Saturday, April 10, 2010

Traverse City sweeps Jets, advances

The Traverse City North Stars were the NAHL’s third-highest scoring team during the regular season, but also flexed a concerted defensive prowess as well during a three-game sweep of Janesville in the NAHL North Division semifinals.

The Stars closed out the Jets on Friday at Janesville Ice Arena, riding the impenetrable padding of netsweep Drew Strandberg to a 2-0 triumph and second straight shutout of their division rivals. It was the first Robertson Cup playoff series won by the Stars in their five-season history.

“It wins us a series, but I don’t want this series to be the one that defines our season,” said Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “We’ll take a few hours to enjoy this one, but we’re right back to work tomorrow.”

Dan Radke delivered the first special teams goal for either team in the series, opening the scoring 5:55 into the contest with a power play marker. Garrett Thompson and Doug Clifford assisted. Neither team would crack the scoreboard again until Kelin Ainsworth levied an unassisted empty-netter with :49 to play.

Strandberg stopped all 27 shots he faced and permitted just a single goal in the three playoff meetings with Janesville.

“Drew would be the first to tell you that those first two games back in TC probably weren’t the toughest games for a goalie,” Palumbo said. “But tonight, in the smaller rink, with lots of quality chances – you have to have your goalie come up huge. And he did.”

Traverse City will move on to face Motor City in the best-of-five North Division finals, starting next Friday at Centre ICE arena. The fourth-seeded Metal Jackets swept through regular season division champion Marquette, claiming the series with a triple-overtime thriller on Thursday evening.

“Obviously, they (Motor City) took it to Marquette and they’ve given us trouble this year, too,” Palumbo added. “They just went out and swept the regular season division champs, so we know we’ll have our hands full.”

Times and dates for the NAHL North finals have not been set, but the Stars will enjoy home-ice advantage. The series will begin next weekend.

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