Saturday, January 21, 2006

North Stars, 'Diggers both fall at Showcase

The only thing more potent than the stingy defense of the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad on Friday was its offense.

While yielding a mere 22 shots on net – including a negligible three over the first 20 minutes of action – Team USA poured it on with the puck as well, handing the Traverse City North Stars a franchise-worst 10-0 defeat on the second day of the North American Hockey League’s North Division Showcase in greater Youngstown, Ohio.

The Team USA U-18s scored early, often and in a variety of ways on Friday, beginning with Patrick Kane’s unassisted shorthanded tally just 1:34 into the contest, and ending with Rhett Rakhshani’s powerplay effort with 5:16 to play. The North Stars experienced difficulty with the man advantage – they went 0-for-6 on powerplay chances -- as well as the penalty kill, where the U-18s converted five of eight powerplay opportunities. In all, the Stars were outshot by a whopping 50-22 margin.

Rakhshani led the way for Team USA (24-8-4) with a trio of lamplighters, two of which came on the powerplay, while Bill Sweatt dished out four assists. Kane finished with two goals and a pair of helpers, and James O’Brien had one of each.

“We took a whoopin’,” admitted North Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “They turned it up a notch, and we’re ready to match that. We had some jump (on Thursday), but we got down early tonight and couldn’t get back in it.

“There’s not a whole lot to say except … that’s one pretty deep, pretty darn strong team right there. They beat us in every period on both ends of the ice.”

Jeremy Kaleniecki took the loss in net for Traverse City (12-19-5), making 40 saves. Joseph Palmer and Brett Bennett shared goalkeeping duties for Team USA, with Palmer turning aside eight shots and Bennett registering the final 14 saves.

The North Stars try to get back on track Saturday against Cleveland in an 11 a.m. contest. The Stars and Barons will face off again on Sunday morning (10 a.m.) in the final installment of the four-day, six-team event. Gardiner says the way his team responds to such a lopsided loss will be telling.

“We have to get back and re-focus,” Gardiner explained. “Hey, there’s still four points sitting out there this weekend. We have to put something like this behind us and move on.”


The Alpena IceDiggers fell, 7-5, to the host Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

Drew Pierson had two goals and an assist for Alpena. Korey O'Brien, Erik Peterson and Chris Hendrickson also tallied for Alpena.

Anthony McIntyre added two assists while goaltender Johnny Morrow stopped 38 in defeat.

The IceDiggers play the Springfield Jr. Blues tonight at 7:30 p.m.

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