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Streaking Rangers Move Into Fifth Place

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With six wins in the last seven games, the Parkland Rangers have moved into fifth place in the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League.

The only blemish was an overtime loss to Pembina Valley, Nov. 20.

The three latest wins came on home ice this past weekend when Parkland swept a twinbill against the Interlake Lightning and scored a shutout victory, Sunday over the Norman North Stars.

Carter Zalischuk had three goals and an assist and Will Munro scored twice and added an assist to lead the Rangers to a 9-5 win, Friday.

On Saturday, Munro tallied three times and had one assist and Zalischuk scored once and had three helpers to lead Parkland to a 6-3 win as Kyler Swanton turned aside 42 shots in his best game of the season.

On Sunday, Jayce Legaarden had a hat trick and Kyan Grouette had a goal and two assists to help the Rangers beat the North Stars, 4-0 on a 38-save performance from Brenden Birch-Hayden.

With a record of 12-8-2-1, the Rangers sit in fifth place with 27 points, one behind the Southwest Cougars, who have two games in hand.

Parkland is also four up on the sixth-place Winnipeg Thrashers who have played five fewer games than the Rangers.

Rangers head coach Tyler Carefoot said the turning point for the Rangers came, Nov. 6 and 7, when they played the Winnipeg Wild twice in Winnipeg, earning a point in an overtime loss in game two of the weekend set.

“I think that’s when everybody decided they wanted to buy in. And we’ve just been putting things together and having some success that last five or six games,” he said, adding the team set some goals to win the last seven games on their eight-game home stand, which began with a loss to Brandon, Nov. 9.

Getting 13 of 14 points on the home stand is huge for the program, Carefoot said.

“We’re just getting started, I hope,” he added.

Considering it was the Parkland’s third game in as many days, Carefoot was pleased with the team’s play against Norman. The game plan was to keep their shifts short and play with energy.

“I was teasing the boys that we’re a bunch of lemons. I know there’s got to be more juice left in the end. They proved that tonight, for sure,” Carefoot said.

Noting the Rangers are top three in the league in goals scored and bottom five in goals against, Carefoot wants to focus on the team’s defensive play going forward.

“Let’s build a fortress. Let’s focus on D. We’ve got everything else going for us. But if we’re going to win games, 2-1, 3-2, those greasy wins, it starts with D,” he said, adding he was proud of Birch-Hayden and proud of the team for the shutout.

Carefoot credits goaltending coach Dan Keeping for his work with Birch-Hayden and Swanton.

“He’s very passionate about the boys and these kids would be the first to admit that they’ve had more goalie coaching this season than they’ve had, probably in their entire career,” he said. “Dan has done a great job with both Kyler and Brenden. It doesn’t matter who we have in there, we’re confident.”

Parkland’s next game will be, Dec. 7, when they visit the Yellowhead Chiefs in Shoal Lake.

This was the weekend the Rangers were supposed to play the Central Plains Capitals, but with the Caps taking a one-year leave-of-absence, all games against Central Plains were cancelled.

With nine days off between games, Carefoot hopes to find something to keep the team active.

“Personally, I’m a little concerned. We’re rolling right now,” he said, adding the team may hold a practice in a different rink than usual to fill the void.

Following the Tuesday night encounter with Yellowhead, the Rangers will get set to host the Wild, Dec. 10 and 11.

On the bright side, though, the time off will give their injured players time to heal a bit.

Defenceman Skyler Carriere is out with a partially collapsed lung, while fellow rearguard Matthew Munro will likely be out until after Christmas with a broken collar bone.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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