Thursday, March 19, 2009

Marquette needs to keep winning games

As the final two weeks of the North American Hockey League regular season unfold this weekend and next, the Marquette Rangers find themselves in a rather unenviable position.

The team must win and then wait and hope for some help if they are to make the North Division playoffs.

Marquette (23-23-8, 54 pts.) trails the Alpena IceDiggers by three points after splitting an interdivisional series with Alexandria at Lakeview Arena last weekend. The Rangers face the Motor City Machine this weekend before ending the regular season next weekend with two games at home against Traverse City.

Help, however, may lie in the daunting schedule faced by Alpena as they head into the final six games of their season.

The IceDiggers, who also have two games in hand on Marquette, are facing their first of two very difficult weekends this Friday and Saturday facing the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 squad at the Ice Cube in Ann Arbor.

The USNTDP is currently in the process of preparing for the International Ice Hockey Federation World U-18 tournament April 8-18 in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.

After the two games this weekend in Ann Arbor, Alpena then travels home to face Traverse City for a one-game series against the North Stars on Sunday afternoon.

Alpena wraps up their regular season the following Thursday and Friday with games at North Division champions Mahoning Valley and then a Sunday game March 29 at the USNTDP U-17s in Ann Arbor.

For Marquette, the Rangers and the Machine have played six times so far this season, with Marquette leading the season series five games to one. Marquette took two from the Machine at Lakeview in October by scores of 6-3 and 6-2.

The Rangers continue to be led in scoring by Chad Pietila (21g 33a, 54 pts.), along with Marquette native James Gallagher (22g 26a, 48pts.). Kevin Kissaw has been splitting time in net the past few weekends with newcomer Mike Jarboe, who was acquired prior to the trade deadline from Wichita Falls of the South Division. Kissaw is 14-10-2 on the year with a 2.48 goals-against average and a save percentage of .918.

Motor City (11-40-2, 24pts.) have been led during their inaugural season in Wyandotte by Nick Taurence (8g 25a, 33 pts.) and Ryan Misiak (12g 20a, 32pts.).

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