Sunday, March 05, 2006

Alpena tops Traverse City Sunday, 4-2

The Traverse City North Stars missed a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and Alpena in the race for the fourth and final playoff berth in the NAHL’s North Division, dropping a 4-2 contest on Sunday at Northern Lights Arena.

Alpena improved to 10-35-5 for 25 points – 11 behind Traverse City. The IceDiggers have eight games remaining, including three more versus the North Stars, while TC (15-33-6) has just four games left on its regular season slate after a point-less weekend.

“They just crashed the net, beat us to pucks, and generally outworked us again today,” lamented Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. “I was very disappointed in our effort. We had a chance to put some distance between us and plain and simple did not come to play. I don’t know how we go from skating with the best team in the league (Texas) to what we did this weekend.”

The IceDiggers peppered Stars goalie Ryan Donovan with 56 shots, including 26 in the second period alone. Peter O’Hara worked the Diggers’ pipes, picking up his first NAHL victory with 30 saves in 32 chances.

After a scoreless first period, the floodgates opened early in the second. Drew Pierson pushed the hosts in front just :40 into the session, and assisted on captain Nolan Craner’s marker a scant 2:07 later.

The Stars responded at the 8:29 mark when Travis Paeth recorded his 21st tally of the campaign on assists from Steve Hackman and Patrick Nagorsen. Defenseman Jarrett Rush (Richie Zobak, Nagorsen) scored his second goal in as many nights with 1:18 to play before the second intermission to pull Traverse City even at 2-all, but Matt Suggs (pictured) issued an Alpena rejoinder with 26 second left in the period.

Suggs’ second goal of the contest – at the 2:59 mark of the third stanza – cemented the Diggers’ victory.

The North Stars -- who played their sixth game in 10 days – get a break from the rigors of the late regular season for almost two full weeks.

“Three-game weekends, all the injuries – those are excuses,” Gardiner said. “It will be nice to get a chance to heal up, but I care a lot less about the winning and the losing if the effort is there, and we didn’t give it.”

TC has been without defensemen Ryan Reid (back) and Christoffer Rasmussen (concussion), and forwards Mike Sand (leg – out for year), Joe St. John (concussion) and Ryan Bond (knee), and can nurse their various wounds until St. Patrick’s Day. That’s when the all-everything Team USA Under-18 squad invades Centre ICE for a 7:30 p.m. affair.

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