dimanche 30 décembre 2012

Rangers at Christmas; High Note before the Break

The Gloucester Rangers are in year two of their rebuild after making their way to the CCHL semi-finals two years ago. This year, expectations were for better results than last year and by looking at the standings now, they certainly have been better with 11 wins already after only 13 last year. But the way this improvement has played out has certainly been a surprise.

The year started with a bang as Gloucester beat Smiths Falls at the Showcase – one of Smiths Falls’ few losses all year. The team looked poised to strike as Alexandre Boivin, the newly minted captain and Corey Durocher, back after a few years in the ‘O’, had great chemistry. Chad Millett laid a crushing hit and it seemed like the team was on track from the get-go.

And over the next few weeks, the team put on strong performances over a long homestand and was comfortably seated in the 8th playoff seat. They improved the team with a trade with Kemptville where they picked up Matt Rosebrook and Stevie Ray Adams. There were essentially four point-per-game players at that point. Durocher’s brief tryout with Peoria of the AHL gave other players the chance to step up such as Patrick White.

The Rangers cast of young players, stepping into the places of Michael McMurtry and Mathieu White, really showed why the team had faith in them. Pat White, a protect from the year before, has been fantastic deserving all the praise he can get and winning a rookie of the month honour to date. Colton Keuhl, drafted a year before he was eligible to play, has been a rock on defense standing beside Daniel Baslyk and forms half of a solid shutdown duo.

In nets, Gunner Rivers certainly expected to get the bulk of the work, but the solid play of Guanmarco DeMeis and later Dylan Brind’Amour meant that he wasn’t able to get as many minutes as he likely wanted. Still, he very rightly was named to the Central Canada Cup Prospects Game.

After the impressive homestand, the Rangers started to slip. Andrew Rossy, powerplay wizard for the Rangers, was injured for an extensive period of time. Millett was also injured. Corey Durocher wasn’t playing up to his potential though that has certainly changed as of late. But a few shake ups happened as well.

Alexandre Boivin, after being named to the Central Canada Cup roster for the Yzerman Division, headed to the Quebec Remparts after being courted for a month. In his place, Matt Rosebrook was a very appropriate choice as his replacement for the all-star festivities.

A new crop of players have risen to the occasion and are providing leadership for the Rangers, helping them win both games during the Holiday Showcase: Melanson, Topf, Ouimet and Giberson.

Winning brings stability. Though the Rangers remain outside of the playoffs for now, they have been doing the right things as of late. Their work ethic means that they should be able to build on the Showcase performances and make some noise in the second half to return to the success they had earlier this year.

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