Thursday, July 06, 2006

Marquette's final camp now underway

The final tryout camp of the Marquette Rangers is underway today at the Berry Events Center and runs through Sunday. The camp is comprised of approximately 60 players from around the country and is sure to hold viewer's attention with speed, skill and aggressiveness.

In the end, only 23 players will don the inaugural Rangers’ jersey.

Tenders, draft selections, invitees and open camp returnees will convene for the first time this morning. Through a series of games, practices and off-ice evaluations, a majority of the final team will be selected.

One player spectators should watch is defenseman Mike Cenisio, a player returning from the Marquette tryout camp. Cenisio is a native of Finland who started playing hockey when he was eight years old. He played in Finland for two years and Belgium for one before coming to the United States. Living in Pennsylvania, Cenisio has played for the Philadelphia Little Flyers and was league playoff MVP last spring while being ranked fourth in the league among defensemen scoring.

"I've played and trained all my summers with guys who play D-1 (college hockey), so I'm familiar with the high speed I expect to see at camp this weekend," said Cenisio. "I'm excited to play and have a good feeling about it and especially excited about Marquette. I like the fact that it's a small town and friendly, which helps my mom be at ease a bit more."

"Mike Cenisio is intriguing because he has versatility to play both defense and forward," Rangers' head coach Leigh Mendelson said. "He is a good skater with strong puck skills."

Invitee forward, 17-year-old John Grossi from Springfield, Penn., started his hockey career 13 years ago. Grossi is an NAHL veteran, having played for the Billings Bulls last season and like Cenisio, also played for the Philadelphia Little Flyers. He's excited about Marquette based on his research of the area and Marquette’s hockey reputation.

"I am excited to be part of a first-year team," said Grossi. "I want to come out, make the team and contribute to a winning season. I love making fans happy because I really love the game. When fans love the team, it makes you fight harder to keep them happy.

"I love hockey and I'll do anything to play. I'm so excited about the Rangers."

"Grossi is a young player with an offensive upside," added Mendelson. "His skating and skill will allow him to be very competitive in earning a roster spot."

A player close to the hearts of hockey fans in the Marquette area is Neeco Belanger, who started playing hockey at age five in Marquette. Last season, Belanger played in the British Columbia Hockey League for the Chilliwack Chiefs. Prior to that, he played for the Marquette Electricians midget major team, Marquette Senior High School and American Legion bantam teams. Belanger is a highly-respected player among teammates and coaches. He was voted MVP of the MSHS team and while playing for the Electricians, he was the team's Rookie of the Year.

"I have experience at the junior level and that gives me advantage over many others," said Belanger. "I want to stay here to play hockey because it has always been my dream to play in front of my home crowd."

"Neeco Belanger brings valuable junior experience and a fantastic work ethic," Mendelson said. "His value to the team will be measured both on and off the ice."

There will be two cuts over the four-day camp, ensuring close screening and observation by scouts and coaches. Newly-named assistant coach Randy Enders, will join Mendelson this weekend for the evaluation process.

Fans can check out the competition at the Berry Events Center with games today at 1:00 and 5:30 p.m., Friday at 3:00 and 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1:00, 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. The camp concludes with Sunday’s All Star Game at 9:00 a.m.

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