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.


  1. Thsnks for blogging!!
    You're way more informative than the other guy!

  2. No problem, just working on fine-tuning the journalistic and writing skills for perhaps a future career.

    Thanks for the comment!