Monday, September 28, 2009

North Stars get Wild tonight, tomorrow

Just eight games into the 2009-10 season, the Traverse City North Stars are gearing up for a measuring-stick series.

The Wenatchee Wild, who are undefeated at 9-0-0, coming off an NAHL West Division playoff title and a berth in the Robertson Cup championship, visit Centre ICE arena on Monday and Tuesday to kick off the Stars’ home slate.

“If they’re not the best team in the league, then they’re one of the best,” offered North Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “They have a ton of talent, pretty much spread across the roster – I guess you call that ‘balance.’ It’s early in the season, but I think you want to see how you stack up against the best teams and players out there.”

Rookie Andy Huff and defenseman Phil Wendecker lead Traverse City with seven points each, with Huff and TC native Sean Burke each scoring a team-best five goals through seven outings.

Kelin Ainsworth sports a plus-8 plus-minus rating, while goalkeeper Drew Strandberg is 4-1-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .870 save percentage. The North Stars got late goals from Wendecker and Ainsworth on Saturday night at Motor City, forcing an overtime session in a 5-4 shootout victory over the Metal Jackets.

“We played a very solid third period (on Saturday), and if we play that way against Wenatchee, we’ll have a chance,” Palumbo added. “But we know we’re going to have to be at our best – playing with the same energy and intensity we showed late Saturday.”

The Wild stayed in the Midwest since finishing the NAHL Showcase 4-0 earlier this month, and swept a trio of games this weekend at Alpena before heading west.

Jeff Jubinville leads Wenatchee with seven goals, while Shawn Pauly is tops with 12 points. Goalie Mac Carruth has started six games, winning each with a 1.55 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

Wenatchee - a hockey-crazed town of nearly 30,000 located in central Washington state – will return to the Robertson Cup finals this year regardless of their record as hosts of the annual event. The Wild lost a 3-2 overtime decision in the championship game last May to St. Louis.

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