Saturday, September 16, 2006

North Stars and Rangers win Saturday

A nice parting shot seems like it takes two hours off the long bus ride home – and after a riding the high of a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory against Wichita Falls on Saturday in the final game of the North American Hockey League Showcase in suburban Minneapolis, the Traverse City North Stars might not even come down until they cross the Mackinaw Bridge.

“Jeez, that sure helps the ride home,” said relieved Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “It wasn’t our best game – that came in our loss to Santa Fe on Friday – but we showed a lot of character and determination today, and that was great to see.”

Traverse City trailed 3-1 and 4-2 in the third period before Patrick Nagorsen pulled the Stars to within a goal with 5:11 left in the third and Richie Zobak sent the game into overtime on a clutch lamplighter with :41 remaining in regulation. Nagorsen bagged the game-winner on an unassisted effort with 1:08 to go in the extra session.

“I was already starting to think about who our shooters were going to be for the shootout,” Gardiner admitted. “But the way we held together and stormed back like that – that was the best way for us to end it.”

The veritable conga line to the penalty box continued on Saturday in the wake of the NAHL’s crackdown on illegal impediment, affording the teams a combined 21 power play opportunities. Sean Nealon’s seal-breaking goal just 2:10 into the contest came with the Wildcats a man up, while Zobak’s first period retort was also with a man advantage.

Wichita Falls’ Ville Aman had the only goal of the second period, and opened the third with another to put the North Stars in a two-goal hole for the first time with 16:35 to play. After Alex Prough got TC close with an even-strength marker at 10:24 of the third, Adam Cardwell once again gave the Cats a two-goal bulge, setting up the crunch time heroics of Zobak and Nagorsen.

Jonathan Juliano, the team’s leading scorer – and table-setter – drew his fifth helper of the season on Zobak’s first goal on Saturday, while Nagorsen, Zach Hitch and Arthur Bidwill were also credited with assists in the come-from-behind triumph. Joe Greener set up Zobak’s game-extender.

“We saw some very good teams this week, and it was a good experience for us overall,” Gardiner surmised. “The South Division has some very god teams, and I thought we acquitted ourselves nicely. We still have plenty of things to work on, but now we have a better idea where we are having seen these teams.”

In other games at the Showcase Saturday...

Marquette beat the Fairbanks Ice Dogs by a 5-2 margin. Jake Saville scored a pair and Nick Kosinski, Mike Macari and Nic Weight added goals as well. Stephen Ritter stopped 25 shots in net for the Rangers.

The St. Louis Bandits beat the Alpena IceDiggers, 6-1. Nolan Craner scored for Alpena and Brandon Stephenson and Shawn Hunwick combined for 43 saves.

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