Fortune was on the side of the Rangers, perhaps it wasn't just the Rangers, but an awkward, and to be honest forecasted disasterous day, somehow morphed into what may have been the best fan appreciation BBQ ever. Only 24 hours earlier, it appeared as if the entire event might flop, there's never been rain, and there's never been a rain date. The Rangers, and the Children's Wish Foundation, the primary benefactors of the money raised with the event, have been blessed with superb weather in the years leading up to this one. But, somehow the weatherman, and with a pinch of good fortune, the climate for an extremely successful day was in the cards. The potential of poor weather on the weekend probably kept many families in the Kitchener area that may have chosen to escape elsewhere, on the summer's final long weekend. But those who did wake up at a reasonable time, quickly realized that the sun was making a very strong bid to shine through the clouds - at times it did, decided to take their families down the Aud for an afternoon of fun that kicked off around 11:00am and continued till 2:00 when the Rangers exhibition opener started. The crowd topped 2,600, and for the most part enjoyed the Rangers 8-5 victory. As soon as most fans were settled in their seats sheets of rain came down soaking the parking lot, adding an exclamation point to just how fortunate everyone was with the weather.
There's hope in Kitchener that the
season would go pretty much the same way as the Rangers fan
Bar-b-que, did. The early prognosis on the Rangers isn't overly
though it's generally accepted that the team that DeBoer ices during
2006-07 season will simply not be nearly as dominant as the squad that
preceeded it. The Rangers need a few quirky breaks in the clouds,
in order to be extremely competitive. One can argue that they've
had these kinds of breaks already. John Murray, highly though of
netminder and New York Rangers prospect seemed to find the Rangers,
as much as they sought after him. Matt Auffrey, whom the Rangers
drafted back in 2002 has made an appearance at camp, and with the
of the Rangers having a healthy Victor Oreskovich return, the Rangers
find themselves with some lucrative chips to deal with on the overage
The departure of 3 members of the 'famed' big four of 2005-06 leave
holes in the blueline, but the crop of apparent future stars in Dan
Yannick Weber, Robert Bortuzzo and Steven Tarasuk seem extremely
to attempt to fill those shoes, big in both experience and stature.
The game itself didn't seem so promising only seconds in, Matt Smyth of the Battalion seemed to have everyone caught on their heel, pretty much wandered through the entire Rangers' team and then deposited the puck through the five-hole of Mark Packwood after faking a deke. The Rangers didn't exactly take their time in replying, newly acquired Matt Halischuk struck on the power play, he scored from the goal line. It was a fast start for the newest Ranger forward. Yannic Weber seems to be the resident cannon amongst first-year players. He had the puck back on the blueline during a four-on-four stretch and riffled a shot off of the post and in. The loud clang off of the post indicated a vicious velocity on the shot. Not to be out-done, Dan Kelly on a power play only minutes later scored a goal of his own, by game's end each of the four rookie defenders would have at least a point, Kelly lead the group with a trio of points (1-2). The Rangers' powerplay, seemed to be carrying the play, much of that was due to their persistence infront of the goal, and a blueline that at least for an exhibition schedule would seem to be mature beyond it's years. On this afternoon the power play accounted for 5 of the 7 Rangers goals on only 11 opportunities. Their specialty teams on this afternoon were the dominant factor. The Rangers were an impressive 5-for-11 on the power play, they held the Battalion scoreless in seven opportunities. The only negative would be a reliance on the power play, something that at times frustrated Rangers' head coach Peter DeBoer in the previous season.
The best news may have been 2006 first-round draft-pick Nazem Kadri, at times during the inter-squad games, Kadri wasn't doing much to differentiate himself from the many other players at camp. On this afternoon this was not the case. Kadri scored a pair of third period goals with family members on hand cheering him on from London. Young speedsters Nick Spaling and Yves Batien added single goals for the Rangers' cause. Jean-Michel Rizk wore the 'C' emblematic of the team's captain in the team's exhibition opener. Rizk was held off of the scoresheet, but did attempt to stick up for one of his teammates, and nearly ended up in a tussle with burly Battalion defender: Phil Oreskovic. 16-year-old rookie netminder Patrick Killeen played all 60 minutes for the Battalion, while the Rangers used Mark Packwood for the first 30 minutes and then followed with Charles Lavigne for the next 30 minutes. Each of the Rangers' netminders came to camp with brand new equipment, part and parcel of the trickle-down effects of the new equipment rules that started in the NHL during the 2005-06 season and will now continue into the OHL after providing equipment manufacturers the opportunity to catch up on production, the Rangers outshot the Battalion 36-28. The very same teams will have a re-match back in Brampton on Monday afternoon.