

Jake Hopfner was the Warriors first pick and sixth overall in the 2012 NAHL draft. The 6'0, 180 lbs. forward out of Eastpointe, MI played in nine games last season for the Jamestown Ironmen before being sent down to the Leamington Flyers of the GOJHL (tier III). "He's been on our radar for a couple seasons now," said Warriors head coach and general manager Moe Mantha. "He adds some scoring punch and speed to our forwards,"

In the second round, the Michigan Warriors selected defensman Ben Israel. Ben played his midget hockey for Detroit Honeybaked U18. "He has a cannon of a shot" was the first thing Moe Mantha said about Israel. "He's a guy who was on the ice in all situations for Honeybaked, He's very mobile, and moves the puck quickly."

When asked what the biggest difference between this year and last for Warriors fourth round pick Connor Lyons who did not make last years squad after tryouts, he said, " I was really impressed with how much he had matured. We need guys who can put the puck in the net," Connor had 14 goals in 47 games last season with the Soo Eagles of the NOJHL (tier III)

Overall coach Mantha was very pleased with his 2012 draft. "We filled some holes in size, speed, and grit." He thinks his team will be much more blue collar this season. "It's not a slight at our guys from last year, we just weren't gritty enough at times. We addressed that today,"

I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Moe Mantha the past three seasons. He has impressed me in a lot of different ways but what is most impressive about Moe is he refuses to get caught up in the skill or hype of a certain player. If that players character traits are not up to the Warriors standard, he will gladly let another team draft that player. " This whole draft for me was based on the character and maturity of these young men," That pretty much sums it up. He's not an easy coach to play for, but when these players buy in to Mantha's systems, their talent will reach new heights that not even the players themselves could have ever imagined.    

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Port Huron's hiring of Steve Shannon leaves teams P.R "In the Clinker"

By: Joey Battaino

This 2011-12 season was truly a comeback year for the Port Huron Fighting Falcons. They went from winning a league worst, six games in 2010-11 to winning 38 games and the North Division title. A lot of that success had to do with the hiring of former Port Huron Northern high school coach Bill Warren, mid-way through the 2010-11 season. Bill immediately got on the phone and traded the two stars Port Huron had for picks, tenders, and young players. One of them being James Rudi Pino, who ended up being the team's first ever college commit. The 2011-12 Falcons went all the way to the Robertson Cup, before being eliminated on the last day of round robin play. Truly a successful season.

Fast forward to April 25, when Bill Warren tells owner Maribeth Hayes that he has resigned as head coach of Port Huron. I knew there had to be more to this story, so I did a little digging. Apparently, Hayes had hired 61-year-old former coach of the Motor City Mechanics, Steve Shannon to take over the General Manger duties from Warren. When Warren caught wind of this, he immediately resigned. Saying, "The writing was on the wall" It sure was Bill.

Now lets take you back to 2004-05. The NHL was locked out, and hockey fans were looking for an entertaining product to fill their hockey void. Detroiters found it in the way of the United Hockey League. The UHL was a "AA" professional league known for its rough stuff. In Fraser, a Detroit team was founded, and named the Motor City Mechanics. In 2004-05, many NHL'ers laced em up for the Mechanics. Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher, Bryan Smolinski, Sean Avery, and Mike Fountain just to name a few. Their coach that season was former Detroit Red Wing, Gary Unger. Gary was replaced mid-season in a some what shady move, by, you guessed it, retired Detroit cop Steve Shannon. Shannon had no coaching experience. In fact, many people knew him as a super fan, who followed guys like Chelios and Hatcher around after games. In a game against the Flint Generals on February 2nd, 2005, Shannon allegedly put a $200 bounty on the head of star forward Kevin Kerr, who at the time was the leading goal scorer in "AA" pro hockey history. Shannon was immediately suspended by UHL commissioner Richard Brosal for the remainder of the season and subsequently "black balling" him from hockey for good....So we thought.

Now it's 2012, and Shannon is back as the Vice President, GM, and head coach of the Port Huron Fighting Falcons. Note: this is his first hockey job since the bounty incident. One of the reasons for relieving Bill Warren of his GM duties was lack of college commitments. Maybe someone should tell Maribeth Hayes, it's hard to get schools looking at your players when you win six games all season. Just as hockey looked to be back in Port Huron, it's hit a brick wall once again.

This is my personal blog and does not reflect the views of the Michigan Warriors, the NAHL, or any of it's Franchises. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

F5 Touch Down: Texas Tornado win fifth Robertson Cup in team history

By: Joey Battaino

It was a postseason that didn't start off very auspiciously for the Texas Tornado. They lost their first round match up to the second seeded Topeka Roadrunners, three games to none. But being the host of this year's Robertson Cup, they were assured a spot in the final six team tournament. All they did was beat three first place opponents on their way to their 5th Robertson Cup title.

In the finals, their opponents were the St. Louis Bandits. A team lead by NAHL mvp and leading scorer Joe Kalisz (UCONN). Texas had already beaten St. Louis once in round robin play on an overtime winner by Drew Allen. Texas got the scoring started in the first on a goal by Marc Biggs. He snapped a shot from the bottom of the right circle beating Bandits goalie Spencer Viele on the short side glove. It was 1-0 Texas after one.

In the middle frame, Davison, MI native Joe Kalisz put St. Louis on the board on the Powerplay. Kalisz was stationed on the bottom of the left wing circle and Josh Dangel found him. Kalisz put it in to an empty side of the goal. Then, Mitchell McPherson scored for the Tornado on a centering pass that went off of defenseman Wes Elrod's stick and in behind the goaltender. 1:04 later, Stephen Bopp tied the game on a beauty pass from Kalisz from behind the goal. And grinder Drew Kariofiles gave St. Louis a 3-2 advantage going into the third.

St. Louis began to sit back and Jordan Lovick tied the game at the 14:26 mark. Feverish pace brought the third to an end with the score tied at three.

It didn't take long for Texas to end it in overtime, Justin Greenberg scored at 4:36 on a rebound after Jack Prince through the puck towards the goal.

The big debate now is, Should the team that hosts the Robertson Cup get an automatic birth, even if they are eliminated from playoff contention? Texas won THREE playoff games all together. St. Louis, the runners-up won NINE. Something doesn't add up here. Folks, what it comes down to is selling tickets and the almighty dollar. Say the Robbie cup is played in Flint next season, but the Warriors were eliminated in the first round. As a Warriors fan, would you buy tickets to see the other teams play for the title? The answer is no and quite frankly, the markets in this league aren't strong enough to support a tournament without a home team. What it comes down to is what's fair and what's not. These kids deserve every opportunity to be successful, but not at the expense of the teams that deserve to be there. Owning a hockey team is like owning a boat. B.O.A.T. Bust out another thousand. Maybe instead of trying to make money on this tournament, the league should focus on getting the right teams in it, even if it cost them a few dollars in the end.

This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Michigan Warriors, the NAHL, or any of it's Franchises.