Saturday, October 25, 2008

North Stars win team-best eighth straight Friday

It’s becoming difficult to slow down the Traverse City North Stars these days, and the Alpena IceDiggers got a front-row seat for the latest TC triumph, a 3-0 shutout victory on Friday at Centre ICE arena.

The win is a franchise-record eighth straight for the Stars, who got 22 saves from goalie C.J. Motte in the second home shutout of the season.

“You can’t win without good goaltending and we’re getting that from both our guys right now,” said Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “C.J. made big saves tonight when we needed him to and I think it’s safe to say the kid’s a goalie.”

Once again, the North Stars (11-2-0) got across-the-board production, and scored a goal in each of Friday’s three periods. Eric O’Hearn got the hosts on the board first, banging home a power-play marker 5:11 into the affair. Kyle Bonis and Marc Thompson drew assists on the play. Bonis broke off a highlight-reel shorthanded lamplighter at 13:49 of the middle stanza, turning a defender inside-out before five-holing the puck for a 2-0 lead. Phil Wendecker set up the danglefest.

In the third, Garrett Thompson streaked betwixt a pair of defenders to corral a chip-ahead from Mike Schenfeld and put the game away with an even-strength backhander.

“We’ve been trying to achieve more of a consistency,” Palumbo added. “And while it wasn’t a flashy win, it was more of a complete team victory. There were some stretches where we weren’t as sharp, but I’d say it’s as solid an all-around win as we’ve had (this year).”

Motte won his sixth straight start, and dropped his goals-against average to 2.00, raising his save percentage to .926. In front of Motte, the Stars’ penalty kill was once again insurmountable, rebuffing all six of Alpena’s man-up spurts. Traverse City now leads the NAHL in penalty kill efficiency at 90.70%.

“Our team defense just continues to get better,” Palumbo added. “It isn’t exactly where we want it to be, but those guys are a big part of why we’ve been able to win a few games. Look at the teams that succeed at any level of the game: St. Louis in our league, the (Red) Wings in the NHL – they get good defense and good goaltending, an they win hockey games.”

The Stars have the rest of the weekend off and will wrap up their nine-game homestand next weekend against perennial NAHL North powerhouse Mahoning Valley.

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