Thursday, July 05, 2007

North Stars unveil '07-08 schedule

When the Traverse City North Stars face off against the rival Alpena IceDiggers at Centre ICE arena on Saturday, Sept. 29 for the 2007-08 home opener, it will mark the end of the team’s longest stretch away from home.

The Stars open their third season at the North American Hockey League Showcase in suburban Minneapolis on Sept. 19, where they’ll play four games, followed by a fifth road contest on Sept. 28 at Alpena.

The North Stars will play its traditional holiday home contest on Nov. 21 – Thanksgiving Eve – against the IceDiggers, and will visit Alpena for the annual New Year’s Eve clash at Northern Lights Arena.

The schedule does feature single weekends off in October, November, February, and March, but two jam-packed periods in December and January are also on the docket. From Dec. 14-31 (18 days), the Stars will play eight games, while a 12-day stretch from Jan. 18-29 will feature a grueling eight-game run.

“Those are the really tough stretches of our schedule and it will necessitate managing our practices, players, and lineups,” admitted first-year Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “We’ll just have to be cognizant of making sure we stay as fresh as we can. We know exactly what lies ahead of us now that the schedule is out, and we’ll prepare accordingly.”

While the North Stars will unveil their all-new home and away jerseys in late August or early September, Palumbo says he looks forward to some special dates to sport the club’s new third jersey as well.

“Those holiday games are always fun, and they draw well for both us and Alpena,” he explained. “It also gives some people who may not be residents of the area a chance to come out and see North Stars hockey. It’s also a chance to get our alternate jerseys on as well.”

The NAHL officially released the 2007-08 schedule on Wednesday, which marks the 32nd season of the oldest junior hockey league in the nation.

"We're looking forward to another exciting, competitive year," said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. "Traditionally, there's great parity in our league and we're expecting more of the same this year."

The expansion Kenai River (Ak.) Brown Bears necessitated a minor divisional realignment, which put the defending Robertson Cup champion St. Louis Bandits into the North Division with TC, Alpena, Mahoning Valley, Marquette and the Ann Arbor-based U.S. National Team Development Program.

Traverse City’s home slate includes a pair of Sunday matinees (Oct. 7 vs. Marquette and Nov. 18), a Tuesday affair (Mar. 4 vs. Team USA-17), and a four-game stint at the NAHL North Division Showcase, hosted by Mahoning Valley (Jan. 18-21). The Stars welcome in St. Louis from Mar. 21-22 before closing out the regular season Mar. 28-29 in Marquette.

“It’s a good schedule, it keeps us busy at times and gives us a breather at other times,” said Palumbo, who will select his first roster from the 50 or so players who were invited to the Stars’ Aug. 3-5 training camp. “With what we’ve seen and what we have coming to the August camp, I think we’re going to be a hard-working, exciting team. We’ve worked hard to improve defensively, and based on what we’ve seen so far, I like the skill, too. We’re excited about this schedule and this season.”

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