BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — Will Badner is all set for Wednesday's Traverse City North Stars home opener.
The Cadillac native will be making his debut on the Traverse City side of the bench after playing last season for Motor City.
"It is (different)," Badner said. "I like it, though. I like the coaches and the players. They have a strict mindset of working hard. It's the best way to go about things. I like it more being with them than against them."
Traverse City comes into the home opener after posting a 3-0-1 mark at the North American Hockey League Showcase and a 3-1 exhibition slate.
"We played well and really could have been 4-0," head coach Chad Fournier said. "We're still learning how to play a complete game, but we're really happy with how things started."
Port Huron has also started off fairly well, notching a 3-1-2 mark in a half dozen contests. That's half as many wins already as the Fighting Falcons had all of last season, when they were the league's worst team with a 6-46-6 record. Traverse City, meanwhile, is coming off a 40-17-1 season that saw the Stars rack up the fourth-most points in the league.
However, this year the Falcons have many veterans back from that squad, and experienced teams often thrive in the NAHL.
Port Huron defeated Traverse City 5-2 in an exhibition game this season, giving the Stars a sneak peak at the Falcons' improvement.
"It just shows us how hard we're going to have to work," Fournier said. "They're an older team, a bigger team. They've got more experience than we do, and that really showed in the exhibition game. We've got a lot further to go than they do with all their experience."
Badner -- who was acquired in an off-season trade with Motor City -- scored one of TC's two goals in that loss. He had 12 goals and 22 points for the Metal Jackets last season after a standout prep career at Cadillac.
"I think we're going to have success," Badner said. "I think we should have high expectations and should do well this year. We need to work hard and stand as a team toward our goals."
One key in the young season so far has been the Stars' all-TC line of Eric Rivard, Jared VanWormer and Mitchell Snider. Alec Shields and TC West alum Snider are tied for the team lead with five points, with Rivard -- another West product -- at four and TC Central's VanWormer three.
Badner had a goal and an assist in the Showcase, playing on a line with Kyle Schemmp and Josh Nardella.
"Kyle Shemmp and Will Badner have played consistently well together," Fournier said. "Josh Nardella is typically their winger, and most likely will continue to be there. Will and Josh are experienced and Kyle is a very talented, young player."
Schemmp scored a goal in a 3-2 win over Odessa.
"We have kind of a younger team, so at first it was kind of a bigger stage than people are used to," Badner said of the Showcase. "Everyone was anxious to get going. But I think we played well as a team and worked hard. A lot of our younger guys stepped up and played big."
Goaltender Kyle Laslo started all four games between the pipes, putting up 1.68 goals against average and .940 save percentage.
"Our No. 1 guy is going to be whoever earns that spot," Fournier said of the goalie spot, where backup Mike Parda has yet to see the ice. "Thus far, he's earned that spot. So it'll be his spot until he gives it away."
The North Stars also host Michigan on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.