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'Rocket Richards' Rangers top scorer


 
 
Michael Richards proving to be very gifted
 


Richards tees off on Owen Sound netminder: Marty Magers in Kitchener.
 

Michael Richards has been dubbed Kraemer after the infamous Seinfeld character, which is played by an individual known as: Michael Richards.  Perhaps a more accurate moniker would be Rocket as in the late Maurice 'Rocket' Richard of the Montreal Canadiens.  Some might laugh off the comparison, comparing one of the games all-time heros, and hall of fame innovators to a 17 year old gutsy kid from way up in Kenora Ontario.  But what better a nickname then 'Rocket' for a center who at 17 years old already has one of the most deadly shots from the high slot that Rangers fans have seen in years, perhaps the only slapshot that Richards will have to look up at when he's done in Kitchener is that of legendary defensive sniper: Allan MacInnis would still holds the mark for goals in a game by a defenseman with 5 scored on the expansion Guelph Platers in 1983.  Along with breaking the mark for goals scored in a game, the 5 spot for the season finale while playing up on the wing also gave MacInnis a share of the record for goals in a season with former Oshawa General: Bobby Orr with 38 goals.  The record which stood for 33 years finally fell in 1989 when Bryan Fogarty scored 47 goals with the Niagara Falls Thunder en route to a record high 155 point season.

When you compare what a forward like Michael Richards is capable of with newer stick technologies it might not be all too far off of what the originator was capable of during the 1940's.  In comparing the two forwards, there is an even closer comparison, both sport red, white and blue classic hockey jerseys, both snipers shoot lefthanded.  The two are even similar in stature, they both stand 5'10", and close to 180 pounds.  Perhaps the most flattering comparison might be the grit that Richards of the Rangers shows, this season he's proven to have character, and refuses to back down from anyone in the league, no matter how big.


Red goal light shines on the Rangers 1.2
million dollar video scoreboard.
 

In mid-December when the new video scoreboard was erected in the Aud. the Rangers didn't just have sound and music to celebrate their goals with, they also had video animations.  An animated Tex winds up and blasts the puck at a nervous opposing goalie who chooses to vacate the net, prior to the red light going off, as shown above.  Perhaps nothing could be more accurate when a Michael Richards slapper is on target, perhaps sticking around and watching a lazer beam blast over your glove is equally as futile as simply ducking out of the way of the shot.  Two memorable instances where Richards has been on the mark have been against the Colts with the Rangers up by one goal in the third period, Richards simply stepped into a shot and blew the shot past: Thomas Lee who to that point had just frustrated Rangers' snipers.  Chris Houle veteran netminder of the London Knights was even baffled at yet another Michael Richards slapshot during the Rangers' only matinee game of the season.  When Derek Roy and Co. returned Richards in significantly more games had only built up a slim 3 point lead on the three-season incumbent Rangers' scoring leader, since that time he's actually built the cushion up to 11 points.

Michael Richards started his rookie season on a tear and finished on a low playing on the Rangers' second unit with Ryan Ramsay and Peter Kanko who also finished the season slowly.  This season he is reunited with Kanko on the wing, and new face, one who combines size and skill perhaps a missing component to the Rangers number 2 unit last season: Nathan O'Nabigon who was acquired in a key trade with the Mississauga Ice Dogs for netminder: Matt Harpwood.  Richards slow down last season might be attributed to the abuse that he took infront of opponents nets, a role which is filled to perfection by O'Nabigon, who not only takes the punishment but also somewhat of an immovable object in front of opposing netminders.  Richards who currently has 32 goals this season has answered many critics, he is in a position where he can double last season's scoring total of 20 goals down the stretch.  Perhaps the best measure of Michael Richards is the role that he played while the Rangers were without World Junior stars: Derek Roy and Gregory Campbell, proving that he could be just as much or even more effective once opposing teams started to key in on his line, it was only Roy and Campbell's absence which prompted Peter Kanko to join the second line where he and his linemates have flourished.  After a very low rating by central scouting earlier in the season, Richards has rebounded, his biggest test will be in the postseason, where, he scored a single assist in 4 games last year against the Storm in a stunning first round sweep by the Storm.  Richards who might be a good bet on one day leading the OHL in scoring, is the ideal leader for the Rangers in the future.  He'll make an excellent pick for many NHL clubs, if he goes as late as predicted there could easily be 29 teams regretting having not selected the Kenora native, unlike his speed, and height his heart, perhaps his greatest attribute cannot be measured.
 

Excellent photography done by: Cat Magic.
 

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