Read the full NAHL Weekly Release.
Basking in their promising 5-1 start heading into last weekend, the Marquette Rangers kept their winning momentum in full swing with a two-game sweep over the Motor City Metal Jackets.
The series marked an important test for the Rangers, who were eager to get their North Division schedule off on the right foot.
“It was our first road series of the season, so for us to be able to go in and get four points was good for us,” said Rangers head coach Kenny Miller, whose team sits atop the North Division standings with 14 points. “This division is going to be tight, so any weekend sweep is good for any team.”
The Rangers opened the set with a 4-3 shootout victory on Friday. Tanner Kero and Andrew Kolb scored in regulation and the shootout, with Josh Bussell adding Marquette's other goal in regulation. Between the pipes, goaltender Kevin Kissaw stopped 29 shots in regulation and overtime and three of five in the shootout.
Kissaw turned aside all 33 shots he faced the next night as the Rangers skated to a 2-0 triumph over the Metal Jackets. Kero and Garrett Ladd supplied the Marquette goals.
“We're really happy with our start,” said Miller, whose team has surrendered only 15 goals, fewest in the entire NAHL. “We knew going into the season we had a younger group (of players) than in years past, but we also knew we had good players.
“Kevin (Kissaw) has been solid every night, our team defense has been really good, and we've gotten timely goals at key times.”
Kissaw, whose stock continues to rise in the college recruiting circles, has been pivotal in the Rangers' early success. Now in his second season with the club, the 19-year-old from Goodrich, Mich., holds a 7-1 mark to compliment a league-best .959 save percentage and a 1.55 goals-against average, which is tied for lowest in the league.
“He's our rock, and he gives us a chance to win every night,” said Miller. “This is a big year for Kevin in terms of making a solid impression on the college scouts that are in the building each night.”
Offensively, the Rangers are getting a boost from another veteran in Ladd, 20. Now in his third season in Marquette, the team's captain from Fenton, Mich., leads the club with 13 points on five goals after eight games.
“We've leaned on Garrett, both on the ice and in the locker room,” said Miller. “He has the ability to take games over with his skating and his skill set. He definitely has the ability to be one the elite players in this league.”
Other veterans making a difference upfront include Collin Saint-Onge and Scott Henegar, along with defensemen Austin Accettura, Kevin Gibson and Nate Taurence.
“These guys have helped in a lot of ways,” said Miller. “They've made an impact in each of the first eight games and they're making sure our young guys understand what it means to be a Ranger, both on and off the ice.”
Kero, a Michigan Tech University recruit, headlines a talented crop of first-year forwards, along with Kolb and Brent Bain, both of whom are among the team's most consistent scorers.
On the backend, Cody Donnay and Carter Foguth - both only 17 years old - continue to make strides game after game.
Despite the fast start, the Rangers, who have missed the postseason two years in a row, aren't looking too far ahead. Constant improvement is first and foremost on Miller's mind as they delve into their competitive divisional schedule.
The team plays three of its eight remaining October games at home, including its third annual “Paint the Rink Pink” charity game to support breast cancer awareness and the Marquette General Foundation fund for cancer treatment. That game is slated for Oct. 17 against the Alpena IceDiggers.
“We've been preaching to the guys that we just want to get better each day,” said Miller. “We want to continue to play well in our own end and continue to make good, smart plays every night.”
And winning ultimately means more attention from college programs, something not lost on Miller or his band of Division I hopefuls.
“Several of our guys have gotten interest from colleges,” said Miller. “It's important for us to keep playing the way we are and, if we do, I think we'll get much more attention.”
AROUND THE NAHL
ALASKA AVALANCHE: Forward Zach Smith (Anchorage), the Avalanche’s leading scorer with 13 points, potted three goals and an assist as Alaska split a pair of games against Bismarck.
ALBERT LEA THUNDER: Forward Danny Wood (Wilmington, Ohio) connected for the game-winning goal in the Thunder’s 3-2 triumph over Alexandria on Saturday.
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: Forward Kyle Clay (Henderson, Nev.) picked up two assists, including one on Billy Miller’s game-winning goal, in the Blizzard’s 4-1 victory over North Iowa on Friday.
ALPENA ICEDIGGERS: Forward Andy Yarber (Livonia, Mich.) rang up a hat trick in the IceDiggers’ 6-5 loss to Fairbanks on Friday.
BISMARCK BOBCATS: Air Force Academy recruit Jason Fabian (Roseau, Minn.), a forward, notched three goals and an assist as the Bobcats skated to a 1-1 record against Alaska.
FAIRBANKS ICE DOGS: The Ice Dogs will play their first home series of the season this coming weekend when Wenatchee visits Big Dipper Arena for three games beginning on Friday.
JANESVILLE JETS: Goaltender Geoff Sadjadi (Faribault, Minn.), who started the season with Alaska, picked up two wins in his first two starts with the Jets turning aside 56 of 61 shots.
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS: Forward Dajon Mingo (Canton, Mich.) potted four goals, including the game-winner in the Brown Bears’ 4-3 victory on Thursday, and two assists as Kenai River skated to a 1-2 record against Wenatchee.
MARQUETTE RANGERS: Forward Josh Bussell (Detroit), who started his career in Marquette, is back with the Rangers after beginning the season in Texas. “Josh always played well in (Marquette’s) Lakeview (Arena), is a bit of a crowd favorite, and can do a lot offensively when given the chance,” head coach Kenny Miller said.
MOTOR CITY METAL JACKETS: Forward Billy Balent (Waterford, Mich.) struck for two goals in the Metal Jackets’ 4-3 shootout loss to Marquette on Friday.
NORTH IOWA OUTLAWS: Zac Frischmon (Blaine, Minn.) and John O’Neill (Anoka, Minn.) scored the only goals for the Outlaws as they dropped a pair of games to Alexandria and Owatonna, respectively.
OWATONNA EXPRESS: After his 23-save performance in a 5-1 victory over North Iowa on Saturday, goaltender Mike Shibrowski (Edina, Minn.) has won his last four starts.
SPRINGFIELD JR. BLUES: Forward Mike Schaber (Blaine, Minn.) recorded a hat trick in the Jr. Blues’ 9-3 triumph over Janesville on Friday.
ST. LOUIS BANDITS: After a two-game sweep in Wichita Falls last weekend, the Bandits remain the only undefeated team in the league at 6-0.
TEXAS TORNADO: Forwards Steven Behm (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Jack Prince (United Kingdom) and defenseman Eric Ware (Huntsville, Ala.) each recorded a goal and an assist in the Tornado’s two losses to Topeka.
TOPEKA ROADRUNNERS: Forward Nate Milam (Westland, Mich.) rang up a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in the RoadRunners’ 8-2 victory over Texas on Saturday.
TRAVERSE CITY NORTH STARS: Idle last weekend, the 6-3 North Stars travel to Motor City this coming weekend for a pair of games against the Metal Jackets.
WENATCHEE WILD: Goaltender Brandon Jaeger (Champlin, Minn.) improved his record to 5-0 on the season after backstopping the Wild to a pair of wins over Kenai River, turning aside 50 of 54 shots.
WICHITA FALLS WILDCATS: Forward J.T. Osborn (Alpine, Calif.) struck for two goals and two assists as the Wildcats dropped two games to St. Louis. He now has a goal in four of his last five games. “J.T. has a scoring touch that I haven’t seen in a long time,” said head coach John Bowkus.