Friday, October 15, 2010

Attack Double-up Rangers 6-3

It was just that one 4-0 game, right? The Attack couldn't possibly keep up their incredible pace from two weeks ago against this historically one-sided matchup between the once-dominant Rangers and the surprise of the year in the OHL's Owen Sound Attack.

Sorry, Rangers fans. Once upon a time two weeks ago, the Attack placed their foot in the door of OHL elite status when they rang off a few straight wins after an opening night loss to Guelph.

Now they've blown the door wide open.

And the traditional league powers, such as the Kitchener crew are starting to take notice.

Last night's 6-3 win for the Attack forced a better-prepared, but still not-good-enough Rangers team to fight in the game of their lives, and still come up empty-handed, for the first time at home.

Even without team offensive superstar Joey Hishon, out with a hurt hand, the Attack found a way to pot six against these Rangers.

It was strangely reminiscent of last year, where always the matches were tightly fought, but the blueshirts seemed to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the end, just while the Attack were still searching where that quarter behind their ear came from.

This year, things are going to be a little different in the Midwest.

If there were any lingering nay-sayers out there, Owen Sound have proved to the league they're for real.

Now 7-1, the Attack lead the Western Conference with 14 points, and the Rangers' only two gaffes in their 6-2 record have come via the Bayshore Boys from the Sound.

The Rangers played catch-up all night and never commanded a lead, as Attack captain Garrett Wilson (pictured) led the charge with two markers, and 16 year-old sensation Jarrod Maidens added a single, as did tough-guy Mike Halmo and Brendan Childerley.

Halmo had a Mascioli-on-Tavares-esque exchange on top of Rangers centre Andrew Crescenzi after battling along the boards with the puck, holding and beating on the oversized Rangers forward while the play was light years away from them.

Halmo got away with a roughing minor. Crescenzi got a holding call.

Attack head coach Mark Reeds also got into it with referees Matt Parlette and Craig Spada.

Reeds was incensed his Attack were called for five minor infractions in the first and the Rangers were seemingly escaping the whistle with murder.

Reeds was tossed, but stayed to complete the game.

A fine may be forthcoming to the team for his decision to stay with the team and not take part in some early Oktoberfest festivities next door.

While the Rangers may have had some chances to put the Attack away on Spada's and Parlette's calls, the squad again failed to produce anything of significance, finishing a pitiful 1-7 on the powerplay, a trend all too common this season.

The penalty-kill must also improve. The Rangers sit dead last at a meagre 68.4% efficiency rate.

Specialty teams have the ability to kill elite teams and win games.

The Rangers have sensed all too late, that Owen Sound is a foe needed to be put away by an extraordinary effort.

And aside from Andrew Crescenzi and a select few (namely Ben Thomson and Tyler Randell who all scored), the Rangers' lacklustre effort just wouldn't cut it on a night where the Attack's red-carpet entrance into official league stardom was ingrained into the blueshirts' collective conscience.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rangers Win Thanksgiving Game in OT vs. Erie

Thanksgiving seems quite the appropriate time of year for the Erie Otters to come looking for a fight in Oktoberfest-crazed Kitchener.

Because boy, have these Rangers feasted on the team across the border.

With Monday's 4-3 overtime thriller, make that 11 straight W's in the win-loss column dating back to an eight-game sweep last season of the water-cats.

If any game had the make-up to halt the excessive bleeding, it was surely this one.

Coming off a disheartnening 6-5 loss on Saturday night at home in the Tulio arena, the Otters lacked the intensity the Rangers brought in the first, yet skated to the dressing stalls with a 1-0 advantage.

Credit Toronto Maple Leafs' standout draft pick and Otters' captain Greg McKegg for that. You can also hand some responsibilty to new Rangers overager Jamie Doorbosch.

McKegg, applying the necessary offensive forecheck pressure on an early Rangers power-play, scooped up a how-do-you-do cough up by the former Peterborough Pete, Doornbosch, and flipped it over the shoulder of Mike Morrison.

Doornbosch was shown the door by Petes' General Manager Dave Reid for being a defensive disaster in his own end.

Potent on the power-play he may be, his defensive tendencies haven't seem to have left his repertoire in Kitchener.

Even with the score 3-2 with 20 seconds left in the period, and a late goal by the usual suspect McKegg, the Rangers never panicked over their 10-game gargantuan gold-mine of Ontario Hockey League points that the Otters have morphed into becoming in the eyes of the blueshirts.

Or make that redshirts. Kitchener sported their new third jerseys, donning the crest of a soldier's mug, honouring both the Canadian veterans from both world wars, as well as the popular Remembrance Day jerseys from the very first game of the Memorial Cup tournament held in the same Kitchener Memorial Auditorium in 2008.

Landeskog buried a rebound on an overtime man-advantage to send the Otters back home to once again contemplate what more they can do to beat their division rivals.

Ryan Murphy and Matt Tipoff tallied the other markers for the Rangers while Adam pelech added a bank-in job off Rangers' forward Ben Thomson's stick to go along with McKegg's deuce.

Monday's game also signalled a coming-out party for 2010 first-round draft pick Matia Marcantuoni (pictured).

While draft picks with much less fanfare and hype surrounding them racked up the points out of the starting gate in the O, (see Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk and Belleville's Brendan Gaunce), Marcantuoni sputtered and despite getting his chances early, perpetually came up short when it came to putting the puck behind the keeper.

And while the kid may still only have one goal to his name so far, his play has caught fire, collecting that goal and five assists in his past three games while being promoted to second-line centre accompanying fellow rookie scoring sensation Tobias Rieder and Tipoff with the absence of Carolina's Jeff Skinner.

While the OHL's learning curve is steep, it seems the 16 year-old's hands have caught up with his blazing speed.

On this day, Marcantuoni's drive to the net gave Rieder and the Kitchener Rangers their go-ahead third goal of the match and was named first star for his efforts.

The Rangers can claim to become even more lethal as the next crop of stars in Marcantuoni and Rieder, 16 and 17 respectively, get more and more acclimatized to the league (Rieder's six goals in seven games have helped him claim eighth spot in league scoring).

Meanwhile, the Otters can circle their next date with the Rangers, November 27, on their calendars because something's gotta give.

And as always, the team across the pond eternally hopes they'll find the secret formula sooner, rather than later.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rangers Run and Gun to a 7-5 Victory over Barrie

Throw the tape out coach.
Yes, your Rangers scored seven after being held to a goose egg last week.

Yes, you chased OHL top tender Peter DiSalvo from his crease late in the game.

Yes, you got the powerplay rolling with a 2-6 effort after a quasi-horrendous opening two weekends with the man-up.

But you can be sure Steve Spott will be tossing this one faster than Kobe Bryant tosses a last-second swish.

"We had some players have a disgusting effort tonight," Spott told 570 News after the 7-5 win against the young, but tenacious Barrie Colts.

"There are nights where you can lose in this league and have a good night's sleep after; and you can win and not get a wink."

Spott's Rangers should be without some shut-eye tonight according to the coach's assessment, but it won't be due to the christening of Oktoberfest festivities in the region.

Surrendering five goals surely wasn't in the game plan, especially to the wide-eyed OHL break-in youngsters from Barrie (featuring a surprisingly large contingent of players from the region, including Tanner Pearson, Mark Scheifele and Colin Behenna, who had one, two, and three points respectively in Friday's matchup).

But thank the Rangers propensity to come out like gangbusters in the third period as has been the case in all four of Kitchener's wins this season.

With the way the Rangers come out into the third in each one of the victories, it almost signals a different team, a team that the coaching staff would much rather see sooner than later.

The blueshirts scored five times in the third, including two goals by Jason Akeson (pictured) 18 seconds apart from one another to start the frame.

Ryan Murphy added a wraparound dazzle, Matia Marcantuoni banged home his first in the uniform and Andrew Crescenzi capped off a fine physical game, netting a gimme in the final minutes to seal the win, for the now 4-1 Rangers.

But if Kitchener hopes to contend in any fashion come April, these 7-5 games will have to disappear.

Mike Morrison began the game, and after allowing three goals, was pulled in favour of starter Brandon Maxwell, less in discipline towards a poor game by Morrison, who made some admirable stops, and more to do with re-energizing a nonchalant squad who should have been firing on all cylinders to avenge a dreadful 4-0 loss at the hands of Owen Sound last weekend.

The team will get a chance to rectify their defensive lapses against an Erie squad they've victimized in the past, winning 7-3 in their third game of the season.

Tobias Rieder added two on the night for the Rangers, and Darren Archibald and Behenna produced deuces for the Colts while Pearson added another.

Championship teams find ways to win, and you can't fault the Rangers for overcoming their defensive failures to outgun their opponents.

But what happens when that offensive faucet runs dry?

When that time comes, those five goals against, will look awfully larger than they do in a scratched-out, by the skin of their teeth victory versus a rebuilding group of Colts in the regular season.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Attack Hand Rangers First Loss

There would be no cavalry galloping across the second period intermission to revive the Kitchener Rangers' ailing 3-0 hole entering the final frame, much like it had in the blueshirts' first three games, where the group found 10 goals over the past three third periods.

In fact, the Rangers couldn't even manage one in a 4-0 decision against a sizzling-hot Owen Sound Attack team which has reeled of three straight wins against Midwest division foes Kitchener, London, and Guelph.

Even more impressive is the air-tight defensive game the Attack have employed, surrendering only six goals in four games to start the season.

Rangers head coach Steve Spott and his crew walked into the Harry Lumley Bayshore Arena Saturday, perhaps expecting to replicate a lot of what last year bestowed upon the team, a six game season sweep, and instead was met with an entirely renewed and entirely revamped Attack squad that looked like a team possessed and hungry for revenge, signalling a role reversal of a year ago.

First round NHL pick Joey Hishon led the way, having a hand in three of the four markers by the Bayshore boys, adding a goal and two assists to dispell the notions of any lingering effects of injuries sustained earlier in the Colorado Avalanche training camp, as well as last year that kept the centreman to just 36 games with his mates.

Scott Stajcer (pictured) recorded his first shutout of the season, stopping 36 shots, and his boyhood Cambridge-based opposite at the other end of the ice, Brandon Maxwell, managed to halt 41 of 46.

The last goal to beat him on this night was an ugly one; as Maxwell went to bat the puck to the corner, the black disc had ideas of its own and deflected off the keeper's poking stick and into the cage.

The Rangers couldn't get their legs under them all night, as the crew went 0-5 on the power-play, and the Attack were much more fruitful in their man-advantage attempts, converting two of five.

A very unexpected and largely unassuming foe to start the campaign, if the Attack can keep their extraordinary defensive pace up, and their relentless puck-pursuing offence going throughout the duration of a full season, the Rangers just may have one more pesky Midwest-division rival on their plate in their hopes for a conference title.

Robby Mignardi, Garrett Wilson and Jesse Blacker contributed goals for Owen Sound, all three a part of the forgettable Bayshore season just one year ago.

It's got to make Rangers fans think, if a culture change is truly possible and sustainable in Owen Sound this year, the high-flying Kitchener team from one year ago, sans defensive powers John Moore, Dan Kelly, ex-Attack member Chris Mackinnon and perhaps Jeff Skinner and Jeremy Morin is also starting to look very different from their current selves.

The question quickly becomes, which team can sustain their impressive starts and elevate their season to greater heights, and command that coveted Western Conference title that the Rangers came so close to claiming one seemingly short year ago?

The Attack have put forth their nomination, and so far, the bid is standing up.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rangers Continue Dominance over Erie with 7-3 Beating

It was familiar territory for Rangers fans.

The Kitchener Rangers were continuing their mastery over divisonal rivals Erie, with their 9th straight win against the Otters; a 7-3 thrasing, continuing last year's Otter slaughter of an eight-game season sweep of 2009-2010.

With one exception... free delicious winter smoothies?

With all the cheering and jeering that the Aud's spectators are known to dish to Rangers and visitors alike each Friday, a very new, and very different sound erupted from the stands when public address announcer Dave Schneider mentioned a Wendy's promotion that seemed to entice and delight the Rangers' faithful with unexpected glee.

Every stub-carrying attendee who mentions that the Rangers netted five against the Otters to Wendy's workers today receive a free small frosty.

Folks from Kitchener sure like their treats, don't they? Especially in the current economic climate, when they're free.

Take note Mr. Carl Zehr, the key to Kitchener's vote this coming election is in their stomachs.

It was fitting then, that the Otters would come to town when the Kitchener crowd receives a very rare, but nevertheless gratifying gratuity.

Kitchener and Erie stand in stark contrast in terms of marketing the on-ice product.

Erie can't seem to give their tickets away in a tough hockey market south of the border, let alone bait their fans with free provisions attached to their attendance.

Kitchener on the other hand has no trouble warming seats with bodies, who, judging by their audible reaction to Schneider's good tidings, apparently like to chill down once in awhile, even as October welcomed the area with a cool breeze Friday.

But even with the prospect of chilly snacks, the Rangers' following got their Friday-night filling of icy goodness in what has seemed to define the Rangers in the still-young season- a third period blitz.

Ryan Murphy (pictured), Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Tipoff all capitalized in the Rangers' new favourite frame to turn a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes into a 7-3 show-off.

Landeskog recorded two on the night, and Tipoff took a Ryan Murphy blueline blast off the chops- and converted the puck behind Otters keeper Chris Festarini via his martyred mug to cap off the seven goal outburst.

It was a night for the veterans to break out, as Jason Akeson, Andrew Crescenzi, and Michael Cattenaci all converted their firsts of the campaign.

