Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bonis ready for '08-09 with North Stars

Over the course of his 39 games with the Traverse City North Stars last season, Kyle Bonis became one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the North American Hockey League.

His 25 tallies tied a team record, he was first among TC skaters with 10 power-play markers, and accrued a paltry Lady Byng-esque eight minutes of penalty time.

Despite the eye-popping numbers, Bonis isn’t taking aim at a certain number of lamplighters this season. As the Lindsay, Ont., native was gearing up for this weekend’s North Stars training camp at Centre ICE arena, he only spoke of team success.

“Our goal here, from day one, is to win a national championship,” said Bonis, who is toiling for the White Team at this weekend’s 52-player, invite-only camp. “We learned a lot in the second half of last year about what it takes to win. We do have a lot of vets coming back, and hopefully we can carry that momentum right into this season.”

Bonis isn’t the only one who won’t attach a number to expectations. Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says that Bonis will end up on the scoresheet simply by doing the things he’s capable of.

“I would never want to saddle a kid with some kind of magic number that he’s supposed to attain,” Palumbo explained. “We need Kyle to be a leader, to play both ends of the ice, and utilize his considerable offensive abilities. If he does all that, the numbers are going to take care of themselves.”

Palumbo also says that Bonis will assume additional responsibilities this season.

“Toward the end of last year, we put Kyle out on the (penalty) kill and he was very effective. He’s always been great on the power play, and we’ll continue to expand his role this year.”

Bonis and linemate Nate Urbaniak – who also posted a team-record 25 goals last year – are likely to be re-united this season. The third member of their forward triad is yet to be determined, but Urbaniak is pleased that at least two-thirds of the club’s top scoring line is back.

“We talked a lot over the summer, and I was among those who were trying to get Kyle to come back here,” said Urbaniak, who enters his third season in Traverse City. “I was very excited when he said he’d be back. He should tear it up this year.”

Palumbo, who used Harrison Niemann and Kory Kaunisto with the tandem in 2007-08, says he hasn’t decided which player will fill that role.

“It will have to be a guy who has the offensive skill and unselfishness,” he said.

Bonis, who has yet to commit to a college program, plans to major in business. He posted a 3.3 grade-point average at Lindsay Collegiate Vocational, and says he very much enjoys living in Traverse City during the season.

“The atmosphere here is great – much better than I expected when I first came in,” he said. “I’ve been to northern towns that didn’t care so much about their teams. Here, if you give a good effort, they respond.”

While Bonis came out of the proverbial box ablaze – he had seven points in his first five games with TC – he also closed out the campaign strong, registering at least a point in 14 of the Stars’ final 17 games last year, including a hat trick (three goals) and a playmaker (three assists) in back-to-back games during a sweep of North Division rival Marquette on Feb. 29-March 1. But Palumbo says the winger is every bit as productive in the locker room.

“Kyle bring an infectious attitude to the team – a pure love for the game of hockey. That rubs off on guys. That’s the kind of mindset you look for from your veteran leaders.”

Bonis and the rest of the Stars hopefuls are set for another two days of training camp this weekend at Centre ICE, at the conclusion of which the club’s roster will be selected. The first round of cuts are slated for mid-day on Saturday, followed by a pair of all-star games pitting the best of the summer camps against one another. Following Sunday’s all-star finale, Palumbo and his staff will pick the 23-25 players that will don the interlocking ‘TC’ when the team heads to Blaine, Minn., in the season-opening NAHL Showcase on Sept. 17. Bonis, for one, is well aware which team the Stars face in that opener.

“I’m looking forward to playing St. Louis,” he said. “They’re the team that knocked us out of the playoff race last year, they’re the champions, and they’re the first team standing between us and a successful season.”

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