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Northern Michigan's Gron, Cherniwchan make jump to pro ranks

Gron goes to Bridgeport in AHL, Cherniwchan to South Carolina in ECHL

March 22, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University seniors Tyler Gron and Andrew Cherniwchan both signed amateur tryout deals and joined their respective minor league hockey clubs on the road Wednesday.

Gron, an All-CCHA first-team forward this season who led NMU in scoring with 17 goals and 20 assists, signed an ATO with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. The Sound Tigers are an affiliate of the NHL's New York Islanders.

"I'm excited about it," said Gron, who will continue to take his classes online while away from Marquette so he can graduate in May.

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"It's a really good opportunity for me to get my foot in the door professionally and see where I fit in. I'm sure it will show my weaknesses even more than in college. I'll have to learn everything I can after a few games here."

Cherniwchan, who recorded 10 goals and 10 assists for the Wildcats in 28 games this season, signed with the South Carolina Stingrays, which is an ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

Cherniwchan, who is also taking classes online at NMU to graduate in May, spent some time over the summer prior to the 2011-12 collegiate season at a Capitals' development camp and had spoke with Capitols scouts throughout the year. He was even paid a visit by Capitals scouts at Michigan Tech approximately 24 hours after learning his father had lost a longtime battle with cancer.

"It was a strange feeling finishing my last college game and not knowing what you are going to do," Cherniwchan said from Florida on Thursday. "It's exciting to get an opportunity to continue playing.

"One of the reasons I came down to South Carolina is because that is one of (the Captals') affiliations. They still are close by to keep an eye out."

Gron and Cherniwchan both became undrafted free agents following the official conclusion of the season Sunday when Northern was the last team left out of the NCAA tournament.

Clubs have the option at the end of an amateur tryout to either release the player, making him a free agent again, or sign the player to a deal.

Both were absent from their respective team's lineup on Wednesday, but expect to play Friday.

South Carolina is at the Florida Everblades while Bridgeport travels to the Springfield Falcons.

South Carolina has five games remaining in its regular season, plus the playoffs while Bridgeport has 12 before the AHL playoffs begin.



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