Saturday, February 20, 2010

North Stars host Janesville for two

From friend to foe in just 24 hours.

While the Traverse City North Stars were rooting for the Janesville Jets on Friday night, they’ll face off against their North Division rivals on Saturday and Sunday at Centre ICE arena.

Janesville did the Stars a solid on Friday, knocking off Marquette by a 2-1 margin to help Traverse City maintain a first-place tie with the Rangers. But with the division crown up for grabs, the North Stars will quickly turn to trying to ground the third-place Jets with just 14 games left in the regular season.

Janesville, which has gone 5-8-1 in its last 14 games on the heels of a seven-game winning streak that included a sweep of TC back in December, comes into the weekend series at Centre ICE with an outside shot at the North crown. The Jets are 23-18-3, just seven points behind the Stars and Rangers. Traverse City (26-14-4) dropped a pair of road shows last weekend at Motor City, but has gone 10-3-2 since that pre-Christmas sweep at Janesville.

On offense, the Jets feature University of Connecticut recruit Rui Encarnacao, who is among the league leaders with 24 goals, including five game-winners. He’s the club’s top scorer with 41 points, while Janesville native Ross Mauermann is tops with 24 assists. Matt Wichorek gets the lion’s share of starts for the Jets, and has gotten the nod in nine of the team’s last ten games. The Alaskan is 15-12-3 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.

Doug Clifford is the North Stars top scorer heading into the weekend with 41 points, while Garrett Thompson has 39 – including 13 goals and 15 assists over his last 16 games. Dan Radke leads the club with 24 assists, while Andy Huff has levied 20 goals to date. Drew Strandberg, who was injured in the first period of a game on Jan. 22, might make his return this weekend. Chris Paliafito has stood tall in Strandberg’s absence, going 3-2-2 since assuming full-time duties.

This weekend’s games feature a Labatt Blue night on Saturday night at Centre ICE, with giveaways, a live radio remote, and a $1 off admission for anyone wearing red, white or blue to the contest. Following Sunday’s 1 p.m. matinee, the team will head to Auntie Pasta’s in Logan’s Landing for its tri-annual post-game meal at the Italian eatery.

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