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An exhibition home opener around the corner
 


Another banner turnout for the 8th annual Fan Appreciation Day in Kitchener, fans seen with Rangers
(left to right at near end) Dan Turple, Charles Lavign, and Mark Packwood all who are signing autographs.


It's as if there is some sort of divine intervention.  The fan appreciation game (formerly a blue vs. white finally inter-squad matchup), and first exhibition matchups of late haven't always been the greatest of games.  Considering the outdoors nature of the fan appreciation day and bar-b-que the Rangers, the events organizers and especially the fans have been continually blessed with brilliant weather, sun and ideal temperatures.  It's a day after many of the more painful cuts to the team, to kick back and relax before getting involved in yet another high-pressure exhibition game.  The day is really about the younger fans, those who are simply in awe of the Rangers' players who could be excused for poor hands during the game considering the shear amount of autographs they signed.  Along with very strong numbers of fans attending the game and prior events, there seemed to also be a record amount of games for the children to enjoy at the event, along with the standard fare for those who are familiar, there were two new inflatible play areas, a visit from several mascots, 'Sparky' the fire safety dog, Brady Brady, Fitzy, Beechy and at long last the re-emergence of team mascot Tex.

Eric Pfligler was the first to enjoy one of the longest-held Ranger traditions at the event, being dunked by his biggest fans, unfortuantely this year warm water was provided for the players instead of the frigid standard fare, but I guess we have to cut the youngsters a few breaks here and there.  Dan Turple was next, and one of the most popular attractions was the usually violent tempered (but only on ice) Boris Valabik.  In addition to giving pleasure to the many Rangers die hard fans, the event also raises a tremendous amount of money for charities, this year approximately 1,000 burgers were sold, and lineups were long at the Schneiders tent, but moved in a hast and orderly manner.  Inside things were more trial and error as the game was slightly delayed by the absence of a goal judge at the north end.  Probably, more interesting was Matt Thomson's minor early in the opening period, he changed names upon being assessed a penalty and then the Rangers proceeded to rush him a new jersey while couped up in the sin bin.
 



Aaron Lewicki brings the Rangers' to within a goal by scoring with only seconds left in the second period.


It didn't take the Battalion long to get started infront of what was a very impressive long weekend crowd in Kitchener on Sunday afternoon.  J.F. Houle got the ball rolling with some help by impressive sophomore Aaron Snow.  On their second powerplay of the game, Snow and Houle teamed up again, Snow sent the puck past a sprawling Rangers' defender to Houle who bagged an easy goal into the empty portion of the net, the Rangers were victimized on a 2-on-1 while shorthanded, something that did not bode well going forward.  On the next Battalion powerplay Miles Cope seemed thrilled when his point shot, a relatively lazy-paced one beat Mark Packwood only seconds into the man advantage.  The inexperienced Rangers' blueliners seemed to hang Mark Packwood out to dry more than desired, Packwood seemed to lose some of his confidence and as a result crept further and further back into his crease.  Rookie Bryan Pitton in the Brampton crease appeared sharp stopping all 11 first period shots sent in his direction.

In the second period the Rangers finally got on the board, former Spitfire: Sean Courtney started things up for the Rangers in the second while on the man advantage, he tipped a point shot from rookie Dan Kelly breaking the shutout early.  Brampton's Michal Klejna didn't waste any time in tying the game up, much like Houle in the first period he found himself looking at far, far too much net for the liking of the Rangers brass.  The Rangers got a powerplay tally from Matt Pepe's great point blast only 2 seconds into the man advantage, started to get the ball rolling for the Rangers.  They received another tally from Lewicki who was setup by crafty centre Justin Azevedo bringing the Rangers to within a goal.  Jason Cassidy replied for the Battalion, but the Rangers' momentum wasn't to be stopped in the second.  After a pair of Battalion infractions very late in the period, the Aaron Lewicki was able to score with only 6 seconds left in the period during a goalmouth scramble.  The Aud errupted with cheers after the late period tally, the Rangers held a 20-10 advantage on the shot clock through the period while outscoring the Battalion 4-2.
 


Mark Packwood attempts a poke check during first period action.

Mark Packwood who appeared to struggle was relieved 10:15 into the second period (nearly the midway point) by backup (on this day) Charles Lavigne, the timing of the replacement as per DeBoer's usual habits seemed to have been part of the pre-game plan to spliting time evenly between the two rookie netminders.  Lavinge struggled to keep the Rangers into the game in the third period when Aaron Snow and Luke Lynes finally restored Brampton's original three goal lead early in the third period.  The Rangers struggled early in the game allowing the Battalion to score on three consecutive man advantages after killing the first Battalion powerplay, it was positive sign seeing the Rangers penalty kill stop each of the last three Battalion chances late in the second period.

Mark Fraser wore the 'C' during the exhibition game, and retaliated to a late shot in the Rangers' end of the ice nearly resulting in a fight, something that has become relatively taboo during the pre-season with game misconducts, and suspensions being used as deterents.  Free agent Charles Lavign was not spectacular in stopping 13 of 16 shots, but also didn't look out of place tending the net for the Rangers.  The Rangers scored all but one of their goals on the man advantage.  At games' end the two teams were to perform in a shootout contest.  Taylor Raska led things off by scoring for the Battalion, Jean-Michel Rizk's shot was stopped.  Howie Martin was stopped by Lavign, and Justin Azevedo's chance trickled off of the post, J.F. Houle clinched the shootout for the Battalion 2-0, in what was to be a three player shootout (the Rangers did not have a third shooter).