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Rangers one point back of playoff spot at the break

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The Parkland Rangers are climbing back into the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League playoff races, with a little bit of help.
On Friday, the Rangers pulled into a tie for ninth place and moved three points back of the eighth-place Interlake Lightning with a 3-1 win over the Central Plains Capitals.
Central Plains entered the game with a two-point lead over Parkland, but a two-goal effort from Mackenzie Menard and 46 saves from goalie Keaton Ziprick helped the Rangers pull into a tie with the Capitals for ninth place.
After a scoreless first period, Menard opened the scoring at 5:15 of the middle frame. He later made it 2-0 when his weak shot fooled Capitals netminder Ciaran McVicker, sliding underneath the goalie and in at the 16:28 mark.
Just 35 seconds later, Garrett Hrechka netted Parkland’s third goal.
Drake Sheppard put the Capitals on the board six seconds after a Rangers penalty expired at 17:30 of the third period, but that was as close as they would get as Ziprick and his teammates shut the door the rest of the way.
While this was going on, Interlake, which entered the night with a five-point lead over the Rangers, was in the process of losing 5-1 to the Eastman Selects.
Rangers head coach Arnie Caplan said Friday’s win was an all-around great team effort.
“We jumped on a team that looked sluggish. And we stuck to our game plan and played really hard. And it paid dividends,” he said, adding Ziprick provided excellent goaltending.
The Rangers excelled in all areas of the game. From the goal out, Caplan feels the Rangers outplayed their opponents.
“That was a very good, well-earned two points tonight,” he said.
The players are well aware of where they are in the standings and Caplan keeps telling them, these games in December are like playoff games.
“It’s early in the year, but right now is the time when we really have to compete for that playoff spot. It’s going to be a long, hard battle,” he said.
“I’m posting the standings on the wall and everybody knows where we’re at. And we have to just keep forging away and forging ahead and trying to make sure that we’re one of the top eight this year. That’s our goal.”
On Saturday, the Rangers scored a 2-1 shootout victory over the Yellowhead Chiefs in Shoal Lake.
Jayden Jubenvill gave Parkland a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal 7:35 into the contest and Yellowhead tied it with a man advantage goal of their own with 7:53 remaining.
After overtime settled nothing, the Rangers outscored Yellowhead 2-1 in the shootout, with Taggert Plouffe and Garrett Hrechka netting the Parkland goals, while Conor Geekie scored for the Chiefs.
Ziprick made 36 saves to record the win, while Tresor Wotton took the loss with 17 stops to his credit.
The Rangers have now beaten the top two teams in the league and the win improves their record to 12-17-0-0. Combined with Interlake’s 8-2 loss to Pembina Valley, Parkland enters the Christmas break just one point out of a playoff spot. Interlake is 12-17-1-0.
The Rangers will hit the ice for practice, Jan. 2. Caplan hopes the players can get some skating in before then.
Parkland’s first game of the new year is, Jan. 4 in Winnipeg against the Thrashers. They face the Lightning, Jan. 5 in Teulon.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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