Cattenaci and Akeson was akin to a chocolate and vanilla frosty, never failing to find each other last night, as each was threading no-look passes to the other all night long, with Akeson potting a slam-dunk back door pass from the Cat, and Catenacci wheeling for a highlight-reel, Matt Halischuk-esque, breakaway, backhand blitz in the first to put the Rangers ahead by two in the first.

David Shields, Anthony Luciani and Mitch Gaulton replied for the Otters, who drop to 1-3 on the year.

Don't look now, but the Kitchener crew have notched 18 goals in just their first three games.

That leads the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference, tied with Sault Ste. Marie, who have played one more game than the Rangers.

The blueshirts are quickly proving that life without ex-snipers Jeremy Morin and Jeff Skinner isn't all doom and gloom that prognosticators had expected.

Tipoff, Landeskog, and Murphy are the emerging faces of the 2010-2011 season, and the return of either Morin and Skinner is quickly looking like the icing on an already structurally strong cake.

The Rangers will look to make it four straight to start the season when they face the red-hot Owen Sound Attack at the Bayshore Arena tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Four-Goal Third Period Lifts Rangers Past Storm

Two years ago, at the outset of the post-Memorial Cup-run rebuild, fans were advised to stay in their seats until the last ticks of the clock had run their course.

The Kitchener Rangers were young, but they had a flare for the dramatics, usually scoring in the last possible moments on unsuspecting opponents who thought they had their foot firmly on the throats of the blueshirt crew.

Flash forward to the present, specifically Sunday's 6-4 victory against arch-rival Guelph at the Sleeman Centre in front of 3,394, and you'll find a similar pattern emerging.

But these older and grizzled veterans have learned. They're starting to find the net earlier.


Just call them the third period throttle boys.

When those last 20 minutes are upon the boys in blue, they turn it up a notch.

A third-period four goal outburst on Sunday followed a third-period triple strike-delight versus Saginaw on Friday.

It seems when it matters most, the Rangers wake up just in time.

It didn't seem to matter that the Rangers were able to take a nap in the second frame, and Guelph's top trio of Peter Holland, Michael Latta and Taylor Beck combined for five points and helped pot three against starting goalkeeper Mike Morrison and the Rangers.

Beck, Latta, Holland and Cody McNaughton had the Storm up 4-2 after two.

But they were unable to keep pace with the Rangers' new favourite tradition featuring the third period feeding frenzy.

The Storm didn't help their cause by taking 10 minor infractions, with three in the Rangers' favourite frame.

Ryan Murphy arrived to his sophomore season by scoring twice in the final minutes, Matt Tipoff (pictured) added another and Tobias Rieder started it all off 3:24 into the final frame to together record four unanswered goals and leave the second-period-dominant Storm with some gaping jaws.

It's a dangerous game the Rangers are playing.

Teams in the Ontario Hockey League are not known for napping during games and still emerging with the W.

But the Rangers have managed to do it twice to open the campaign.

Coach Steve Spott will be looking for a complete 60-minute effort during practice this week if he wants the wins to rack up.

The afternoon affair lived up to its rivalry-renewed billing.

The Storm showed flashes of why they're considered to be a contender.

Their top line of Holland, Latta, and Beck can devastate opponents and may even be the best line in the league when each are hot.

But it was the Rangers' depth that wore down the star-heavy Storm.

Tipoff recorded two goals and a fight, Jamie Doornbosch notched his first as a Ranger, Murphy's two-goal outburst and Rieder's second goal in two games proved that the team down Highway 7 is more than just absentee-NHL busy stars; Jeremy Morin and Jeff Skinner.

Kitchener and Guelph will have many more chances to get re-acquanited, seven to be exact as the young season wears on.

Until then, the Rangers will need to devise a plan to stop the Storm's top three guns, as well as halt that annoying habit of sleeping on the job.

That third period throttle thing though... Spott may want to keep that new pattern intact.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rangers Open Season with 5-2 Victory over Spirit

The monkies were flying tonight.

Sadly, the hats weren't.

Shedding the proverbial primate on season opening night for the Kitchener Rangers included oversized forward Tyler Randell and incoming German whiz, Tobias Rieder.

Perhaps even Gabriel Landeskog could say he threw the monkey off his back with a hat trick performance in a 5-2 Rangers victory over the Saginaw Spirit in front of 6, 397 fans who showed up for the opening night festivities.

Randell, who knows he must have a splendid campaign to offset a very forgettable season last year in which he battled through a nagging back injury (the monkey was too heavy?) needs to produce.

The Boston Bruins expect it. That contract won't re-sign itself.

Consider that first goal out of the way. It couldn't have been timelier for his teammates either- the 19 year-old scored what turned out to be the game's deciding marker with just 11 minutes left in the contest, and Randell and his teammates never looked back from there.

Perhaps inspired by his fellow forward's simian-ridding tendencies, Rieder who was brought in to provide goal-scoring gumption, proved he too can clear his largest initial hurdle in the Ontario Hockey League, and scored his first goal in North America with 2:50 left to seal the deal for the blueshirts.

Rieder, who was welcomed to the league early on in the game by a crushing check as he made his way around the net to collect the puck, learned very early on, that protecting the body is of paramount importance in the O.

The German wobbled his way to the bench, and woke up in a hurry, finishing the night with a goal and two assists.

Fellow import Swede, and donning the 'A' for the first time, signalling his assistant captain duties, Landeskog, meanwhile had himself a night to remember.

If there were any doubters that the Swedish sophomore sensation couldn't live up to his billing as a bona fide top line scorer, "Gabe" quelled those nay-sayers with a hat trick despite top linemates Jeff Skinner and Jeremy Morin away, reporting for their NHL teams.

Sadly, the only headgear that was tossed in tribute to the trick was a lone promotional Rangers plastic helmet given to the fans during a recent playoff run.

While that line did dominate in the pre-season, Landeskog proved he could put up more than respectable numbers without his superstar sniper brethren, thank you very much.

If he wasn't already coach Steve Spott's choice to succeed ex-Ranger Dan Kelly as captain, his case just became that much stronger to be the Rangers' first European captain in its 48-year history.

The Rangers will need him to continue his hot start. They will need all the offensive help they can find to replace the 97-goal gap that Skinner and Morin may leave if they stick in the big show.

While the game was tied for most of 50 minutes, the last 10 proved favourable, as the boys in blue shed their opening night jitters and peppered former Rangers goalie Mavric Parks with 45 shots, with three beating him in the last 11 minutes.

Parks was sharp, but couldn't match Kitchener's just-returned netminder of their own, Brandon Maxwell.

Maxwell's 35 saves on 37 shots was a far cry from the 6-5 wild opening day win, one year ago in a see-saw affair to the Kingston Frontenacs. In that game, whoever shot last, won.

Josh Shalla and Michael Sgarbossa were the only Spirit to beat Maxx on this night.

The Rangers now head to Guelph on Sunday for a divisional rival date with the Storm at 2:00.

Now that the nerves and monkeys are out of the way, the Rangers are hoping that while they may not want to have to use them, the same late game heroics prevail throughout the course of the long and arduous 68-game grind to the show.

