BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — Do or die time.
The Traverse City North Stars will be in that situation for the next three games — they hope.
The Stars trail Kalamazoo 0-2 in their best-of-five North Division playoff series that turns to Centre ICE Arena this weekend for possibly two contests on Traverse City's home ice.
Throw into the equation that a loss not only ends the season, but also the franchise, and that's some pressure.
"Definitely," TC defenseman Frank Gilbert said. "Hopefully, we can go back to Kalamazoo and have a chance to finish it there."
The team will be moving to Sault Ste. Marie next season, meaning Friday or Saturday could be the last North Stars games ever.
One stat that helps TC's cause of extending the series to Kalamazoo for a decisive Game 5 is that Traverse City is 18-8-2 at home this season.
"We're confident at home," Gilbert said. "Hopefully, that'll help turn it around."
The first thing the North Stars need to do is slow down Jacob McDowell. The 18-year-old from Dimondale had a goal in the 4-0 Game 1 win and tacked on a hat trick in Game 2's 7-3 eruption.
"In Kalamazoo, we made mistakes and they just capitalized on all their opportunities," Gilbert said. "We just need to cut down on our mistakes and play good defense again."
McDowell has more goals so far this series (four) than the North Stars. The K-Wings' Robbie Payne and Brandon Flood have five points each.
"He's good, but they made us pay on all our mistakes," Gilbert said of McDowell. "It's a combination of being a good player and doing things right out there."
Traverse City also needs to crank up the special teams. Kalamazoo is 3 for 8 on the power play. The Stars are 0 for 6.
"On penalty kill, we just have to calm down and relax out there," Gilbert said. "Our penalty kill is weaker than it usually is, and we just have to set that up this weekend."
In the other North Division playoff series, Michigan and Port Huron are deadlocked at a game apiece. Michigan, the No. 4 seed, hosts a pair of games this weekend. Port Huron is the No. 1 seed.