BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY —
Two Warriors teams came into Centre ICE Friday. One left with a win.
After the Bay Reps were able to dispatch the Northwest Warriors 9-2 in high school action, the Traverse City North Stars weren’t able to repeat the feat, falling to the Michigan Warriors 4-1 in North American Hockey League play.
“That team was desperate,” Traverse City coach Chad Fournier said. “They’ve had a rough patch here for about 14 or 15 games. They were desperate to win, and we weren’t.”
The North Stars (14-5-4) outplayed Michigan (12-14-3) for long stretches and had numerous chances to take the lead in the second and third periods, but couldn’t pull through with a timely goal. The Stars ended with a 25-21 advantage in shots.
Then late penalties stalled out any chances to win the game — and may handicap TC’s next contest as well.
“We’ve got a tough, tough Kalamazoo team in Kalamazoo on Sunday,” Fournier said. “We’re going to have to come in ready. A lot more ready that we were (Friday). They’re good top to bottom.”
The North Stars will have to dip into their bench Sunday, as Mitch Snider and Sean Murphy will each have to sit out a game for receiving abuse of officials game misconduct penalties shortly after the final horn. Eric Rivard was whistled for a four-minute spearing penalty with 3:46 remaining that stalled out TC’s late charge and kept Michigan on the power play for the rest of the game.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Warriors tacked on a Tyler Perpich power-play score with 1:50 remaining and an Alec White empty-netter with 28 ticks left to seal the outcome.
TC’s rash of game-ending penalties came after a couple disputed plays — a trip at center ice and an apparent boarding hit on Murphy — weren’t called.
“They worked hard and their goalie was outstanding,” Fournier said of the Warriors. “We didn’t consistently work hard.”
Zach Nagelvoort made his second start in net for the Stars and made 19 saves.
“(This) wasn’t his problem,” Fournier said. “It was a team problem. We didn’t play well in front of him.”
The North Stars went up 1-0 on a Rivard score off Seth Adams and Snider assists 5:24 into the contest. It was Rivard’s seventh goal of the season. The score came immediately after Nagelvoort stymied a Brad Pizzey to Joe Ferriss 2-on-1 rush.
“We moved our feet and got the puck in deep,” Fournier said of what was working for TC in its stretches of controlling the game. “We were successful then when we did that. When we didn’t, we played right into their hands, standing and watching.”
Traverse City has been dominant in the second period this season — outscoring foes 38-19 in that stanza — but that didn’t do that Friday, as Michigan scored twice to TC’s none in the second.
Michigan took a 2-1 lead in the second period, despite long periods of time in which the Stars territorially controlled the ice.
Chris Eckler knotted things up 1-1 on a one-timer from Martin Gruse just 1:42 into the period.
Then after a several minute stretch in which TC repeatedly threatened, but couldn’t get the puck past Brach Tilley — including prime opportunities by Murphy, Alexander Taulien and Michal Toman and a shot by Chris Waterstreet that rang off the crossbar — the Warriors countered with a Pizzey back-hander on a rush just after burning off a North Stars power play.
The Stars won’t play at home again until Jan. 17. Luckily, TC has a 5-1-2 road mark.
“We’ve been lucky on the road,” Fournier said. “Our older guys have played better on the road than at home, so that helps.”