Tuesday, September 18, 2007

North Stars ready for NAHL Showcase

From an existential standpoint, this week’s North American Hockey League Showcase in suburban Minneapolis will be a journey of self-discovery for the Traverse City North Stars.

After a pair of exhibition contests against North Division foe Alpena, the North Stars have learned a few things about the quality and character of the club, but when the bright lights go up on Wednesday at the Schwan’s Super Rink, first year head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo will get his first real look at the roster under the microscope of actual game conditions.

“I learned that we’re a hard-working team and that our work ethic is excellent,” said Palumbo, after a preseason split with the IceDiggers. “I think we’re still learning to trust each other, to play within the system, but like most teams, we’re trying to bring 20 or 25 different mindsets in line. Most of these guys are coming from different systems, different backgrounds. The cohesion can only come with time and experience.”

The 18-team annual event - which attracts hundreds of college hockey scouts - will also be Palumbo’s initial peek at a quartet of interdivisional foes in Bismarck, North Iowa, Alaska and Alexandria (Mn.). While the Stars did face Bismarck at last year’s Showcase - dropping a 4-3 decision to the Bobcats – Palumbo says he will have to fine-tune on the fly.

“I have to admit, I know nothing about the teams we’re playing other than having a roster, but I think most of the teams here are in the same situation in that respect. You kind of have to focus on what you do, not what you think the other team is going to do, especially a team from outside your region, your division. You make your adjustments as the game goes on, but try to play your one system.”

The Stars are healthy for the most part, with veteran forwards Harrison Niemann and Zach Hitch – along with returning defenseman Jameson Raymond – nursing minor lower body injuries. Additionally, Palumbo says he was pleasantly surprised with the exhibition season performances of a few of the new arrivals, including forward Jarrod LaBelle.

“We knew Jarrod had the speed and the skill,” Palumbo said of the Midland native’s showing. “But I guess we weren’t prepared for just how hard he plays. I think the people of Traverse City – the fans of the North Stars – are really going to come to love this kid and how hard he works.”

Traverse City opens the NAHL Showcase on Wednesday against Bismarck (8:30 p.m. ET), faces North Iowa in a Thursday matinee (2:15 p.m. ET), takes on Alaska (0-1-0 after a 6-2 loss to expansion Kenai River on Sept. 14) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET, and closes out the event against Alexandria on Saturday evening (7:45 p.m. ET). The Showcase also marks the beginning of the NAHL’s partnership with B2 Networks, who will provide pay-per-view video webcasting of all league games this season. Fans wishing to watch the games can find a link to the B2 feed from the team’s Web site, traversecitynorthstars.com, or the event site, nahlshowcase.com.

“I’d imagine that all the teams feel like we do – those that haven’t had a game or two already, anyway,” Palumbo surmised. “We’ve spent a spring and summer getting ready, and we’re just eager to get to it.”


: Sept. 19-22
WHERE: Schwan’s Super Rink – Blaine, Minn.

WEDNESDAY: TC vs. Bismarck (20-36-6 in 2006-07), 8:30 p.m. ET
THURSDAY: TC vs. North Iowa (27-29-6), 2:15 p.m. ET
FRIDAY: TC vs. Alaska (16-39-7), 5:30 p.m. ET
SATURDAY: TC vs. Alexandria (28-29-5), 7:45 p.m. ET

WATCH LIVE: Link to the pay-per-view B2 video feed at traversecitynorthstars.com or nahlshowcase.com

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