Tuesday, May 04, 2010

TC gearing up for 'fun environment'

In one corner, the host team – leading the league in attendance, sporting the best regular season record in the league and boasting the North American Hockey League’s Goalie of the Year and Organization of the Year accolades.

In the other, the Traverse City North Stars.

While it may not necessarily be a spot-on David-vs.-Goliath scenario, Tuesday’s opening contest of the five-team Robertson Cup championships at the 4,500-seat Town Toyota Center in central Washington will test the North Stars’ mettle right out of the chute.

“It’s going to be an absolutely fun environment,” said Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “It’ll be a sellout or close to it, they’ll be in front of their own fans, and we’ll have to be ready to weather an early storm. They’re going to come out with a lot of adrenaline. I think we’re looking forward to a great challenge.”

The Wild are in their second season in the NAHL, and advanced to the Robertson Cup final last year before bowing out to three-time champion St. Louis in an overtime thriller. This season, they powered through the 58-game slate with an NAHL-best 45-10-3 mark, and even spoiled Traverse City’s home opener back on Sept. 28 with a 3-2 victory. The North Stars came back to score a 4-1 win the following night, but it came at the tail end of Wenatchee’s two-week, nine-game road swing.

“I think we caught them pretty tired and we were in our own building,” Palumbo assessed. “And they’ve added some quality players since then as well. So it’ll be interesting to see what we can do against them in their arena and that environment.”

Two of the Wild’s biggest pickups were forwards Ryan Timar and Dajon Mingo, who combined for 45 points in 47 games since being acquired from Alpena and Kenai River, respectively. Jeff Jubinville was Wenatchee’s top regular season scorer with 27 goals and 27 assists, while Timar has scored six goals in as many postseason outings. Kyle Brodie was the club’s top defensive marksman with 13 goals and 25 assists in 50 games.

In net, Brandon Jaeger took home the NAHL Sherbrook Goalie of the Year award at the league banquet in Wenatchee on Monday after compiling a 22-3-1 regular season record, 1.83 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He has won all five of his playoff starts.

“They have a ton of weapons and some depth as well,” Palumbo said. “You look up and down their roster and see a real collection of talent.”

The North Stars’ Robertson Cup run doesn’t get any easier, with three-time defending NAHL champion St. Louis lining up for Wednesday’s round-robin showdown. Bismarck (Thursday) and Fairbanks (Friday) round out TC’s docket. The two teams with the most points at the end of round-robin play will advance to Sunday’s Robertson Cup final.


North Stars vs. Wenatchee Wild (45-10-3): Tuesday, 9:35 ET
: 1-1
LAST MEETING: The Stars handed Wenatchee its first loss of the regular season back on Sept. 29, 2009 at Centre ICE arena, 4-1. Andy Huff had a goal and two assists, Doug Clifford had one of each, and Drew Strandberg made 31 saves.
TOP SCORER: Former Alpena IceDiggers standout Ryan Timar with six goals in six playoff games; All-NAHL forward Jeff Jubinville scored 27 regular season goals
IN NET: NAHL Sherbrook Goaltender of the Year Brandon Jaeger went 22-3-1 during the regular season with a 1.83 GAA and .928 save pct., and claimed all five of his playoff starts

North Stars vs. St. Louis Bandits (44-11-3): Wednesday, 5:05 ET
ALL-TIME SERIES: St. Louis, 8-2
SEASON SERIES: Teams did not meet
LAST MEETING: The Bandits overcame a pair of first-period Kyle Jean goals, including a five-goal outburst in the third period in an 8-5 win at the NAHL North Division Showcase in Youngstown, Oh., on Nov. 30, 2008
TOP SCORER: Daniel Olszewski levied 24 markers during the regular season, while Patrick Sheehan has nine playoff assists
IN NET: Tyler Bruggeman posted an impressive 21-4-1 mark during the regular season to go with a 1.82 GAA and .932 GAA and is 6-3 in the playoffs

North Stars vs. Bismarck Bobcats (39-11-8): Thursday, 10:05 ET
ALL-TIME SERIES: Traverse City, 3-1
SEASON SERIES: Traverse City, 1-0
LAST MEETING: Sean Burke scored once and assisted on another and Drew Strandberg stopped 27 shots in a 4-2 win at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn., on Sept. 19, 2009
TOP SCORER: Jason Fabian recorded 24 goals and 34 assists in 57 regular season games; Dominic Panetta is tops in the NAHL with 11 assists and 16 points in the postseason
IN NET: Ryan Faragher went 23-6-7 during the year (2.17 GAA/.921 SV%) and Jake Williams won four of the Bobcats’ six playoff outings

North Stars vs. Fairbanks IceDogs (32-22-4): Friday, 5:35 ET
SEASON SERIES: Teams did not meet
LAST MEETING: Kyle Bonis racked the game-winner at 18:03 of the second period to lift the Stars to a 4-2 win in front of an NAHL Showcase audience in suburban Minneapolis on Sept. 20, 2008. CJ Motte stopped 35 of 37 shots for Traverse City
TOP SCORER: Michael Juola was second in the league during the regular season with 22 goals and 55 assists. Matt Millis scored just six goals during 2009-10, but leads the IceDogs with four goals in six playoff games
IN NET: Mike Taffe was 20-6-1, and Joe Phillippi 7-6-2 during the year and 3-2 in the playoffs.

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