Friday, February 10, 2006

Phantoms best North Stars, 5-2

Suffering from what head coach/GM Scott Gardiner described as a “lack of mental readiness,” the Traverse City North Stars put themselves in an early 3-0 hole on Friday at Centre ICE area, and couldn’t fully recover, suffering a 5-2 setback to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

The Stars were able to bounce back from the three-goal deficit and make it a 3-2 contest on a pair of unassisted Richie Zobak tallies near the middle of the second stanza, but Phantoms goalie Ryan Zapolski slammed the door on the hosts, sending them to a fifth straight defeat.

“I just don’t feel like we were mentally ready tonight,” Gardiner explained. “I mean, we made huge mental mistakes that cost us goals. We’ve preached being sharp in our own end of the ice, and we didn’t come out and play that way in the early going tonight.”

Marc Menzione got things going for the Phantoms (26-14-4) a mere 2:24 into the affair, and Mike Maltese (14:04) and Dennis Urban (17:56) pushed it to a 3-0 Mahoning Valley bulge heading into the first intermission. Drew Satterly and Anthony Ciraulo drew a pair of assists each for the visitors in the first 20 minutes of play.

Zobak was the show in the second stanza, recording his second and third goals of the season at 10:36 and 12:20, respectively, to make it a one-goal contest until late in the third period. That’s when John Kivisto cinched it with a powerplay effort at 14:51, and Urban logged his second lamplighter less than two minutes to play to send the nearly 800 Stars fans home with an ‘L’.

“It seems like we can’t buy a goal, we can’t buy a break right now,” Gardiner opined. “Having said that, it’s true that you create your own luck, your own breaks, and we just didn’t do that tonight. I have to give Zapolski credit, though – he made some huge saves at the right times tonight, and we couldn’t solve him when we had to.”

Jeremy Kaleniecki worked the net for the North Stars, making 32 saves, while Zapolski stopped 30 of the 32 shots he saw. The Phantoms enjoyed a 37-32 shot advantage, including a 10-5 edge in the final period.

“We did show some heart to battle back like that, but we just couldn’t finish the job,” Gardiner said. “There a games where you can will yourself to win, and we just couldn’t do that tonight.”

The teams face off again on Saturday in a 7:30 p.m. rematch at Centre ICE arena.

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