Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rangers continue road swing in Ohio

The Marquette Rangers continue their five-game road swing this weekend with their furthest trip of the year traveling 645 miles to Youngstown, Ohio, to play the Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

The Rangers (14-13-4, 32 pts.) are within two points of Mahoning Valley for second place in the North American Hockey League North Division. Traverse City leads the Phantoms by one point for the top spot heading into this weekend’s action.

With his team coming off three road wins, head coach Kenny Miller says his team looks like it may have turned a corner as they head into a key weekend.

“Any time you can get six points on a road trip, it’s a good thing,” Miller said. “We’ve obviously got a long way to go, but we’ve got a little momentum going now heading into the break with four wins in our last five games. We’ve gotten better as the season has gone along, which is the goal of any team and every coach.”

Miller was optimistic when asked about a possible letdown with his team leaving for such a long road trip right before the holiday break.

“The key is to make sure our veterans take charge, keep leading us and playing hard so that our rookies and younger keys have an example set for them on how to handle this type of situation," Miller said. "We’re an experienced enough team that I really don’t think it will be an issue.”

“They’re a great team,” Miller added of Mahoning Valley. “Any time you go there you’re playing a well established team that’s coached very well; so we’ll have our hands full. Our guys know this and I think we’ll be ready."

The Rangers are led in scoring after last weekend by Chad Pietila’s 29 points (11g, 18a) and Marquette native James Gallagher, who’s netted 27 points (11g, 16a) on the season. Aaron Pietila follows them in team scoring with 26 points on the year (11g, 15a.)

Mahoning Valley (16-6-2, 34 pts.) has been led in scoring this season by Jordy Trottier (17 points) and Brandon Saad’s 16 points, but the big story in Mahoning Valley so far has been the play of goaltender Jordon Tibbett.

With a record of 13-2-0 on the year to compliment a goals-against average of 1.90 and a save percentage of .928, Tibbett’s numbers are good for second place overall among goaltenders in the entire NAHL.

Only Bryce Merriam of the Topeka RoadRunners boasts better statistics heading towards the holiday break.

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