Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rangers' home opener tomorrow night

You would be right in thinking the Marquette Rangers are anxious to start the 2009-10 regular season, especially after going 3-1 at the North American Hockey League Showcase last week in Blaine, Minn.

Although optimistic following the strong start, head coach Kenny Miller says the team is taking a “moment by moment” approach heading into the Rangers’ home opener tomorrow night at Lakeview Arena against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL West Division.

“The showcase was great, but that was last week,” Miller said. “We’re really trying to focus in on today and what we need to do today to be a better hockey team. We’re pleased at what we’ve seen so far, but we’re really trying to get across to the guys that every day is important. We’re not talking about playoffs, we’re not talking about points in the division, we’re not talking about next week. We’re truly working on just being as good of a hockey team today as we can be.”

Miller acknowledges it sounds cliché, but with a young group of players and a 54-game schedule ahead, he wants to make sure this team sees the big picture.

“If we get too far ahead of ourselves, we might start focusing on things other than improvement,” Miller added. “If we keep our eye on what we’re doing, and take away talk of division races, points, individual numbers and things like that, I really think good things will happen for this team.”

The Rangers recorded Showcase wins over Texas, Wichita Falls and Kenai River. Their only loss was to Wenatchee.

In the early part of the season, Miller has seen a balance in scoring between returning Rangers and a talented group of rookies.

Rookie Brent Bain and third-year Ranger Garrett Ladd (Fenton) lead the team in scoring with five points apiece on the young season, while newcomer Andrew Kolb leads the team in goals so far with three in four games at the Showcase.

Kevin Kissaw (Goodrich) has seen the bulk of the load in goal so far this season, sporting a record of 2-1 and a goals-against average of 1.33 to go with a save percentage of .968. Ranger rookie netminder Lukas Hafner saw action in the team's win against Kenai River, picking up his first win, as well as his first point (an assist) in a Rangers uniform.

Fairbanks, a perennial power in the West, is off to another strong start with a 3-2-2 record on the season, including a Showcase record of 3-1 with wins over Springfield, Albert Lea and North Iowa.

The Ice Dogs, who will stay in the Lower 48 to play at Alpena next week, are led in scoring by Michael Juola (3-8-11) and Mark Pustin (5-5-10) in six games so far this season.

Tyler Bruggeman (2.91 GAA, .922 SV%.) and Mike Taffe (1.00 GAA, .959 SV% ) have split time between the pipes for Fairbanks.

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