Sunday, May 13, 2007

Redmond shooting for shot with TC

A couple months ago, Alex Redmond was sitting in his Kalamazoo domicile readying for an exam he was to take the next day.

The Western Michigan University student looked up from his book and had an epiphany.

“I said to myself, ‘What am I doing not playing hockey?’” explained Redmond, a key cog in Traverse City Central Senior High School’s 2005-06 state championship team. “I mean, I went to school to focus on the academics. I know how important that is. But I kind of realized all of a sudden just how much I missed the game.”

Redmond aced the test, then hatched a plan to get back on blades, which brought him to Centre ICE arena this weekend for the Traverse City North Stars’ annual pre-draft tryout camp.

“I wasn’t exactly in playing shape,” admitted Redmond, who drew support from brother Zach, a star defenseman for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League. “I was playing intramurals, but that’s not exactly the kind of hockey that’s going to help prepare you for junior tryouts. So I came into the weekend with a little bit of rust.”

Any such corrosion was either barely visible this weekend, or wore off as the camp went on, according to North Stars general manager Anthony Palumbo.

“Even with a year away from competitive hockey, Alex looked pretty good on Friday,” Palumbo assessed. “From there, he just got better and better each game as the weekend wore on. He’s somebody we’ll definitely want to see again.”

With that in mind, Palumbo and the Stars scouting staff extended Redmond an invitation to the team’s August training camp, from which the final 2007-08 roster will be hewn.

“I’m happy to get that chance,” said Redmond, whose Blue Team skated to a 4-1 win over the White Team in Sunday’s camp-capping finale at Centre ICE. “I know it’s a bit of a stretch to think I can take a year off from hockey and come back and make the North Stars roster, but this is something I really want to do. I talk to Zach all the time about how much fun it is to play juniors.”

Redmond is as decorated as any player in the region’s prep hockey history. He had 34 goals and 53 points over 29 games his senior year, leading the Trojans to a 26-2-1 mark and Traverse City’s first-ever state title. He was named to the state’s Dream Team following the season, the first player from TC in more than 10 years to earn the award, and earned first team All-State and Traverse City Record-Eagle All-Region Dream Team honors.

“That was a great experience,” the 6-foot, 155-pound right winger said of his whirlwind senior season. “I learned a lot – about being unselfish on the ice, about how a tight group of teammates interact – and how those things helped to shape our success.”

For now, Redmond – a Houston native who moved to Michigan at age 3 - will prepare for the August training camp, with the ultimate goal of playing in his hometown and earning a spot in a college hockey program.

“I know it’s a longshot, but I have to go after it,” Redmond said. “I’ve been thinking about it since that day it finally hit me.”

TC GOALIES SHINE: TC West goalkeep Dallas Kniss and TC Central backstop Travis Stricker were nearly impenetrable on Sunday in the annual Blue & White Game, leading Blue to a 4-1 win. Kniss - an All-Region Dream Team performer for Palumbo and the Titans last year with a 12-4 record, 1.66 goals-against average and .912 save percentage – stopped all 14 shots he faced, blanking the White Team for the first half of the contest. Stricker, an All-Region selection for the Trojans the past two years, permitted just one goal on 16 shots. Both earned invites to the August camp, along with Muskegon goalie Justin Grevious.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised by how they played, because I know both of them and know how good they are,” Palumbo said. “But I was surprised how well they adjusted from high school hockey to a junior camp.”

Kniss says he was relaxed and confident with '06-07 North Stars defensemen Alex Breeden and Chris Heineman in front of him, along with former West teammate Nate Greenman.

“I felt a lot better than I did when the weekend started,” said Kniss, who led the Titans to their first-ever Big North Conference title in 2006-07. “There’s some adjustment period, but once I got sort of dialed in, I felt good out there.”

Nate Urbaniak paced the Blue Team with a pair of goals and an assist, while Marquette Electricians midget-AAA product Bran Cooper dished out a pair of assists.

SPRING FORWARD: The weekend camp marked the beginning of a new era of North Stars hockey, with Palumbo and new majority owner Steve Fournier overseeing the event. At least one participant enjoyed the weekend – despite leaving without an August invite.

“It went real smooth, and it was a good forum for this level of competition,” said Sal Ragusa, who led Quad City (Jr. B) in scoring last year and spent part of the 2005-06 season with the North Stars, attending tryout camps in 2006 and 2007. “There was a lot of talent here.”

In organizational news, Courtney Phillips was named Director of Operations last week. Phillips controls the day-to-day operations of the team, and drew praise from Fournier for a successful camp.

“She’s a key piece in our puzzle,” he said. “She does so many things for us and does them well. We’re fortunate to have her with us.”

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