Friday, January 04, 2008

Rangers start long stretch on the road

The Marquette Rangers begin a stretch of eight consecutive road games over the next 20 days in North American Hockey League action.

The team will travel to both Alpena and Traverse City for games this Friday and Saturday night with a chance to take over sole possession of second place in the North Division.

Currently, the Rangers (19-10-2) are in third place in the North with 40 points, one point behind Mahoning Valley and 11 points behind first-place St. Louis.

Mahoning Valley is off this weekend, while St. Louis plays Springfield of the Central Division.

“This is going to be another tough weekend,” said Marquette head coach Randy Enders. “Our division is going to be a battle all the way to the end, so we need to continue to improve and play well.

“I like the fact that we came back strong from the holiday break, but we need to build on that now and take advantage of these games this weekend.”

The coach was also quick to point out that the standings don’t mean that much at the mid-point of the season.

“It’s great to be a point out of second place, but if we don’t take care of business we won’t be in this position for long," added Enders. "I think the guys realize that we need to be focused on these two games and not where we appear in the standings. Even though Alpena and Traverse are both behind us in points, we can’t take anything for granted. We need to come out ready to go, work hard, and do the little things necessary to win. If we can do that, we’ll be successful.”

The importance of the weekend hasn’t been lost on the Rangers players either.

“We need to keep this momentum going,” said goaltender Matt Brooker. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, but we really need to focus on Alpena and Traverse City and not so much the standings. It’s nice to be this close to second place, especially knowing where we were in the standings last year around now, but it’s only early January (and) we’ve got three months until the end of the season and a lot will happen between now and then. We’re playing well right now, and as long as we keep it simple and go game-by-game, I think we’ll be alright."

Aaron Pietila continues to lead the team offensively with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) with Josh Bussell, who’s coming off a five-point weekend against Traverse City in second with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists.)

A dozen Rangers’ players are in double-digits in scoring so far this season.

Defensemen Nick Condon (25 points) and Derek Grogan (21 points) continue to be in the top ten for scoring among blueliners in the NAHL and newcomer Tyler Matthews has also been a consistent contributor from the defense with 13 points (two goals, 13 assists).

No comments: