Friday, May 19, 2006

Heineman, Moran among Stars hopefuls

There are smart hockey players and there are hockey players who play smart. Chris Heineman is both.

The New Boston native, who will be among nearly 100 players slated to fill Centre ICE arena this weekend for the Traverse City North Stars’ first tryout camp of the summer, is a whiz on the ice and in the classroom. The former is evidenced by Heineman’s five-year run as a captain of the metro Detroit-based HoneyBaked hockey program, while the latter is shown in his 3.7 GPA at New Boston Huron High School.

“There’s a lot to like about Chris,” admitted North Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner, who signed Heineman to a 2006-07 tender back in early April. “He does so many things well, and has a real presence on the ice. We hope he can come in and contribute right away.”

Heineman, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenseman, is as adept staying at home on the blue line as he is setting up scoring plays and joining the rush himself. He registered seven goals and 48 assists to go along with 129 penalty minutes last season for the Midwest Elite Hockey League champion HoneyBaked squad, leading his team to an amazing 26-1-1 record in league action.

Heineman visited Traverse City during the North Stars’ first round playoff series against the U.S. National Team Development Program U-17s, and was as impressed with the fans as he was with the coaching staff.

“That was a great experience, seeing all those people in the stands and how into the team they were,” said Heineman, 16. “It must be great to play in front of a crowd like that. It seems like a great place to play junior hockey, and Mr. Gardiner runs a real solid program. I really hope that I can develop into a go-to guy for the North Stars.”

Heineman’s defensive partner with HoneyBaked for the past two seasons, Pat Moran, is also a North Stars tender, and will participate in the Stars’ June 2-4 tryout camp at Plymouth’s Compuware Sports Arena. Both players were also selected in the Ontario Hockey League’s recent draft with Heineman going to the Sudbury Wolves (eighth round) and Moran to the Guelph Storm (second round).

“Pat and I have become very close playing together so much,” Heineman explained. “We talk off the ice, too, and I think that really helps us compliment each other when we’re out there. It’s like playing with your brother.”

Heineman will still have to vie for a roster spot with the second-year North American Hockey League outfit, but Gardiner likes what he’s seen so far from both HoneyBaked products.

“You have two versatile, hard-working guys,” he said. “And they also can show their mean streak when they have to.”

“My game is to first get the puck out of the zone,” Heineman assessed. “I can jump in the play when it’s there, too, but I don’t make it a habit. And I’m not afraid to play the body, either.”

Heineman and the other TC hopefuls, returning North Stars players, and the cream of the crop from a goalie camp that began on Thursday, will play a series of scrimmages at Centre ICE arena over the course of the weekend, culminating with Sunday’s Blue & White championship game. The 12:15 p.m. finale will feature the top performers from the four-day camp.

“We’re looking to fill some holes,” Gardiner said. “Last year at this time, our goal was to pick a team that could compete with the Texas and Team USA-type teams. We found out there’s a lot in between those two styles of play that we didn’t fare as well against, and we’re looking to get stronger at every position.”

Thursday’s goalie camp featured 21 of the top high school, travel, and junior netminders, including a quartet of local backstops: Tyler Stricker, who led Traverse City Central to an MHSAA championship last season, TC West’s Dallas Kniss, and GTHA stars Benn Overholt and Spencer Sonneveldt. North Stars holdovers Ryan Donovan and Jeremy Kaleniecki – and tender Stefan Shively -- also participated, although Kaleniecki is exploring collegiate options as well.

“There is a lot of talent coming into camp this weekend,” Gardiner said. “And you’re always looking for that diamond in the rough, too.”

No comments: