Monday, August 01, 2011

Traverse City roster has local flavor

When the dust finally settled following a competitive three-day, invite-only tryout camp at Centre ICE Arena on Sunday, nearly one-third of the Traverse City North Stars’ 2011-12 roster were Traverse City natives.

Holdover veteran forwards Eric Rivard, Mitchell Snider, and Jared Van Wormer will return, and are joined by fellow habs Kyle Froese (TC Central HS), Frank Gilbert (TC West HS), Jake Peacock (Bay Reps), and Eric Jones. Jones spent last season with the midget Lansing Capitals, but played at TC Central the year before. With seven TC products – and Cadillac’s Will Badner also in the mix – the Stars’ roster boasts a distinctly regional flavor.

“We’ve always had good local talent come through here,” said Stars head coach Chad Fournier. “In fact, some of the best high school players we’ve had over the years have come from around here. I think it says a lot about the high school programs, and the quality of the coaching they get from the time they step onto the ice with the GTHA all the way through high school.”

An experienced group of forwards leads the Stars roster, with top returning scorer Alec Shields back to build on his 21-goal, 30-assist campaign. Badner, Rivard, Snider, Van Wormer will join Michal Toman, Alexander Taulien, and Chris Waterstreet up front. Jones and Peacock, along with Kyle Schempp (Compuware U18), Jon Farkas (Compuware U18), Seth Adams (Big Rapids HS), Kyle Loridon (Lansing Capitals U18), and Josh Nardella (Hawkesbury CJIHL), skated onto the opening roster.

Following the camp, the North Stars acquired forward John Chinchen (Lansing Capitals U18) from Wichita Falls.

“There’s a lot of experience there – our proven strengths are up front right now,” Fournier explained. “There’s a lot of talent on defense and in net, just not as much junior experience.”

Robert Wiener and Chris Leibinger are the only returning veterans along the blue line, with a trio of defenseman (Chris Dienes, Zack Dorer, and Connor Schmidt) from the 2010-11 club moving on to the USHL. Gilbert and Froese are among those vying for rearguard time, as are Ryan Nick (Victory Honda U18) and Nathan Harris (Lansing Capitals U18).

“We’ve got veterans that will have to step into a larger role,” said Traverse City GM Anthony Palumbo. “But by the same token, some of these younger guys are going to have to step up as well. We have a lot of new faces on defense and in goal, and we may look to add a veteran defenseman to that mix as well, but it’s an exciting and talented group.”

Draft pick Michael Parda (Cleveland NA3HL) and former British Columbia Junior B backstop Kyle Laslo will look to seal off the Traverse City net when the preseason commences in late August.

“It’s exciting to finally have a team assembled,” Fournier added. “It’s a process of trying to identify the right players, fit them together, and go after some wins. We can’t wait to get started.”

The North Stars will kick off the 2011-12 regular season on Sept. 14 at the annual four-day NAHL Showcase in suburban Minneapolis. The home opener is slated for Sept. 28 against Port Huron.

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