Wednesday, September 15, 2010

North Stars ready for NAHL Showcase

When the Traverse City North Stars take to the ice on Wednesday at the Schwan Super Rink in suburban Minneapolis, they’ll see a familiar foe – albeit in different garb.

The Corpus Christ IceRays, the Stars’ opponent in the opening game of the four-day, 26-team NAHL Showcase, relocated from Alpena, where the former IceDiggers and North Stars had forged a regional rivalry for the past five seasons.

Traverse City head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo says even team’s mere modicum of familiarity with the Rays probably won’t afford either side any kind of advantage in preparing for the Showcase opener.

“Yeah, we’ll know 10-11 of their guys,” he said. “And we certainly know they’re strong in net with (Marco) Wieser. They also have a new coach, a new home, and a new approach that comes with making a move across the country like that. I’m not sure it means we know what to expect in terms of their style of play, but we have to be ready for their best.”

The Stars, 1-0-0 after their season-opening 4-1 win over Chicago on Sunday, are still getting to know themselves, let alone another squad, according to Palumbo.

“Number one, the Showcase gives us a chance to engage ourselves against the rest of the league,” he said. “It gives us a pretty short time to work on our game, kind of get an idea who will fill what roles, and try to get a jump on having a good season.”

Corpus Christi will be playing their first game of the 2010-11 campaign on Wednesday, but boast a roster with such veterans as Jason Souva, Kevin Crowe, Kyle Hughes, Brandon Marshall, and Sam Cheraso, in addition to Wieser. The team went 22-34-2 last season as the IceDiggers, finishing fifth in the five-team North Division, nine points behind fourth-place Motor City for the final playoff slot.

“Getting in a game before the Showcase is big for us,” Palumbo said. “We have a lot of guys who were playing in their first junior game on Sunday, and had a chance to work out some of the nerves rather than doing that on the league-wide stage. That’s a good thing.”

The North Stars will play expansion Austin (Minn.) on Thursday in second-day action, but square off with Wenatchee (Wash.) and Alaska to close out the event. Traverse City is 2-1 all-time against Wenatchee – including a thrilling 4-3 victory over the host Wild in the opening game of last season’s Robertson Cup championships – and is also 2-1 all-time against Alaska.

The Stars and Avalanche have played in each of the previous three Showcase events, claiming a 6-1 triumph in 2007, dropping a 4-3 affair in 2008, and blanking the Avs 3-0 last season.

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