Friday, June 25, 2010

North Stars host tryout this weekend

The 2010-11 North American Hockey League schedule won’t be released until early next month, and the puck won’t drop on the regular season until September, but the Traverse City North Stars will celebrate the de facto opening of the new campaign this weekend at Centre ICE Arena.

And they’re looking for a few good men.

The North Stars enjoyed a veteran-laden roster last year, riding a wealth of experience to a North Division playoff championship and Robertson Cup tournament berth. This summer, however, head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo is seeking to fill a number of roster slots starting with this weekend’s open tryout camp, following the matriculation of better than half the roster to the college hockey ranks, USHL and aging out.

“It’s a bit of a different scenario, but every team goes through these kinds of cycles, especially in junior hockey,” Palumbo explained. “It’s not like we don’t have anyone coming back – there’s a lot of talent among the returning players – but we’ll be looking for some guys to be that next crop of talent, the next wave of North Stars.”

Among those eligible to return is captain and two-time all-star defenseman Travis White, along with fellow blueliners Travis Campbell and Curtis Heinz. Up front, Kelin Ainsworth, Ryan Amin, 2009-10 leading scorer Doug Clifford, Tim Opie, Eric Rivard and Alec Shields are in the mix. The club must replace its top two goalies – Chris Paliafito and Drew Strandberg – but picked up Tyler Marble in May’s NAHL Draft. Marble saw action with the club last year, but the Stars had to draft him to retain his rights.

“We’re going to be younger overall, that seems fairly certain,” Palumbo continued. “That will come with a different set of challenges. I’d liken it to our first year coaching here, when the staff didn’t know exactly what we had to work with going in. It requires a little more patience, because the hockey we might play at the beginning of the season probably won’t be as good as the hockey we’re playing in November and December.”

This weekend’s three-day camp will be among the most scrutinized in Palumbo’s tenure. With a hornblende of veterans, tenders, draft choices, and talented hopefuls battling it out for invitations to the team’s July training camp, the action should be especially crisp and intense.

“We need to add a lot to what we already have,” Palumbo surmised. “We’re looking for a crew of defensemen, a group of forwards, and we’re still building at goaltender, too. There are spots up for grabs. Last year, we were really looking for four or five or maybe six guys to add. This year, it’s far more of a wide-open affair.”

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