Sixty-seven left, boys.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

OHL 2010-2011 Season Preview

So on the eve of yet another yearly installment in the O, I've decided to submit the 20 teams to a measuring tape of sorts and try and predict what will happen in the oft-unpredictable junior league (which should be made even more difficult due to the fact that the league is more wide open and subject to even greater parity than in recent years).

This is how I see the teams stacking up after 68 contests in the regular season.

Eastern Conference

1) Mississauga Majors - It's hard not to place the Memorial Cup hosts at the top of the order to start things off. Most prognosticators have the M's in first not only in the east but in the OHL overall. Although facing some uncertainty in goal with 1992-born JP Anderson recently signing a pro contract with the San Jose Sharks, the Majors are still undeniably deep in talent with the recent acquisition of overage keeper Anthony Peters. Peters is largely untested in big game situations, but has performed well during the duration of past regular seasons, and hey, recent Mem-Cup winning tender Philip Grubauer had virtually no big game experience prior to landing in Windsor either. Casey Cizikas, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Justin Shugg lead the forwards and recent arrival Marc Cantin from the Spits will lead a deep defensive group.

Campbell's Conclusion: The cream of the crop in the East, and probably the entire league.

2) Ottawa 67's - The East division is usually wide open in terms and it usually boils down to who can step up in the last 10 games or so and win the final stretch drive. The 67's have usually excelled in finishing the season strong and heading into the show with momentum, momentum, and more momentum. Heck, Ottawa could probably even challenge Missy for conference supremacy. Ottawa contains arguably one of the best offensive corps in the league. Boasting two very good centremen in Cody Lindsay and Ryan Martindale, the 67's offensive supporting cast features the likes of Jon Carnevale, Thomas Nesbitt, Shane Prince, and of course, Ottawa's prized talent, Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli could very well follow a break-out season last year with career numbers this year, and as an 18 year-old, will be expected to do so. Chris Perugini provides a steadying veteran presence between the pipes.

Campbell's Conclusion: A dangerous and often explosive team, they'll need to work on consistency. If they have it, watch out.

3) Belleville Bulls - Despite trading away speedster Alex Aleardi to Plymouth, Belleville still boasts an impressive young group of core players for what looks to be a very promising next couple of years. Andy Bathgate, if he can remain healthy, will try to finally establish himself as a solid leader and live up to lofty expectations thrust upon him by coaching staff. Luke Judson, and Austen Brassard are ready for prime-time roles and (though unlikely), standout dynamic forward Richard Panik could possibly return to help the Bull-run. Belleville also possesses possibly the best young keeper in the game in Tyson Teichmann as well. When he's on, he's extremely hard to beat.

Campbell's Conclusion: A lot of good things need to come together for the Bulls to reach this lofty position, but I'm expecting this is the year, most, if not all, questionable factors find their comfort zone (especially a motivated and talented Teichmann).

4) Oshawa Generals - The Hockey News had the Generals rated above the Kitchener Rangers, and while I don't think they're that exceptional, they are very potent (or, like the Bulls, can be). If Calvin de Haan returns from Islanders camp, he will headline an impressive crop of defensemen that features ex-Knight Scott Valentine. Valentine is poised (and should be wanting) a career year. It's now or never for the John Tavares trade part of two years ago. Michael Zador should improve upon last year's numbers as the unproven number 1 in net in the 'Shwa. Coming off a career year, Christian Thomas should put up similar or higher numbers once again and young 17 year-old hotshot Boone Jenner should only improve.

Campbell's Conclusion: A solid team that provides no exceptional aspects to its game, but should be good enough in the goalkeeping, D, and offense areas to win more game than they lose.

5) Niagara IceDogs - The arrival of disgruntled ex-Attack member Steven Shipley should be the spark plug that elevates the Dogs from pretenders to true competitors. Mark Visentin, the Phoenix Coyotes' first round draft pick is capable of stealing a few games, and may not have to with the emergence of a solid group of forwards. Andrew Fritsch, Mitchell Theoret, and top prospect Ryan Strome join Andrew Agozzino in a very entertaining offensive cast. Another top prospect, second-year Dougie Hamilton should fine-tune his game enough this season to emerge as a true top-2 defensive force in the league next year. The coaching duties of Marty Williamson may also be more well-suited to a younger team than one stacked with all-stars like in Barrie last year.

Campbell's Conclusion: Goaltending has the potential to steal some games, maybe even a series, with a group of forwards who can excel at scoring by committee. A top three of Agozzino, Shipley, and Strome will be fun to watch.

6) Kingston Frontenacs - Always the team with the parts to make the machine run, but constantly breaking down year after year seems to be the mantra of the Fronts. They can fall as easily as 9th in the conference and raise as high as No. 2, that's how wild this team can be. When on their game, they can be deadly. Towering defensive beasts anchoring the blueline in Taylor Doherty and Erik Gudbranson is a formidable duo (although it's debatable whether Gudbranson will come back after going 3rd overall to the Panthers), this team may not have too much trouble keeping pucks out of the net with Doherty and Philip Grubauer minding the post. Although it's questionable how motivated the German goalie will be after playing so much and winning it all last year with Windsor. Kingston also boasts a luxurious club of firepower up front with Ethan Werek, Nathan Moon, Michael Fine, Colt Kennedy, and 17 year-old wunderkind Alan Quine. If no attitude issues arise like in past years and coach Doug Gilmour can work with what he has successfully, this team will be higher than 6.

Campbell's Conclusion: A wild card, but a sixth place finish is reasonable based on the underachieving that seems to perpetuate the old city. The culture needs to change.

7) Brampton Battalion - Some aren't giving this team's a snowball's chance in hell, but they've surprised before, especially when they're young. Jacob Riley has appeared to be a more than capable replacement to the graduation of Patrick Killeen last year, and as a 17 year-old, his potential is through the ceiling. Sean Jones and Scott Tanski will be the overage cast leading this pup squad who went through growing pains last year. Philip Lane, Cameron Wind, Maple Leafs' pick Sam Carrick, and top youngster Barclay Goodrow can provide a solid scoring by committee feel to the usually defensively responsible team.

Campbell's Conclusion: A team that is very beatable, but may just turn some heads down the road.

8) Peterborough Petes - The unexpected departures of overagers Jamie Doornbosch and hulking goalkeeper Jason Missiaen will no doubt raise more questions than answers to commence the season in Peterborough. Originally slated to be a reasonable contender in the East, the Petes' main cast is daunting. Three young and very talented forwards, Austin Watson, Ryan Spooner, and potential top-5 NHL 2011 pick and OHL rookie of the year, Matt Puempel will have no problem establishing an identity for this team. However, the lack of a supporting presence is troubling. Unless many players can step up and have big years, the Petes have gone from potential heavy-hitters to potential floaters with a few bright spots. Kalle Ekelund is an upgrade on the blueline.

Campbell's Conclusion: Next year, folks.

