Saturday, May 08, 2010

Traverse City still alive in Wenatchee

The final round-robin contest is in the books for the Traverse City North Stars.

Now the waiting game begins.

Following a 2-1 victory over the previously-unbeaten Fairbanks IceDogs on Friday afternoon at the Robertson Cup tournament in central Washington, the North Stars will spend their off-day Saturday rooting for a pair of former foes. If Wenatchee beats St. Louis and Bismarck tops Fairbanks in Saturday’s round-robin finales, the Wild, IceDogs, and North Stars would be tied at 2-2, and Traverse City would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

“I just went out and bought three Wenatchee jerseys,” joked Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “And I’ll be wearing my Bismarck jersey tomorrow afternoon. We have to help root ’em on.

“In all seriousness, we got a good victory, because we gave ourselves a chance. I think it would have been pretty disappointing to if we had to go into the last day with no chance to play on.”

Traverse City captain Travis White drove home the only goal of the first two-thirds of the game, recording a power-play marker with 3:19 to play in the opening period. Kyle Jean made it 2-0 with an even-up marker 3:01 into the third.

The IceDogs pared the deficit to a single goal a little more than three minutes later, but Drew Strandberg and the North Stars defensive corps held off Fairbanks down the stretch. Strandberg returned to the lineup after missing Thursday’s outing against Bismarck with severe leg cramps, and stopped 22 of 23 shots en route to being named the game’s number one star.

“When you get a guy back who has played as well as Drew has in the playoffs, it can’t help but give you a lift,” Palumbo noted. “Definitely, it was big. We also won a lot of face-offs, a lot of the board battles, and killed off a two-minute 5-on-3 by blocking a ton of shots. It was a hard-fought, team effort. We had the young line of Alec Shields, Taylor Burden and Eric Rivard that didn’t necessarily get a bunch of minutes, but gave us good, quality minutes out there. That was big with (Doug) Clifford out of the lineup tonight.”

Kelin Ainsworth set up White’s first career postseason goal, while Dan Radke and Tim Opie assisted on Jean’s game-winner. The Traverse City penalty killing unit dispatched all four Fairbanks power plays.

“So we’ll spend Saturday at the rink, hoping we’ll get a shot at playing again,” Palumbo surmised. “And if we somehow get that chance, we have to be ready to go.”

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