The Traverse City North Stars were able to rebound from an opening-night loss to take three of the next four points against visiting Springfield last weekend at Centre ICE Arena, but the real winner was cancer research.
The North Stars held their second annual “Turn the Rink Pink” night in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as local media and merchants joined the team in raising funds and awareness through auctions, raffles and per-ticket donations.
And, of course, the team sported the obligatory pink jerseys, which were bid on throughout the weekend series with the Jr. Blues. Proceeds were once again earmarked for the American Cancer Society.
“I don't think there are too many people out there whose lives haven't been touched in some way by cancer,” said Traverse City head coach Anthony Palumbo. “This is just one way we can use our platform as a hockey team to both draw attention to the problem both the causes and the preventative measures and raise some money for a worthy charity at the same time.”
The North Stars' late Centre ICE opener (Oct. 15) allowed the team to fold the colorful event into its home-opening weekend, and, with the red-hot Blues making their first-ever visit to Traverse City, it was a great series for the players, coaches and fans.
With the local NBC affiliate, as well as a trio of FM-radio stations, promoting the event, and local businesses contributing auction items ranging from goods and services to Detroit Red Wings tickets and autographed memorabilia, the entire northwestern Michigan region came together under one tent for the weekend.
“I think those people feel the same way we do: We have the forum, the ability, and the desire to do something positive and productive,” Palumbo continued. “It¹s what you do when you're a part of a caring community, and we¹re grateful to everyone who played a part in bringing this event together."
On the ice albeit a rosy-hued surface the Jr. Blues spoiled opening night with three quick first-period goals en route to a 5-2 victory in their initial foray into Centre ICE. The clubs enjoyed a defensive duel on Saturday, with Jack Callahan's overtime laser giving Springfield a 2-1 extra-session triumph.
In Sunday's matinee finale, Brennan Knoblock turned his first NAHL start into gold, stopping all 25 shots he faced in a 1-0 shutout win. Steve Behm's third-period marker proved to be enough to help TC improve to 7-2-1 on the young campaign.
“We played well enough to win on Saturday as well,” Palumbo surmised. “But I liked how we turned things around after being pretty flat on Friday and battled them the rest of the way. We're still trying to figure out who is going to assume which roles this year, but I think we found some of that out this weekend.”
The North Stars hit the road next weekend for a Saturday-Sunday series at Janesville before hosting Port Huron at Centre ICE on Oct. 29-30.
NORTH DIVISION NOTEBOOK
CHICAGO HITMEN: The Hitmen had the weekend off, and will attempt to continue its recent tear on Friday at West Meadows Arena, hosting Springfield in a two-game set. Chicago has dropped just two games in regulation over its last seven outings (3-2-2), and has scored 23 goals in its past four games.
JANESVILLE JETS: Janesville took a break from the NAHL slate last weekend, gearing up for a two-game series with Traverse City starting on Saturday. The showdown is a rematch of last year's North Division semifinals, claimed by the North Stars in three games. The Jets are currently tied for second place in the North at 7-4-2, four points behind St. Louis.
MICHIGAN WARRIORS: In what was easily the most exciting victory in the team's brief tenure in Flint, the Warriors got two goals in the final 37 seconds of regulation on Friday against visiting St. Louis, battled the Bandits to a draw through overtime, and eventually prevailed in a marathon nine-round shootout, 5-4. Scott Henegar brought Michigan to within a goal at 19:23, and Justin Hoomaian delivered the equalizer with 18 seconds left. Ryan Trenz levied the decisive shootout marker.
MOTOR CITY METAL JACKETS: The Jackets combusted for 22 goals over the weekend, sweeping host Port Huron and improving to 7-3. Steve Brancheau collected a pair of goals to go with three assists in a 10-2 cloudburst on Friday, while John Scorcia amassed four goals and assists on two others in a 12-2 win on Saturday. NAHL top gun Cody Wydo complied a remarkable 10 points on the weekend (three goals, seven assists), and now has 12 goals and as many assists through 10 games and leads the league with a plus-12 rating.
PORT HURON FIGHTING FALCONS: The Falcons have just a Sunday matinee on the weekend docket, so they'll take their act to the annual St. Clair County Safety Awareness Fair at Landmark Academy. The event features information, hands-on exhibits and the Fighting Falcons players. Kord Miller scored two of the Falcons¹ four goals last weekend and now has four points over his last five outings.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: The Blues continued their torrid pace over the weekend at Traverse City, scoring a pair of victories in the first two contests, and improving to 8-3 over the last 11 games after an 0-6 start to the season. Goalie Andrew Martin was nearly impenetrable in the series' final two games, stopping 61 of 63 shots.
ST. LOUIS BANDITS: The Bandits remained entrenched atop the division after a 2-0-1 weekend at Michigan, upping their mark to 9-2-2. Ryan Stouffer was especially busy, dishing out four assists over the first two games, and bagging a hat trick on Sunday. The Souderton, Pa., product has four game-winning goals among his 10 lamplighters this season.