Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stricker hoping to make Traverse City squad

Tyler Stricker is hoping the third time is the charm.

The Traverse City Central Senior High School netminder has toiled at Traverse City North Stars camps the past three summers and would love to stay in town for the 2007-08 season. However, each time the local product was told that he had just missed out on a roster spot, good things have followed.

In 2005, Stricker was among the very first players to try out for the club in its first-ever camp. The coaches decided to go in another direction when personnel evaluations were made later in the summer, but Stricker did not let the minor setback derail his goaltending acumen. Instead, he went out and posted an undefeated record (16-0-1), a miniscule 1.40 goals-against average and sterling .930 save percentage. Oh yeah, his team experienced a fair amount of success as well, claiming TC’s first-ever state championship with a 2-1 win over Saline in the MHSAA title game.

“You can’t get down every time you go to a camp and don’t get picked,” said Stricker, a senior at TC Central this year. “You’re not always going to be a perfect fit for every team at every level. The main thing is to keep working hard, stay as consistent as you can, and let the coaches make their calls.”

North Stars GM Anthony Palumbo, who saw Stricker from the opposing bench the past three seasons, says Stricker’s even-keeled persona is a big plus for a backstop.

“Tyler is a very patient goalie,” said Palumbo, who skippered the TC West squad prior to heading the Stars’ front office. “Very rarely do you see him rattled even a little bit. He’s won some very big games, and he’s always been a winner at every level.”

Stricker, who had a 2.92 goals-against average for the Trojans last season, was selected from the pool of 12 goalies at this weekend’s pre-draft tryout camp at Centre ICE arena to a spot in Sunday’s Blue & White all-star game. He’ll join forces with former TC West netkeep Dallas Kniss for the Blue Team.

“I like the junior camps because you get to see different kinds of shots than you do in high school hockey,” exlained Stricker, who decided to become a goaltender after watching his cousin (Travis Stricker) man the pipes. “First of all, the shots are just plain harder and heavier. Secondly, a high school shooter doesn’t go top-shelf to snipe-out the goalie the way these guys do. You get to be exposed to a different approach (to shooting the puck).”

Palumbo says he is “leaning toward” keeping three goalies when the 2007-08 campaign opens in September.

“It’s going to be tough to make it here as a goalie,” Palumbo conceded. “I think you need that number one, that go-to goalie, but if you look at the teams that are very successful, they also have another guy who can come in and make stops when he’s called upon, too.”

Palumbo also says he doesn’t have a preference in terms of goaltending style.

“I’m not averse to any style,” he explained. “I’m not looking for a stand-up goalie or a butterfly-style guy. It comes down to whatever stops the puck and whatever works for the individual. I’m not going to try to force a style on a guy if it isn’t there.”

Stricker, Kniss, and the rest of the Blue & White all-star game participants, will wrap up camp on Sunday at Centre ICE arena with the culminating contest, which is slated for face-off at 10 a.m. Admission is free.

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