Friday, January 12, 2007

Rangers host NTDP this weekend

The Marquette Rangers take on the U.S. National Development Team tonight and Saturday at Lakeview Arena, vying for third place in the North American Hockey League’s North Division.

It’s expected to be an exciting environment as fans watch Marquette’s own hometown players face-off when Justin Florek (USA) comes head-to-head with friends and Rangers Neeco Belanger, James Gallagher, Nick Kosinski and Brett Larson.

This series will shuffle the NAHL’s standings since Traverse City is currently only one point ahead of the Rangers. Since recent roster changes, the Rangers have won three of their last five games played, one ending Mahoning Valley’s (currently first in the league) 19-game unbeaten streak. During the Rangers' sweep last weekend against Traverse City, Brodie Zuk recorded five points, Chris Smith four and Luke Bennett three. Rookie goaltender Matthew Brooker also noted his first career junior win.

According to defenseman Jake Hauswirth, “We’ve been playing well and had a great practice yesterday. We’re looking forward to being home with our fans and feel we have a good chance of moving ahead of Traverse City in the standings this weekend. We’re improving on our weaknesses and ready to be seen as a true threat to our opponents.”

The Rangers and U.S. National Development Team have paired off in four games now with two wins, one loss and a tie.

“The guys are excited to be back in Lakeview," Marquette head coach Randy Enders said. "It’s our first weekend home since break and everyone is looking forward to being in front of our own fans and putting on a good show. We need to make Lakeview a difficult place to come and play. If we come out and work hard like we’re capable of, fans get into it and the arena becomes a great environment for us to play in. This weekend is an opportunity for us to come out, play hard and show our fans the type of team we’re developing into."

The addition late this week of Beau Christian adds depth to the Rangers’ goaltending. Christian is a 1988 birth year from Moorhead, Minn., and comes from the NAHL’s Central Division-leading Fargo-Moorhead Jets.

“Christian will be a good addition and asset to us because he’s a young, hungry goalie with good athletic ability and potential," said Enders.

Zuk took over as Marquette’s point leader this past week with 33 points and was named the NAHL’s Sherwood Player of the Week. Kosinski has amassed 31 points while Belanger has 25.

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