Sunday, May 11, 2008

Urbaniak ready for '08-09 in Traverse City

Here’s a scary thought for opponents of the Traverse City North Stars: Nate Urbaniak could be even better in 2008-09.

After racking up team records for goals (25), assists (37) points (62), shorthanded goals (2), and power play assists (19) in a season – plus a berth in the 2008 NAHL All-Star game – Urbaniak is eager to take his game to that proverbial ‘next level.’ To wit, the Perrysburg, Ohio product has started working with a skating coach and nutritionist, and turning up the heat in his off-season weight-training regimen.

The erudite Urbaniak – who compiled an eye-popping 4.3 GPA as a member of the National Honor Society and graduated summa cum laude from Toledo’s St. Francis de Sales – made quite a statistical leap from his first season in a North Stars sweater. In 2006-07, he saw action in 52 games and registered five goals and assisted on six others. Last year, Urbaniak saw a near six-fold increase in scoresheet production.

“Going into the off-season, we had a new coach and a new system, and it was just kind of a good place to make a fresh start,” Urbaniak explained. “I knew if I worked hard, I would get my chances. I was also lucky to be with some pretty good linemates.”

Among those linemates was Kyle Bonis, who also logged 25 goals in TC last year, and multifaceted forward Kory Kaunisto. If the trio were re-united in 2008-09, it would almost certainly form one of the most prolific scoring lines in the NAHL.

“Nate’s a smart kid, number one, and that means he knows how to get himself to the right place at the right time,” assessed North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “When he and Kyle got together, it was instant chemistry. Kory joined later in the season and when they got it going, they were dominant.”

Armed with his bloated GPA and innumerable academic accolades, Urbaniak is a prime candidate for just about any institution of higher learning that offers hockey. With another season of uberproduction, he may have his choice of suitors – hence, the intense off-season routine.

“I’ve been going up to Ann Arbor, working with the same skating coach that the U.S. team does,” Urbaniak said. “The goal is to become quicker, but also a more efficient skater. And I’m going to get with a personal trainer this summer, doing the weight training and pliometrics – not necessarily to cut weight, just trying to get my body fat percentage down.”

Urbaniak, who skated with the Black Team during the North Stars pre-draft tryout camp this weekend at Centre ICE arena, is among those slated to compete for the Blue Team in Sunday morning’s Blue & White All-Star Game, which features the top performers from the round-robin portion of the camp. He’ll also line up opposite Kaunisto.

“Nate is a strong guy who just gets the job done,” Palumbo surmised. “He’s a player who leads by example, and has a very bright future in the game and in life.”

While he’s currently third all-time among all-time North Stars skaters with 73 career points, a reasonably productive start to the season would push Urbaniak past Harrison Niemann (79 pts.) and all-time scoring leader Patrick Nagorsen (88). For his part, however, stats aren’t necessarily among his goals for next season.

“I’d just like to be one of the team leaders, helping the new guys acclimate as quickly as possible to this level,” Urbaniak said. “That’s something that can help the team be successful.”

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