Sunday, July 27, 2008

O'Hearn enters final season in Traverse City

Just about the time the Traverse City North Stars were enjoying their first season in the North American Hockey League, Eric O’Hearn was singing a sweet swan song across town at Traverse City Central High School, leading the Trojans to the city’s first-ever state hockey championship.

Soon after O’Hearn’s aria – a pair of goals and an assist in the state semifinals, and the opening salvo in the title game against Saline – he headed off to play for the midget Soo Indians and signed a tender to return the following season with the North Stars.

“It’s a privilege to get to play juniors in the town you grew up in,” said O’Hearn, a product of the youth Grand Traverse Hockey Association program and brother of TC West High School assistant coach and ex-Wayne State University forward Charlie O'Hearn. “It’s an honor to get to play Junior A hockey, but to get to do it in front of family and friends is an exciting added bonus.”

O’Hearn posted six goals and five assists in his first junior season, helping the Stars to a franchise-best 23 wins. TC head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo, observing this weekend’s training camp at Centre ICE arena, said O’Hearn appears fleet afoot.

“Last year was a pretty solid first year for him,” said Palumbo. “He was defensively responsible, a very good penalty-killer, and chipped in with some offense. From what I have seen this summer, his skating has improved tremendously, even from where he was at the end of the season – which was much better than at the start of the year. We’re looking for some big things from Eric, no question about it.”

Most hockey players are reticent to publicly target personal statistical goals, and the 6-1, 185-pound centerman is no different. But while others might be quick to cite an NAHL crown as the primary team focus, O’Hearn assumes a more progressive, incremental posture.

“Obviously, we want to improve on our record,” he explained. “We want to make the playoffs, then make a deep run. And I would not rule out a national championship if all those things fall into place.”

As Sunday’s summer camp finale approaches, O’Hearn and his fellow Stars hopefuls will find out which players will comprise the North Stars’ 2008-09 roster. Regardless of the make-up of the club, O’Hearn says that everyone begins the year on equal footing.

“Once the team is named, each player is an equal, a teammate, and North Star – not a rookie or a vet or anything like that. Guys are going to earn respect according to how they comport themselves on and off the ice.”

Palumbo says O’Hearn should make an impact in both areas.

“Eric’s one of the leaders of this team. I like the way he goes about his business – he’s always got a smile on his face, and his work ethic is outstanding.”

RED 3, WHITE 2: Kyle Bonis had a goal and an assist, Nate Urbaniak set up a pair of scores, and Brandon Stephenson pitched just under 30 minutes of shutout hockey as the Red Team overcame a two-goal deficit to post a 3-0 win in the first of two all-star games this weekend. The final contest is slated for 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by the final round of personnel decisions.

O'Hearn photo by

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