9) Barrie Colts - Okay Colts fans, time for your Marty Williamson trades to catch up with you. This year will be painful. It will not go down the gullet smoothly. The good thing is, you have assets to sell. If blueline overager Dalton Prout is returned, you can bet there will be heavy interest from a number of teams. time to speed up this revamp a little by trading the big guy. If Kyle Clifford and Alex Burmistrov come back to town, those are key trade bait dangles as well. Barrie has options with these three players, along with overage netminder Peter DiSalvo. He would be an attractive commodity as a deadline acquisition deal for a team looking to squeak into the Mem Cup with Missy as either a top tender or a safe backup presence. Taylor Carnevale and Darren Archibald should be bright spots on an otherwise incredibly young team.

Campbell's Conclusion: Similar to the 2008-2009 Rangers, the Colts can turn the ship around in a hurry, depending on the assets they get back.

10) Sudbury Wolves - Unfortunately, the Wolves have given me no reason to place them anywhere higher. Sure, John McFarland and Eric O'Dell may have good years as team offensive catalysts, and Ben Chiarot can provide a steadying influence on the blueline, but otherwise, with the exception of Marcus Foligno, and Justin Sefton, this team doesn't seem to be heading anywhere substantial. Maybe new coaching tactics/personnel can jumpstart the group.

Campbell's Conclusion: Amass a good group of youngsters and start anew, nickel-city.

Western Conference

1) Kitchener Rangers - The Rangers will be good, but just how good remains to be seen. If they don't get either Morin or Skinner back, they are losing 97 goals that they'll be hard-pressed to replace. If they get one back (I'm thinking Skinner returns, but only Skinner), they will still be very good. Jerry D'Amigo is still a possibility to arrive mid-season a la Dale Mitchell, but Rangers fans shouldn't hold their breath. The blueshirts still possess a very good group of forwards in top-5 2011 NHL pick Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Tipoff, Michael Catenacci, Jason Akeson, Tobias Rieder and Matia Marcantuoni. The addition of Cody Sol and Julian Melchiori is a significant upgrade to the blueline and Don Cherrey's favourite waterbug, Ryan Murphy is always a looming offensive threat. The Rangers may also have one of the league's best goaltending tandems in Brandon Maxwell and Mike Morrison. Teams who have played against Morrison remember him. He could be a starter on another club.

Campbell's Conclusion: Potential regular season league-winners. How scary they are is still up in the air.

2) Windsor Spitfires - Two straight Memorial Cups, and a division title for a third straight year is not only possible, but probable. Insane. The Spits' biggest achievement is getting all-world goalkeeper Jack Campbell to report. He could still stick in the AHL, but will most likely land along the 49th parallel in the City of Roses. When he's on his game, he can beat anybody. Teams shouldn't look forward to meeting Windsor in the playoffs. Add in imposing forward Zack Kassian, who, if he's on his best behaviour can perform admirably, and other worldly talents Ryan Ellis and Cam Fowler, and the Spits have terrific assets to either hang onto or trade for top young talent (although Ellis is almost certainly already going to Mississauga to complete the Nick Ebert deal if he's returned). They have also added curious talent from overseas in Tom Kuhnackl and Alexander Khoklachev up front.

Campbell's Conclusion: Good, very good, but not world beaters once again.

3) Guelph Storm - At around the same time Kitchener was in the prepatory stages for a 2011 run, a familiar team just down the road was doing the exact same thing. They took different paths to get there, but if everything in the Royal City pans out, this should be a Rangers-Storm rivalry year for the ages. Overagers Matt Sisca and Tyler Carroll are just the secondary mentions in an incredible pool of 19 year-olds featuring Michael Latta, Taylor Beck, Peter Holland, and Brandon Foote. When all are playing like they should be, Guelph is extremely tough to handle. Francis Menard, Cody McNaughton and Carter Sandlak are also honourable mentions on this team. If coach Jason Brooks can't do anything with this line-up, he needs to be shown the door ASAP.

Campbell's Conclusion: A true contender when they want to be. Do they want to take the bull by the horns in an OHL Mem-Cup year? Time will tell...

4) London Knights - A top-4 Western Conference group wouldn't be complete without the Hunter Bros. show down the 401. There are many reasons why London can repeat as a strong team again this year and give Kitchener fits. A very strong defence in the Donnay brothers, outstanding sophomore Scott Harrington, Michael D'Orazio and newly-acquired Jarred Tinordi headline a formidable group on the blueline. There is somewhat of a question mark in goal as there always seem to be with the boys in green, but Igor Bobkov and Michael Houser seem to have the necessary tools in the toolbox to put together a decent season between them. Up front, Jared Knight and Daniel Erlich, and possibly Phil Varone (if he returns) can lead a solid cast of forwards.

Campbell's Conclusion: Never count out the Knights, they have the tangibles to put something together this year.

5) Erie Otters - Could this finally be the year the Otters make the playoffs... AND move beyond the first round? I believe they can. Despite Andrew Yogan's injury, the Otters still boast an impressive roster of forwards including Greg McKegg, Mike Cazzola, and 1993-born David Broll. Mitch Gaulton leads the D, and Ramis Sadikov is capable (with 17 year-old Chris Festarini) to do a good job managing duties between the posts.

Campbell's Conclusion: Could finally do some damage where it hurts, in the playoffs (if the X-factor goaltenders do a decent job).

6) Saginaw Spirit - The Spirit went through a learning experience versus the Rangers last season, and came out better for it. Josh Shalla, who pulled the invisibility cloak over him in the playoffs should be challenged to do more after a strong regular season campaign. Vincent Trocheck, Jordan Szwarz, and Ivan Telegin are all more than capable of handling top line minutes and duties and performing admirably in them. The big showstopper however, is the addition of Mavric Parks. Parks' performance should be great this year as he battles for a pro contract. He is certainly good enough to merit one.

Campbell's Conclusion: Not a team I would want to run into in the playoffs. Parks has the ability to steal series, and Saggy's offensive firepower shouldn't be underrated.

7) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Another year older and another year wiser for the young Hounds, but still a ways to go before they can lay claim to contender status. Sophomore sensations Daniel Catenacci and Nick Cousins should have breakout seasons or very good ones in the least. If Bryce O'Hagan can resurrect his top form from seasons' past, he can be one of the O's best in the net. Brett Thompson, Brandon Archibald and Brock Beukeboom will all gain one more year of invaluable experience before what should be a big season in 2012.

Campbell's Conclusion: If the world doesn't end in 2012, it should be the year of the Hound.

8) Owen Sound Attack - Squeaking into post season contention is the Bay Shore brethren. Perpetually in a tough division, the Attack have never really risen to the challenge of beating the Midwest heavyweights (minus the 2006 playoffs versus an extremely tough team in the McGrath-Kindl-led Rangers when Bobby Ryan and Bobby Sanguinetti helped upset the blueshirts in the first round). The departure of Shipley hurts, and fans in the Sound are getting frustrated at the losing culture. Mark Reeds should be on a very short leash if management knows what's good for the team. NHL first-rounder Joey Hishon (after returning from yet another injury) should lead the Attack back to the dance with a respectable supporting cast of Jesse Blacker and Bobby Mignardi and a solid goaltending tandem in Jordan Binnington and Scott Stajcer.

