BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — The weirdness started about a minute in.
And it didn't stop until the third period.
With a trio of rare hockey events, the Traverse City North Stars (4-0-1) outdueled a much-improved Port Huron (3-2-2) team by a 5-2 count in their North American Hockey League home opener Wednesday.
"It was odd, but you've got to play through that kind of stuff," Fournier said. "It wasn't your typical game. The penalties weren't your typical penalties. Luckily, we capitalized when they got their five-minute major and we killed it when we got our five-minute major."
The referees were busy. When they weren't whistling one of the 20 penalties between the two teams -- 10 on each squad -- they were sorting out goals.
It all started at the 18:58 mark, when Port Huron's Kody Polin scored an apparent goal. The goal light went on and Polin and the rest of the Fighting Falcons raised their arms in celebration. But the puck ended up back in play and the referees let the game continue.
"I don't know," Traverse City goaltender Kyle Laslo said. "I thought it hit the post and then it went behind me and I lost it. I don't know."
At the 18:00 mark, the game was stopped and the referees conferred with the goal judge and gave the score to Port Huron, taking 55 seconds back off the clock in the process.
It was that kind of game.
With 8:24 left in the second period, Port Huron goaltender Peter Megariotis was ejected from the game for trying to kick North Stars forward Mitchell Snider with his skate.
Snider was given a two-minute charging penalty for running into the goalie on a break-away, and Megariotis received a five-minute major to give TC three minutes of power play.
Megariotis could be facing more punishment from the league for drawing a match penalty.
"I've never seen that," Fournier said of Megariotis. "He's very good. He's one of the strengths of their team. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for them, he didn't get to finish the game. He keeps them in a lot of games. He's a very good goalie."
Max Milosek came on and made six saves on nine shots. Megariotis stopped 18 of 20 shots he faced.
The Stars converted that power play into a goal by Kyle Schemmp, who also picked up three assists.
"I just tried to walk it out of the corner and put it on net," Schemmp said. "When you put it on net, you never know what'll happen."
"That's a first for me," Laslo said of seeing the opposing goalie get tossed for kicking. "(Megariotis) must have been upset about something."
Schemmp's goal gave the Stars a 3-1 lead -- following lamp-lighters by Robert Wiener and Will Badner -- but 16 seconds later, the Falcons' Mike Moroso made it 3-2.
Defenseman Nathan Harris stuffed in a power-play rebound with one minute left in the second for a 4-2 lead.
Then came the weird play of the third period, giving each stanza its own. Harris was whistled for hooking and a butt-ending major, giving Port Huron a seven-minute power play.
The Stars burned off the entire power play, with a little help from the Falcons, who fizzled out their own opportunity with a pair of penalties in the middle. Over the course of the seven minutes, TC held Port Huron to just three shots on goal.
"We were working hard and they ended up drawing a couple penalties, which helped," Laslo said. "We actually ended up getting a 4-on-3 power play in there somewhere, so that made it easier to kill off seven minutes. It made it only three or four minutes."
Badner struck after the mega power play expired, giving Traverse City a 5-2 lead.
"Everybody was nervous," Fournier said. "I was nervous. We've got big shoes to fill. I think we had the best home record in the league last year."
"Kyle Schemmp played very well," Fournier said. "He was strong in his own ends and had some offensive chances. Eric Rivard was big a physical all night. When he plays hard every shift, he's hard to stop. Those two really stood out. And Laslo, when your goalie stops what he's supposed to, you're going to win a lot of games."
Laslo made 31 saves on 33 shots as the Stars were outshot 33-29 for the game.
"For our first game in front of their home fans, I thought we did really well," Schemmp said. "We've got a few things we can clean up, but overall we did well."