Tuesday, December 30, 2008

North Stars sending six-pack to All-Star event

When the North American Hockey League’s Top Prospects Tournament kicks off next month in Ann Arbor, the Traverse City North Stars will be well-represented – both on the ice and the bench.

Five North Stars made the North Division roster – captain Kyle Bonis and repeat selection Nate Urbaniak, along with Chris Heineman, Kyle Jean and Travis White. Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo will serve as an assistant coach for the North.

The event will take place at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube from Jan. 18-20.

“I’m proud that we finished the first half (of the season) high enough to send five guys,” Palumbo said. “It’s a great event that’s well-attended by (college and professional) scouts and it’s a great honor to be a part of it.”

The event will feature all-star teams from the NAHL's Central, North, South and West divisions competing in a three-game, round-robin showcase. The U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-17 and Under-18 Teams will also play two games each over the three days.

“I give a lot of credit to our Top Prospects Tournament Selection Committee for their efforts in evaluating and selecting the best our league has to offer to compete in this prestigious event," said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. "A number of student-athletes who competed in last year’s tournament were awarded college opportunities and we expect this year to be no different.”

Urbaniak, TC’s all-time leading scorer with 91 career points, partook of last year’s event along with former Stars Harrison Niemann and Jameson Raymond. The Perrysburg, Ohio product has eight goals and 10 assists through 22 games, including a team-best five power-play tallies.

“Nate has really started to come back into form after his bout with pneumonia earlier in the season,” Palumbo said. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of, and his best hockey of the year is still ahead of us. He’s starting to get back into his offensive rhythm.”

Bonis, of Lindsay, Ont., leads the club with 11 goals and assists on 12 others in 25 outings, and was another easy selection, according to Palumbo.

“Kyle is our captain, and along with Kyle Jean, our best forward night in and night out," Palumbo said. "It’s easy to look at what he does on the offensive end, but his work ethic and leadership are what sets him apart as a player.”

Jean, who has been as dominant a forward as there has in the NAHL this season, has racked up eight goals and nine assists this year, and the Sault Ste. Marie native has signed with Lake Superior State.

“He just continues to justify all the attention and interest he’s garnered over the years,” Palumbo said. “Kyle’s one of those players that you can watch and right away say that he’s obviously one of the best players on the ice. And he keeps getting better every day.”

White and Heineman (pictured) anchor the Traverse City blue line corps and Palumbo says that both players are more than worthy of the honor.

“'Heiney' has been here three years and is a big part of everything we do,” Palumbo explained. “The power play, the penalty kill, as a shot blocker – he does it all. And 'Whitey'’s as consistent on the (penalty) kill as anyone on the league. He’s a leader, an emotional spark plug-type, and the guys have great respect for him.”

Between the team’s New Year’s Eve clash at Alpena and the All-Star event, the North Stars will play host to Mahoning Valley this weekend in a critical three-game showdown. The Phantoms lead the Stars by five points following a two-game sweep over Alpena last weekend as TC sat idle. The series at Centre ICE arena gets underway with Friday and Saturday evening contests (7:00 p.m.), and the final Sunday matinee (12:30 p.m.) of the year.

Full Rosters
Central Division [.pdf]
North Division [.pdf]
South Division [.pdf]
West Division [.pdf]

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

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