It was a bittersweet Sunday for Traverse City North Stars head coach and general manager Anthony Palumbo.
The sweet: Palumbo and his staff hewed their 2010-11 roster from a weekend training camp at Centre ICE Arena that included veterans, tenders, draft picks and the top performers from a summer of tryout camps.
The bitter: The least-favorite job of any coach.
“We had a very competitive camp, with a lot of energy and a lot of talented players,” Palumbo explained. “We’re pretty excited about the new roster, and think we have the potential to do very well.
“At the same time, we had to say goodbye to quite a few outstanding athletes to get down to roster size. It’s hard to tell a kid that he isn’t in your plans, and there were more than a few kids that are certainly going to go on to have great years in the sport ahead of them.”
While the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) summer of expansion precipitated a roster size reduction, the Traverse City coaching staff tabbed 24 players from the field of hopefuls, which included 11 returning veterans, four tenders, five draft picks and four players who played their way onto the roster during the camp season.
Four local players - Eric Rivard (Traverse City West High School), Jared Van Wormer (Traverse City Central High), Mitchell Snider (Traverse City West High) and Matt Zaremba (Gaylord High) - will don interlocking ‘TC’ sweaters this season.
Rivard is a returning veteran, Van Wormer and Zaremba spent time with the North Stars last year, and Snider began last season with the now-defunct Alpena IceDiggers.
“We’re looking to our veterans to really step up and take on bigger roles,” Palumbo continued. “But some of these young kids are going to have to contribute as well. We’re not going to be a team built on the superstar principal; we’re going to need production from a lot of different guys every night.”
Veteran winger Doug Clifford, who led the Stars last season with 53 points over 56 games and a plus-30 rating, heads a group of returning forwards that includes Tim Opie (12 goals, 19 assists), Kelin Ainsworth (30 points), Rivard (12 points), Taylor Burden (seven points) and late-season additions Alec Shields (10 points in 22 games) and Ryan Amin (eight points in 29 games).
Snider, Van Wormer, Zaremba, Flint Generals product Nate Scurfield, Cody Loyer of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep, Detroit Catholic Central High's Eric Fragoso, and Lansing Capitals Midget Major alum Michael Szmatula round out the frontliners.
Travis White enters his third season leading the Traverse City blue line corps, along with returning vets Curtis Heinz and Trevor Campbell and newcomers Zack Dorer (Lansing Capitals Midget Major), Chris Barile (Compuware Midget Major), Robert Wiener (Lansing Capitals Midget Major), Chris Leibinger (Saginaw Heritage High) and Connor Schmidt (Little Caesars Midget Major).
Tyler Marble, who appeared in seven games with the Stars last season (3-3-1 record), and California netkeep Peter Emery are slated to handle goaltending duties.
“I think we’re a team that skates well, that’s pretty skilled, and hopefully is a balanced group,” Palumbo said. “It’s a roster with a ton of potential. Now, we begin to set about turning that potential in production.”