November 15, 2012

Juniors Journal: Rangers need no learning curve

By Shawn Hutcheon

In any sports league, an expansion franchise has low expectations. In fact, the only real expectation is that it will lose more games than it wins. A case in point, the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals joined the NHL in 1974-1975 and put together a record of 8-67-5. 

Garrett Chardon has captained the Junior Rangers to a magnificent start in their inaugural season. (Photo: AJHL)

Then you have the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s Boston Jr. Rangers. The first-year club isn’t just winning. They’re in first place with merely one regulation loss in seventeen games. The club’s overall AJHL record is a stellar 9-1-6-1.

“I knew we would have a good team,” coach Mario Martiniello said. “I am not surprised we are in first place because of how hard our team works.”

The Jr. Rangers franchise has a history with the AJHL. The Boston Bulldogs were a member of the circuit beginning in 1995 and called the Icenter in Salem, New Hampshire home. After the 2011-2012 season, the franchise was sold and relocated to the Breakaway Ice Center in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Martiniello, the new head coach and GM, welcomed over 60 players to tryouts and began the process of forming a new team. It certainly has helped that players such as Logan Brown (Orleans, Mass), Garrett Chardon and Taylor Fletcher (Leominster, Mass.) remained on the roster after spending last season with the Bulldogs. Their AJHL experience has contributed to the early season success of the Jr. Rangers.

“We have some talented players like our three captains that lead the way for us: Garrett Chardon, Matt Swett and Logan Brown,” said Martiniello. “Logan just committed to Potsdam. Both Matt and Garrett are drawing a lot of interest from various colleges at the moment but have not made a decision yet.”

Newcomer and goaltender Samuel Bernard has adjusted quickly to the league. The Colorado native has posted the best save percentage (.965) in the AJHL. He also has a goals against average of 1.14. He is garnering the close attention of scouts every time he steps on the ice.

Up front, forwards Matthew Swett (Groveland, Mass), who has 14 points in 16 games; Kevin Airoldi (Kennebunk, ME), 13 points in 17 games; and Michigan native Alan Boozer, 11 points in 17 games are the top point producers.

The Jr. Rangers blueliners are big and mobile. They are led by 6-foot, 205 pound defenseman Shawn Zingler. The native of Palm City, Florida has six points and 18 penalty minutes in 13 games played.

Behind the bench, Martiniello brings a vast amount of experience, both as a player and coach. He has molded this group into the number one team in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League and will settle for nothing less than a championship. If he can reach that goal, it may be the first of many titles the new team in town seems poised to capture.

“Because we have so many different guys stepping up each night, I do expect our early success to continue,” Martiniello said. “The one thing we will have to do though is come to play every night. There are a lot of good teams in our league and, being in first place at the moment, you can bet they will all be ready to play us.”

Game of the Week

This week’s tilt between the third ranked Islanders Hockey Club and No. 4 Springfield, scheduled for Sunday afternoon (3:20 p.m.) at Skate 3 Arena (“The Lighthouse”) in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts; should be a barnburner.

The Islanders have won their last four games and reside in third place in the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s North Division. They are three points behind the Boston Jr. Bruins.

Offensively, the Islanders are paced by Michael Doherty (Reading, Mass.) who has registered points in 12 of his 14 games played. He is currently third in EJHL scoring with 11 goals and 16 assists totaling 27 points. He will lead the league’s second ranked power play which has converted on 23.9 percent of its opportunities.

Springfield is 3-1-0 in its last four matches and sits in third place in the circuit’s South Division. They trail the Bay State Breakers by one point.  

The Pics are being led by Austin Orszulak (Springfield, Mass.) who has 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 18 games played. He is fifth in league scoring. Like Doherty, he is the centerpiece of his club’s power play, which is fourth best in the EJHL with a conversion rate of 17.1 percent.

The two teams have met once this season with the Islanders emerging with a 3-1 victory.

Power Rankings

1) Valley Jr. Warriors (13-6-0-0-0) 
2) Boston Jr. Bruins (12-5-0-0-0) 
3) Islanders Hockey Club (10-4-0-0-1)
4) Springfield Jr. Pics (11-7-0-0-0) 
5) Bay State Breakers (11-7-0-0-1) 

6) Boston Jr. Rangers (9-1-6-1)
7) Walpole Express (9-3-2-0)
8) South Shore Kings (9-6-0-3-0) 
9) Connecticut Wolfpack (8-2-2-1)
10) Northern Cyclones (9-5-0-1) 

11) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (8-5-0-0-1)
12) Boston Bandits (8-10-0-0-0)
13) Laconia Leafs (4-10-4-0)
14) Connecticut Oilers (4-10-0-2-0) 
15) Portland Jr. Pirates (4-14-0-1-0)

Shawn Hutcheon can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.