Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Three Challenge Cup games on tap

Following the North American Hockey League holiday break, the Marquette Rangers resume their schedule with three games against Traverse City this weekend. The North Stars come to Lakeview Arena Thursday and Friday before hosting the Rangers Saturday night at Centre Ice Arena.

The two teams will face-off Thursday and Friday in Marquette at 7:30 p.m.

Marquette is currently in a third-place tie with Alpena in the NAHL North Division with 34 points (16-10-2) while the North Stars are in sixth place in the division with a record of 11-11-5 (27 points).

The weekend will also be key games towards determining who wins the Smith Barney Challenge Cup that the two teams are fighting for this year. The winner of the cup, donated by Smith Barney offices in both Marquette and Traverse City, will be determined by head-to-head competition between the two clubs. So far, Traverse City holds a 2-1 edge after three games.

“We feel pretty good about where we are right now,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “It was obvious we all needed a break and needed to get away from hockey for awhile. Now that we’ve had a chance to rest our bodies and our minds, I’m confident our guys will return to Marquette with a new hunger and desire to get back at it.

“The goal now is to come back and really be focused on these three games this weekend because it’s our last series at Lakeview for quite awhile, so taking advantage of home ice is the number one priority. If we can get a good start against a quality division rival like Traverse City, it’ll help set the stage for the second half of the year.”

Following this weekend, the Rangers won’t play a game at Lakeview Arena until Jan. 24-25 against Traverse City and Alpena.

According to Enders, being on the road is just part of the junior hockey experience and it’s something the team will play through.

“It’s going to be a long month, no doubt about it, but like we always tell the guys, it will help them be better players in the long-run,” said Enders. “Junior hockey is all about challenges like this and facing them head-on. I think it will help our young guys the most and we’ll come out of the month on the road more mature and battle-tested.

“We’re fortunate in the sense that we do have a number of guys who have been through a year or two at this level. This is a great opportunity for our veterans to really take-charge and lead this team. So as much as it is a tough part of our schedule, I’m looking forward to it because there are so many good things that can come from this challenge.”

No comments: