Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rangers ready for North Division Showcase

The Marquette Rangers will again be on the road this weekend in North American Hockey League action, this time at the NAHL North Division Showcase hosted by the Mahoning Valley Phantoms at the Ice Zone in Boardman, Ohio.

In addition to all six North Division teams from the NAHL, a Midget AAA showcase will also be taking place, offering an outstanding recruiting opportunity for North Division coaches.

“This stretch is going to be a real test for our guys,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “Not only do we have our longest trip of the year in miles, but it’s four games in four days which is a lot of wear and tear on players at this time of the season. It’s similar to our league showcase in Blaine (Minn.) in the fact that we’ll play every day, but it’s going to be much more challenging because it’s right in the middle of a long run of road games for us.

“We did go 3-1 in Blaine, though, so I think this format fits our guys and our team's mentality of grit and hard work pretty well. I think it will be a good measuring stick for where we are as a hockey team right now. We tell our guys all the time that when you fight through tough situations it makes you a better hockey player and a stronger person. These long trips are tough, but it’s part of playing in this league and at this level, so we’ll go down there with the mindset that we’re going to be successful and that we’re going to play well and come home with some points.”

One notable difference between the NAHL Showcase in September and the North Division Showcase this weekend is how the teams are scheduled. Marquette will play two games with the host Phantoms and two games with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The Rangers will not play Alpena, Traverse City or St. Louis during the showcase.

All games will count in the league standings.

The Rangers (20 -13 -3) are currently in fourth place in the NAHL North Division with 42 points, one point behind third-place Mahoning Valley and two points behind second-place Alpena. The St. Louis Bandits continue to the lead the division with 57 points heading into this weekend.

Marquette opens against Mahoning Valley Friday at 7:30 p.m., then play the USNTDP Saturday at 4:30 p.m., Mahoning Valley again on Sunday at 7:30 before closing with Team USA Monday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

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