Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rangers travel to NTDP this weekend

Fresh off a sweep of top-ranked Traverse City, the Marquette Rangers head to Ann Arbor this weekend for a series with the United States National Team Development Program's Under-18 squad.

Marquette usually plays the USNTDP U-17 team, but North American Hockey League North Division teams must all play the U-18 squad twice each season, with both games counting in the NAHL standings.

“We feel really good,” Rangers head coach Kenny Miller said. “Any time you can take four points from the first-place team it’s always a plus. We think if we compete and play hard like we did last weekend we should have some success down there against USA.”

The coach went on to say he feels like things are coming together for his squad as the season goes along.

“We’ve made some personnel changes that most people are aware of and these guys have brought some experience and some leadership to this team and have come in done what we expected and the rest of the team has responded," said Miller. "We still need to work hard to get better every day to continue to have the success we saw last weekend.”

Going into this weekend's series, the Rangers (8-10-3, 19 pts) trail Team USA by two points for third place in the North Division and are three points ahead of fifth-place Alpena.

The USNTDP leads the season series over Marquette, 2-0, with the two wins in Ann Arbor in October. So far in four NAHL games, the U-18 squad is led in scoring by Drew Shore (4g 4a, 8pts) and Jeremy Morin (2g 4a, 6pts).

In net, head coach Ron Rolston has split time between Brandon Maxwell and Adam Murray. Maxwell is undefeated in NAHL play at 2-0 with a 4.00 goals-against average to complement a save percentage of .795. Murray sports a 3.87 GAA and a save percentage of .800.

The Rangers continue to be led in scoring by James Gallagher (6g 11a, 17pts). The recent University of Connecticut recruit also notched the game-winning goal last Saturday in a 2-1 overtime win against Traverse City. Chad Pietila (5g 11a, 16pts) and Aaron Pietila (7g 8a, 15pts) continue to keep pace with Gallagher for scoring leadership on the team.

The big story for the Rangers has been the emergence of Dan Sullivan in goal. The York, Pa., native is 3-2 since joining the team from the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. Sullivan’s two wins this past weekend, coupled with a GAA of 1.78 and a save percentage of .928, earned him GDI/NAHL Goalie of The Week honors on Monday.

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