Campbell's Conclusion: If no results are found, look for a house cleaning at the Harry Lumley Bayshore arena sometime VERY soon.

9) Plymouth Whalers - Adding Alex Aleardi was a good start to recoup the losses of Tyler Seguin, but that was all that trade was. A start. While the Whalers boast a decent crop of players, none seem to challenge the level coach Mike Vellucci had in recent years. Unless more deals are swung, the likes of Robbie Czarnik, Jamie Devane, James Livingston, Garrett Meurs, Beau Shmitz and Aleardi alone aren't likely good enough to foster a playoff berth. Scott Wedgewood could steal a few down the stretch (he's shown brilliant flashes) but ex-keeper Matt Hackett's skates are extremely large to fill.

Campbell's Conclusion: A rare off-year for the mighty whale.

10) Sarnia Sting - Basement dwellers last season, and prospects aren't looking much better this year either. Although, this team has a VERY high ceiling and a very good foundation to work with. Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk are the future and their raw talent still leaves other teams' salivating. But the veteran presence of Joe Rogalski, Ben O'Quinn, Kale Kerbashian and John Cullen will not be enough to propel this team to the show this year.

Campbell's Conclusion: In a few years, this team has the potential to be scary-good. Until then, many growing pains are likely to be had.

Hope this preview provided an insightful guide for the casual and harder OHL observer, and let the best and most entertaining league of hockey in the world start already!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Morrison Shines in Final Tune-up of Pre-season

Maxwell who?

For 60 solid minutes Friday night, Kitchener Rangers netminder Mike Morrison had the Rangers faithful forget about Colorado Avalanche property and last year's playoff hero, Brandon Maxwell, who is away at NHL camp duty.

Morrison made 37 saves in a steady and reliable effort in a 4-2 decision over the Niagara Icedogs in the final pre-season game before the going gets tougher next Friday night in the season opener versus the Saginaw Spirit.

The Hamilton native, who on many occasions got a rousing show of applause by the appreciative Auditorium audience, kept his opponents guessing, without success, as to why they just couldn't find a chink in the supposed back-up goaltender's armour.

Oh sure, Matt Baldassara put one home between the big goalie's legs on a 2-on-1 rush in the second, and Andrew Fritsch potted one into an empty net with mere minutes remaining, while being left all alone in front of Morrison.

But by the time Fritsch's tally came around, the damage had been done.

The Rangers struck four times after the opening tally by the Dogs.

Just seconds after Baldassarra's strike, Rangers forward Eric Ming lost his balance in front of the Icedogs' net, but was able to get a shot away while plummeting backwards to the ice. The shot sailed over goaltender John Chartrand's right shoulder, knotting the game at ones.

Midway through the second, Ben Thomson welcomed the fresh-faced Icedogs keeper, Michael Gallardi who replaced Chrartrand, with another spin-o-rama shot that gave the Rangers the lead they would eventually never surrender.

Gabriel Landeskog and Zach Lorentz scored singles to put the blueshirts up for good at 4-1.

Morrison matched Chartrand in a scoreless first period, and even surrendered the game's first goal, but outlasted Chartrand and Gallardi, and outwitted numerous Icedogs who cut loose their chains, but were denied multiple breakaway attempts by the 17 year-old (more breakaways than Rangers coach Steve Spott would have liked to allocate his Rangers defensive corps for one game).

If Spott and co. had any lingering or creeping doubts that Mike Morrison wasn't the man for the job in a Memorial Cup-year backup role, the keeper kicked that thought to doggy heaven with his performance.

Just ask Andrew Shaw, whose wrister, which was labelled for just underneath the crossbar, was caught by a screened Morrison in the third stanza.

Shaw looked skyward and offered an expletive to the rafters.

That's what made Morrison stand out.

He could give it to you like Montreal keeper Carey Price, square to the shooter and positionally sound to make his job look easy, or he could flash some leather and go Hollywood, a la Martin Brodeur.

Morrison's steady play throughout last season and this year's strong pre-season has most likely given Spott a lot of reassuring sleep-filled nights and a lot to think about when it comes to his crease tandem.

Who knows, he may even steal some starts from that Maxwell guy along the way.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Scrappy Affair with Icedogs Results in Tie

John Chartrand saw his opportunity and took it.

The Niagara Icedogs keeper bolted his doghouse crease for the bench as he saw the linesman's arm shoot up. The right arm.

His team was going on the power-play. Or so he thought.

What Chartrand didn't see was the ol' switcheroo that the striped official decided to pull after the keeper booked it across the ice in a 3-3 draw between the Kitchener Rangers and the Icedogs Saturday night.

As fast as the arm went up, it went right back down again and the opposite arm was elevated in place of its partner just seconds before, signalling a high-stick infraction, a very different call, with very different implications.

But all Chartrand saw was the righty.

And as Gabriel Landeskog flew down the ice and saw a goalie-less net staring at him in the face, the Rangers winger must have thought the generous dogs were throwing him a bone in pre-season hijinx.

But alas for the big Swede, the whistle blew and his empty-netter dreams were dashed as soon as they had materialized.

As soon as the mix-up was clarified and the tender realized his gaffe, his doggy brethren were able to have a good chuckle at their mate's misfortune.

The boys in blue at the opposite end of the bench weren't so pleased.

Landeskog would sink one past Chartrand by the time the evening was over however, as he flipped a tic-tac-toe pass from Michael Cattenaci above Chartrand's right shoulder to mark what would be the Rangers' only lead of the night at 3-2.

Chartrand would probably have taken riding the pine over giving up the tying 2-2 marker that came earlier by Ben Thomson, who stole the puck from a defender on the penalty kill and ripped off a shorthanded tally 10-12 feet away that surprised and eluded the big keeper earlier in the frame.

Thomson had an adventurous outing that saw the large sophomore record a goal, an assist, and an unexpected flight through the air after Dogs' defenceman Matt Petgrave leaned into a hipcheck that sent Thomson sprawling into the air, perhaps retribution for Thomson's earlier Pitbull-ish check that sent him to the doghouse for interference, and sent Thomson's number 15 into the memory banks of Petgrave.

Despite the two teams not seeing each other often (they only clash twice in the regular season), the game had a surprisingly physical flair to it, with many players having a bone to pick with their opponents.

Both Matt Braun and Chad Lowry engaged in separate scraps that sent both hitting the showers early for the mandatory pre-season fighting game misconduct versus two of Niagara's naughty dogs.

The sentiments may just be echoing the bitterness between head coaches Steve Spott and Niagara's Marty Williamson who publicly bickered over a he-said-he-said trade that went south for the Rangers when ex-goalie Mavric Parks was sent to Williamson's Barrie Colts.

