Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tornado breeze past North Stars, 6-1

The Traverse City North Stars didn’t just go on a weeklong, four-game road trip through Texas, they went to school – call it ‘Junior U’. The team faced two of the top junior teams in the country in Texarkana and the two-time defending North American Hockey League champion Texas Tornado, and learned first-hand what it takes to rank among the best in the league.

On Saturday, the closing chapter in the Stars’ four-game Texas swing, the Tornado slammed home five goals in the first 20:55 of play and cruised to a 6-1 triumph over Traverse City at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter near Dallas.

“We went into this road trip hoping to see where we stood,” said Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “I think what we learned is that in a two-game weekend we can play with these guys, but a four-game week is a little much to ask from anybody given the opponents.

“But it was a big learning experience for us, and we’re going to be better because of it. Our guys got to see things they hadn’t seen before. We learned where we need to be by April.”

After Andrew Harrison gave the hosts a 1-0 edge just 3:35 into the first period, Travis Paeth evened things up for Traverse City with his team-leading 14th goal of the season at 8:50 with TC on the powerplay. Devrin Stonehouse and Karl Sellan scored goals for the Tornado less than four minutes apart to close the first period before Sellan and Jordan Mowbray opened the second period with goals at :40 and :55 and the Stars found themselves in a 5-1 hole.

Harrison registered his second goal of the contest at 13:26 of the third period, making it a 6-1 final. Following the goal, Harrison was assessed a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he grabbed the puck, skated to the North Stars bench and fired the puck at the Traverse City players.

Texas (32-9-3) was busy on the offensive end of the ice, peppering the TC tandem of Ryan Donovan and Jeremy Kaleniecki with 45 shots. Donovan made 13 saves, while Kaleniecki chipped in with 26 of his own. Texas netminder Troy Redmann wasn’t tested often – the North Stars (13-26-5) mustered just 14 shots on net, including two in the third period – but was up to the task when called upon.

Traverse City spent much of the final stanza shorthanded, having been assessed 27 minutes of box time that included 21 minutes to Steven Oleksy during one sequence with 8:11 to play.

Regardless of his team’s record on the Texas swing, Gardiner says he will continue to match his team against the best possible opposition.

“We’re not afraid to play anybody,” he said. “Win, lose or draw, we’re not afraid to measure ourselves against the best teams. That’s where we want to get, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”

The Stars return to Centre ICE arena this weekend for a Friday-Saturday weekend series with Mahoning Valley. Traverse City last faced the Phantoms on Jan. 28, a contest won 4-3 in a shootout by the North Stars.

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