Tuesday, October 31, 2006

North Stars deal trio to Fairbanks

The Traverse City North Stars dealt away a trio of core players on Tuesday, acquiring a physical defensive presence and additional scoring punch.

The club traded away forwards Jonathan Juliano and Travis Hamway, along with defenseman Arthur Bidwill, to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for behemoth defenseman Nick Von Bokern and forward Mario Mjelleli.

Traverse City head coach Scott Gardiner says the move, which comes on the heels of a five-game skid, should pay dividends immediately.

“I think we needed a change of team chemistry,” said Gardiner, whose club is now 7-9-1 after a pair of narrow losses to Marquette this weekend. “What we have here is a very good team not playing to its potential, and we felt like we had to do something to jump-start the team.”

Van Bokern, a 6-4, 210-pound defenseman from Burnsville, Minn., has a goal and 10 assists through 18 games this year for Bozeman. The 19-year-old (he turns 20 on Saturday) played the previous two seasons with the Ice Dogs as well, collecting 27 points over that span. He has been most effective on special teams, dishing out eight power play assists and a pair of short-handed helpers.

“He has the size and the physical presence to make a huge impact with us from the day he gets here,” said Gardiner, who hopes to have his new tandem in uniform for this weekend’s two-game series at Mahoning Valley. “He has a tremendous shot from the point on the power play, and we could use that, too.”

The 20-year-old Mjelleli, a 5-10, 180-pound center/wing from Faribault, Minn., has four goals and seven assists in his 18 games of action this season, and tallied 11 goals to go with five assists for Fairbanks in 2005-06.

“Mario’s another hard-worker, he can play anywhere along the front line,” Gardiner assessed. “He plays on the power play, the penalty kill, and is just a very good all-around type of player.”

Juliano, an original member of the inaugural North Stars squad, scored 18 goals over 77 games with Traverse City, and had two goals with seven assists through 15 games this season. Hamway, who came to Traverse City from the now-defunct Billings Bulls, had a goal and nine assists in 16 games for the Stars, while Bidwill had posted career numbers through 17 games this season, scoring twice and amassing seven assists.

“I think it’ll be good for those guys to have a change of scenery,” Gardiner said. “They’re all very good players. We just had too many of the same kinds of players, and had to make a move. If it’s possible to have too much skill and not enough grit, that’s what we had.”

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