Thursday, November 03, 2005

North Stars ready for Cleveland

An everyman comedian once penned a theme song to a sitcom that proclaimed: “Cleveland rocks.”

In North American Hockey League circles, truer words were never spoken. The Cleveland Barons visit Centre ICE this weekend for a Nov. 4-5 two-game series against the Traverse City North Stars sporting the league’s most explosive offensive duo in Carter Camper and Josh Leonard.

Camper rolls into town brandishing the lead in the NAHL scoring chase with 28 points in the Barons’ 20 contests, while Leonard is fifth in the league with 21 points. Leonard’s 11 goals are second-most in the NAHL, while Camper has 10 -- tied for third.

The North Stars are quite familiar with the high-octane tandem. In the teams’ Sept. 16-18 three-game set, Camper scored a pair of goals and assisted on four others, while Leonard registered a hat trick in a 5-1 Barons triumph on Sept. 17.

“We definitely gotta pay a little more attention when they’re on the ice,” admitted North Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “But at the same time, you can’t change your gameplan for two players. They’re excellent perimeter players with speed and skill, but we can’t let them drive the net.”

The North Stars come into the series having lost a pair to Mahoning Valley last weekend that capped over a month of NAHL action away from Centre ICE. The Stars’ last home game was Oct. 1, a 2-1 shootout victory over the Team USA U-17 squad. Since then the club has traveled more than 3,000 miles, which included trips to Alpena, the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Mn., and the Youngstown-based Phantoms last weekend.

“It’ll be great to get back home,” said Gardiner, whose team boasts a 4-2 mark thus far at Centre ICE arena. “We don’t have another big road trip until December, so guys are going to get to sleep in their own beds, dress in their own room, and play in front of their own fans. We can’t wait to get back on home ice.”

The North Stars begin a busy month at Centre ICE this Friday for the first of the Cleveland contests. Alpena kicks off a home-and-home weekend series in TC on Nov. 11 before South Division rival Texarkana comes to Traverse City for a Nov. 18-19 series. The Team USA U-18s will visit Centre ICE arena for a Nov. 23 Thanksgiving Eve face-off.

The Nov. 19 contest against Texarkana will be preceded by the Pat Erway Hockey Benefit, which will pit the TC LawDogs against the Traverse City Fossils. The LawDogs are comprised of local law enforcement agents, while the Fossils are a collection of local businessmen, former Traverse City Central H.S. hockey teammates and coaches of Pat Erway’s, and North Stars coaches Scott Gardiner and Mike Stapleton. The LawDogs will be captained by Stars forward Jake Erway. brother of Pat Erway. Pat Erway is a detective with the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Dept. who suffered a severe head injury while on vacation in North Carolina and is making inspiring progress in his rehabilitation at a Grand Rapids hospital. Proceeds from the gate, silent auction, and concessions will benefit the Erway Family Fund.

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