Monday, January 18, 2010

TC trio off to Top Prospects event

For three Traverse City North Stars, this week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament is a chance to shine in front of college and pro scouts, compete against the best players from around the league, and enjoy a brief respite from the rigors of the team’s schedule.

Forwards Doug Clifford and Nick Shkreli, along with defenseman Travis White, will head to the Ann Arbor Ice Cube for the three-day event, which will pit Team North against interdivisional foes Team South (Monday), Team West (Tuesday), and Team Central (Wednesday).

Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says the threesome is deserving of all the recognition and exposure that’ll come their way.

“We’ve experienced some success this year, and all three of these guys have been important pieces of the puzzle,” he explained. “We had a lot of viable candidates (to go).”

Each NAHL team can send a number of players to the event, based on their positions in the standings of their respective divisions. At the time of selection in December, Traverse City was in third place, which slotted them for three representatives. Since then, the Stars have won seven of eight games and enjoy a six-point cushion in the NAHL North over second-place Marquette.

Clifford and Skhreli came to TC after Mahoning Valley jumped ship to the USHL after last season. Clifford leads the North Stars with 15 goals and 20 assists through 36 games, while Shkreli has returned from an off-season injury to post nine goals and 14 assists in 26 outings.

“They’ve made huge impacts on our team,” Palumbo said. “Doug’s been our most consistent forward all season long, and Nick is really just starting to hit his stride after not skating in the off-season due to his injury. They’re both dynamic, steady performers who truly deserve to be a part of this event.”

White, the Stars’ captain, missed 11 games with a lingering injury, but returned to the lineup just around the time the club bounced back from a mid-season lull. Palumbo says it’s no coincidence.

“Travis missed 11 games and we went 3-8 – then he comes back and we win seven of eight,” Palumbo surmised. “He’s probably the most important player in terms of being a steady guy on the blue line, a stabilizing influence on and off the ice, and a vocal leader in the (dressing) room.”

The NAHL Top Prospects Tournament also features an online charity jersey auction. A portion of the auction proceeds will benefit the Derek Zike Get Well Fund. Zike, a player with the Chicago Fury hockey team, was seriously injured during a game at a tournament last year in Ann Arbor.

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