Northstars shining brightly

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:17 PM ET

Look who has a ticket to the Mac's playoff bash.

Those plucky Calgary Northstars, who were pretty much written off coming in because of their poor AMHL record, find themselves in the thick of today's playoff action.

A thrilling 3-2 win over a determined Saskatoon Blazers squad yesterday at Max Bell gave the 3-1 Northstars a wildcard berth. Head coach Lonnie Vuckovic was still on Cloud 9 after the game but cautioned there's still a long road ahead.

"We took a step towards our goal, which is to win the tournament. Now we're there, we've got to move on to the second round," said Vuckovic, adding he's not concerned about who the opposition is.

"We'll scout the other clubs and see what we've got to do and, for the last two games, we've done an excellent job coaching against their coaches and the players just go out and do their job."

Heading into today's quarter-final against the defending champion Saskatoon Contacts (Father David Bauer, noon), the 'Stars are getting good goaltending from Patrick Kingston, who was solid against the Blazers, making 32 saves, and they're making the most of their special-teams opportunities.

"Right now Patty's making the key saves for us when we need it and when the other team's down and pressing, that's when you need your goaltender," said Vuckovic.

While the Northstars head into the playoffs on a high, the Calgary Buffaloes (3-1) have their tails between their legs after getting thrashed 7-2 by Team Sweden (4-0) to close out the round-robin.

It looks like the Buffs had a bit of a letdown after an intense 3-2 win over Team Illinois Thursday night, clinching a wildcard playoff berth.

Calgary head coach Darren Rommerdahl said that was exactly the case with his charges, who didn't get a shot on goal until early in the second period.

"We had a huge effort the other night and I think our guys had a big letdown today. It was tough after such a valiant effort the night before," said Rommerdahl.

"So I think our guys have to have a short memories in a tournament like this and forget about it and try to regroup.

"We pride our team on hard work and we didn't have that today. I can't remember too many times this year that we haven't had a strong work ethic, so I'm expecting a much more determined team."

The Buffs take on the Swiss Nationals (Max Bell, noon) and Rommerdahl said the game, like all the quarter-finals, is going to come down to which club is more focused.

"The team that pays attention to detail is the team that ends up winning these one-game showdowns in most cases," noted Rommerdahl.

"Most teams are tired and there's a lot of mental stress on the guys and the team that makes the least amount of mistakes tends to be the winner."

In the other quarter-finals, Fort Saskatchewan takes on Prince Albert (Max Bell, 9 a.m.) and the Swedes play the Moose Jaw Warriors (Father David Bauer, 9 a.m.).

The semifinal games are at Max Bell today, with the first starting at 3 p.m., followed by the second at 6 p.m.

Tomorrow's final and bronze medal contests are at the 'Dome, starting at 10 a.m.


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