Aside from being the only players on the Rangers' team that the London Knights fans have both cheeered for and against this season, Michael Richards and Andre Benoit now have something else in common. After a performance only fitting for a heoric captain during a very successful Rangers' weeekend where the Rangers took home 6 of a possible 6 points, Michael Richards took home something else. The OHL chose to honor Richards by awarding him the player of the week award, given to the OHL player who excelled most during any given week during the OHL regular season schedule. During the first week of the season Andre Benoit took home the very same award on only one night's work, a record tying 8 points against the Plymouth Whalers during the Rangers' season opener.
Michael Richards is the youngest team captain since Brian Scott was named team captian at the beginning of the 1995-'96 season. Scott didn't finish the season with the Rangers, and one can be assured that the Ranger commonly referred to as "Kraemer" will not become available via trade any time soon. Infact, playing for one of the youngest teams in the OHL, after treating Rangers' fans with a championship squad during the previous season, probably makes the 'C' sewn on Richards' upper chest one of the burdens hardest to bear in the OHL this season. Being named captain of a team that is one of the most storied in all of the OHL during it's 41 tenure, also has to be an undeniable honor.
Prior to being honored as player of the week, both Richards and Benoit tailled a pair of points each against Russia in London before a sellout crowd of over 9,000 in the John Labatt Center. Richards goal and assist during the 7-1 OHL victory over the Russian selects team, were both his 5th goal, and 5th assists of his extended weekend. Richards started off the season, slowly as did his wingers: Nathan O'Nabigon and Petr Kanko. Now that the season is in full flight, Richards and his linemates are there as well. Infact, Richards is on pace to top his career high of 87 points, established during the Rangers championship season of 2002-'03, if he continues to turn on the red light at anywhere close to the rate that he has lately the Rangers could very easily have a three-digit scorer in their lineup.
Michael Richards had what turned out to be a modest, goal and assist on the road in Peterborough where the Rangers started their weekend with a 5-2 win. As the third period began on Firday the Rangers found themselves on the wrong side of another 5-2 game, they trailed by three goals to the Spirit, and at one point were down 6-2! Richards wasn't overly interested in laying down while the OHL's worst team from Saginaw were in the process of adding doubt to the Rangers turnaround. Richards rallied the troops for an astonishing 4 goals in just under 10 minutes, he wasn't just on the ice for all four goals, he had a helper on each of the first three before scoring the dramatic tying goal, which eventually led to an overtime win. The Firday night 4 point performance made him an easy choice for first star.
On Sunday afternoon the Rangers trailed again.
Division rival, and 3rd ranked in the nation: London Knights had the Rangers
on the ropes, leading 3-1 midway through the second period. Again,
Richards was the marksman for the tying goal in the third period, and second
of the game. For the second time in two games the Rangers won in
overtime, and for the second straight time, Richards was a catalyst for
the thrilling comeback. Richards is starting to both meet an exceed
the lofty expectations of a captain on a competitive OHL team, during the
past weekend he has led the Rangers by example, recently he has taken exception
when teammates have been bullied by opposing players, in Toronto he fought
with Ryan Wilson after Pototshnik was leveled in open ice. In Peterborough
he picked up the slack for Boris Valabik who could not fight because of
the Rangers' lack of defenders, and may have changed the momentum in the
game when he got the upper hand on Petes' captain: Jon Howse.
Excellent Photography by: Stephen Gardiner