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.

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