By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
A new year, a new start and finally a win.
The Kitchener Rangers welcomed 2013 by putting an end to their four-game losing streak Wednesday with a 3-1 win over the Owen Sound Attack, the No. 4 team in the Canadian Hockey League.
Without Matt Puempel, Tobias Rieder, Radek Faksa, Ryan Murphy and John Gibson to lean on, it was the secondary scorers who lit the lamp for the visitors at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound.
Nick Czinder had a hand in all three goals and nearly doubled his point output on the season with a goal and two assists. Defenceman Ben Fanelli and forward Josh Sterk found the net for just the second time this season as well.
“Just a well-played game,” associate coach and assistant general manager Paul Fixter said. “The boys worked hard and deserved to win, simply put. That’s what we need with all these guys out.”
For at least the next couple games, that is the reality facing the Rangers (20-12-1-4, fourth in the Midwest), who will not receive reinforcements until Tuesday at the earliest — although assistant coach Troy Smith and Team Ontario wrapped up the World Under-17 Challenge in Victoriaville and Drummondville, Que., Thursday in the fifth-place classification game.
Gibson (United States), Murphy and head coach/general manager Steve Spott (Canada) are disposed of until Saturday, when their teams play for gold and bronze medals respectively at the world junior championship in Ufa, Russia. Rieder (Germany) and Faksa (Czech Republic) play in classification and relegation round games today as well.
Meanwhile, Puempel is a likely scratch for tonight’s game (7:30 p.m. at The Aud) against the Peterborough Petes, the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2009.
He re-injured his previously sprained shoulder last Friday against the Barrie Colts. Fixter, however, said this injury is different and not located in the same spot.
“You could say he is day-to-day, but he is unlikely to play (tonight),” Fixter said.
So once again, the kids and role-playing veterans get a chance to show what they can do with more ice time.
KITCHENER NOTES: The Rangers put a brutal December to rest on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory on the road against the Owen Sound Attack, the Rangers’ third win in 10 games. That means, in 2013, they are already halfway to December’s total.
In that game, the Rangers had Domenic Alberga in between Darby Llewellyn and Eric Ming, Sterk centering Brent Pedersen and Justin Bailey, Matia Marcantuoni flanked by Ben Thomson and Czinder, with Keli Grant, Curtis Meighan and Matt Schmalz rounding out the forwards.
Defenceman Evan McEneny (three goals, 12 assists) will be the Rangers’ top scorer heading into tonight and possibly Saturday in London.
In the meantime, Fixter said the Rangers are talking to “anyone and everyone” ahead of the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
Complicating matters, however, is the prospect of the NHL resuming play. If the league and players’ union are close to a deal — both sides were talking Thursday after trading proposals this week — it could add a measure of uncertainty next week.
“It could impact most teams in this league,” Fixter said. “It’s certainly a challenging and frustrating aspect to deal with.”
PETERBOROUGH NOTES: On the other hand, the last-place Petes ring in the new year with a new coach and nowhere to go but up.
After cutting ties with general manager Dave Reid in October, Peterborough dropped head coach Mike Pelino on Dec. 20 after two-and-a-half seasons of sub-.500 hockey and replaced him with assistant Jody Hull, a former NHL journeyman and 50-goal scorer with the Petes in 1987-88.
Since then, the team has responded with a pair of wins (before Thursday’s game against Belleville), including a 4-3 shootout win over the division-leading Bulls.
There is some talent in Peterborough, although how long they stay there is another matter.
Defenceman Slater Koekkoek, an 18-year-old first-round pick of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and forward Alan Quine, a third-rounder to the Detroit Red Wings, are two of the top trade deadline targets, according to Yahoo Sports junior hockey blogger Neate Sager.
Meanwhile, Kitchener native Derek Schoenmakers made his debut Thursday with the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s hockey program after declining to report to Peterborough. Schoenmakers was part of a trade from Windsor for former Rangers forward and Waterloo native Zach Lorentz.
POST SEZ: With London and Guelph coming up, getting two points tonight is an urgent task for the Rangers, who still trail the Storm by a single point for fourth in the conference.
On a side note, the Rangers win Wednesday was their 20th. They are the fourth team in the Midwest Division — London, Owen Sound and Guelph included — to reach that mark, which matches the entire Eastern Conference — Belleville, Oshawa, Barrie and Niagara.
The only other team in the Western Conference to crack the 20-win plateau is Sarnia.
As well, the Rangers franchise still owns the longest winning streak in Canadian Hockey League history after the London Knights were stopped one win short of the record (25) Tuesday against Sarnia.
Kitchener set the mark during the 1983-84 season.