Sunday, February 26, 2006

Texas edges Stars in shootout Saturday night

If two out of three ain’t bad, then three out of four must be downright respectable.

The two-time defending North American Hockey League champion Texas Tornado huffed and puffed, but in the end had barely enough wind left to eke out a 3-2 shootout victory over the host Traverse City North Stars on Saturday at Centre ICE arena. The Stars claimed three of a possible four points from the Tornado over the weekend, and moved 13 points ahead of fifth-place Alpena for the fourth and final playoff berth with eight games remaining for Traverse City.

“I’m happy – happy with our effort,” said Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “We got three points, and we still have two more on the table tomorrow (against Team USA U-17). I saw some of our guys hanging their heads after the game and I told ’em, ‘Get your heads up. You just gave the two-time champs everything they could handle.’ If we get effort like we did these last two nights for the rest of the season, ANYTHING can happen.”

As they did in a 7-4 win over Texas on Friday, the North Stars jumped out to an early lead on Saturday, when Adam Sponseller got things going just 1:20 into the affair on assists from Brett Englebright and Joseph Schweiger. The Tornado actually outshot the hosts by a 14-7 margin, but few were quality scoring chances, and TC netkeep Ryan Donovan dealt with those that were.

Patrick Nagorsen capped a back-and-forth second stanza with his 16th goal of the season with a mere 1:02 remaining before intermission, giving TC a 2-0 edge.

The defending champs, who saw plenty of time in the Centre ICE arena penalty box, went seriously shorthanded with a series of unsportsmanlike maneuvers, including Andrew Harrison throwing a punch at an official. Harrison, Billy Skwarczewski, and Justin King were all ejected from the contest in the third, and Texas finished the contest with 61 minutes in box time on 17 infractions. The Stars drew seven penalties for 22 minutes.

Jordan Mowbray scored the game-tying goal with nine seconds left in regulation on a disputed play in which the Stars’ net was dislodged from its moorings as the puck crossed the goal line. Gardiner says it’s just part of the game.

“I’m not going to worry about that because it’s out of our control,” he said. “It’s done and there’s nothing we can do about it. When you look at the big picture, we have every reason to be proud of our effort and our conduct.”

In the shootout, Texas goalie Troy Redmann stopped all but one shot -- Travis Paeth’s – while Karl Sellan, Derek Danowski and Tom Brooks each found twine for the Tornado.

The Stars finish up a busy weekend on Sunday, hosting the Team USA Under-17 squad in a 1 p.m. matinee. They’ll be back at Centre ICE arena again next weekend, playing host to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms on Friday and Saturday.

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