Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thompson ready to go for North Stars

They say patience is a virtue.

Traverse City North Stars forward Garrett Thompson has that asset in spades.

After spending much of the first three months of the 2007-08 season watching games from the other side of the glass, Thompson got the call from head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo during a home-and-home series with North Division rival Marquette – and never looked back.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound winger notched his first junior goal on his first shot on Dec. 28 in Marquette, then assisted on another the following night at Centre ICE arena. Thompson rarely came out of the lineup the rest of the way, as the North Stars became one of the hottest teams in the North American Hockey League, going 12-5-4 down the stretch.

“There’s not much you can do in that situation except keep working hard and wait for your chance,” said Thompson, who played previously with the Midget AAA Soo Indians of the Midwest Elite Hockey League. “And once you get that chance, you have to try to make the most of it. I’d come to practice every day with the idea that hard work would get me my chance. I didn’t want to go back down (to midget majors) – I wanted to play juniors.”

Thompson – whose family moved to Traverse City while he was still playing in the Soo – scored five goals and assisted on two others in his 24 games of action. His power-play marker on Feb. 27 at the U.S. National Team Development Program turned out to be the game-winner in the club’s franchise-first shutout.

As the rangy forward competes for the Gold Team in this weekend’s final open tryout camp, Palumbo has taken note of Thompson’s progression.

“First and foremost, Garrett just kept working hard and it wasn’t hard to notice,” he explained. “And he’s always had a great attitude – even when he wasn’t playing, he was still a very positive part of the team. So here he is, getting better every practice, until we finally said, ‘he’s ready to go.’”

As the 2008-09 season draws nigh, Thompson has gone from late-season contributor to front line mainstay. He and Phil Wendecker – a defenseman playing at forward this weekend – powered the Gold Team during the June 13-15 summer open tryout at Centre ICE arena. As the camp winds down, Thompson says he’s looking forward to Sunday’s camp culmination.

While Thompson doesn’t require billeting, he lives with a teammate and sometimes linemate – his brother, Marc. The two have played together every season except two since they first laced up their skates. Garrett says his team goals for 2008-09 are the same as every other player on the roster: a national championship. But as for individual goals, Thompson cites effort, not stats.

“I’d like to have schools (colleges) talk to me,” he said. “I want to try to do the smart things, the little things to help us win. And I want to give everything I have when I’m out on the ice.”

Palumbo says he expects big things from his big forward.

“He added to our offense last year, and we’ll look for that even more this year. At 6-3, he skates very well, has good hands and good offensive instincts. Plus, I sense that he just enjoys playing the game of hockey.”

The Thompson brothers will go head-to-head in Sunday’s All-Star game at Centre ICE (10 a.m.), with Garret playing for the Blue Team and Marc donning a White Team sweater.

“The first day of camp, some guys might be nervous trying out,” Garrett assessed. “But by the time you get to Sunday, it’s pretty exciting to see all the top players compete. I think we all look forward to that.”

Local players who earned invitations to the camp finale include Eric Rivard and Mitch Snider of Traverse City West High School and TC Central defenseman Lucas Stricker. The top players from the camp – as well as the May pre-draft tryout – will be invited to the July 25-27 training camp, from which the 2008-09 roster will be culled.

No comments: