Friday, January 30, 2009

Stars host Motor City, then hit the road

Fans at Centre ICE arena should take a good, long look at the Traverse City North Stars this weekend, because the team will hit the road for the following three weekends and play 13 of the next 15 contests away from home.

The North Stars, still trailing first-place Mahoning Valley by a pair of points in the NAHL North Division, welcome Motor City to Centre ICE for a Friday-Saturday series and the Machine’s final visit of the season.

“We have to take care of home ice, no doubt about it,” TC head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo noted. “But no matter where we’re playing we still have to come out with the same level of effort, intensity and execution. Nothing about that changes this weekend at home or next weekend at Mahoning.”

It would be easy for the casual observer to look past sixth-place Motor City (6-29-1) and to the following three-game weekend at Mahoning Valley, but Palumbo isn’t among them.

“I know what their record is, but I also know who they have (on their roster) and they’re much better than their record shows,” assessed Palumbo. “You don’t have to look too far back to see when they stormed back and really took it to us down there (in Wyandotte).”

Palumbo refers to a 6-4 loss at Yack Arena on Dec. 21, when Traverse City raced to a 3-1 first period lead before the Machine took control of the scoreboard. In a subsequent meeting, the Stars exacted some degree of revenge with an 8-1 victory in the same building on Jan, 17, but with four points on the table this weekend, Palumbo & Co. can ill-afford a letdown.

Ryan Misiak leads Motor City with nine goals and 26 points, while Nick Taurence has dished a team-best 18 assists among his 24 points. Since joining the Machine, former North Star Adam Sponseller has a trio of goals with assists on seven others over 11 games. Six different goaltenders have seen action in Motown this season, with Matt Delaney and Joe Moore presently sharing duties.

The North Stars (22-9-5) are coming off a two-game sweep of rival Marquette and have won four straight. C.J. Motte is the reigning NAHL Goalie of the Week after allowing just one goal in six periods of work, while captain Kyle Bonis was named NAHL North Player of the Week with three goals – including two game-winner – against the Rangers. With its next victory, Traverse City will tie a team record for 23 wins in a season.

“Twenty-three is not the number we’re chasing, to be honest,” said Palumbo, whose club finished 23-23-12 last year. “That left us out of the playoffs last year. This year, there are six teams chasing four playoff spots, and the top five teams are separated by 10 points right now. It’s going to be up to us to focus on the here and now – the game we have before us – and if we play to our potential the standings will work itself out.”

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

No comments: