Sunday, March 05, 2006

North Stars swept by Mahoning Valley

North Stars forward Matt Larke and Mahoning Valley defenseman Craig Dulman wrangle for position during Saturday's NAHL North Division contest at Centre ICE arena.
(Photo by John L. Russell/Great Lakes Images)

A pair of first period Traverse City goals sandwiched between three-goal spurts by the visiting Phantoms wasn’t enough on Saturday night at Centre ICE arena, as Mahoning Valley got out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back, handing the North Stars a 7-4 defeat in the second of a two-game set.

Craig Dulman, Mike Maltese, and Anthony Ciraulo registered first period markers in a span of less than four minutes before Jarrett Rush and Joe Schweiger pulled the hosts to within a goal with 3:37 to play before the first intermission. TC would never get that close again, as Maltese, Matt Atsoff, and Ciraulo recorded unrequited goals to push the Phantoms’ bulge to 6-3. Atsoff opened the third period with his second tally of the evening before Jared Mullen finally answered for the home club with 15:11 to play. Brett Englebright capped the scoring with 1:44 on the clock for the Stars.

“They just plain outworked us,” explained Traverse City head coach-GM Scott Gardiner. "We woke up for a while in the first, but we definetly didn’t play our best hockey in the second. We had a little jump there in the third, but it’s the same battle we’ve faced all year – being consistent for 60 minutes.”

Ryan Donovan got the start in net for the North Stars (15-32-6), stopping 20 of 26 through 40 minutes of action, while Jeremy Kaleniecki finished the job, turning away eight of the nine shots he saw. Bryce Merriam notched the victory in net for Mahoning Valley with 29 saves. The Stars surrendered two power-play goals and a shorthanded effort, the team’s league-leading 18th shorthanded tally surrendered this season.

Saturday’s game threatened to careen out of control early in the third period, as the teams took turns challenging the other to fisticuffs, but cooler heads finally prevailed. The clubs did combine for 28 penalties and 94 minutes in the box, including seven citations to the Stars in the second period and as many to the specters in the final stanza.

The Stars get forward Jon Madden back for Sunday’s matinee in Alpena, having served his two-game suspension for a fight during a Feb. 26 game against Team USA U-17, while fellow forward Ryan Bond (knee) will begin skating again on Monday. Gardiner says that having just 17 of a possible 25 players available is beginning to take its toll.

“By the end of the month, we hope to finally have almost everyone back. And that’s the bigger picture, really. I’ll feel a lot better when we can get 20 guys healthy to dress.”

Sunday’s contest in Alpena marks the conclusion of the second consecutive three-game weekend for the North Stars. The club gets next weekend off before a St. Patrick’s Day special against the Team USA U-18 squad at Centre ICE arena.

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