Thursday, January 21, 2010

Motor City heads to TC for pair

If there’s a team in the NAHL North Division as red-hot as the Traverse City North Stars, it’s the Motor City Metal Jackets.

While the Stars have claimed seven of their last eight contests, the Jackets are winners of four straight and five of six.

When Motor City (15-13-6) makes the journey north for the Friday-Saturday series at Centre ICE arena this weekend, it’ll have a chance to make up some ground on first-place Traverse City. The Metal Jackets are currently in fourth place, 12 points behind the North Stars (23-12-2), with three games in hand.

"I bet they have 8-10 players who didn't start the season with them," Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "They've been a .500 team right out of the gate and this win streak has put them over .500. I know they've played us tough all year."

R.J. Kleiman leads Motown with 16 goals and 20 assists through 34 games, while Cody Wydo (14), Steve Brancheau (10) and Billy Ballent (10) are each double-digit goal-scorers.

Defenseman Mike Monfredo has 14 assists and is among the league leaders with a plus-minus rating of +17. Randy Willis (9-6-5) and Jason Torf (6-7-1) have split time in net 60/40 so far this season.

Traverse City will get back to action following a two-game sweep of Alpena last weekend and a 7-1 mark since Christmas. Andy Huff, fresh off being named to the NHL Central Scouting’s watch list, has a team-best 20 goals, while Doug Clifford is Traverse City’s top offensive performer with 35 points in 37 contests. Garrett Thompson is in the midst of a nine-point, four-game combustion. Drew Strandberg has worked the majority of Stars games, with a 17-6-1 record, 2.54 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

Clifford tied for the scoring lead at this week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament all-star event in Ann Arbor, setting up five goals in the three-game showcase. Nick Shkreli finished the Top Prospects tourney with four points, while captain Travis White was a plus-3 for undefeated Team North (3-0).

Friday’s series-opener will feature a visit from Kidsville News mascot, Truman the Dragon, and a post-game skate with Truman, the North Stars players, and TC mascot, Wild Cherry.

Both games this weekend face-off at 7:00 p.m.

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