Saturday, June 06, 2009

North Stars get tryout camp underway

The Traverse City North Stars put the 2009-10 season on ice – quite literally – on Friday, kicking off the team’s first open tryout of the summer at Centre ICE arena.

When the roster shakes out over the next two months, those in a Stars sweater will face off against a registry of North Division foes that no longer includes Mahoning Valley and the U.S. National Team Development Program.

Mahoning and Team USA both defected to the United States Hockey League, leaving Traverse City to contend with Alpena, Marquette, Motor City and the expansion Janesville (Wis.) Jets in a five-team division. According to a trio of North Stars veterans attending Friday workouts, the realignment will have little bearing on the upcoming title chase.

“We didn’t need anybody to leave our division for us to be considered among the contenders,” said forward Josh Miller. “We have a lot of experience coming back, and our goal no matter who is in our division is to go to the (Robertson Cup) finals.”

Winger Tim Opie agreed.

“It doesn’t change how we approach the season,” the Troy native offered. “You have to play who is on your schedule. There may be a change in our travel, but I don’t think anyone is really concerned with that right now.”

“The North Division has been, and probably will continue to be a competitive group of teams that can contend for a national championship,” opined forward Chris Salomone. “We think we can be one of those teams, no matter what division we would play in.”

The Stars had the best record of the five clubs in 2008-09 at 34-17-7, four points out of first place with a 15-point cushion on Alpena and Marquette. Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo dismissed any notion that his team automatically becomes the favorite to capture its first North Division regular season crown.

“There’s no such thing as a favorite at this stage,” said Palumbo, who is entering his third season at the helm. “Last year at this time, we were a fifth-place team, so things change pretty quickly. If you look at the history of the North, the playoffs are usually not decided until the last weekend. There’s so much competitive parity, no one should take anything for granted.”

BACK IN BLACK: The Black Team knocked off the Green Team in a shootout, 4-3, in Friday’s opening scrimmage. The Black roster includes vets Sean Burke, Bo Jacobs, Eric McLintock and Dan Radke, Cadillac prep standout Will Badner and Traverse City West defenseman Vinnie Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo, who was selected by the Metro Jets in last week’s CSHL draft, notched a third period goal for the Black squad.

FINDING KEEPERS: Four of the nine goalies at camp are regional products, including a pair of former Bay Reps: Nick Rausch and Andrew Mills, who spent last season with the Marquette Electricians midget team. Sault H.S. backstop Brody Hess and Petoskey’s Mike Pattulo are also vying for a spot in Sunday’s all-star game and final camp invite. The Stars hopeful with the longest journey to Centre ICE? Belgian backstop Jordi Van Gall.

ICE CHIPS: Three of the first four shots in Friday’s scrimmage shootouts rang of the pipes. … North Stars mascot Wild Cherry is slated to appear at the Traverse City Beach Bums home baseball game on June 26. … TC winger Garrett Thompson was in attendance on Friday, but wearing an immobilizer on a lower extremity following an off-season procedure. He’s expected to recover well in advance of training camp.

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