Don't look for Spott to be trading with the Icedogs anytime soon.

Matt Tipoff continued his strong pre-season with a tip-in goal from a backhanded pass from Thomson in the first.

Johnson Andrews, Andrew Fritsch and Mitchell Theoret rounded out the scoring for Niagara.

The Rangers will finish the pre-season with a rematch with the Icedogs on Friday and will open the season on Friday the 24th versus the Saginaw Spirit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Will Ye' No Come Back Again?

Ah, the beginning of the OHL regular season. That time of year when each club should be getting a good grip around this year's crop of returning players, new recruits, and teeth-cutting rookies.

A time to really evaluate just where the group stands in comparison to the close combatants in their division and maybe sneak a peek at their cross-conference foes' records to see who else came out of the gate flying.

An opportunity for the team to gel and mould into the defining shape it will take by the time the trade deadline rolls around come January.

This should only take, what... a couple weeks, max, right?

Think again.

Early season hype, speculation and months of hockey withdrawal all contribute to frustration, questions, anxiety, and hopeful (perhaps sometimes wishful) thinking when the calendar flips to those early days of fall.

But unlike fans of the NHL, whose general managers, coaches, and owners can put the final stamp of approval of where a player in their system gets to lace them up, fans in the O encounter a plethora of variables that will affect where their favourite skaters land once all the dominoes are felled.

National Hockey League training camps, world junior tournament preparation training, and late-notice call-ups to the big leagues all disrupt the regularly-scheduled programming of life in the CHL.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the first 2-3 weeks of the schedule, typically late September, and early-mid October.

Why? Well because the NHL is doing the exact same thing at the exact same time, teams in the O are doing them. Evaluating new talent and deciding the best place for these players to play typically takes weeks and more than often sends the resulting awaiting minor teams' coaches into a hair-pulling frenzy, having their team wait in "how-good-will-we-be" limbo.

And this is exactly the reason why it's so darned hard to predict and prognosticate just where the heck teams in the OHL will finish the crossing line when all is said and done. And for the sake of 2010-2011, who gets the two tickets to the Memorial Cup in Mississauga in May (the Majors have already locked up one by hosting).

The 2007-2008 London Knights were victims of their own success when both of their star forwards, Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner, drafted first and sixth respectively, showcased their stuff to garner an immediate full season in the NHL. That meant bye-bye London.

The 2009-2010 Windsor Spitfires had their top forwards from a year ago practically fall back into their lap when Scott Timmins, Dale Mitchell, Kenny Ryan, Adam Henrique, and Greg Nemisz were sent to the salivating Spits during their second Mem-Cup winning season.

The question now becomes, will the 2010-2011 Kitchener Rangers become the 2007 Knights or the 2009 Spits? Or will they fall in the middle and receive about half the return when their investments hit the NHL ice this week.

Best-case scenario: everyone comes back, one jolly juggernaut, ready to capture that Memorial Cup that eluded them so bitterly in 2008, plus one; Jerry D'Amigo who may join the blueshirts mid-season depending on his performance in the pro ranks.

The worst-case scenario may have fans, and even coach Steve Spott re-evaluating his gun-ho plans for the season, and the unstoppable train that looked like the 2010-11 version of the Rangers would become at best, a meek Pontiac Sunfire; apprehensive about competing with the big boys, despite looking like one.

The following is a list of Rangers making the trek to NHL camps abroad, the impact they're expected to have, and their chances of returning.

1) Jason Akeson #19, Anaheim - One of three expected overagers to be playing on the team, Akeson is a free agent invite to the Anaheim Ducks' rookie camp. He'll be looking to impress the Ducks' brass with his powerful shot and strong skating ability despite his diminuitive stature at 5'10. The camp runs from Sept. 12-16 and takes place in Penticton, BC. Akeson has not signed a pro contract with the Ducks, and is still exclusive Rangers property. He should be back in time for the season opener on Sept. 24.
Chance of Returning: 95%

2) Andrew Crescenzi #20, Toronto - Another free agent invite, this time by the Leafs, the Rangers' fourth-line centre will get plenty of face time with both former Ranger Nazem Kadri and current public enemy No. 1; Michael Liambas. Liambas of course drilled Ranger Ben Fanelli head first into the boards last year. Crescenzi is expected to use his long stride and reach to his advantage during camp and will try to impress enough for a future contract with Toronto (they have a habit of signing free agents and skipping the significance of the draft). Crescenzi should be back by the home opener since the camp runs Sept. 11-14.
Chance of Returning: 100%

3) Jerry D'Amigo, Toronto - Depending on where Brian Burke sees this guy's ability as of now, the American sniper will most likely see AHL duty this year. The only way this guy will end up in Kitchener is if he bombs out of the minor pros, similar to Dale Mitchell last year. It's not out of the realm of possibility, but still unlikely.
Chance of Reporting: 20%

4) Brandon Maxwell #30, Colorado - Playoff-hardened and seasoned by a year, Maxwell has no excuses not to shine this year for Kitchener. Will he shine for Colorado? The Avalanche's rookie camp runs Sept. 12-20, so theoretically he should be back by the home opener. However, Maxx's pedigree and ability to occasionally shine in big moments could have him invited to the main camp. If that happens, Maxwell could either end up in the NHL as a backup (extremely unlikely) or in the AHL since he was drafted out of the USNTDP. In all likelihood, look for Maxx to be back with the team in late September, perhaps after the opener.
Chance of Returning: 80%

5) Jeremy Morin #61, Chicago - Ah yes, the Jeremy Morin saga. In all honesty I have about as much a chance as knowing where this guy ends up as Spott does at the moment, but here's my 2 cents. The Blackhawks' placement of this guy will come down from an NHL ruling stating where he is eligible to play. The Hawks' depth is solid up front, but Morin is definitely ready to take his spot in the AHL (despite some die-hard Rangers fans telling themselves his speed and skating isn't good enough-get over yourselves, it's good enough). If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say we've seen the last of ol' snipe 61 unfortunately.
Chance of Returning: 10%

6) Tyler Randell #11, Boston - An injury-plagued season for the big guy kept him from being a factor last year, but look for that to change as an (assumedly) motivated Randell should have even more incentive to do well this year to keep his contract with the Bruins going. I guarantee they won't re-sign if he keeps up his play from last year. A bit of a wild-card, Randell could be sent back immediately after rookie camp which lasts Sept. 12-16, or could stay awhile into the main camp, as he unexpectedly did last year. Look for him to be back in early October. If he plays like Milan Lucic in camp, then expect him to stay longer than usual. I'd still place my bets on seeing him in Rangers rags this year however.
Chance of Returning: 90%

7) Jeff Skinner #53, Carolina - Skinner has a more realistic shot at being returned to the Rangers than Morin does, however, Carolina Hurricanes' GM, Jim Rutherford's approach to Skinner's chances at making the big club should worry some. He's stated Skinner will have every opportunity to make the top 6 (if he's not there, he'll be sent back), and the most telling aspect to me is that Rutherford has said "if he plays the way we think he can play, he'll stay with us". Rangers fans know what Skinner is capable of and his strong lower body strength and scoring ability could be enough to make himself stick in the big show. If he's back, it won't be until mid-October.
Chance of Returning: 50%

8) Cody Sol #41, Atlanta - The new face of the D, Sol will join ex-teammate Ivan Telegin at Thrashers' rookie camp Sept. 13-16. Sol could very well earn himself an invite to the main camp as well, as the Defence at the camp could leave something to be desired. Sol may stay a bit longer, but he should be back by at least late September barring any miracles.
Chance of Returning: 90%

Hopefully your uneasiness has been lifted, or at least made more clear by this guide. Now, by no means am I stating these percentages to be facts, simply educated hypotheses on where these guys will end up once all the powers that be have had their say.

