Wednesday, September 14, 2011

North Stars start new season tonight

The exhibition season is in the rear-view mirror and the Traverse City North Stars are steaming toward the regular season opener on Wednesday on the opening day of the four-round North American Hockey League Showcase in suburban Minneapolis.

The Stars, coming off a franchise-first 40-win season, kick off the Showcase against perennial powerhouse Texas, which posted a 35-15-8 mark in 2010-11 and are already qualified for the Robertson Cup finals as host of the season-ending event.

Traverse City head coach Chad Fournier says his club will have to be prepared for a jump in the level of intensity.

“Now they count,” offered Fournier, who will make his official head coaching debut on Wednesday. “We don’t get to dress 22 guys anymore, the pace will be much quicker than it has been (in the preseason). We’ll also have to compete harder. We worked hard in the exhibition games, but when we got to the Port Huron game, we got thoroughly outworked and it showed in the final score.”

The Stars will take on Odessa in Thursday action, a team that crafted a 32-19-7 record last season playing as the Owatonna (Minn.) Express, and follow that with a clash against Aberdeen on Friday. Former North Division foe Springfield (Ill.) will provide the opposition in Saturday morning’s Showcase-capper.

“You go into the Showcase hoping to win all four (games),” Fournier said. “But they are four good opponents. Texas has been very successful program over the years and Springfield closed out last year as hot as any team in the NAHL. Aberdeen also started playing well in the latter stages (of 2010-11) and Odessa is coming off a playoff berth as well. We play some quality teams, we’re always looking to improve every time out, and hopefully we’ll be better on Saturday than we are on Wednesday.”

Before departing for the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Fournier and Co. inked defenseman Dean Burggrabe, who played for the Compuware midget major program last year. The Marquette native will help bolster a young blue-line corps.

“We’ll put our best 20 (players) out there and go after it,” Fournier added. “We’re still learning about each other and the new voice, the new system – but the playoff push begins Wednesday. We’re ready to get going.”


: NAHL Showcase

WHERE: Schwan Super Rink – Blaine, Minn.

WHO: All 28 NAHL teams

WATCH IT: Click the FastHockey link at

WEDNESDAY: vs. Texas, 9 p.m. ET

THURSDAY: vs. Odessa, 3:30 p.m. ET

FRIDAY: vs. Aberdeen, 11:30 a.m. ET

SATURDAY: vs. Springfield, 10:30 a.m. ET

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