Monday, December 28, 2009

North Stars host Rangers today, Tuesday

If nothing else, this week’s Monday-Tuesday afternoon series between the Traverse City North Stars and visiting Marquette Rangers will be an unveiling – of exactly what, Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo is anxious to discover.

“It’s put up or shut up time,” said Palumbo, whose club has dropped seven of its last eight contests, sliding from first place into a second-place tie with Janesville. “We have to decide if we’re going to stay in this race or if we’re going to just get out of the way and let these other teams fight it out for the division (title).”

The Rangers come into the contests with a two-point cushion in the NAHL North Division standings over the North Stars and Jets, and have a game in hand against TC. Marquette claimed two out of three games in an early-December series in the U.P. after the Stars swept a Centre ICE homestand from the Rangers in late October.

“They have a good team, no doubt about it, and we’ll have to come prepared to play at a fairly high level,” Palumbo asserted. “For us, simply playing well is the most important thing. I don’t think we’re coming in looking for two or four points or anything like that – we just need to play a solid 60-minute game and see where that can get us.”

Traverse City will field a revamped lineup for Monday’s series opener, getting back all-star defenseman and team captain Travis White, who missed the past 10 games with an upper-body injury. Kelin Ainsworth will also suit up after being sidelined for the last six contests, while Matt Zaremba will make his NAHL debut on Monday, skating on a line between Ainsworth and Taylor Burden. Zaremba, who previously starred for the Gaylord High squad, was fifth among Central States Hockey League skaters this season, scoring 17 goals and assisting on 30 others through 29 games with Cleveland. He had more than 100 points in his distinguished prep career with the Blue Devils that ended last spring.

“We’re looking at different guys, different combinations of guys, trying to find where the pieces best fit,” Palumbo explained. “It’s a results-oriented business, and we’re going to find the guys that give us the best chance to succeed.”

Chris Paliafito will make his first Centre ICE arena start since March 22, 2008 on Monday, with Drew Strandberg tentatively slated for Tuesday afternoon duty. Strandberg, who is returning from a lower-body injury that held him out of the Stars’ last series in Janesville, was stranded in an Ontario airport this week while en route to Traverse City.

With the holiday break behind them, Palumbo says his team’s focus can now shift to the three-month, 28-game stretch run to the Robertson Cup playoffs.

“We’d better be ready because there are no easy nights in the North Division,” he said. “Maximum effort, energy and execution for 60 minutes is the way to be successful, and it starts on Monday.”

The Stars and Rangers will drop the puck at 3 p.m. on both Monday and Tuesday, contests which precede the Traverse City Central Holiday Hockey Tournament at Centre ICE arena. The Trojans, TC West High Titans and Grand Traverse Bay Reps are among the participants in that three-day, eight-school event.

White photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL


Xscout said...

It's good for the team to succeed but isn't JR hockey a showcase for colleges and "the next step" in a players career?

Where are the priorities? This team should be as proactive as possible with the talent it has speaking to as many universities as possible.

Xscout said...

I realize winning is important but isn't the purpose of JR hockey to promote the players to as many universities as possible?

Doesn't success beget success? With the talent on TC, there should definately be more than 2 schools interested, right?

Who is in charge of this feat?