Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Marquette continues road trip

For the second time this season, the Marquette Rangers are staring at a long stretch of games away from Lakeview Arena.

In January, the team was on the road for 27 days before returning home. Now the team embarks on a journey that will keep them off of home ice for 34 days before returning March 7-8

“It’s going to be a long month, but that’s part of hockey at this level,” said Rangers head coach Randy Enders. “It’s tough, there’s no other way of putting it, but it’s not just a Marquette thing. Every team at this level faces this sort of challenge. Our veterans know how to deal with the road and our new guys aren’t rookies anymore after 40 or so games, so I’m not too worried about it.”

In addition to three series on the road, the Rangers will also have an off-week in the schedule the weekend of February 15.

First up this weekend is the longest of the three trips as the team heads back to Boardman, Ohio and a Friday-Saturday set with Mahoning Valley. The Phantoms currently sit in second place in the North American Hockey League North Division with a record of 25-12-4 (54 points) and are coming off a split with division leader St. Louis this past weekend.

Marquette, having split their series this past weekend with Alexandria of the NAHL Central Division, remains in fourth place in the North Division with 47 points (22-19-3), seven points behind third-place Alpena and three points ahead of the fifth-place U.S. National Team Development Program.

“Each weekend is going to be important because every point is crucial as we head into the last part of the season,” Enders added. “We knew our division was going to be a tight race from start to finish and we need to take the momentum of Saturday’s win against Alexandria to set the stage for some success in some very tough places to play.

“We’ve proven we can compete with these teams that are ahead of us and now we need to go to the next level and consistently win against them. I’m confident that we can if we play the way we’re capable of.”

After the trip to Mahoning Valley, the Rangers take the following week off and then head to Ann Arbor to take on the USNTDP Under-17 Team before wrapping up the road trip at Traverse City February 29-March 1.

“Our schedule is back-loaded with home games in March, so if we can get some wins on this road swing we’ll put ourselves in a terrific shape as the playoff picture starts to shape-up,” said Enders. “But we need success on the road first to make that happen.”

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