Rangers host Attack for first of eight matchups between the clubs

By CityNews Kitchener staff

It’s the first of eight matchups between the two Midwest Division rivals Friday night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

Kitchener is coming into this one outscoring their opponents 15-4 in the first three games of the season leading them to a perfect 3-0-0-0 record. 

In an interview with CityNews 570, General Manager Mike McKenzie outlines the challenges the Attack will bring to his squad.

“Colby Barlow is one guy that stands out,” he joked. “This will be his first game back. He just got sent down [from Winnipeg Jets training camp]. He’s obviously really dangerous but as a whole – they are an older group and they are a team that’s built to try and take a run at it this year. They have a pretty deep forward group, but they have other weapons up front. We saw their young goalie last year but they have two capable goalies. They are a team on the rise here and we’re going to have to be sharp. It’s always a battle when we play Owen Sound.”

McKenzie said that he has enjoyed what he’s seen from his club so far this season.

“It’s obviously nice when you can win a couple of games early on,” said McKenzie. “Those are three wins and six points that are in the bank and no-one can take those away from us. That being said, there’s also 65 games left so you don’t want to get riding too high. It’s definitely nice to get off to a good start.”

The Rangers have two road wins so far this season in Flint and Sarnia, with one home win against Saginaw. McKenzie said it’s nice to see the team winning games in different ways.

“Game one against Saginaw obviously falling behind that quickly and dealing with that adversity early on, finding a way to hang in there and ultimately win the hockey game was huge,” he said. “With a big offensive performance and outburst in Flint and then a real tight close game right till the end [against Sarnia] where you have to protect a one-goal lead going into the third period, it’s nice to see us winning in different ways.”

McKenzie added the team is producing offense and aren’t giving up a ton of chances which he believes is a good sign for the team early on.

The goaltending for the Rangers has been a story with Jackson Parsons making 59 saves in his first two starts, winning both games against Saginaw and Flint with one shutout. Newly acquired goaltender from the Bulldogs Tristan Malboeuf won his only start so far against Sarnia on the road. He made 15 saves in his Rangers debut.

“Parsons had all last year to sit and watch, train and obviously with an injury, it was unfortunate that he wasn’t playing his best when he went down. There was some recency bias there in terms of the public perception being that he had a rough year last year, he didn’t start very well and then got hurt.”

McKenzie said when the team looked at what Parsons did as a 17-year-old and how well he played, they had confidence that they would get these solid performances from his in this new campaign.

“We really thought he would come back and be really good for us, and he’s proven that so far. It’s not a huge surprise to us. He works hard every game, he’s a really good kid. He’s got confidence in himself and he’s just a good goalie.”

As for the acquisition of Malboeuf, McKenzie said he’s a really solid goalie. He remembers a 40-save shutout performance that Malboeuf had last season against the Rangers when he was a member of the Bulldogs.

“That game last year sticks out for us because we were involved in it,” laughed McKenzie. “His save percentage was just below .900 and any time you are close to that in our league especially being under 19, then signs point towards being a good goalie at 19 and 20 years old,” he said. “It wasn’t exactly a major need having Parsons, but I think the thought process for us is that your starting goalie can’t start all 68, we wanted to make sure we have a really good goalie in net on any night.”

It’s not the first time the Rangers acquired a goaltender from the Bulldogs. Last season, the club acquired Marco Costantini to solidify their crease.

“I think sometimes it’s a little easier to trade out of conference especially when you’re dealing with goalies. I think no-one wants to trade a goalie to a rival team and have to face them six to eight times or play them in a playoff series and get burned by a guy that used to play on your team. It’s just one of those things that it worked out two years in a row and it made sense for us and it made sense for them.”

The Owen Sound Attack are coming into the game Friday night having been off since Sep. 30, after they recorded their first win of the season. They have a 1-1-0-0 record on the season.

Catch the Harris Law Pre-Game show with Mike Farwell and Paul Fixter at 6:35 p.m. with puck drop set for 7 p.m.

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