Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rangers optimistic for '07-08 season

A total of 25 players reported to Lakeview Arena today to begin the second season for the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League. Three weeks of on-ice and dry-land training will begin as players prepare themselves for their home opener, an exhibition on Sept. 15 against the Detroit Red Wings Alumni to benefit the Bell Foundation of Bell Hospital.

“The first couple of days will be used for the guys to get to know one another,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “Before you can become a team on the ice, you need to know a little bit about one another, so we’re going to do some fun things as a group before the training part of the camp gets underway. Once that’s done and we hit the ice, we’ll be piecing together lines that look like they might have some chemistry to them, as well as getting guys into top game shape. From what we can see from the players who’ve been in town for awhile we’re in pretty good physical condition, and with eight returning guys from last years team, there’s no question we’re much more experienced than we were a year ago at this time.

"Add Aaron Pietila (Traverse City North Stars) and Tyler Mathews (Buffalo Jr. Sabres - OPJHL) and we have 10 guys on this year’s squad with junior hockey experience. Not many teams have that kind of leadership for the younger players to learn from, so we’re very excited to see this team get going."

The Rangers are returning both goaltenders from last year's team with Beau Christian and Matt Brooker both expected to compete for the starting role. Nick Condon and Derek Grogan return on the Rangers' defense, with Mike Macari, Nic Weight, Jimmy Gallagher and Dustin Partacz coming back for a second season at forward.

Christian said he’s excited about returning for another year in Marquette.

“I feel real confident about this season” the 19-year-old said. “I’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this year and I’m really looking forward to getting going. We’re returning a great group of guys so this season should really be a lot of fun.”

Grogan, 20, said he’s just looking forward to playing hockey again.

“I’m a little sick of pouring concrete footings (Grogan worked construction in St. Paul, Minn. over the summer),” he said. “Marquette is such a great place to play and this should be a pretty good year for us with the guys we have coming back. I loved it here last year with the great fans, so I’m glad to be back and I really feel good and ready to go.”

Mathews said he didn’t really know what to expect with his new team, but is anxious to play in the NAHL.

“I’ve heard Marquette’s fans really get into it, which will be fun,” Mathews said Wednesday. “I worked out a lot this summer and did some coaching of younger kids at some clinics, so I was around hockey a lot in the offseason. I feel real good about being here and I think we can be pretty good this season.”

Despite the 17 new faces, Enders is optimistic about the team's second campaign.

“We lost some of our goal production from last season,” Enders continued. “But that’s the nature of Junior A hockey - guys who do well move on to higher levels. Now, it’s up to the returning guys to step in and show that it’s their time to shine in what promises to be a very competitive division this year. We’re anxious to see what our newcomers bring to the table too and how they’ll mesh with the guys who are coming back. It’s a very exciting time right now.”

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