Those pesky Bobcats.
If not for the New York Bobcats taking two wins away from the Boston Junior Rangers in the middle of November, the Rangers would have been undefeated in regulation between Oct. 20 and Dec. 1.
However, the Bobcats ruined the party on Nov. 17-18 with back-to-back road wins over the Rangers. Prior to that weekend, the Rangers had gone 2-0-4-1, earning points in seven straight games. After that weekend, the Rangers went 2-0-1-1 heading into a Dec. 5 midweek match-up against the Northern Cyclones.
The Cyclones defeated the Rangers, 3-2, but the Rangers won their next two against the Washington Jr. Nationals.
â€œWe were on such a good roll for a while there and had been playing a lot of close games,â€ said Rangers general manager/head coach Mario Martiniello. â€œWeâ€™ve had a lot of ties mixed in there, so hopefully we get back to winning games.â€
All in all, between Oct. 20 and Dec. 9, the Rangers earned a total of 19 out of a possible 32 points, taking something of standings value away from 13 out of 16 games.
Getting on a good roll is easy when you have a goalie like the Rangersâ€™ Sam Bernard. The â€˜94-born Lafayette, Colo., resident was 3-3-5 overall with an eye-popping .959 save percentage and 1.34 goals against average, No. 1 in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League in both categories.
â€œHeâ€™s really emerged as one of the top goaltenders in the league,â€ said Martiniello. â€œHeâ€™s so even-keeled. When a puck does go by him, you would have thought he just made a miraculous stop â€“ he has the same demeanor all the time. He doesnâ€™t get too high if he makes a great save, or too low if he lets a goal in.â€
Bernard, at 6-feet-4-inches, covers a lot of net just by his sheer size. He also employs the butterfly style to take care of business down low.
â€œThereâ€™s not a lot to shoot at,â€ said Martiniello. â€œWe started this season with three goaltenders. We moved one of them because of Sam emerging and Brad Rochville [.940 SP, 2.34 GAA] playing as well as he has. It gives us great flexibility in net.â€
On the offensive side, 20 points separated 17 Rangers players, so itâ€™s been a case of offense by committee.
â€œBrett Wagner returned from the NAHL, and heâ€™s done wellâ€ with 14 points in 15 games, said Martiniello. â€œAlan Boozer has emerged as a key scorer.â€
Boozer, a â€˜93 from West Bloomfield, Mich., scored eight of his 13 points during the 13 games between Oct. 20 and Dec. 1.
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