Thursday, January 12, 2006

North Stars upend USA Under-17 team

The road has not been kind to the Traverse City North Stars in the first half of the North American Hockey League schedule, but on Thursday the Stars became road warriors, knocking off the US National Development Program’s Under-17 squad at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube by a 4-2 count.

Travis Paeth (left) had a pair of goals for Traverse City, including an empty-netter with :12 on the clock. The road victory is just the second of the season for the North Stars, who also have a pair of wins on neutral ice.

“It was one of those total team efforts,” said Traverse City head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “We really focused on our own zone. The amount of quality scoring chances we had been giving up in the last month or so was just horrendous. So all week, we just worked hard on keeping the puck out of our end first, then getting to our offense.”

Jared Mullen, who leads the team with 24 points, registered the lone tally of the opening period eight minutes into the affair. Steven Oleksy and Jonathan Juliano assisted. Colin Wilson of the Team USA U-17s – many of whom are coming off a Silver medal performance at the World U-17 Championships in Regina, Sask. – answered Mullen’s salvo at 4:43 of the second, but Paeth collected his first of the night just over six minutes later to put the visitors in front again. Joe Schweiger and Richie Zobak drew assists on the play.

Brett Englebright logged his first goal in a North Stars sweater to give TC a 3-1 advantage with 7:12 to go in the third stanza, but A.J. Sturges brought the U-17s back to within a goal less than a minute later. Adam Sponseller was credited with an assist on the Englebright lamplighter.

Paeth’s unassisted empty-netter in the waning seconds was his 10th of the season.

“As a first year team, it’s always harder to win on the road, so we’ll take this one as a baby step,” added Gardiner, whose team has three wins this year versus the U-17s. “We’re a skating team, and for whatever reason we juts skate well with these guys. We’ll just try to keep that going (Friday).”

Despite being outshot by a 27-25 margin, the Stars (11-17-4) held Team USA to seven shots in the first period and just five over the final 20-plus minutes of play. Jeremy Kaleniecki earned his ninth win of the season on a 25-for-27 performance in net. He bested Josh Unice, who fell to 6-4-2. The Team USA U-17/18s missed out on a chance to re-take the lead in the North Division title chase. At 20-8-4, they trail idle Cleveland by two points.

The North Stars will look to make it three victories in their last four outings on Friday as the Stars and U-17s will face off again. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.

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