One thing is certain following the Traverse City North Stars’ 4-1 win at first-place Mahoning Valley on Saturday: There’ll be playoff hockey in TC come April.
The Stars built a 2-0 lead after one period at the Chevy Centre, extended the lead to three near the halfway point of the second, and added a bit of padding early in the third to clinch one of the four postseason slots in the NAHL.
The victory was a 180-degree turnaround from Friday night’s game, which saw the Phantoms score seven straight en route to a 9-2 rout.
“We sat down and watched the film (of Friday) and saw just had bad we were,” said Traverse City head coach Anthony Palumbo. “I think the guys showed they had some pride, and they did everything we asked them to do tonight. We couldn’t have scripted it any more perfectly.”
TC captain Kyle Bonis scored a pair of goals while Garrett Thompson had two of his own plus an assist to back the goalkeeping of C.J. Motte.
Bonis now had 27 tallies on the season, eclipsing the team record for goals in a season that he and Nate Urbaniak set a year ago. It was also Bonis’ NAHL-leading seventh game-winner of the 2008-09 campaign. For Thompson - seeing his first action since Feb. 26 - it was his first career two-goal outing.
“We had a lot of scoring opportunities tonight, and those guys cashed in,” Palumbo explained. “They were awesome, and it was a good team effort all the way around. C.J. made some absolutely huge saves, but we were also able to keep the quality shots (against) down.”
Marc Thompson drew the lone assist on brother Garrett’s opening tally 4:46 into the game, while Garrett and Urbaniak set up Bonis’ first score at 11:28. Tyler Stephens and Dan Radke were credited with assists on the Stars’ penultimate and final goals, respectively. Traverse City outshot the host Phantoms by a slim 31-30 margin.
With the win, Traverse City (29-17-6) pulled even with Team USA at 64 points for second place - and the final home-ice postseason position - in the NAHL North, but the National Team four games in hand. Alpena (57 points) and Marquette (54) are battling it out for the fourth and final North Division playoff berth.