PRESCOTT- The march to the National Capital Junior Hockey League (NCJHL) playoffs begins for the South Grenville Rangers on February 19.
The inaugural regular season for the Fort Town squad comes to a conclusion as they face the Morrisburg Lions at home on Saturday night. To celebrate South Grenville's novice mega-tournament, kids accompanied by a paying adult get in free for Saturday's game.
In their first season competing in the league, the Rangers have managed to claim the final playoff spot, finishing in tenth place in the twelve-team NCJHL.
"We knew this year would be a learning experience for all of us involved, but I don't think we expected the league to be at the caliber it is at," said Ranger Head of Hockey Operations Lucas Stitt. "I, personally, was surprised to see some top opponents from when I played for the Prescott Flyers leading teams in this league. Bryden Van Kessel, now captain for the North Dundas Rockets, beat me out for the defensemen scoring title when he was 18. He now has 28 goals, 63 points in 26 games this year...quite impressive numbers. Max Choquette was a top player for Casselman and helped beat us out in the finals the same year, this year he has 46 goals, 67 points in 29 games for the St-Isidore Eagles."
The league format sees the teams finishing in spots 7-10 play a home-and-home series to determine who will join the top six teams in the next best-of-seven round of the playoffs.
The Rangers are expected to play against the Metcalfe Jets in the elimination series. The series will open at the Leo Boivin on Monday night. Despite the regular-season point difference, Stitt expects a close series regardless of the opponent.
"We've grown immensely as our own team this year. A lot of guys are getting their first taste of junior hockey and you can see us developing into a team poised for an upset this playoff but more importantly a contender for years to come," he said.
Monday night will also offer Ranger fans the opportunity to pick up a set of collector hockey cards. The cards will be available in exchange for donations of non-perishable foods or cash. Everything collected will be given to the South Grenville Food Bank.
It is that level of community involvement that Stitt says can be a difference maker in the postseason play.
"We have preached all year that if we work hard and play the right way this community will get behind us," Stitt explains. "It wasn't that long ago I got to play in front of a packed Leo Boivin and I want nothing more for the great kids on our team to experience that as well. Take a look at our lineup. You'll see names you know and some you don't, but they're all great kids we should be pulling for. Come out and support the newest tradition for Rangers hockey."
Puck drop on Monday night is 7:45 p.m.