Saturday, April 01, 2006

Team USA squares series with Traverse City

Phil McRae and Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and an assist each on Friday, leading the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-17 squad to a 4-2 win over the Traverse City North Stars in Game 2 of the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup playoffs.

Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-five North Division semifinals return to Centre ICE arena next weekend, with contests on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8.

The Stars were outshot by a whopping 52-15 margin on Friday, one night after stealing home ice in a 2-1 victory over the U-17s.

"That's far too many shots to give up," assessed Traverse City head coach/GM Scott Gardiner. "And give full credit to Team USA. They really elevated their level of play tonight, and we weren't able to match that intensity."

TC grabbed a 1-0 lead when Jonathan Juliano's breakaway goal - his second in as many nights - put the visitors in front. Jarrett Rush and Arthur Bidwill drew assists on the play at 9:41 of the first period. McRae set up James vanReimsdyk for the equalizer with :58 left in the second period, and the hosts poured it on in the third, as McRae and Shattenkirk scored goals just 2:48 apart.

Juliano cut the deficit to 3-2 with 7:05 to play, but any momentum the Stars had built evaporated a scant 1:51 later when Matt Rust's shorthanded tally sealed the split for USA.

"We were able to get the puck in deep, and our forecheck really helped us on the offensive end," said USA Under-17 head coach Ron Rolston. "We were able to get a lot of pressure on them, even after the pressure of being down a goal early."

Gardiner says his team is looking forward to having the next two games in friendlier confines.

"It's just like (Thursday) night, it's over as soon as it's over, and we look forward. We like where we sit with a split and going back to our building, and I know we'll be ready come (next) Friday."

Rolston says the series could return to Ann Arbor for the fifth and decisive game on April 9.

"I think this is going to be a great series, and it could go the distance," he surmised. "It's great for the league to have a series like this."

Next Friday's game as well as Saturday's home encore face-off at 7:30 p.m.

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