Sunday, April 09, 2006

North Stars drop Game 5 to Team USA

Josh Unice.

The U.S. National Team Development Program Under-17 netkeeper donned his cape and cowl again on Sunday at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, stopping all 27 shots he faced en route to a 1-0 victory over the Traverse City North Stars in the fifth and deciding game of the best-of-five NAHL North Division semifinals.

Unice, who blanked the North Stars by a 2-0 count on Saturday night at Centre ICE arena, drew praise from Stars coach Scott Gardiner, who – along with fans from East Bay Twp. to Washtenaw County – was left agape at the goaltender’s stellar twin bill.

“The kid made saves with his gloves, his blockers his toes – whatever he needed to use,” Gardiner said. “I mean, he throws two goose eggs at us and we had a lot of chances. We just couldn’t get one past him.”

As was the case in Saturday’s Game 4 loss, Stars goalie Jeremy Kaleniecki matched Unice nearly save for save, and was named the second star of Game 5.

“Jeremy was unbelievable,” Gardiner said. “He gives up one goal last night and one tonight – he certainly did his job.”

C.J. Severyn, who came into Sunday’s finale without a playoff point, scored the lone goal of the contest at 3:19 of the second period on assists from Colby Cohen and Ryan Schnell. Traverse City had several chances – including a pair of breakaway chances, but could not solve the Toledo, Ohio native.

“I liked our effort,” Gardiner added. “We worked so hard, and I’m so proud of how our guys came together at the end of the season to play their best hockey of the year, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

The loss caps a fantastic inaugural season for the North Stars, who came into the series as the fourth seed in the North Division and wrested home ice from the U-17s with a 2-1 win in the opening game of the set.

“We saw some very good signs from these guys, especially as the season wore on,” Gardiner assessed. “And those lessons we learned this year will certainly pay off next season when we have the veterans, those guys who have been through the battles before. There is nothing but good things ahead for this team.”

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