Thursday, April 15, 2010

North Stars cautious to play Motor City

The Motor City Metal Jackets didn’t put up eye-popping regular-season numbers, but if there were any doubts about the fourth-seeded Jackets’ ability to generate offense, they were emphatically erased in a three-game sweep of North Division regular season champion Marquette in the divisional semifinals.

When the Traverse City North Stars host Motor City on Friday and Saturday to open the North Division Finals, they’ll be facing a team that is coming off an emotional deluge from a triple-overtime victory at Marquette to close out the series sweep last weekend.

“That series is a pretty serious statement,” cautioned Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “They come at you with a lot of energy, a lot of grit, and they have some pretty talented guys up front. Plus, they have a big, strong defensive corps. You add all that to the fact that we’ve only had mixed success against them this season, and we could be in for a very tough series.

"The fact that they come in as the team that finished the regular season as the fourth seed means absolutely nothing.”

Traverse City enjoyed a sweep of their own, outscoring Janesville by a 13-1 chasm in the semifinal round, and advancing to the division finals for the first time in the club’s five-year history. The winner of the Stars-Jackets series will earn a trip to the NAHL Robertson Cup Finals in Wenatchee, Wash. on May 4-9.

John Scorcia and RJ Kleiman both scored a trio of goals in the series against Marquette, with Kleiman potting the series-cincher 6:37 into the sixth period at Lakeview Arena last Thursday. Steve Brancheau and rugged blueliner Mike Monfredo each dished a trio of assists in the semis. Phil Graveline worked two of the three games versus the Rangers, with Jason Torf getting the nod in a 2-1 victory in Game Two.

Drew Strandberg claimed a pair of shutouts in the North Stars’ opening-round brooming of Janesville, closing out the Jets in a 2-0 triumph last Friday.

Three TC skaters have four points apiece so far in the postseason: Garrett Thompson, Eric McLintock and Doug Clifford. Centerman Dan Radke has three goals and Nick Shkreli three helpers.

“I don’t think anyone is expecting anything other than a tough, tight series,” Palumbo added. “We have to come out right away with energy and get a lead. We have to keep playing within that strict team concept, winning the little battles, playing our positions and making a play when the time comes.”

Friday’s series opener at Centre ICE is also ‘Face-off for Father Fred’ night. Fans who bring a non-perishable food item will receive $2 off an adult ticket or $1 off a student ticket. For each fan who pays full value for their ticket, the team will donate $2 per adult ticket and $1 per student ticket to the Father Fred Foundation’s food pantry.

"It’s an exciting and rewarding time,” said Stars majority owner Raj Wiener. “With our games this weekend scheduled at home, coach Palumbo and the team wanted to share a good thing with fans and community.”

Following Saturday’s Game Two clash at Centre ICE arena, the series shifts to metropolitan Detroit for a pair of contests next weekend. If a decisive Game Five is necessary, it will be played at Centre ICE on Monday, April 26 at 8 p.m.

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