Despite a September 23 season-opening date, it won't be until late October where Rangers fans can truly feel good about the assets they have (or lack thereof).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The K-W Kid Strikes Again

The Brampton Battalion are infamous for their puck-stifling defence, belligerent back-checking, and suffocating trap-style of play.

Trouble is, no one bothered to tell these new guys.

Zach Lorentz and Eric Ming were the lone goal-getters in a 2-2 draw with the Brampton Battalion Sunday afternoon in a post BBQ matinee.

Playing a team where not only is it dangerous to surrender the first goal to risk losing the game, but also risk losing the audience to an "Inception"-induced unconscious state (without the anesthesia or dream thieves), Lorentz's tally seemed to jolt the Rangers and their fans awake in the second period.

Captain-for-the-day Jason Akeson spotted the streaking Kitchener native Lorentz coming off the bench and sent him in alone on Battalion goaltending incumbent Jacob Riley (looking to take over from the departed Patrick Killeen) and Lorentz made no mistake with a bobbling puck, backhanding it between the wickets of Riley's pads.

Lorentz's marker seemed as good a time as any for the Rangers to come alive, and within seconds, Lorentz made another beautiful play, passing a seeing-eye puck to linemate Eric Ming who flipped the puck into the open net behind Riley.

And bam, the Rangers' two goals for the day were notched by their fourth line, a phenomenon that will need to continue from the blueshirts' depth if the team wants to make it deep into the playoffs.

Lorentz's two-point day followed a strong outing Friday night where he scored his first of the pre-season with a tip in front of the net.

The local boy is so far making a strong case for himself to be in the opening day roster come September 24th with three points in two games.

And with the Rangers' NHL draftees away at camp in late September and early October, Lorentz, Ming and fellow linemate Keli Grant will need to produce with absences of Tyler Randell, Jeremy Morin, Jeff Skinner, Cody Sol, Julian Melchiori, and goaltender Brandon Maxwell all away with their respective NHL clubs.

Mike Morrison took the reins for the Rangers' goalkeeping duties on Sunday and once again proved that he belongs on a championship team, letting only two goals get by him on 28 shots.

The first was a tip in front by Craig Moore on a Battalion powerplay with just under a minute left in the second stanza. The second was on what seemed like a harmless rush from Sam Carrick, but the Toronto Maple Leafs' draftee showed why he will again be one of the league's premier forwards with a snipe shot that found a hole above Morrison's right shoulder pad.

Cody Sol recorded his first fight as a Ranger and after throwing a couple punches managed to get on top of his green-clad Battalion opponent. Spott brought Sol in mainly for his defensive prowess but also for his physical game and will hope to see more from his hulking blueliner as the season progresses.

Ryan Murphy seemed to take note as he laid out an uncharacteristic thunderous hip-check in the first period that sent the Battalion forward head over heels along the left wing. That garnered a large ovation from an appreciative crowd who knows the puck-whiz more for his water-bug velocity and puck-threading abilities than for his physicality.

The Rangers will visit the Battalion in Brampton on Monday for a rematch before traveling to Niagara for a date with the Icedogs on Saturday.

Morin Puts on a Show in Possible Curtain Call

Well, if it was to be Jeremy Morin's last game in a Kitchener Rangers uniform, the 19 year-old left-winger made sure he would leave an impression for the Aud faithful who may possibly be deprived of No. 61's dazzling display of dominance in an 8-3 rout of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL.

Morin's NHL-drafted team, the Chicago Blackhawks, could make Morin a Mo-show in Kitchener this year and place him with their AHL affiliate in Rockford. It all comes down to an NHL ruling which will clarify where players drafted outside the OHL, but signed with an OHL team, can play as a 19 year-old.

The fogginess surrounding Morin's immediate future didn't stop the Rangers' sniper from putting on a show however.

Morin (pictured) put on a tantalizing display of his lethal release and notched two goals and two assists in a game which featured the Rangers' marksman up to his old tricks. His snapshot that can rival possibly anyone's in the AHL, let alone the OHL was on frequent display, but the top forward also broke out a couple of dekes which left his opponents' defencemen and the crowd wondering what just happened.

The Rangers' top line, assuming Morin and top centreman Jeff Skinner are returned from NHL training camps showed just how destructive they can be in their first exhibition game. Morin, Skinner and Gabriel Landeskog combined for an astounding 10 points. The Rangers barely felt the absence of graduated forward Chris Mackinnon, or the press-box sit-outs of Jason Akeson and Michael Catenacci.

Mind you, the Huskies are a very young team, in a different league, who may have been fatigued by travel, but if the boys in blue wanted to prove themselves as favourites early on, they answered any doubters by playing a solid 60 minutes full of defensively responsible backchecking by the rookies (which shows coach Steve Spott's mantra getting through to the kids early on).

The Rangers exploded for four goals in the second period after being knotted at twos after the first, and the top trio of Morin, Skinner and Landeskog who barely saw any action in the third period gave way to the youngsters to strut their stuff.

And strut they did. Matia Marcantuoni, the Rangers' top draft pick over the summer notched his first goal in his Rangers-crested jersey by flying (the kid's got wheels) down the right wing and faking a shot before placing it neatly under the crossbar in the third.

Zach Lorentz, a local native, closed out the scoring and put the Huskies to rest with his redirected tip-in off 16 year-old Evan McEneny's point shot.

If the third frame was a forum for his rookies to entice, Spott and company has got to be pleased with what they saw. The high learning curve of the jump to the O seemed minimized with the talent and work ethic instilled in his young pups during training camp. Promises of a bright future seemed aplenty with solid contributions by McEneny, Lorentz, Marcantuoni and made the Rangers more than a one-trick pony.

Overager Matt Tipoff showed why he belongs on the club as one of three for the upcoming season with two goals of his own, and Landeskog and Skinner also scored for the Rangers.

Junior Harris recorded two and Taylor Lambke notched a single for the Huskies.

The Rangers' second exhibition game falls this Sunday when the Brampton Battalion roll into town.