Friday, February 26, 2010

North Stars host Motor City for pair

The last time the Traverse City North Stars and Motor City Metal Jackets met up, the Stars skated into Yack Arena two weeks ago riding a 10-1-2 post-Christmas mark, firmly entrenched in the NAHL North Division’s top spot.

The host Metal Jackets scored a pair of one-goal, come-from-behind victories in that series, precipitating a four-game slide for TC that has the North Division title up for grabs with a dozen games left in the regular season.

The North Stars, who enter the weekend tied for first place with the Marquette Rangers and just three points up on third-lace Janesville, will have a chance to regain their momentum and exact some measure of revenge on the Metal Jackets when the clubs meet up for a Friday-Saturday series at Centre ICE this weekend.

“I’m not sure that we’ll have ‘revenge’ on the agenda,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “But if there’s some of that sentiment among the guys and that helps us to get it done this weekend, that’s fine. We’re at that part of the season, especially given how tight the division is, where every game has to be the focus – and then the next game, and the next game, and so on.

“We can’t get caught up watching the scoreboard, or waiting for someone to help us out by knocking off this team or that team. We have to take care of what we can control, and that’s playing 60 minutes with maximum energy, effort, and execution.”

Since sweeping Traverse City back on Feb. 12-13, the Jackets have dropped five straight games, scoring but four goals in that stretch. Motor City is 19-21-7, and trying to put the clamps on the fourth and final playoff slot in the NAHL North, seven points ahead of fifth-place Alpena.

R.J. Kleiman leads the Jackets with 40 points in 47 contests, including a team-high 17 goals and 23 assists. Cody Wydo has 15 goals and 17 assists, while defenseman Mike Monfredo is the top-scoring Motown defenseman, with 18 assists to go with a club-high 125 penalty minutes. In net, Motor City as three able goalsweeps in Randy Willis (9-8-5), Jason Torf (7-10-2) and Phillip Graveline (3-3-0).

For Traverse City, Doug Clifford leads the way with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists) and has scored or assisted in 11 of his last 12 games. Garrett Thompson has been ablaze as well, with 10 points in his last eight games, points in 16 of his last 18 outings, and a career-best 20 goals on the year to go with 21 assists. Not to be outdone, Dan Radke, with a Stars-high 25 assists, has 12 points over his last 13 contests.

Drew Strandberg (17-7-1) made his return from injury to the Traverse City net last weekend against Janesville and is five wins shy of tying the club mark for wins in a season (C.J. Motte, 22), while Chris Paliafito (6-6-2) shouldered the entire load in Strandberg’s absence.

The North Stars will head to Marquette next weekend for a pair of games that could go a long way in deciding the North Division crown, and host a pair of Wednesday affairs on March 10 (Alpena) and March 17 (Motor City).

No comments: